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- Blind Foundation premises
- Accessible environments
- Accessible information
- Blindness awareness and advocacy
- Blindness rehabilitation
- Community groups
- Guide dogs
- Leisure and recreation
- Special occasions
A timeline for Blind Low Vision NZ
- Jubilee Institute for the Blind of New Zealand, 1890-1932
- New Zealand Institute for the Blind, 1933-1956
- New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, 1956-1971
- Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, 1972-2002
- Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, 2003-2013
- Blind Foundation, 2013 – 2009
- Blind Low Vision NZ, 2019 – present
Note: The Foundation officially celebrates its anniversary on 9 July every year, as the Constitution of the Jubilee Institute for the Blind of New Zealand was formally adopted on 9 July 1890. The legal name of the organisation remains Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB).
The Legislative Council passed a resolution in 1874 'to establish in a central part of the Colony a school and an asylum for the support, education and instruction in trades of the blind, deaf and dumb living in New Zealand’ [See 'Blind welfare—the beginnings' by Sir Arthur Pearson for more information about the early years in New Zealand for the blind; The Chronicle Vol. 3 November 1981].
Bishop Cowie, then Bishop of Auckland, called a meeting in April 1889 which appointed a committee of 'influential local gentry' and established the Association of the Friends of the Blind. They rented a house next to St Mary's Vicarage in Parnell, Auckland, and appointed as teacher John Tighe, a totally blind and experienced teacher, who had conveniently and recently arrived from Australia.
The Constitution of the Jubilee Institute for the Blind of New Zealand was formally adopted at a public meeting, held in Auckland on 9 July 1890. It was called the ‘Jubilee Institute’ to commemorate the Founding of the Colony of New Zealand in 1840. At that meeting, the Association of Friends of the Blind was absorbed into the Institute.
With the help of Bishop Cowie, John Tighe set up the Institute School at the Institute’s premises in Parnell, Auckland, in 1891. It was housed in an existing wooden building; this was intended to be a temporary situation.
Local Committees were set up around the country in 1891: ‘Committees will be formed in every important centre, to work with and assist the Council at Auckland, by bringing under notice any matter affecting the Blind generally, or those in their particular district especially’ [Source: Annual Report 1891].
In July 1892, the Jubilee Institute was incorporated as a separate charitable institution under The Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Act 1885, and it became necessary to appoint a board of six trustees.
The Braille Manuscript Club was formed in Auckland in 1894, composed of members ‘willing to learn the art of embossing, with the object of preparing books for the blind’ [Source: Annual Report 1894].
The Institute produced its first piano tuner, Mr F. King, under the guidance and tutelage of the Instructor in Piano Tuning, Mr H. Oberlin-Brown, in 1903 [Source: Annual Report 1904].
For an account of life at the Institute at the very beginning of the 20th century, see Marie Gardner’s story of her time there as a young child [Source: The Chronicle July 1965].
A Bill dealing with the appointment of Trustees, which was introduced during the Parliamentary Session of 1905, became law in the Jubilee Institute for the Blind Act, 1906: 'The Governor now appoints annually four out of the nine Trustees, the remaining five being elected by the contributors' [Source: Annual Report 1907].
Construction began on the permanent brick structure [later] known as the Jubilee Building in Parnell, Auckland, in 1907.
The Jubilee Building was officially opened on 21 May 1909 by the Governor [General], Lord Plunket.
Under the Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Act 1909, the Institute was now to be controlled by a Board of nine Trustees, four of whom were appointed by the Governor-General, and the remaining five by contributors [Source: Annual Report 1924].
The Sir Arthur Pearson Memorial Fund was established in 1922 to endow after-care or field work.
The first Director of the Institute, Sir Clutha Nantes Mackenzie, was appointed in 1923.
Advisory Committees were established in 1923 Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, in order to have permanent liaisons in centres outside Auckland. It is not known what relationship these bore to the preceding Local Committees, which had been established in the early years of the Institute. The intention seems to have been to extend the committees into smaller areas: ‘To promote the establishment in all districts where there are five or more blind people of a small voluntary committee consisting of three or four suitable men or women, willing to work in the interests of the blind, and, in addition to them, two or three blind people, the said committee to act as a local agent for the Trustees, and in every way to assist the supervisor in his duties’ [Source: Annual Report 1923].
