Category: CCB Newsletters

CCB National Newsletter April 2017

Apr 04 2017

Advocacy News++:
Advocacy is an important part of CCB and as a result we work with other organizations of and for the blind on many national concerns. One such group is CAG – Consumer Access Group. Together we work on position papers relating to concerns that affect Canadians living with vision loss.

From March 24th-26th a face-to-face meeting was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Organizations that attended included: AEBC – Alliance for Equality for Blind Canadians, ASIC – Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers, ASVI – Alberta Society for the Visually Impaired, BFC – Barrier Free Canada, CBSA – Canadian Blind Sports Association, CCB – Canadian Council of the Blind, CNIB – Canadian National Institute for the Blind, CNSDB – Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind, and VIRN – Vision Impaired Resource Network. Louise Gillis was there representing CCB.

The meeting was very successful with a great deal of information provided by invited guests. Barrier Free Canada representative Donna Jodhan spoke on the importance of this organization now and into the future to ensure we get legislation for a disabilities act and that it is carried out when enacted.
There was also a presentation regarding the importance of sport for persons with sight loss. The attendees were able to provide feedback regarding current sports and what is needed to make sports accessible.

The CNIB is ready to start working on the next strategic plan – one that will guide everything from 2018-2022. They did a consultation with the group in attendance. Anyone interested in doing the on-line survey can do so at

Throughout the weekend we did work on position papers. These papers can be found on line at: Members of CCB can send questions to if they have any advocacy items they wish to address which will first be looked at by our National committee who will research and decide if they need to be dealt with by CAG.

Working together on some larger advocacy concerns can hopefully resolve the items faster. As we know sometimes it takes years to do so and going through the channels of communication requires a lot of work. Blindness organizations have been successful in the past and will continue to do so into the future.
Submitted by Louise Gillis, CCB National President

In Memory++:

Natasha l. Achter
December 19, 1991 – March 28, 2017

It is with profound sorrow that we announce the peaceful passing of Natasha, beloved and beautiful daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, aunt, and friend, on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at the age of 25 years. Remembering her beautiful memories, are her parents, David and Tangy; brothers, Preston and Evan (Lenore); niece Molly; and her beloved dog Rufus. Natasha is also survived by her loving grandparents, Alice, Lois, and Ferdy; as well as many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Natasha was an angel on earth, she lived fully and loved completely. She never took one moment of her life for granted. Natasha was involved in the community and always had a plan.

Natasha first came to the CCB’s Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championships at the age of 12. She has grown through curling and has been skip of Team Saskatchewan for the past few years. She will be remembered fondly by all the curlers and CCB members who knew her.

CCB and Vision Health++:

CCB has been working hard to improve the vision health of Canadians and is increasingly being recognized across Canada for its efforts. Organizations such as the Canadian Association of Optometrists recognize and support CCB for innovative programs such as the GTT and Mobile Eye Clinic. Our members are continually attending conferences and events promoting eye care and advocating for the blind and vision impaired.

On Saturday, March 25th, Jim Tokos, representing the CCB, was an exhibitor at the 1st Annual Canadian Interdisciplinary Vision Rehabilitation Conference at the University of Waterloo.

Attending the Conference were many Vision Rehab teachers, rehab support personnel, optometry students, and Orientation and Mobility teachers.

CCB was the only organization “of” the Blind to have an exhibit, and received a lot of visitors from the show interested in advising patients, clients, and members what other activities were available to persons living with vision loss who have completed the vision rehab program and wanted to continue on with their lives. Many of these programs are currently being offered by CCB such as peer support and sports and recreation. There were also a lot of personnel who were familiar with the fine work of the Council and praised the GTT program across Canada. There were also many positive comments about the work the CCB was doing in the Ottawa and surrounding area with the Mobile Eye Clinic, and many of the attendees had reviewed stats on the success of the program.

It was very enlightening to hear the many positive comments about the Council and the significant success of the GTT programs, both East and West. Many walked away with the White Cane magazines, as the magazine highlighted the many successes the CCB had to offer in all areas of its programming, location of its Chapters, its wonderful partners, and truly identifies an Organization we are all proud of and want to share with everyone.
Submitted by Jim Tokos

Invitation to Accessible Book Club++:

Come out and join the discussion with the CCB Ottawa listeners book club! We meet the first Tuesday of the month, 10:00am, at the CCB National Office at 20 James Street. New members are always welcome. We are attempting to arrange a second sitting of the book club on the first Saturday of the month to accommodate those who cannot come out on weekdays. Our reading for the upcoming months is Stalin’s Daughter (April), The Birthday Lunch (May), and Sweetland: a novel (June). For more information please contact Deb at (613) 723-2267 or

CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter WCW ‘Experience’ Expo a great success!++:

On February 4, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter of the CCB kicked off White Cane Week by hosting the 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo, a hands-on, interactive exposition in which over 30 exhibitors shared their ‘experience’, providing creative, adaptive solutions to all aspects of life with vision loss.

