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As census looms, blind advocate asks if blind people count

As census looms, blind advocate asks if blind people count

A blind IT professional is facing the prospect of knowingly breaking the law for the first time in his life or fleeing the country on census day, because Statistics New Zealand won't give him a census access code in a form he can read.

Jonathan Mosen can use the web with Braille and speech devices, so completing the form online is better for him than a printed form. But he can't complete the form because he hasn't been provided with an access code that is accessible to him.

"When I first called the Census helpline, I was told they could email a code to me, which would have been an acceptable solution," Mosen Said.

"When no code came through, I called back to be told it couldn't be done and that someone would phone me back to tell me how I could get a code".

After his call wasn't returned, he performed a Google search, which revealed an obscure reference in a PDF file to codes being provided verbally by The Blind Foundation, an organisation providing support and rehabilitation services to some blind people. But Mosen maintains that Statistics New Zealand should be assisting blind people to complete the census just as it assists everyone else.

"The Blind Foundation is one organisation which provides rehabilitation and support services to blind New Zealanders who need them. At present, I don't need them. I've been blind all my life, and there are no services from the Blind Foundation, apart perhaps from the occasional book, that I require. It's not appropriate for Statistics New Zealand to shirk its responsibilities to be accessible to, and inclusive of everyone, by delegating a core function of the census process to a charity that not all blind people use regularly and are not in touch with regularly," Mosen says.

"Blind people left the institutions and the workshops long ago. We're not some problem that can be fobbed off to another organisation and forgotten about, and there is no organisation responsible for all of us. We're citizens who have the right to expect equal treatment when we phone a Government help line for something as critical as the census. To say that you can only complete the census accessibly if you contact one particular provider of blindness services is no different from saying even if you always shop at New World, you must go to Countdown to complete the census. It's commendable that the help line is available in languages other than English, and that people can phone to request printed forms. Blind people should be accommodated directly by Statistics New Zealand in an equally inclusive way"

Mosen says he feels so strongly about the issue that he's contemplating how best to register his protest if Statistics New Zealand doesn't give him a code directly.

"Unless Statistics New Zealand provide me with the code, then I will wilfully not be completing the census."

"I suppose I have the option of being out of New Zealand on 6 March. Maybe a quick trip to Aussie is in my future, so I can boycott the Census without breaking the law. It's a sad situation where I must contemplate being a refugee from my own country to make a critical point about the need for Government to own its responsibilities rather than fobbing them off."

Mosen is calling on the new Government to display its compassionate side and show some leadership, and for those who support the idea of blind people being accommodated directly by Government to show their support using the Twitter hashtag #BlindPeopleCount.

"I appreciate that much of the preparatory work for the census will have been done during the tenure of the previous government. I call on the Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni, and the Minister for Statistics, James Shaw, to intervene and make this right."


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