Clutha Mackenzie won an important amendment to the Pensions Act in 1924, which made the blind the first disabled group in New Zealand to qualify for a pension. This pension, which laid the foundation for the historic Social Security Amendment Act 1958, was available to blind persons 20 years and over who, because of their blindness, were unable to earn a proper living. [Note: The book Quest for Equity contains more information about the evolution of pensions and benefits for the blind during the 20th century.]
1925 is the tentative start date for The Chronicle, the newsletter/magazine of the Institute (we cannot be certain of this date, as our holdings begin with issue Number 8, 1929, and we know that only one issue was produced in that year; 1925 is our best guess).
The new Men’s Quarters (later called Pearson House) and Retail Shop were opened in Parnell, Auckland, in 1926.
The new Workshops were opened in Parnell, Auckland, in 1927.
The Boys’ Band (also known as the Blind Boys’ Band, the ‘full band’ and, by 1932, the Military Band) was formed in 1927, with first George Cater (1927-1928) and then George W. Bowes (1928-?) as Bandmaster/Conductor. It went on to tour the country over the next few years [Sources: Annual Report 1928, Annual Report 1929].
So successful was the Boys’ Band that a Dance Band (also known as the Jazz Band and the Dance Orchestra) was formed in 1929, as was the School Choir and the Girls' String Orchestra.
The Wellington Braille Club was formed on 9 October 1930 as a private club with an initial membership of 25. Mrs Hadfield, wife of Bishop Hadfield, was President from the inception [Source: The Chronicle, December 1971, p.27].
Name change: The Jubilee Institute for the Blind of New Zealand became known as the New Zealand Institute for the Blind in 1933 (the law was changed on December 9 1932) [Source: Annual Report 1933].
The Institute became interested in the use of white walking sticks for what seems to be the first time in 1933: ‘The Board of Trustees has decided to offer a gift of a white walking stick to any bona fide blind person desiring one. This is to be the accepted indication throughout New Zealand to motorists and others that the user is a blind person. Will anyone wishing to have a stick kindly write to the Institute, and one will be forwarded’ [Source: The Chronicle May 1933].
Bledisloe House, a home for elderly blind men, was opened in Parnell, Auckland, in 1934.
The Jubilee Rowing Club was created in Auckland in 1935.
In 1936 the Institute planted a two-acre area near Drury, Auckland, with willow sets, and from this was established the Ramarama willow farm. This farm was the only one of its kind in the North Island and the second in New Zealand. The willow grown here was used to supply various willow-related activities in the Institute’s Workshops, such as basket-making.
Sixty-one talking book machines were in use in New Zealand by 1937, twenty-seven of which were supplied to blinded soldiers by the Commercial Travellers’ Blinded Soldiers’ Fund. The Institute also had a growing library of talking books (special slow-running 12-inch gramophone records, each side reading for twenty-five minutes) [Source: Annual Report 1937].
Hutchinson Home, a home for elderly blind women, opened in September 1939 in Parnell, Auckland.
The Maori [sic] and Wireless Clubs were introduced in 1944 [Source: Annual Report 1945].
The Kiwi Fishing Club was (probably) inaugurated in 1944 (the September 1952 issue of The Chronicle states that it has ‘just concluded [its] eighth successful year’).
C.W. (Bill) Henderson began his fundraising activities in the Wellington region. These were primarily for the benefit of blind children, although the aged blind appear to have received some support as well. These activities included instituting the Henderson Fund for blind children in the Wellington region, and running special Christmas appeals and the ‘Mayor of Thorndon’ Election appeal [Sources: The Chronicle February 1949, Annual Report 1955].
The consumer group the Dominion Association of the Blind was inaugurated in October 1945. It was set up to address the shortcomings of the Institute’s paternalistic mindset and to advocate more strongly for the needs and agency of members.