The Expo had four major objectives: First, to offer visitors information on as wide a range of the products, supports, services, and recreational groups and organizations available to the vision loss community in Toronto. Second, to offer exhibitors the opportunity to network, share resources, and promote their offerings to an audience. Third, to open up an information-rich dialogue with those outside the vision loss community, expanding the common conception of what living with a visual impairment means. And fourth, to bring Toronto’s vision loss and sighted communities together around a fun, interactive and informative event.
On all counts, the Expo was a resounding success! With between 350 and 400 visitors, over 50 representatives from more than 30 organizations, nearly 50 volunteers, and 15 special demonstrations, the Expo offered visitors a rich array of options open to those living with vision loss. Exhibitors were thrilled with the level of engagement, and many were able to sign up new members, arrange future sales enquiries, or pass along detailed information about their service or product offerings.

Media partner Accessible Media Inc. broadcast their first-ever live remote of the AMI Radio show ‘Kelly & Company’ from the floor of the Expo. CCB’s National President, Louise Gillis, officially opened the event, talking with visitors and exhibitors about the importance of building a sense of community and public awareness that events like the ‘Experience’ Expo afford. As CCB National’s ‘Featured Event’, the 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo embodied the spirit of the scores of events rolled out in more than 80 Chapters of the CCB across Canada during White Cane Week, February 5-11.

Finishing off the Expo, visitors were treated to a special performance by CCB’s ‘Glenvale Players Theatre Group’, a community theatre company composed of visually impaired actors, directors and stage personnel, who entertained the audience with two short – and hilarious skits. To cap off the day, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter hosted just over 100 people of all visual abilities at a ‘Community Social’, a chance to celebrate the vitality and diversity of the vision loss community, with scrumptious food, a cash bar, music from the 50’s & 60’s, and draws for nearly $700 in donated door prizes.
“The Expo was a terrific opportunity for those living with vision loss to share an incredible amount of information across our community, explore possibilities, break the isolation that so often accompanies living with a disability, and to expand the definition of what it means to be blind”, said Ian White, CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter President, “and we’re hoping to be able to make this event a regular part of White Cane Week celebrations.” Until then, says White, many of the resources featured at the Expo are listed on the CCB Toronto Visionaries website on the ‘Community Resources’ page at

Get Together With Technology (GTT) Vancouver!++

Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind in partnership with Blind Beginnings

People who are blind or partially sighted of all ages are invited to this month’s GTT where we will learn what a Dropbox folder is, how to use it with computers and smart phones, and the accessibility features built-in.

Who Should Attend?
– People who have, or plan to have a tablet or smart phone and want to be able to download audio books and other files from one device to another
– People who want assistance with other assistive technology like Mac and PC computers, talking book machines etc.

Time: Saturday, April 8, 10AM to 12Noon
Where: Vancouver Community College, Broadway campus – Room 2501 Building A 1155 East Broadway

For more information, please contact:
Shawn Marsolais
Albert Ruel
1-877-304-0968 Ext. 550

Announcement from the Victoria Out of Sight Dragon Boat Team and BC Blind Sports++

The Victoria based “Out of Sight” Dragon Boat Team is gearing up for practices to commence in early April, and we are now recruiting new members for the 2017 season.

Practices are on Monday and Wednesday afternoons starting at 5:15, and last until 7:00pm.
We are racing in the Gorge Sprints in May, Gorge Fest and Vic Fest in August, and possibly Nanaimo in July, and Cowichan Bay in late August.

Dragon Boat Racing is a great sport offering great exercise, where your vision level does not prevent you from competing equally with everyone else.

Volunteers are available to assist you at all stages of practice and racing.

This is a BC Blind Sports program, so fees will be approximately $100.00 for all practices and the 3 definite races.

For further information please contact;
John at;
Ken at:

Accessible Sports++:
Below is a link to a nice story on Brenda Lona MacDonald who is an aspiring Paralympic Alpine skier. She is also a member of our junior girls goalball team who will be competing at junior nationals in Brantford, Ontario next month. Good luck Brenda with your upcoming ski races!

