BLENNZ: Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ

Te Kotuituinga Mātauranga Pura o Aotearoa

Barbara Armitage Award 2016


Congratulations to Maria Stevens

Recipient of the Barbara Armitage award

At the ATVI conference held in Tauranga in 2003 it was proposed that a suitable memorial be established in memory of Barbara Armitage who at the time of her death was a Resource Teacher Vision based in Dunedin.

It was agreed that the award be presented to a person who had made a significant contribution to the blind and low vision education sector, particularly in areas of leadership, innovation or commitment.

Funds were subsequently sought to commission a suitable trophy jointly funded by ATVI and SPEVI. Wellington artist Matt Gauldie was commissioned to cast a Kotuku for this award. It bears the inscription “He kotuku rerenga tahi” a whakatauki or proverb, which means “a white heron’s flight is seen but once”.  It is used to indicate a very special and rare event, and in this case refers to the unique contribution of the recipient.

Maria Stevens standing outside BLENNZ holding flowers and the Barbara Armitage trophy

Figure 1 – Maria holding flowers

Maria Stevens
Maria has worked in Braille related roles for 29 years and her contribution has been significant. She is passionate about good quality braille and is a strong advocate for the rights of blind people. She was a long-time member of the Braille Literacy Panel and the Braille Authority of New Zealand and played a key role in the transition to UEB. Currently she is chair of the Braille Authority of New Zealand Aotearoa Trust (BANZAT).

This year she attended and contributed to the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) Sixth General Assembly in Baltimore and is the ICEB Vice-Chair.

Maria Stevens stands holding the Barbara Armitage Award

Figure 2 – Maria holds the Barbara Armitage Award

Maria has contributed to blindness education in a variety of ways. During the years when the Diploma in Education of Students with Vision Impairment programme was delivered through the Auckland College of Education and later the University of Auckland Maria was a regular member of the interview panel to select students for the programme. She also contributed directly to teacher training during this time through participation as a guest speaker and also provided support to students in their preparation for the Braille Proficiency examination. She also had responsibility for marking of students’ exams. She currently manages 15 braille producers, 2 braille proof-readers and two collage groups. In addition to this work Maria has served on The Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ) Board of trustees and has been involved in interviews for BLENNZ staff.

Maria has been a member of SPEVI for many years and has participated in SPEVI conferences in both New Zealand and Australia. She has maintained close links with professionals working within blindness education.  She was involved in Pasifika initiatives and discussions at the last SPEVI conference in Melbourne.  She is a member of both the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Inc. and Ngati Kapo Māori.

Her contribution to the blind and low vision education sector is unique and therefore Maria is a very worthy recipient of the Barbara Armitage award.

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