The New Zealand branch of St Dunstan’s Home for blinded servicemen was opened on 24 November 1945 at One Tree Hill, Epsom, Auckland (on the edge of Cornwall Park), with Lieutenant James May as Director. New Zealand St Dunstan's was to be a semi-permanent convalescent and training centre for all blinded and partially sighted servicemen returning from the Second World War and was set up by a Trust Board that included representatives of five organisations: the New Zealand Institute for the Blind, the Red Cross Society, the Order of St John’s Ambulance, St Dunstan’s England (D.M. McPhee), and the Commercial Travellers’ and Warehousemen’s Association Blinded Servicemen’s Fund Trust Board.
Nathan House, a house for blind boys, opened in May 1946 in Parnell, Auckland.
The Sunrise Home for blind babies and young children opened in Remuera, Auckland, in July 1946.
The Wellington Branch of the Institute (governed by the Wellington Advisory Committee) was formally opened on 27 January 1948 [Source: Annual Report 1948]. It was based at 56 Tinakori Road.
The Christchurch Branch of the Institute (governed by the Christchurch Advisory Committee) was inaugurated on 4 February 1948. It was based at 66 Gloucester Street [Source: The Chronicle September 1969]. [Note, however, that while the Gloucester Street address for the Branch appears in the Annual Report in 1948, the September 1952 issue of The Chronicle states that the Christchurch branch was established ‘18 months ago’, which would make the starting date c.March 1951.]
The famous American deafblind woman Helen Keller visited New Zealand in July/August 1948, and this included visiting the Institute: ‘Friday, July 30, was a happy day as well as an inspiring one for a large number of Auckland’s blind who crowded the Main Dining Hall to hear the world-famous Helen Keller’. She also visited the Wellington and Christchurch branch offices [Source: The Chronicle February 1949].
McCoy House, a hostel for working age women and girls, was opened in Parnell, Auckland, in 1950.
Revenue from a special appeal was used to supplement the Pearson Fund to enable the Institute to carry out welfare work with the blind [Source: Annual Report 1955].
The Dunedin Branch (governed by the Dunedin Advisory Committee) was formally opened 4 February 1952 [Source: Annual Report 1952]. It was based at 235 Stuart Street.
The Blind Indoor Bowling Club was established in October 1952 [Source needed; mention of Club’s first tournament in The Chronicle September 1953].
On 8 October 1955, the Christchurch Branch of the Foundation moved to 86 Bristol Street, St. Albans, into Abberley House, an old wooden house ‘set amidst spacious lawns and majestic trees’ [Source: The Chronicle September 1969]. The property acquired by the Institute comprised an irregular block of land with small frontages on Bristol Street, Kinleys Lane and Ranfurly Street. It was bounded on the north east by a fine stand of trees on the boundary of Abberley Park.
Name change: An Act of Parliament [New Zealand Foundation for the Blind Act 1955, No. 36] amended the New Zealand Institute for the Blind to the New Zealand Foundation for the Blind; the law was passed in October 1955 and came into effect 1 April 1956 [Source: Chairman’s Report 1956]. ‘The main function of the Act was to give the Foundation stronger guide lines. Previous to 1955 the then N.Z. Institute for the Blind operated under a section of the Hospitals and Charitable Institutes Act making it necessary at times to consult two Cabinet Ministers for matters requiring Government approval’ [Source: Director’s Report 1964]. ‘Another, and equally important factor in changing the name, was to delete for ever, the association of institutionalism in any of our homes and activities’ [Source: Director’s Report 1956].
A new Braille and Talking Book Library at Titoki St, Parnell, Auckland, was opened in January 1957.
After years of advocacy work from the Institute/Foundation and the Dominion Association for the Blind, the Government lifted the earnings of a narrow subset of blind people from £4 a week to £12 in 1957 [Source: Chairman’s Report 1958]. Other social security amendments, whereby the Government raised the amount that blind workers could earn without loss of their Social Security Benefits, were detailed in the August 1957 issue of The Chronicle.
The Parents’ Committee was formed in 1957 [Source: Chairman’s Report 1958].
Member Lionel Voice was appointed as the Foundation’s first Placement Officer [Source: Annual Report 1961].
The Board of Directors of the National Airways Corporation granted a concession of 25 per cent on the fares of blind persons enrolled with the Foundation (for internal airlines only) [Source: The Chronicle May 1957].
A 1959 amendment to the New Zealand Foundation for the Blind Act 1955 gave the Foundation’s Board powers to set up and elect Advisory Committees [Source: Director’s Report 1964].