To watch the story, please visit:

Tele Town Hall:++

The tele town hall team would like to thank those of you who took the time to attend our tele town hall meeting on March 04 by phone and by listening in online.

Your feedback, comments, and suggestions were greatly appreciated and within the next few weeks we will be using the recording of this meeting to summarize notes which we hope to distribute some time after Easter (April
16) along with some proposed courses of action as next steps.
Once again; thank you!
–Your tele town hall team

Work and play in Muskoka this summer at beautiful CNIB Lake Joseph Centre!++:

We are looking for energetic and enthusiastic Lifeguards (Bronze Cross minimum) to work as Program Facilitators for our waterfront programs. From swimming to canoeing, paddle-boating to tubing, our waterfront team is essential to providing our guests with the best summer getaway experience. Join now for an unforgettable summer job experience that will give you the skills you need to conquer life! For more information, visit:

BLC Teleconference: Choose Your Next Braille Display!++:

Are you looking to purchase a braille display but can’t decide which one is right for you (or for one of your students)?

Join BLC for a panel discussion covering a variety of displays and notetakers on the market.

Our panelists have extensive experience with many different devices and will answer any questions you may have. They will describe the pros and cons, as well as the features of the displays they use. They will also discuss the factors they considered when deciding which device to purchase.

Date: Saturday, April 8th, 2017
Time: 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern
Cost: Free

Note: This is the final teleconference that will be offered free of charge. In the future, teleconferences will be free for members of BLC only. The cost will be $20 for non-members.

To register: Send an email to by Wednesday, April 5th

If you have questions about a specific device please include this in your email and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

Happenings at Camp Bowen++:

March has been a busy month here at Camp Bowen. Plans for camp continue to come together and we have some details about this year’s program to share with you all. In addition, we are please to say that after some snowy setbacks, our presentation to elementary school students and our White Cane Week themed fundraiser went ahead in March.

We are looking forward to Adult Camp, which will be running from Monday, July 31st. to Friday, August 4th this year. While we will be negotiating for a weekend going forward, our success will be dependent on a good turnout this year.

Regarding camp fees, we previously wrote that we would let you know when we had received the pricing package from the Bowen Island lodge. The numbers are in and they are as follows:

Please note: the below prices are set by the Bowen Island Lodge with the exception of the amount for Monday’s supper, which is paid by us directly to the Tuscany restaurant. Neither the CCB nor the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired add any additional charges to camp fees.

Food + Rooms
Base Amount: $385.78
Lodge Gratuities: $26.82
Tax: $37.40
Total: $450.00

Please note: a $200 subsidy is available from the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social innovation for British Columbian’s who have a Persons with Disability designation.

Please note: The above fees do not include supper on Thursday as that night will be an opportunity to explore the local restaurants. We are offering a $10 Thursday supper add-on if you would like to eat supper at the lodge that evening. If you opt for this add-on, the total cost will be $460

We are aware that camp fees are rather high and will continue to advocate for lower fees. For more information or to register for camp, please visit the below link:


On Thursday, March 2, our own Alex, Jessica and Jocelyn went to Bowen Island Community School to talk to kids about blindness. This White Cane Week themed event was originally supposed to take place on Thursday, February 9 but got postponed due to bad weather.

Alex, Jessica and Jocelyn spoke to more than 50 students in grades 4 and 5 about Braille, assistive technology, and mobility. Students got to learn about the Braille alphabet, Braille books, the Perkins Brailler, Braille notetakers, the iPhone’s accessibility features, white cane travel, and guide dogs, among other things. Alex brought his guide dog, Zandra, who was a big hit. All in all, the day was a huge success.

We give a huge thank you to Bowen Island Community School for the opportunity to speak to your students. Thank you to the staff and students for your enthusiasm and openness. We look forward to coming back next year and talking to even more classes.

On March 11, we had our White Cane Week themed fundraiser at Doc Morgan’s on Bowen Island. Members of the community came out to join us for an evening of live jazz music from Bowen’s own talented Teun Schut Trio, a live auction, and a 50/50 draw. Our door prize, which was one of our new Camp Bowen mugs, was popular. It was lucky we had a second one for the auction. Our banner was on display for the first time.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support us. We would also like to thank Doc Morgan’s for hosting us and providing meals for the band. We would furthermore like to thank the Ruddy Potato, Cocoa West Chocolatier, and the anonymous donors who generously donated items to our auction. We couldn’t do the work we do without your support.

