About BCA

Forty Years of Achievement

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) was established in 1975 to represent the interests of people who are blind or vision impaired at the national, state and local levels. It has grown to an organisation of 3000 individual members and seven affiliated organisations.

Our mission is “to achieve equity and equality by our empowerment, by promoting positive community attitudes, and by striving for high quality and accessible services which meet our needs”.

Throughout our forty year history BCA has worked tirelessly “to change what it means to be blind” both for Australians who experience vision loss and for blind and vision impaired people throughout the world.

A more detailed look at the history can be found here; History of BCA

In carrying out its purpose the organisation’s activities may include:

  • providing peer support
  • providing individual and systemic advocacy
  • facilitating information exchange
  • empowering its members
  • promoting positive community attitudes
  • striving for high quality and accessible services which meet individual needs
  • promoting research into the causes and amelioration of the impact of blindness and vision impairment

Representation: As the national voice of people who are blind or vision impaired BCA has a seat on many Government, commercial and community sector advisory bodies. BCA is an active member of the Australian Blindness Forum and meets regularly with board and senior management representatives from the major blindness service organisations.

Advocacy: BCA’s individual advocacy service is available to all Australians who experience vision loss. With a focus on issues that impact on the individual because of their blindness/vision impairment, BCA works both directly and through specialist community advocates, to resolve issues in a constructive and educative manner and draws on more formal processes where a mutually agreeable solution cannot be found.

International Involvements: BCA has been an active member of the World Blind Union at both the World and Regional levels since its creation in 1984. Over that period two of our senior members have held office as World President and several more have served on the World and Regional Executives and various standing committees. In November 2000 BCA was the lead organisation for the hosting in Melbourne of the WBU 5th General Assembly. BCA has also lead capacity building projects in Fiji and Vietnam and has participated in many international conferences and forums.

Cross Disability Collaboration: Prior to the establishment of AFDO (Australian Federation of Disability Organisations) BCA was active in the then Office of Disability sponsored forums that brought together the views of the various disability specific consumer organisations. We were among the founding members of the National Caucus of Disability Consumer Organisations and more recently AFDO. We have been a member of NDS (National disability Services) for more than thirty years. BCA has also sponsored various cross disability projects, including the “DDA Standards Project”, sponsored by the Attorney General’s Department and “TEDICORE” which later transformed into ACCAN (the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network).

Research Projects: In association with its policy development and advocacy work, BCA has undertaken a range of blindness related research projects. Several of these resulted in published papers, including:

  • The Impact of Digital Radio Broadcasting on People with a Print Disability;
  • When a Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures – Improved Television Access for Blind Viewers in the Digital Era;
  • Everybody’s Business – Consumer Information Access for People who are Blind or Vision Impaired;
  • Accessible E-Commerce in Australia;
  • Report on Investigation into the Needs of and Services for People in Australia who are Deafblind.

Leadership Development: While providing proactive and well articulated representation for Australians who are blind or vision impaired, BCA has also facilitated the development of many blind people who have gone on to serve in prominent capacities both in Australia and internationally. Among our more prominent leaders:

  • Graeme Innes AO has served as Human Rights and Disability Discrimination Commissioner;
  • David Blyth AO and Maryanne Diamond AO have served four year terms as President of the World Blind Union;
  • Maryanne Diamond AO currently serves as Chair of the International Disability Alliance;
  • At least twenty BCA leaders have served (or are serving) on the boards of major blindness service agencies;
  • Graeme Innes AO served as Chair, and Michael Simpson as Deputy Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Body on Disability in its various configurations;
  • At least eight BCA leaders have, or are employed at the executive management level within major blindness service agencies.

Forty Years – Forty Wins

In Australia BCA has been at the centre of developments such as:

