Vision Impaired - Nas Campanella

Someone you should know – Nas Campanella.

At its heart, the NDIS is all about participants being in control of the pursuit of their goals. Identify the goals, plan how to reach them, put that plan into action and get there.

It’s a mix of passion (“what are my goals”), practicality (“how do I get there”) and purpose (“let’s do this!”)

Though our life stories and goals are all different, it’s useful and instructive (and dare we say it, inspirational) to learn of other people’s stories, and as far as a tale of practical, no-nonsense go-getting goes… well, please meet Nas Campanella!

If you’re an ABC or JJJ radio listener, chances are you might have already met Nas by way of her understated, warm and authoritative newsreader’s voice coming out of your speakers.

Nas been an ABC journalist and newsreader for much of the last decade. She worked her way through school, internships in newsrooms across Sydney, and finally landed a cadetship with the ABC, where she now writes, produces and presents hourly news bulletins on Triple J.

Nas has been vision impaired since she was six months old. To add to the challenge, she has a genetic disease that results in a near total lack of sensitivity in her fingertips and hands – meaning she can’t read Braille.

It’s extraordinary to witness Nas at work. Firstly she scours the digital newswire for breaking news and stories from the network’s correspondents, then she types up her broadcast script.

Then, when it’s time to read her hourly news dispatch, her script is fed to her earphones by a program that ‘reads’ what she’d typed. Nas then reads her bulletin on air, a second after hearing her script. While she’s talking she’s also listening for the next line. Added to this she operates her own panel, cueing up audio grabs, etc, and also has another voice coming into her headphones advising how much time the bulletin has remaining. She can be hearing  three voices, all at once, while she’s presenting.

It’s demanding and exacting work in a high-pressure environment, but for Nas it’s been a hugely satisfying fulfilment of her goals.

Sometimes, however, when we reach one goal we realise it’s actually a wonderful stepping stone to another.

And in Nas’s case, she’s using the experience of her own journey, and the platform of her achievements, to effect meaningful institutional change at the ABC.

“I heard from several journalism students with disabilities keen for a career in media,” she says, “and it got me thinking about my own experiences looking for work.”

“Most internship experiences were positive, but there were some where I felt like the elephant in the room that people had to tiptoe around or a compassion project where organisations could tick a diversity box by saying they’d taken on a blind intern for a week or two that year.

“One in five Australians has a disability and thousands of them are struggling to find employment. I wanted to help change that, and what better place to start than from within my own organisation.”

Initially, Nas set up a working group of fellow ABC employees who have a lived experience of disability. After consultation with the group, and running face-to-face sessions with staff in three regional offices, as well as the senior leadership team, she developed the ABC’s first Online Disability Awareness Training Program.

The module uses a mix of video, audio and text content to walk staff through personal and professional experiences people with disabilities face every day. It provides practical tips for content makers on language, imagery and conducting interviews with people of all abilities.

“For example: always ask the person how they’d like their disability described and avoid any language which implies that people are either diminished as a result of their disability or are victims.” Says Nas.

“As a journalist and advocate, I know how important that is in breaking down the stigma towards people with disabilities. I truly believe these tools will better inform reporters, so they can do just that. I hope it can be a game changer in the way we write about and portray people with disabilities.”

Nas – you’re a deadset champion and we salute you.

We thought it worth sharing an interview with Nas from her first years as the ABC:

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