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Experience with vision impairment

6 posts, 0 answered
  1. maree.fenech@optusnet.com.au
    maree.fenech@optusnet.com.au avatar
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    18 Oct 2013
    18 Oct 2013
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    How does your previous business experience give you an insight to the needs of people who are blind or have a vision impairment?
        
  2. SaraW
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    17 Oct 2013
    19 Oct 2013 in reply to maree.fenech@optusnet.com.au
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    Hello Maree, this is Sara.  I work for an organisation that has an active and world-leading diversity policy in place, and it's been in place for nearly 100 years.  Our policy is wide-ranging and inclusive, covering disability, gender, ethnic or religious background and a host of other areas.  So I have an understanding and appreciation of what can (and should) be done to provide an environment in which everyone has opportunity.  While my direct experiences with people who are blind or have a vision impairment are limited, the skills I bring are around governance, the use of technology as an enabler and working with volunteer organisations.  Do I know specifically what is needed by someone who is blind or vision impaired?  No, not yet and I suspect it differs by person, but either way, I know I'll work it out quickly.
  3. DaleReardon
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    17 Oct 2013
    20 Oct 2013
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    Hi,Its Dale Reardon here. You ask about my insights into the needs of the blind and vision impaired.I am a male aged 43 and married living in Hobart Tasmania.  I am blind and have the condition of Lebers Optic Atrophy which started when I was aged 17.However even before this I had come to live with and understand the life and problems of a blind person as my Uncle that I am very close to is blind himself with the same genetic condition. To me he had just been a normal family member and very much part of my life growing up.I was in year 12 at Launceston College when my eyesight deteriorated over a 6 month period. I experienced all the expected feelings of grief, pity, devastation etc but I maintained my studies and went on to study for a law degree at the University of Tasmania in Hobart Tasmania. I had the support of family and friends and luckily technology was just starting to improve. I used one of the first portable talking computers, Keynote, and of course cassette tapes for study books through the hear a book service which was fantastic.I used a white cane for approximately 12 months until I got my first guide dog in 1989 - I am now using my fourth dog - a seeing eye dog from SEDA Victoria. I have experienced the joys of using a guide dog and also the grief of them dying suddenly and getting sick or injured.I completed my Law Degree with first class honours and a University Medal in 1992 and then had to also undertake a Graduate Certificate in Legal Practice before undertaking my 12 month legal apprenticeship.I then worked as a lawyer in both Launceston and Hobart including as a partner in my own law firm. Getting my first job was really tough and I experienced much discrimination and fully understand how tough it is to get a job - there are just so many employers out there who merely pay lip service to equity and just don't want to give it a try employing a blind person.In 1997 I underwent a life change and my business partner and I then sold our law firm and I went into the tourism business with my first wife. Over the next 8 years we owned and operated 3 bed and breakfast tourism accommodation properties in Battery Point, Hobart Tasmania. This gave me much commercial experience and I continued to make use of my legal skills with many planning appeals and commercial matters.In the early 2000s I spent 3 years as a director of Royal Guide Dogs Association of Tasmania and I was the founding President of the Blind Citizens Australia, Tasmanian Branch.  Both these roles gave me valuable insight into the lives and needs of the blind and vision impaired.After my time in Hobart I then lived in a variety of places while my wife was working in palliative care and undertaking locums - Perth WA, Alice Springs, Queensland, Toodyay.In 2005/06 I got divorced and experienced life in Frankston Victoria and again found it extremely difficult to get a job - again the prejudices of employers were dramatic and made it impossible to find work in Victoria.I eventually remarried in 2007 and then again lived in Perth WA for 10 months as this was the only job I could find - as a family lawyer.Eventually I got a job at the ATO and returned to live in Melbourne for 18 months and then in regional Victoria, Gisborne for 2.5 years while still working in the Melbourne CBD.I eventually decided to return to study at UTAS undertaking a PhD in Law studying disability discrimination in the field of employment. I have since transferred to ANU in Canberra where I am continuing my PhD studies as an external student though I am required to spend at least 4 weeks in Canberra per year.As you can see I have the full range of life experiences as a blind person ranging from education to dating and relationships, to employment including discrimination and again back to further education.  I believe there is just no substitute for having experienced these situations first hand to truly understand the needs of the blind and vision impaired.I fully realise the Board of Vision Australia needs commercial experience and legal skills but I possess all these abilities and experience. I am a firm believer in affirmative action and positive discrimination - if the members have the choice of different candidates who all possess the necessary business skills but some are blind, then to me the blind person should be chosen. We must be in control of our own destinies and lives rather than letting others choose for us.Life as a blind person can be really tough at times but I know it can be filled with great experiences as well and I want to help Vision Australia improve and offer great opportunities to the blindness community.I would also like to point out some recent research on the issue of merit and businesses employing merit policies to try and prevent discrimination and encourage equal opportunities.  Please read the article at:http://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-merit-and-unconscious-bias-18876which discusses the paradox of merit and unconscious bias. It has been found that particularly with race and sex issues that promoting merit in fact can promote discrimination. The Melbourne Business School is currently undertaking research to see if the same problem occurs in the area of disability. This issue was explored at a recent NDS (National Disability Services) conference that I attended.I also understand first hand that employment is a major problem for the blind and vision impaired - employer discrimination is still very much alive in the community. Businesses may have equal opportunity policies in place but when it actually comes to decision time they find it easier and less confronting to employ a sighted person. It is still extremely difficult for blind and vision impaired people to find employment, even those with University qualifications.The disability employment rate in the Australian public service has also been falling for a number of years now and is currently only approximately 2.8% The public service and charities like Vision Australia should be leading the way and setting an example for employing disabled people but this is not happening. The other problem in many workplaces and the public sector also is that even when you get the initial job, it is very very hard to get promoted and properly recognised for your contributions. Employers often think it is enough to just employ you without giving you adequate professional development and job promotions.I also feel extremely sorry for the devastated workers of VA Enterprises that the Board of VA has chosen to sack and close VA Enterprises. I don't think the Board fully comprehends the devastating nature of their decision and the depression and other problems that it will cause. These people will lose their homes, their families will be affected and some of them may never have a job again. Jobs are so much more than mere income - they provide a life purpose, the reason for existing and taking care of your family.But these workers don't want our pity or sympathy - they want their jobs and they are willing to work a fair days work for a fair days pay. I won't be giving these workers my pity - I will instead be holding the Board to account and trying to get this very wrong decision overturned and for the employment of these people to continue.Getting a job as a blind person when you have only manual labour skills is next to impossible and I understand this only too well. I have faced enormous discrimination throughout my life in the area of employment and I think we need more people on the VA Board who fully understand the real employment situation and lives of blind and vision impaired people.It is also true that many of the current and future clients of Vision Australia will not be covered by the NDIS because of the age 65 cut off restriction. This means that Vision Australia is very much going to need to continue operating as a     charity and raising much needed funds from the public. Quite simply Vision Australia will never be able to recover the costs of all its services from clients or the government.

