Panellist: Maria Stevens, Lead Accessible Formats Specialist, BLENNZ

Head and shoulders portrait of Maria Stevens, a woman with long-dark hair and medium-skin tone, wearing a black top and silver earrings.

About Maria

I am a mum of two adult children and two teenage grandchildren who keep me busy and in touch with the fads and trends of the day which seem to change so much and so quickly. My daughter has a vision impairment but the other three have good sight. So I had to learn and adapt to the sighted educational setting as well as being able to support my daughter who used large print. I am the youngest of 11 children, 6 with a vision impairment although I was the only one who was taught Braille and as I am sure you are all well aware as you move through your educational journey, the print decreases while the expectation to read increases. Braille has served me well throughout my life.  

Currently I am the Lead Accessible Formats Specialist at BLENNZ Blind Low Vision Education Network New Zealand (from 2023 till now). I am tasked with providing educational material in Braille, tactile graphics, twin vision, collage and large print to students by the requested due dates.   

Previously worked at Blind Low Vision lasting 37 years in Accessible Formats Service with my main role ensuring that Braille and tactile graphics requests which were provided to New Zealanders reading Braille was of the highest quality we could provide.  

I represent New Zealand on the International Council on English Braille and BANZAT have just recently held the ICEB 8th General Assembly here in Auckland.  

I chair the Braille Authority of New Zealand Aotearoa Trust BANZAT (a standard setting body) whose functions include the promotion of Braille, following international standards and Braille examinations set annually. 

I am a life member of Blind Citizens New Zealand and a committee member on the Auckland branch committee of BCNZ.  

Just re-joined the South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment SPEVI.  

Am a member of Te Ropu Waiora a group established to support Maori with disabilities. Also a member of Te Whanau o Homai.  

Annual volunteer collector for the Howick RSA.