As per the amended Constitution, the Auckland Advisory Committee was established [Source: The Chronicle June 1960].
Christchurch’s Fernwood Hostel for elderly blind people was officially opened on 18 May 1960 [Source: The Chronicle June 1960].
In 1961, Jean and Elizabeth Fraser (the "Fraser Twins") were trained in guide dog handling in Australia, and returned with their dogs either in 1961 [Source: Chairman’s Report 1962] or 1962 [Source: Quest for Equity]. For the next decade, all guide dogs were obtained from Australia, as it was considered more economical to do this rather than set up a training unit in New Zealand.
The first Braille Week was held in 1962, ‘mostly in the four main centres and unfortunately, not on the same week, yet the result was exceptionally good’. [Source: Director’s Report 1963].
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was formed in Auckland in 1962, to facilitate provision of dogs to those who desired them [Source: Quest for Equity].
The Auckland Advisory Committee became a Branch from 2 April 1962 [Source: Chairman’s Report 1962].
The Foundation Library’s New Tape Talking Book Scheme was officially launched on 1 May 1962. Over 470 new talking book machines were issued over the next year [Source: Director’s Report 1963].
The foundation stone of Homai College was laid on 21 March 1963 by W. B. Tennant, Minister of Education.
A new Act of Parliament [New Zealand Foundation for the Blind Act 1963, No. 26] was passed; the main changes in the Act were as follows: ‘The method of electing the various Advisory Committees. Greater autonomy for the Board of Trustees to make and implement its own decisions. Provision for the Board to pay teachers and other servants of the Board similar salaries to what would be paid in comparable positions in the State Service, and several machinery clauses affecting the accounting system of the Foundation’ [Source: Director’s Report 1964].
A scented garden in Abberley Park, Christchurch, was created by Christchurch City Council, mainly for the benefit of the blind. It opened in 1964 and was the forerunner of other scented gardens for the sight-impaired in Auckland and Wellington [Sources: The Chronicle March 1964; Christchurch City Council’s 2015 document Natural and cultural heritage: Appendix 8.2 - Heritage statements of significance].
A new service provision was made by the Education Department in establishing the first of the Visual Resource Centres, Elmwood, in Christchurch in 1964. A fuller history of the Visual Resource Centres can be found on the BLENNZ website.
Homai College in Manurewa, Auckland, was officially opened on 13 March 1965 by the Governor-General, Brigadier Sir Bernard Fergusson [Source: The Chronicle April 1965].
The Foundation’s Wanganui Centre was opened in 1966 [Source: Director’s Report 1974].
In 1966, New Zealand National Airways offered special conditions for guide dog owners wishing to travel by air [Source: Annual Report 1966].
The new National Tape Talking Book Library and the sound recording Studios on the corner of Titoki and George Streets, Parnell, Auckland, were opened on 9 March 1966 by the Governor-General, Brigadier Sir Bernard Fergusson.
The Foundation’s Board granted its first bursary ‘to assist medical personnel who are prepared to become Ophthalmologists’ [Source: Director’s Report 1968].
Further units opened at Homai College: the Pre-School Training Unit (also known at times as the Sunrise Unit; this supplanted Sunrise Home), the Deaf-Blind Assessment and Education Unit, Reception, the Adult Training Unit and Swimming.
Name change: The prefix 'Royal' was added to the Foundation’s name, making it the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, after the visit of Princess Alexandra and the Hon. Angus Ogilvy in 1971. The exact date of the change is not yet certain; the Director’s Annual Report 1972 states that ‘Late last year we received official advice that the Foundation had been granted the privilege of using the prefix "Royal"’. However, the February 1972 issue of The Chronicle has the old name in its title but mentions ‘Royal’ in its text, whereas the April 1972 issue has the ‘Royal’ prefix in the title. Most likely we can date the changeover from the very beginning of 1972.
Early in 1972, the Foundation announced its intention of building its own guide dog training centre [Source: The Chronicle April 1972].
Various cuts in rail and road fares for the blind were announced on 15 April 1972 by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Highet [Source: The Chronicle April 1972].
