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Funding boost for people with vision loss

Minister Carmel Sepuloni with RNZFB Board Chair Rick Hoskin and Blind Low Vision NZ Chief Executive John Mulka. Photo: Supplied.

Smart speakers help people with vision loss have instant and easy access to information.

And now more of the community will be able to get their hands on these speakers after a government funding boost.

Blind Low Vision NZ has received funding from the Ministry of Social Development to purchase and roll-out 3500 Alexa smart-speakers.

The speakers will be distributed to Blind Low Vision NZ members to open up access to information.

Blind Low Vision NZ Chief Executive John Mulka says providing technology to empower independence directly relates to the new Strategic Plan for 2020-2024.  

“Under our strategic priority of independence, we want to connect people with technology that is accessible and affordable so they are future-ready.

 “With thanks to the Ministry of Social Development, we are on our way to delivering on this and we look forward to providing instant access to information for thousands of Kiwis who are blind or have low vision.”

Blind Low Vision NZ designed an Alexa ‘skill’ (similar to an app) which was released in 2019 which gives instant access to the accessible library.  

“Our skill gives our library members access to more than 35,000 audio items. There is no waiting around for CDs – with a few simple voice commands, members can be listening to whichever book they choose,” says Blind Low Vision NZ library and studios manager Geraldine Lewis.

 “There are also many other benefits to a smart-speaker such as checking public transport timetables, the weather, Covid-19 updates and whatever you can think of asking.”

The Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says access to technology like the Alexa and it’s offerings, supports the needs of the blind and low vision community through innovation. 

 “It’s a mechanism that can offer real value to the community and the government is committed to supporting disabled people to live their lives to their fullest potential,” she says.

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