    Dale.
    0420277457
  4. Caroline Waldron
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    21 Oct 2013
    21 Oct 2013
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    Maree – it’s Caroline Waldron here.  It is not my intention to set out in chapter and verse, my professional qualifications.  What is more important to me is that over the last 24 years, I have worked in diverse leadership roles in various industries, different organisation types and in several countries.  Needless to say, these experiences have challenged, shaped and helped me understand, dissect and properly balance and address issues that impact a wide variety of stakeholders.  The issues I have had to tackle have ranged from risk, HR and change management to dispute resolution, governance and marketing.  It is these skills that will be applied to understand the issues faced by blind and vision impaired people so that the Board of Vision Australia makes sound decisions that help give independence to those who are blind or vision impaired.

    I also want to highlight an important part of my Board experience to you.  I presently sit on the Board of an aged care facility, and chair its Risk Committee.  When I joined that Board several years ago, I had limited understanding of the issues faced by aged care operations and their residents and clients.  Within a short time though, through reading, direct participation and a curious mind, I grasped the issues and contributed effectively to important matters like aged care reform, fund raising, and offering relevant service to clients.  

     

    At a more personal level, I will share with you that my grandmother lost her eyesight in her advancing years.  She was a woman of great ability but sadly the health and welfare system in her country did not offer her any level of independence or support.  That was a tragedy, but it did inspire me to one day be part of a journey that focuses on giving greater independence and support to vision impaired and blind people in my community.  I followed this up some 10 years ago by being a volunteer reader for the Talking Wentworth Courier  for some time.

    While I may never fully understand what it is like to be vision impaired and consequently to face discrimination, I grew up in a country that endorsed a different type of discrimination - one that was based on race.  That made me resolve to help those who may be disadvantaged one day.  It is that resolve that continues to see me play a role in matters involving corporate social responsibility today.  

    I hope this gives you some insight into who I am.  


  5. Ella Trezise
    Ella Trezise avatar
    4 posts
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    17 Oct 2013
    23 Oct 2013 in reply to maree.fenech@optusnet.com.au
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    Hi Maree, I am not blind nor had vision impairment of any kind, so my direct insight will be very limited. However, watching a very dear school friend gradually lose his eyesight and how he has to deal with everyday issues such as education, employment, parenthood and social environments, has given me a greater understanding of the needs of visually impaired Australians and how critical the work of organisations such as Vision Australia is.  Throughout my professional career, I have been fortunate enough to lead a number of staff in multiple jurisdictions around the world. What I have learnt is the power of listening, asking clarifying questions, and creating strategic plans that can be well executed. I'm not sure that this approach is different, whether you are blind or not.  Already, I have found myself very aligned to the purpose of Vision Australia with regards to equality of access, opportunity, participation and mobility. Areas that, as an executive leader in a number of Managing Director roles across many different companies and sectors, we have had to implement the appropriate policies and impact the workforce culture in a positively meaningful way.   Maree, I hope this helps answer your question. Kind regards, Heith.
  6. Ella Trezise
    Ella Trezise avatar
    4 posts
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    17 Oct 2013
    24 Oct 2013 in reply to maree.fenech@optusnet.com.au
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    Hi Maree, I am 35 years of age and began losing my sight at the age of 10. I had bilateral retinal detachments. My sight gradually deteriorated over the years. So during my education I had the challenges of transitioning from being someone with low vision, to someone totally reliant on speech software and audio material. I learnt braille as a teenager, but given my late start to it, it has never been my preferred format. I prefer electronic means. I grew up in regional NSW where access to services, and more importantly, experience with others who were blind was limited. I had to move away from home to attend university. I also had the challenge of then moving to Sydney to find employment. This was difficult, but I was fortunate in gaining employment in the banking industry. I think I was fortunate enough to come across a rare set of very open and diversity appreciating employers. I have since gone on to complete a phd at university and I am now employed as a full-time academic. I also am married with two small daughters. I have experienced most things in life, all whilst being blind. It has been a challenge at times. I do recognise however, I have been quite fortunate in my life experiences, and that many other blind and vision impaired people do not have such an easy journey. It is for this reason why I truly enjoy my role on the board. It is my way to give back to the blindness community, and a way to ensure that life can be made as accessible and fulfilling to all.
    Theresa
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