  1. The introduction and wide spread use of audible/tactile traffic signals;
  2. The widespread use of tactile ground surface indicators (hazard and directional tiles) across the built environment;
  3. The introduction, in several State Capital cities, of tactile and braille street signage;
  4. The inclusion in Australian Building Standards of specific provisions to assist way-finding and the independent use of lifts, by people who are blind or vision impaired;
  5. The continued availability of Operator Assistance to obtain and connect with unknown telephone numbers, following the closure of the more widely used 013 Directory Assistance Service;
  6. Removal of the ban on electronic advertising in the period immediately preceding federal elections;
  7. Conduct of disability service reviews into Orientation and Mobility and Print Disability services, on behalf of the then Department of Community Services and Health;
  8. Inclusion of blindness specific requirements, into the Education, Transport and Accessible Premises Standards, proclaimed under the Disability Discrimination Act. BCA also made major contributions to the “Guidance Notes” developed by the Human Rights Commission to assist with DDA compliance in the areas of employment and access to information.
  9. Introduction of a tactile symbol, to distinguish asthma medications; and the subsequent introduction of tactile markings and increased font sizes on pharmaceuticals and other household products;
  10. Adoption by Government, commercial and community organisations, of procedures to provide safety, corporate, policy, billing and consumer related documentation in braille and other accessible formats;
  11. Development of the Radio for the Print Handicapped network;
  12. Implementation by the home entertainment DVD industry of a protocol to maximise the availability of Audio Description on mass distribution DVDs;
  13. Conduct by the ABC of Australia’s first trial of Audio Description on Broadcast Television;
  14. Commitment from the major cinema operators, in association with the Australian Government, to introduce Audio Description as part of their conversion to digital projection;
  15. The introduction, by specialist library providers in Australia, of the DAISY structured audio system, to facilitate access to the content of text books and other reference material;
  16. Active participation in discussions that lead to the rationalization and merger of various blindness service agencies;
  17. Decisions by the Reserve Bank of Australia, to include high contrast numbering, distinct colours (and now tactile markings), as design features of Australia’s banknotes;
  18. Provision by the Reserve Bank of “CashTest” a simple tactile measure to differentiate between the various note denominations;
  19. Inclusion of tactile design features, to meet the needs of blind users, when Australia introduced the $1 and $2 coins to replace previous banknotes;
  20. The change in terminology to identify people as “vision impaired” rather than “visually impaired” – as vision relates to sight while visually relates to appearance;
  21. The adoption and policing of local laws in many municipalities, to minimize the hazard caused to blind pedestrians from overhanging foliage; the placement of street furniture and signage; and the use of inadequate protective barriers around work sites;
  22. Agreement across all jurisdictions, to offer reciprocity for use of state based taxi and public transport concessions for travellers who are blind or vision impaired;
  23. Development in Australia of early computer based technologies, (such as the Mountbatten Brailler and Eureka A4 computer), to facilitate independent written communication;
  24. Growing awareness among website developers and operators, of the need to ensure that their online presence complies with W3C protocols for accessibility;
  25. The introduction (and accreditation under the Financial Transaction Reports Act) of the BCA Identity Card, for use by people who are vision impaired, in place of a drivers licence;
  26. Provision by the Australian Electoral Commission (and for a number of years the major political parties) of key information about the conduct, candidates, (and party policies) in the lead up to Federal Elections;
  27. The development and availability of accessible voting systems in most Australian jurisdictions;
  28. Provision by the Bureau of Statistics of householder information and the text of the Census form in the lead up to each Population Census;
  29. Introduction by the major banks of audio output and tactile markings, to assist access to Automated Teller Machines;
  30. Development of The Employment Information Service, an accessible database containing the employment profiles of blind people,to inform both prospective employers and job applicants who were blind or vision impaired;
  31. Input into the development of various i-phone and android apps to ensure their usability by people who are blind or vision impaired;
  32. The continued availability and more recent extension of audible announcements on public transport services and at rail stations, tram stops and the like;
  33. The introduction in most jurisdictions of tactile numbering to assist with taxi and driver identification;
  34. Provision by the Australian Government of Talking Set Top Boxes, in association with the switchover to Digital Television;
  35. Community education initiatives, to enhance awareness of the blindness related expectations and complaints mechanisms embodied in the Disability Discrimination Act and similar state/territory legislation;
  36. Ongoing advocacy, to reinforce the right of dog guide users to access restaurants, taxis and other public facilities;
  37. Consumer research and education initiatives, in association with the Australian Braille Authority, to secure adoption in Australia of the Unified English Braille Code;
  38. Production of a weekly radio program, that has aired nationally for more than thirty years on more than twenty RPH and Community Radio outlets and via the Internet;
  39. Early adoption of internet streaming, as a platform to enable remote participation in national and international conferences and meetings;
  40. Leadership in Australia of a campaign to have blinding laser weapons banned, through a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.

Governance and Development

Information on Branches

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BCA Complaints Policy

If you would like information on our complaint process , we have a document BCA Complaints Policy (Word doc) that will assist.

If you would like to find out more about BCA, you might like to take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions (Word doc) for information.