The Tawa Hostel for elderly blind people, which was situated north of Wellington on Sunset Boulevard, was officially opened on 26 April 1972 [Source: Director’s Report 1972].
The new Christchurch Social Centre was officially opened on 30 May 1972 [Source: The Chronicle June 1972].
The Guide Dog Training Unit at Homai, Manurewa, Auckland, was opened on 14 April 1973. Approximately 200 people attended, and it was followed by a demonstration of guide dog techniques with morning tea and the opportunity to look through various parts of Homai College [Source: The Chronicle April 1973].
A new Social Centre was opened in Wanganui in 1973 [Source: The Chronicle June 1973].
St. Anne's Club on Auckland's North Shore was established c.1974 [Source: Series 23 Board minutes - Agenda 15/9/76].
The new Dunedin Branch and Social Centre on the corner of Law and Hillside Streets was officially opened on 19 March 1975 [Source: The Chronicle April 1975].
The new additions to the Foundation Workshops and the new Social Centre in Auckland were opened by the Governor-General, Sir Denis Blundell, on 2 March 1976 [Source: The Chronicle April 1976].
After a period of falling profits from the sale of goods produced in the Workshops, the Board endorsed the closure of the Retail Shop at its meeting on the 12th of April 1978 (the exact date of closure is not yet known - most likely in 1979 or 1980) [Source: Series 168 Box 1].
The United Nations proclaimed 1981 the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP), calling for a plan of action with an emphasis on equalisation of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities. ‘Blind persons throughout New Zealand became closely involved in the host of activities and projects undertaken in conjunction with the specially designated International Year for the Disabled. Although it has been said that the emphasis focussed more on the rights and needs of the Physically Disabled it is nonetheless true to state that the high level of activity throughout this year did help to place much attention upon the capabilities of blind persons and assisted the R.N.Z.F.B. as an organisation to reflect upon its existing policies and procedures’ [Source: Annual Report 1982]. (In 1982, the International Year of Disabled Persons Telethon Trust gave the Foundation a total of $100,000 for the maintenance of programmes plus a further $86,970 for special projects [Source: Annual Report 1983].)
The A.R.U. (Adult Rehabilitation Unit) was shifted from Homai College campus in Manurewa, Auckland, to McCoy House in Parnell, Auckland, in mid-January 1981. It was officially opened by the Governor General, Sir David Stuart Beattie, on 25 February 1981 [Source: Annual Report 1981]. The working women who had been domiciled at McCoy had been transferred the previous year to the retired men's hostel, Hutchinson House [Source: Quest for Equity].
The Independent Living Centre was established at Homai College on 9 February 1981 for students aged 16–20 years: ‘This programme is suitable for students who wish to do one subject at High School and improve their job seeking skills, their knowledge of vocational opportunities through work experience, their independence, their knowledge of and ability in recreational activities and the skills that are specifically needed by visually handicapped persons to lead a full independent and satisfying life when they leave school. The students live in the previous adult rehabilitation unit and are responsible for their daily programme’ [Source: The Chronicle October 1981]. The Independent Daily Living programme practised here became the basis for the later KickStart programme.
In April 1981, the new Adult Vocational Assessment and Training Unit began to provide ‘an assessment and education programme for the visually handicapped (predominantly multiply handicapped) to enable them to better compete in the labour market. Upon first entering the programme the blind individual is assessed to determine what work skills are present, where improvement might be made and what new skills might be introduced’ [Source: Annual Report 1982].
On 1 April 1981, the Industrial Division was restructured, with the Workshops section being reconfigured into a Work Skills Assessment and Training Unit [Source: Annual Report 1982].
The Willow Farm in Ramarama, Auckland, was sold in 1982 [source needed].
Ownership and management of Tawa Hostel in Wellington was transferred to the Presbyterian Social Services Association (Wellington) on 1 October 1982 [Source: Annual Report 1983]. It may have become known as 'Longview' [sourced needed].
The Telephone News Service was set up in Auckland in 1983 [source needed].
The consumer group for Māori members, Ngāti Kāpo, was inaugurated at a hui in Mātātua Marae, Mangere, Auckland, in February 1983 [Source: The Chronicle December 1983; Ngāti Kāpo o Aotearoa Inc website].
