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Funding & Disability

Blind and Vision Impaired – FAQs

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Support for tertiary education

1. I have been blind all my life – I am 40 years old, and thinking of going to University to get a qualification. What support is available for me?

Universities have Disability Coordinators who help students identify what resources they will need to complete their studies and arrange the necessary support. This might include having a person or equipment to record information for you in class, and organizing adaptive technology, such as screen readers. Disability Coordinators can advise you about getting funding for equipment through Accessable (if you live in Auckland or Northland) or Enable New Zealand (link to www.enable.co.nz) (if you live in the rest of NZ). They can also liaise with teaching staff to make sure your needs are known, help make alternative arrangements for exams if needed, and ensure that you can find your way around the University and classrooms. Contact the Disability Coordinator or Disability Resource Office at the University of your choice for more information. You might also like to check with the University or the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind regarding scholarships available for disabled students to help with fees and resources.

Support for work

2. My vision has become quite bad, and I’[m having difficulty doing my work. I’m worried I may lose my job. Is there equipment or support that might help me?

See your family doctor first regarding your worsening vision – there may me some medical treatments that can help. An assessment by an ophthalmologist, optometrist or eye specialist will also be important to determine the nature of your visual loss. If your visual impairment is long term and not able to be corrected a Needs Assessment Service Coordination (NASC) agency can do an assessment of your needs and help you get disability support. They can advise you about getting an equipment assessment, and can put you in touch with organisations such as the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) if you meet the registration criteria. RNZFB have employment consultants who can help with work situations for people who are blind or have a significant visual impairment.

Ministry of Health and Workbridge both have funding available for equipment to support people at work. Each of these funding sources have different eligibility criteria. With the right equipment or support it may be possible to overcome the difficulties you are experiencing at work, or you might decide to retrain or move into another area of work.

Equipment for safety in the home

3. I have lost my vision quite suddenly – is their equipment available to help me be safe in my own home?

Yes, there is a variety of equipment available to help blind or visually impaired people to be safe in their own home. Some examples are mobility canes, magnifiers, talking alarm clocks, level indicators for cups, large font phones, alarms, etc. The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind have Adaptive Daily Living Instructors who can assist you with gaining confidence and independence in a wide range of day to day activities and can advise on equipment which may be beneficial.

Information about vision loss and blindness

5. Where can I get more information about vision loss and blindness?

You can get information from your GP about vision loss and blindness: diagnoses, causes and treatments available.

You may need to have your eyes checked by an Optometrist who is a registered health professional with special training in eye health and vision care. For information on your nearest Optometrist visit the Zealand Association of Optometrists or the Yellow pages.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) provides resources and information about vision loss and blindness in the form of fact sheets, brochures and current research. They also provide programmes on Community Awareness.

6. My child needs glasses – is there any help I can get to buy these?

You may be able to access a spectacle subsidy for your child if they have a disability, aged 15 years or under (as of 1st October 2007), need an assessment by an optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for glasses or other vision aids, and your family has a Community Services Card or a High Health User Card. The maximum subsidy is $281.25 per year.

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