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MPs Gen An Easi Message In Braille



Members of Parliament are receiving something a little different in their mail this week, a Braille letter. Those sending it know the politicians won't be able to read it, and that's precisely the point.

The Association of Blind Citizens, an advocacy organisation comprised entirely of blind and vision impaired people, is sending the letters to launch its EASI (Equal Access to State Information) campaign. Its President, Jonathan Mosen, says the Association is trying to give MPs a small glimpse of how it feels when important information is made available in a form unsuitable for the recipient.

"We had a number of examples last year where vital information was sent to all households, and the Government department in question failed to ensure that the information was available in Braille, large print and cassette. In most western countries, this sort of thing is considered standard practice. In New Zealand, getting essential information in accessible formats is in the majority of cases a struggle every step of the way," says Jonathan Mosen.

With the recent election of a new Government, the Association of Blind Citizens is taking this issue to the new Minister of State Services, Trevor Mallard. It is hoped that the Minister will agree to work with the State Services Commissioner in devising and implementing a State Sector-wide policy that will require Government departments to make material available in accessible formats. The Association wants the strategy to be fully implemented by 2003 and for compliance with the strategy to be linked to the performance bonuses of all State Sector chief executives.

"It's really quite simple. If you're going to send a mail-out to every household, that can't mean every household accept those who read in ways other than print. Getting this information to all New Zealanders must be budgeted for, rather than certain formats being treated as discretionary.

It's just the same as ensuring that information is available in a wide range of languages, something the Government is already doing. People who don't read print are taxpayers and citizens too. We shouldn't be excluded from the information available to all other New Zealanders," Jonathan Mosen says.

The name EASI has been used for this strategy because there appears to be a perception that the production of material in formats other than print is complicated and costly.

"With almost all material being written on computers these days, what we are requesting is simple to do and cost effective to put into practice. And it's just wrong to discriminate against people based on their method of reading," Jonathan Mosen concluded.


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