A new Activity Centre was officially opened in Christchurch by Merv Wellington, Minister of Education, on 24 September 1983 [Source: The Chronicle October 1983].
The position of National Recreation Advisor was created in June 1984, with help from funding from the Ministry of Recreation and Sport; this appointment was responsible for developing draft policies in the provision of recreation services throughout the country [Source: Annual Report 1985].
A Fitness Centre Gymnasium for members opened at Parnell, Auckland, in 1984. It was ‘a major step forward in the promotion of improved fitness, confidence, mobility and integration for members. This excellently equipped modern facility was made possible on the initiative of the Newmarket Rotarians. Other involved groups were students from the Carrington Technical Institute, Lions, Les Mills (World of Fitness) and the National Sport and Recreation Advisory Committee’ [Source The Chronicle August 1984].
The Auckland Blind Outdoor Bowling Association was formed to provide lawn bowls for the visually handicapped [Source: The Chronicle April 1984].
Braille Services were re-housed at Homai College in 1984 [Source: Annual Report 1985].
The Foundation’s property at 56 Tinakori Road, Wellington, was disposed of, while 67 Hankey Street, Brooklyn, was named ‘Braille House’ and taken over by the Wellington Branch and a major refurnishing initiated [Source: Annual Report 1985].
Late in 1984, the Disabled Persons Assembly created a Total Mobility Subsidy, which was joined by the Foundation in November 1984. Funded by member organisations and municipal authorities, the Total Mobility Scheme provided a 25 per cent or 50 per cent subsidy on private taxi travel for members whose disabilities forced reliance on taxi transport [Source: Quest For Equity].
The renovated Braille House was officially opened by C.K. Marshall, Minister of Education, on 3 October 1985 [Source: Annual Report 1986].
In 1986, the inaugural Chairman’s Award was given to member Viv Martin. For more information about this Award, see the Chairman's/Chair’s Award winners list.
In 1986 the Library moved to the Library of Congress’s four-track talking book format; this required a two million dollar investment [Source: Annual Report 1986].
In April 1987, the Foundation's Library took over responsibility for the audio magazine service previously provided by the New Zealand Association of the Blind and Partially Blind (NZABPB) [Source: Quest For Equity].
The Guide Dog Users Association, a special interest group focused on guide dog handler needs, was created in July 1987 [Source: Quest For Equity].
In 1987, what came to be known as the Jaffe Report was presented to the Board of Trustees, in which the author argued that rehabilitation services should be top priority in the Foundation and that the Foundation should move away from being a direct provider of accommodation and employment. In response to this report, the Board of Trustees set up a working party, which a year later endorsed the Jaffe Report's recommendation to expand rehabilitation services and proposed a comprehensive restructuring of field service teams to provide increased domiciliary training throughout the country [Source: Living A Vision].
In 1989, the Talking Book of the Year award was inaugurated to recognise the invaluable work narrators do for Foundation members and clients.
A Māori Services Adviser position was established in 1989 [Source: Annual Report 1990].
New Zealand Visually Impaired Empowering Women (NZ VIEW), a group formed for the purpose of empowering blind women, held its inaugural seminar in June 1989 with 46 women in attendance [Source: Quest For Equity].
The New Zealand Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) Society, a special interest group focused on the needs and experiences of those with retinitis pigmentosa, was established in late 1989 [Source: Quest For Equity].
The Foundation celebrated its Centennial in 1990. The book Pioneering A Vision was produced as part of the commemorations.
The new Guide Dog Centre at Homai, Manurewa, Auckland, was officially opened on 25 October 1990 by Te Paea Paro Muru (Sophie Muru), the Māori Princess. Te Paea Muru blessed the new centre and on behalf of the Tainui people presented Guide Dog Services with a carved waka [Source: The Chronicle December 1990].
The New Zealand Association of Sport for the Visually Impaired Incorporated (NZASVI Inc.), sometimes known as Visually Impaired (VIP) Sport, was created from an association of blind sports groups in 1991; it changed its name to Blind Sport New Zealand in 1994 [Source: Quest For Equity].
Hutchinson House closed on 31 March 1991, marking the end of accommodation provision on the Auckland site. The former residents were rehoused in flats or in rest homes.
