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An image of a woman doing a duck face with images of an ad campaign using with the words 'blind low vision recs' surrounding the image

Hot takes on the new Blind Low Vision ad campaign

From 'a pretty cool ad' to 'a self-congratulatory approach', here is what some blind and low vision folks think of a campaign using high-contrast and text-to-speech technology.

  • Hot takes on the new Blind Low Vision ad campaign
    Read by Olivia Shivas
  • Blind Low Vision NZ recently launched a new ad campaign that uses imagery, tools and narratives that promote their services. The video advertisement (included below) features high-contrast colours and text-to-speech technology, with accompanying billboards and a special edition newspaper with large fonts and a bright yellow background. We asked a few folks from blind and low vision communities what they thought of it.

  • Ari Kerssens

    "It's a pretty cool ad. I like the work of the agency that made it. I found the text-to-speech laughter at the end relatable in a way that probably only a screen-reader user would. I chuckled. It was brilliantly creative. 

    What I don't like, though, is the organisation's new slogan - 'See A Way'. Initially it didn't really register. I went away and had a bit of a think, though, and the positioning is really all wrong. Why?

    It's the classical paternalistic adage of 'oh, ye of no hope, let us help you so you can see a way forward'. It's a slogan written for a prominently non-disabled audience. And that's fine. But this slogan is written from a non-disabled perspective. It is void of an understanding of what it is to be disabled - let alone proud of and empowered by it. 

  • I'd much rather have a slogan along the lines of 'See It Our Way'

    Ari Kerssens

  • Granted, we are talking very nuanced, subconscious linguistics here - but it is ‘othering’ us, albeit unintentionally. And these subtle nuances do create and perpetuate a very real bias. I'm gonna say it. The A-word: ✨ableism✨

    I'd much rather have a slogan along the lines of 'See It Our Way'.

    We want a world that's accessible, right? Raising awareness of the blind experience to change attitudes towards blindness is literally one of the key reasons Blind Low Vision exists, right? So I do find it irksome that they have, with this slogan, reverted to appeal to the non-disabled. To me, as a self-hating 19 year old who saw my blindness as rendering me broken. Who couldn't see a way. 

    Where is the pride in that? Where is the positivity? It was a hell of a journey but I find joy in my blind identity now. So do many of my friends. If the messaging to outsiders was one of seeing it our way, not only would it raise awareness around accessibility as was the intention with this ad, but it would also frame blindness in a way that was a lot more empowering. Assertive, even. From our perspective, the world could be doing a lot better to be accessible. See it our way, Blind Low Vision."

Image description: A screenshot from Blind Low Vision's website states, 'Welcome to our very, very easy to read website'. The text is black against a yellow background. Credit:

  • Image description: A screenshot from Blind Low Vision's website states, 'Welcome to our very, very easy to read website'. The text is black against a yellow background
  • Paul Brown 

    "As someone who's totally blind, I just don't get the advert at all. So I kind of feel excluded from an advert about us. I'm not very keen on the laugh at the end, I'm just not sure what that's meant to be about. Some people feel that the laugh bit at the end has kind of made what might have been okay seem kind of cheap and frivolous and a bit of a laugh at the expense of blind people. 

    And the word I hear from people with low vision is that they're concerned that this blurry text would put people off rather than make them keen to go and get support. Just because of the blurriness and they think that's the bloody best they're going to get.

    I guess I am more interested, to be honest, about the wider question which is about charitable organisations and how they have to portray us in order to get funding. It's someone with a vision impairment reading and accessing a voice programme.

  • ... in the whole scheme of things, this isn't the worst advert

    Paul Brown

  • I wonder how different the advert would be if blind and low vision people were involved. And my guess is that the advert would be quite different.

    I certainly just don't understand it and I feel a bit miffed about being excluded from an advert, I still feel that I ought to be able to know what's going on in an advert about our community.

    I accept it's not aimed at me, I get that, but I still think it could have been done in a way that was inclusive. Wouldn't it have been great to have had the first audio described advert? 

    There have been adverts in the past where people have effectively said guide dogs almost do everything for blind people. So in the whole scheme of things, this isn't the worst advert."

  • Áine Kelly-Costello

    "Increased awareness about Blind Low Vision's support isn't a bad thing in itself, as it's all too easy to feel like asking for support is out of reach when going through a significant vision transition. I understand that. Most disability organisations need to raise awareness and fundraise, but care must be taken not to alienate blind people ourselves.

    I interpret the Hi-Vis campaign as taking a self-congratulatory approach to treating accessibility - specifically text readability - as an effective marketing tactic. It's portrayed as a newfangled clever idea to pay attention to as a strategy for attracting clientele with low vision, instead of as the fundamental right that it is. For example, embedding accessibility into media outlets for our community goes well beyond printing a single large print and high contrast newspaper edition as was the focus at the launch of the campaign. Media accessibility for blind and low vision news consumers needs to cover screen reader digital access (not being interrupted mid-sentence by pop-up ads, for instance), accessible data visualisation alternatives, audio description, and a consistent approach to high contrast readable text both in digital and hard-copy.

  • Most disability organisations need to raise awareness and fundraise, but care must be taken not to alienate blind people ourselves

    Áine Kelly-Costello

  • The ad seems to play into the unease many may understandably feel about asking for help when losing vision or even admitting to themselves their vision is changing. But instead of reaching out in a clear and encouraging way, it deals in awkward beating around the bush. For example: "We need to be very clear, because, well, it's fairly obvious". And again, the use of the automated voice to "really ram home the point". The mysterious, unexplained "point". Finally, it attempts to make a joke about the Blind Low Vision website being "very, very easy to read. Ha, ha, ha." It's an off-key framing that suggests a real discomfort with standard best-practice accessibility provisions like large high-contrast text.

    Turning vision loss into something gimmicky to be made light of comes across to me as one-dimensional and it damages representations of blindness. This is significant because the image of blindness portrayed by the country's largest blindness service provider is likely to influence how people view our community, and also how people newer to vision loss feel about their own journey or that of family members and friends."

  • Blind Low Vision shares its process

    The idea for the campaign came about after the organisation realised not enough people know its services were available for people who experience any form of vision loss, not just people with complete blindness.

    Blind Low Vision’s communications manager Aditya Kundalkar says it did research with the organisation’s client services team to understand how people come to engage with the organisation and what misconceptions they might have. “For this particular campaign, our audience was not people who are blind or already have low vision or already know about us.” The campaign also aims to target people working with those with vision loss, such as optometrists, who could make referrals to the organisation.

    Agency YoungShand came up with the idea to make the campaign imitate the experience of someone with vision loss and “what their world starts to look like” with the use of high-vis screens and magnification of text, Kundalkar says.  

    In terms of the feedback process, Kundalkar said the Blind Low Vision governance board, which does have members with vision loss, was briefed on the campain. “It made sense to sort of check in with our board, share the plan with them, sort of make sure whether they had any feedback or not,” Kundalkar says. “That was the level of consultation with the community, our board … they seemed pleased with it.” The board also agreed the campaign was not targeted at people experiencing vision loss already connected with the organisation.

    Blind Low Vision provides services such as learning adaptive living skills, an accessible library, as well as a sport and leisure team who looks after clients wanting to engage with the community. “The success of this campaign for us would be that more and more people realise that we're here for them,” Kundalkar says.