Most commonly people think that blindness is total darkness but in fact about 3 per cent of people can see nothing at all and the remainder have some residual vision. And those who are totally blind have an emptiness rather than darkness. People often think a blind person's other senses are heightened, but in fact they are no better than anybody else, the blind person just tends to use them more than other people would.
Many years ago when I was at university and given a handout, I would send that to the blind school in South Auckland and a couple of weeks later I would receive that back, either on tape or in braille. So I was always well behind the class. Today I can contact the lecturer and he will email me the document and I can read it with specialised speech software and go to class knowing what I need to know before the other students have heard it. The digital world has enabled me to have talking watches, talking computers, talking cellphone, talking microwave and whiteware.
The Foundation is keen to work with optometrists in our highly specialised area .The Blind Foundation has an association with the optometry school in Auckland and we work with them to ensure that our specialist needs are well known. A majority of our clients at the Blind Foundation have some residual vision so our specialised equipment is of huge importance and much of this can be purchased through the foundation's solutions service.
I could see up until I was 17 and had a life of tennis, squash, field events and hockey. So that has meant a dramatic change. So other hobbies have replaced those things, as in music, reading, going to the gym. But to answer your essential question, while my brother has perfect pitch I'm absolutely tone deaf but still have a huge appreciation of classical music, jazz and modern.
Yes there are enough dogs coming through the programme, but one must realise that matching the right person with the right dog is absolutely essential and to do this there may well be some waiting time. A guide dog is not everybody's cup of tea as it does require a lot of care, a bit like taking on a two-year-old. The Blind Foundation also provides rehabilitation course using a white cane and teaching people to orientate themselves safely through communities, how to be aware of traffic, and use public transport. There are also other electronic aids that some people might use which use sonar either through vibration or through sound into the ears.
I've been very fortunate to have a good education before I went blind and the Blind Foundation assisted me through a physiotherapy course in the United Kingdom and I was able to set up private physiotherapy practice which ultimately spread throughout Auckland and from that I've been able to apply some of the business skills that I've acquired to my work as chair of the blind foundation. The Blind Foundation has touched my life for 40 years, either by the provision of a guide dog, or something as simple as braille paper. Becoming blind opens all sorts of doors, it is just a matter of finding those processes that will enable one to open other doors. The digital world is such a thing and this has meant that one can use the same computer software as everybody else. If one is going to go blind, the world is vastly improving to accommodate all sorts of needs.
Yes, I use a smartphone with voice over and that way I can successfully use messaging, contacts, calender, email, music and utilities. All this is built into the phone for no extra cost. The same technology can be used with your ipad or your apple TV.
I'm fairly conservative in my dress, wearing what people would consider to be summer and winter colours - blacks, whites, greys, blues, which are generally all matching. I'm lucky enough that my wife helps me shop so I don't make too many mistakes.
I do have art on my walls, a hangover from the days when I could see and I also like sculpture, particularly those things that one can handle. I have a large pewter collection which is great because pewter, unlike silver or gold or other shiny metals, wants to be handled.
Much art is in the mind's eye, so I do get enjoyment from it, but obviously in my own way.
NZ is improving all the time, the most important things are that blind and low vision people have access to worthwhile employment on an equal footing with their peers, access to the built environment or communities, in other words - lifts that speak to you, user-friendly intersections, audio description no public transport. Also blind and low vision people require access to information and the written word and the Blind Foundation works continuously to improve the availability of talking books or audio books. We need to break down copyright barriers in order that libraries can be made available. The NZ Government has signed up to the UN Convention on the rights of people with disability and this will further promote equality and human rights.
I have seen before. However, my dreams are somewhat of a cartoon or caricature in presentation and though colours used to be vibrant, as the years go by, I'm not so aware of there being colour in my dreams. Colour is important in my personal attire but for whatever reason, colour is not so important in my surroundings. However, generally I'm far too tired to dream!
I have vivid memories and though I'm fully aware of people ageing, my visual memories of those people don't really change from how I remember them. As far as landscapes go, I have vivid memories of Auckland Harbour, Rangitoto and North Head, and though the view of our hugely growing Auckland would be completely different today on the top of Mt Eden, I have vivid memories of looking out over the huge areas of western and southern Auckland that years ago were rural and not full of houses.
If it wasn't for such things as matchbox toys, it would be hard to conceive what the style of new cars is, and the same would apply to such things as an Airbus 380.
Yes, there are heaps of specialised apps and I might not be the most tech savvy person, however, I can use the Radio Sport, Radio NZ, NZ Herald and many such sites, I can do online banking and enough things to satisfy all my needs. In addition, I should mention there are many GPS navigators.
I'm always grateful to people who offer me help and I'm always happy to say yes or no depending on what I need. Most NZers are very happy to have a blind person take their elbow and help them. In no way is it condescending to offer help, just remember, let them take your elbow rather than try to push them around.
I do have a handful of good friends who are blind or low vision and through my job as chair of the foundation I've come to know many many more. Within the foundations there are just under 12,000 clients and members and though they are spread from one end of the country to the other, many form networks and social groups for recreation and sporting activities. The Blind Foundation works hard to help blind people not to be isolated through their disability and has a huge network of volunteers that do a fantastic job to assist people to achieve good recreational opportunities.
I can't answer for those who are blind at birth, although I consider myself to be very fortunate to have seen colour, shape, and perspective. As far as adjusting to blindness goes I've developed a huge number of skills to overcome all sorts of situations but something new crops up every day. One is on a continuous learning curve.
The later in life that one loses their sight, the more difficult it might be to adjust as adapting to new technology is nowhere near as easy for the elderly as it is for the young.
I don't use anything special while kayaking but I'm very careful to make sure I have every piece of equipment that I need, including a second knife in the event of dropping the first one overboard, which I have done. My wife walkie talkies me out to where I want to go fishing and I always anchor as anyone in a kayak will know, wind and tide can take you away in no time. Surprisingly, I never argue with my wife before I go out kayaking.
It's very important for his family to make sure that they are in touch with their eye specialist and that at the appropriate time they contact the Blind Foundation so that this young man can be assessed and offered assistance. There are many avenues open to assist a person like this through their education without sight and also a lot of advice can be offered for them to take a full part in recreational and sporting and social opportunities. There are also networks such as parents of visually impaired who will give a great level of support to parents who find themselves in this position. You can contact the Blind Foundation to find out more about this.
Thanks for your questions, that's all we have time for today. Blind Foundation collectors will be out on the streets tomorrow for Blind Week tomorrow and Saturday.