Stay tuned as more information about camp becomes available. For up to date information, you can always visit or call us at +1 (844) MYBOWEN (692-6936). We will also be updating everyone in April’s edition of this newsletter.
Submitted by the Camp Bowen Team

++From Leader Dogs for the Blind

Now Taking Applications for Summer Experience Camp Please help us spread the word about our Summer Experience Camp to any 16 and 17-year-olds you know who are visually impaired. Camp is a week of outdoor fun, friendship and skill building. The program combines physical activities like kayaking, rock wall climbing and tandem biking with things exclusively Leader Dog—GPS training and the opportunity to spend time with future Leader Dogs.

Leader Dog covers all costs including airfare to Michigan—and everyone receives a free HumanWare Trekker Breeze+ GPS device. Summer Experience Camp is scheduled for June 23–June 30, 2017. Applications are due by April 1, 2017.
For more information and to download an application, go to or call the client services department at 888-777-5332.

In the News
Blind cabinet minister promises Canada’s first national accessibility legislation will have teeth, could be retroactive++:

PARLIAMENT HILL-“It’s been a very personal experience for me,” says Canada’s Minister of Sport and Disability Carla Qualtrough, taking a seat on the couch in her Hill office with her back facing the window so the sun isn’t in her eyes.

Ms. Qualtrough, a former Paralympian and human rights lawyer who is blind and light sensitive, is now embarking on an unprecedented journey: drafting Canada’s first national accessibility law which will set federal standards of accessibility for people with disabilities.

She said it will be a game-changer for big Canadian employers and could include retroactive compliance measures.

Ms. Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.)-who was born with five per cent of her vision, and has 10 per cent with her glasses on-has lived all her 45 years having to be the one speaking up for herself about the accommodations she needs. She said she hopes this new law will flip the script for people with disabilities.

“It’s been quite a journey; it’s been quite emotional,” she told The Hill Times in an interview last week in her Centre Block office on Parliament Hill, which is decorated with Canadian sports memorabilia and photographs of her and cabinet colleagues.

Currently, addressing accessibility issues is done reactively. People with disabilities can only defend their rights after experiencing inaccessibility, by filing a complaint with either their provincial or federal Human Rights Commission.

More than half of all the discrimination complaints received by the Canadian Human Rights Commission between 2011 and 2015 were disability-related. When she was appointed to cabinet in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) mandated her to pass a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

The legislation will apply to all companies that operate under federal jurisdiction, including banks like the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal; interprovincial travel services like Air Canada and Via Rail; national telecommunications companies like Rogers and Bell; and all federal government employers.

The intent of the bill will be proactive about addressing the common barriers faced, including those in the built environment, like ramps and the height of service counters. Ms. Qualtrough is considering whether to set expectations of compliance within the National Building Code.

Then there’s also the potentially tough sell to businesses that hiring people with disabilities, or setting up space to be accessible, is an investment and not an expense that will bring in the 14 per cent of Canadians, as customers or employees, who have reported they have a disability that limits their daily activities.

“We need to strike a balance between something that will have some teeth, so something that might have some standards that are enforceable, that create these expectations, but also something that promotes the innovation and the culture change,” she said. “It’s got to have teeth, that’s the point of it.”

Right now, Ms. Qualtrough is working with her colleagues on nailing down the basic principles of the bill, like whether it will include the creation of an ombudsman, how it will be enforced, and how to open up the definition of disability so the largest number of Canadians can see themselves and their situations reflected in the law. She says they haven’t settled on a model but are pulling from what has worked and what hasn’t in similar laws internationally and closer to home.

“How prescriptive do we want to be? How aspirational do we want to be? What kinds of enforcement mechanisms exist? Do we want to build our own internal shop within government? Do we want to task an existing external body like the Human Rights Commission? There’s a whole bunch of fundamental decisions that have to be made, which will then lead to the actual wording of the act,” she said.

“There are models out there. It’s just trying to figure out the Canadian solution, and that’s the next phase, that’s what’s keeping me awake at night, trying to get it right,” she said.

It will also have to set up some consistency across Canada between the federal and provincial realms; something the minister said there’s been buy-in for from her regional counterparts, with some provinces having already implemented their own laws, including the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Others are waiting for the federal model to come in before adopting a provincial or territorial model.

