Advocating for people living with vision impairment

While you may never have met VisAbility’s Access Consultant David Vosnacos, we can bet you’re likely to have enjoyed the benefits of his work while you’re out and about in Perth. David has been one of our valued team members for over 20 years, but his impact on the community will far outlast his career.

David sitting in VisAbility office, next to lego constructionDavid is passionate about making information, buildings and services accessible to all people in the community.

However, David initially joined VisAbility as a graduate Occupational Therapist in 1994. “Coming to VisAbility, it was fascinating to see people use technology to gain their independence. It was exciting to collaborate with colleagues who were keen to work with what was cutting-edge technology at the time.”

When the urge to travel kicked in, David headed off of Europe before finding his way back to VisAbility in 2002. On his return, David became Manager of Information Systems in our Library and Assistive Technology service before gradually moving into the area he works in now, access consulting.

Gaining a professional qualification in access consulting in 2011 opened an exciting new world for David, who has always had a passion for problem solving, community access and inclusion. David dived head first into advocacy work and carrying out VisAbility’s vision of equal access for all people. He began connecting with councils and organisations ensuring inclusive spaces were being created for every person, regardless of their ability.

If you meet David his passion for equality and inclusion is obvious. His advocacy work means he represents VisAbility on many panels and projects across the State. These included the Public Transport Authority (PTA) and the recently constructed new Perth Busport, the City of Melville, City of Perth (link opens in new window) and the Forrest Field Airport Link.

Through these access panels, David ensures inclusive practices are followed and provides valuable feedback on the access needs of people living with vision impairment or blindness. During the Perth Busport project David trained staff in Sighted Guide (a technique to assist vision impaired or blind travelers navigating the new facility safely). He also conducted an audit of all Braille signs in the building days out from the opening, after a printing error was noticed.

David’s dedication regularly takes him out of work hours and into his weekends. He is currently on the WA Museum advocacy panel, not as a representative of VisAbility, but of his own local community. The regular meetings to discuss access and inclusion run every two months on a Sunday. When the project is completed David will have been part of the panel for five long years. “I do it for the love of it,” he laughs.

For David, the love of his job comes from a deeper, meaningful place.

“I enjoy advocating on behalf of our clients, I hope to make a difference. It’s very important to me to be able to fix access issues that may have slipped through the cracks,” he says.

“Often with big projects, things get the rubber stamp of approval by consultants early on and when the project develops and changes over time, things get missed.”

“Sometimes, project managers will initially not understand the importance of access and inclusion. I make a real effort to have them engage with it on a more personal level.” He says.

“I have them think about times where they may have had a young family, a child in a pram or have had to carry a big load of shopping. These situations represent a small example of access issues. The solution is not always about disability, instead it can be about making everyone’s lives easier and more dignified.”

Image of the first LEGO set that includes people with a disability. Pictured is a LEGO bus, a man, a dog and a women in a wheel chair.
Image of the first LEGO set that includes people with a disability. David has a love of LEGO. Pictured is a LEGO bus, a man, a dog and a women in a wheel chair.

“Assuming someone with a disability or who uses a white cane would be happy taking the longer way around (a room or carpark) is not necessarily so. If you and I walk in a straight direct path and you wouldn’t be happy walking 10 minutes more, why should anyone with a disability? Dignity. It’s important to remember.”

David also spends his time tackling access issues that come to his attention in the local community. Clients alert him to inaccessible bus stops, or missing tactile ground surface indicators on road crossings or at traffic lights.

“I encourage people to put in feedback early on, rather than complaints. Part of my job is to advocate for clients being proactive. There are definitely times for strongly worded letters, but there are also feedback procedures which can get your far,” he says.

David recommends a phone app called Snap, Send, Solve (link opens in new tab) which allows you to easily report feedback to authorities in Australia.

Independence is an important consideration for David, this was something he realised early on in his Occupational Therapy role.

“Independence to me is about where a client wants to be, not where I can get them. Independence means something different to everyone, what’s important is that you or I listen and empower people to achieve their goals.”

When not at work David can be found generously volunteering his time at his local men’s shed, the Repair Café, or looking after his community gardens’ website. While his recreational pursuits may be varied, David’s passion for inclusion and community is undeniable.

We’re proud to call David a team member here at VisAbility. His passion is ever-present. While we’re not sure which projects David will go on to guarantee are accessible and inclusive, one thing we can say for sure is that he is helping ensure a brighter future in Western Australia for all.

More information

If you are interested in making your own digital or print content more accessible, we have a number of training courses and workshops that detail the principles and tools for making your content accessible to everyone.