Federal govt cuts braille print funding

The Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) is denouncing a federal government decision to cut funding for its Alternate Print Services, with the visually impaired in South Australia being told to seek braille and large print interstate.

Cuts in federal funding have halved the number of providers in Print Disability Services from four to two, with organisations VisAbility and Vision Australia to share a total package of $5.7m from 2018-2021.

Funding under the scheme supports organisations by state to produce print material in large font, braille in addition to digital forms, such as eText and audio, for people with disabilities such as vision impairment, deafness, or a physical or learning disability.

The four current services backed by the initiative were Vision Australia in Vic, VisAbility in WA, the Royal Society for the Blind of South Australia and the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children in NSW.

According to the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB), the cuts will mean SA will not have a local provider, with individuals having to contact interstate suppliers online. It says, “Asking people who are blind or living with low vision to contact an interstate agency, gain an approval to receive service, and then write to the agency with the materials they need to get translated into braille, large print, eText or audio is not practical, is time consuming, costly and for many will simply be too hard.

[Related: Tactile printing to grow by 60%]

“In addition many affected RSB clients will need to go through a new process with the new agency to prove they have a print disability. This may involve having to get refreshed medical evidence of their condition, a process that can take considerable time and effort given the waiting times for specialist appointments.”

The RSB says it will maintain its print service for clients for a minimum of three months, but it will not be able to continue supply it without the government overturning its funding decision or finding another source of income. The organisation is running a campaign, Not Happy Dan, denouncing the cuts and is asking for donations to keep its print service running.

Steve Irons MP, federal member for Swan says VisAbility WA in Victoria Park would benefit from the funding. Irons says, "I am pleased that a local organisation in Victoria Park that does so much good in the local community will be able to enhance its services to local people.”

Kary Macliver, executive manager, Client Services, VisAbility says, “The Print Disability Services Program plays an integral part in our mission to shape a world where people with disability are given the same range of options, same level of freedom, and same control over their day-to-day life and decisions as any other person.”  

David Speyer, Vision Australia general manager, Commercial and National Services, says, “We know that the ability to receive reading materials and information in their preferred format enables independence that helps people who are blind or have low vision to live the life they choose.”

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