Due to dropping profits and a sea change in the Foundation’s philosophical direction, the sheltered Workshop was closed early in 1992. The associated Wire Products unit, which had been located in a newer building near the Workshop on the corner of George and Titoki Streets, was sold on 31 December 1992.
The closing ceremony of the Jubilee Building as the official head premises of the Foundation was held on 3 April 1992 (a recording of the closing ceremony is available to Blind Foundation clients via the Foundation Library: This is your life: the closing ceremony of the main building, 545 Parnell Road, Auckland. DAISY audio 61994). The regional office of the Foundation relocated to Great South Road, and the national office was housed on George Street. Major structural problems with the Jubilee Building led to four years of remedial and renovation work.
During 1992 Fernwood Hostel Residence, the last aged care facility operated by the Foundation, was closed. The residence had accommodated 70 people, but occupancy was falling rapidly due to the availability of more modern facilities in Christchurch. Foundation senior staff assisted Fernwood residents and their families to find appropriate accommodation in more adequate rest homes in Christchurch, Timaru, Wellington and Dunedin [Source: Annual Report 1993].
The Telefriend Sight Loss Programme was successfully trialled in Wellington in early 1994, and then adopted by the Foundation as a nationwide service later that year, enabling volunteers who were visually impaired and the Foundation’s member services department to provide a telephone service for people coming to terms with sight loss.
On 6 December 1994, section 69 of the Copyright Act 1994 was passed. From then onwards, the Foundation could produce copyrighted works without permission provided it alerted the copyright owner to what it was doing, and provided it gave copies only to people with print disabilities [Source: Living A Vision].
The Telephone Information Service (TIS) was launched in December 1994. Narrators, usually volunteers calling in from their own homes, could record information on the service using the keys on their own phones, and blind listeners could phone in to the service and listen to what had been read. The content on TIS included newspapers, community and Foundation news, and consumer group discussions.
In 1995, Homai College changed its name to Homai Vision Education Centre.
The first annual Guide Dog Appeal, which grew out of International Guide Dog Day, was held in April 1996 [Source: Living A Vision]. The appeal would sometimes bear the name ‘Guide Dog Day’.
Āwhina House in Parnell, Auckland, custom-built to be the new headquarters for the Foundation, was officially opened by the Governor-General in July 1996.
In 1996, the New Zealand Post Blind Achievers’ Awards were inaugurated. For more information about this Award, see the Blind Achievers’ Awards winners list.
Christchurch Regional Office staff moved into the new Abberley House in Christchurch on 10 March 1997; it was later officially opened by Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys (18 July 1997?). As the new ‘property adjoined Abberley Park and Abberley Crescent […] Christchurch staff felt they would like to take the name [of the old building] with them to the new building next door’ [Source: Annual Report 1997].
Homai Vision Education Centre became a State Residential Special School under the aegis of the Ministry of Education on 1 July 2000. At that time it also changed its name to Homai National School for the Blind and Vision Impaired.
The Transcription Department, now known as Accessible Format Production (AFP), cut its physical links to Homai by relocating to Āwhina House in 2000 [Source: Living A Vision].
Braille Week was reconfigured as Blind Week in October 2000 [Source: Outlook October 2000].
The Adaptive Technology Unit for training members in technology skills was established [Source: Annual Report 2002].
Formerly a combined service known as Te Kupenga Hou, Māori Services (renamed Mana Kāpo) and Pacific Services were split into their own separate departments so that they could develop and implement culturally specific strategies for reaching Maori and Pacific Islands people [Source: Annual Report 2002].
A technology classroom opened in Āwhina House in Parnell, Auckland, in 2002, teaching members how to use Microsoft programs in tandem with adaptive technology devices. The course ran for 10 weeks full-time, and led to a NZQA qualification; on the strength of this success another classroom was opened in Wellington in 2003 [Source: Living A Vision].
From 2002 onwards, audio books were recorded digitally in the Foundation’s Studios using the "DAISY" (Digital Audio-based Information Systems) standard, which allowed them to be navigated on a chapter level, and potentially on a word-by-word-level. The development of the DAISY standard was an initiative by blindness agencies worldwide to structure and record talking books in a consistent way that gave users the greatest level of navigation and usability [Source: Living A Vision].
Name change: The Foundation became the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind under the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002 (the law was passed in December 2002). This name change came about because the Foundation wished to clarify its status as a body controlled primarily by, and for the benefit of, people who were blind or had low vision, and to modernise its structure and governance arrangements, giving it the characteristics of an incorporated society.
The new Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Constitution was adopted by a special resolution of members in February 2003.
Community committees replaced advisory committees in April 2003 when the Foundation became a member-driven organisation. At this point, there were 42 local and regional committees around the country [Source: Annual Report 2004].
Guide Dog Services celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2003.
The Blind and Low Vison Education Network NZ (BLENNZ) was formed in January 2005, bringing together Homai National School for the Blind and Vision Impaired and the country's 12 visual resource centres. More information about the evolution of BLENNZ can be found on the BLENNZ website.
New Zealand adopted Unified English Braille (UEB) as its braille standard in 2005.
As part of the Year of the Dog stamp issue, a braille stamp was issued for the first time in New Zealand [Source: New Zealand Post website].
In 2007, the Guide Dog Appeal underwent a name change and became the Red Puppy Appeal [Source: Living A Vision].
The NZ Blind Consumer Consortium (NZBCC) was formed in 2008. The consortium was made up of representatives from Parents of Vision Impaired NZ (PVI), NZ Vision Impaired Empowering Women (NZ VIEW), Association of Blind Citizens (ABC), Blind Sport New Zealand, Ngāti Kāpo o Aotearoa, Guide Dog Society NZ and Support and Education for our Youth, their Families and their Friends (SEYFF) as well as the Foundation’s Board and management team [Source: Annual Report 2008].
The new breeding centre for guide dogs at the Guide Dog Centre in Homai, Manurewa, Auckland, was officially opened in November 2008 [Source: Outlook Summer 2008].
The Braille Authority of New Zealand Aotearoa Trust (BANZAT) was formed from the merger of the Braille Authority of New Zealand (BANZ) and the Braille Literacy Panel (BLP), both of which had been originally formed in the 1980s. BANZAT’s mission statement was to speak up for braille, and ensure that blind adults and children could continue to read for many years to come [Source: Annual Report 2009-2010].
The transition to the Library’s new Digital Talking Book service was completed in 2011. Over 3,200 members were shifted from the old 4-track cassette players to new digital players supplied by the Foundation through charitable funding [Source: Outlook Autumn 2012].
Red Puppy Bikkie Day was launched in 2011 as part of Red Puppy Appeal. It was intended to give supporters the chance to raise funds in their own way alongside our annual street appeal [Source: Outlook Autumn 2011].
The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002 provided the Foundation with an option to register as an incorporated society, and was structured in such a way as to become spent if the Foundation chose to exercise that option. The Foundation registered as an incorporated society on 10 January 2012 and thus the Act was spent.
From February 2012, support services for Māori were supplied by Ngāti Kāpō [Source: Annual Report 2011-2012].
PACE, the Parent and Child Enrichment programme, was introduced. It offered children and young people a suite of age-specific programmes, such as the Life Skills programme for young adults to prepare them for independent living [Source: Annual Report 2011-2012].
Fale Kotuku, the Foundation’s South Auckland office based at Homai, re-opened in November 2012 after being demolished to make way for the new BLENNZ school [Source: Annual Report 2012-2013].
Name change: As a result of a project to refresh its brand, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind changed its brand name in December 2013 to become known as the Blind Foundation, while retaining Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind as the legal entity for all elements of the organisation.
The Blind Foundation Library launched Book Link, a web-based digital download platform for its audio books. This was supplemented in late 2015 by Booklink, an iDevice app for the Library’s books, magazines and newspapers.
The Foundation celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2015. There were nation-wide celebrations in the Foundation’s offices and in the blind and low vision community, and the book Living A Vision was produced as part of the commemorations.
When the Foundation became an Incorporated Society in 2012, fulfilling the requirements of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002, that Act became redundant. On 25 August 2016, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Repeal Bill was passed in the House of Representatives. The Bill received royal assent on 29 August 2016 and thus became the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act Repeal Act 2016.