“We’ve got to steer this ship in the same direction or it’s just going to be a huge missed opportunity,” said Ms. Qualtrough. “If you have a credit union next to a bank, one is provincial, one is federal, and they don’t want to have a different accessibility experience.”

There’s also consideration being made as to whether the new law will include retroactive measures, meaning numerous federal buildings would have to think about retrofitting its space to meet the new accessibility standards. The minister said this is likely because “if we don’t do something retroactive, we won’t be cracking this nut.”

One unanswered question is who will pay for it, a detail Mr. Qualtrough said is still to be decided.

The Justice Department is taking the lead in drafting the text of the bill, and Ms. Qualtrough is aiming to go to cabinet with the legislative portfolio in the early fall of 2017 and to have a bill ready to table in Parliament by the spring of 2018.

This drafting process comes after months of consultations, which are scheduled to formally end on Tuesday, Feb. 28, and included an online survey, the minister travelling to 18 cities across Canada to hold town halls and consultation meetings, as well as a youth forum in Ottawa in November, in total reaching or hearing from about 5,700 people. The report on what was heard will be released in late May or early June after it’s translated into both official languages, as well as in braille and on video.

At all the stops on the tour Ms. Qualtrough and her staff used accessibility forms, as well as having American Sign Language and other technical supports. She said it was probably the most inclusive consultations ever done in Canada.

“For me it was obvious. It was a no-brainer, I don’t think anybody even dared question my desire to make it otherwise, because we had to walk the talk. Embarking on this journey would have been window-dressing if we didn’t provide the people we’re trying to serve every opportunity to be involved,” she said.

She said on many federal files, she’s made sure to be a bit of the stick in the mud, making sure other decisions have a disability lens, much like what the federal Liberals have embraced with gender-based analysis.

“It’s time for it to happen on the disability file,” she said. “What I heard consistently across the country is that there really has been a lack of federal leadership on disability issues writ-large.”

While the opposition parties are signalling support for the new law, NDP disability critic Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.) has been calling for the government to fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities before passing legislation, otherwise it’ll just be a “paper tiger.”

“If you’re serious about legislation, you want it to be monitored and to be held-up. You want someone to be able to appeal. You want it to be able to be enforced, in some way, shape, or form, and that’s what this does,” Ms. Hardcastle told The Hill Times.

Ms. Qualtrough said the responsibility to get this right weighs heavy, mentioning that in the consultation process she’s heard from parents who are worried about their children’s futures, something she takes to heart as a mother of four.
She said she hopes that, in some way, she and Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, Ont.), who is quadriplegic, are setting an example.

“It’s exciting. When you look on the floor of the House of Commons now, there are two people with visible disabilities. You can tell when I stand up and my Question Period notes are in a 55 size font that I can’t see very well,” she said, noting that while Parliament is fairly accessible, there are certain things about her day that most don’t have to think about.

For example: the House speaker will speak to her instead of nodding; at speaking engagements her staff make sure the spotlight and backlight are lowered so the glare doesn’t prevent her from reading her notes; documents and electronic devices are formatted to a larger font; and she’s found new ways to relate to people because it’s rare she can read a name tag or remember the details of faces.

Prior to entering politics in 2015, being elected with 49.1 per cent of the vote in her riding, Ms. Qualtrough worked as a human rights lawyer. She was also a Paralympic swimmer that competed in the Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games, winning three bronze medals.

After her athletic competition days were over, she worked on Parliament Hill as a staffer between 1999 and 2005 for Liberal MPs Dennis Mills and Paul DeVillers.

Just announced last week, she’s being inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in April, a celebration she says her whole family will be coming to Ottawa for.
By Rachel Aiello, the Hill Times

++Legally blind hockey fan sees game for first time:
‘It was all so amazing’

Olivia Lettich could not stop giggling. Whenever someone in her family brought up the Calgary Flames, the 11-year-old Lettich would light up with excitement at the mention of her favorite hockey team.

Five years had passed since Lettich visited Scotiabank Saddledome for a Flames game, jumping and cheering at every blast of the horn along with the rest of the red-clad fans, but this game against the New York Islanders provided something different.

This time, Lettich, who is legally blind, saw her favorite players and watched the action unfold in front of her as the Flames’ special guest after eSight, a company that sells hands-free devices that allow legally blind individuals to see, reached out to the Calgary Flames Foundation in December to set up the event.

It was a packed day for Lettich, who sang along to the Canadian national anthem on center ice, observed the players warm up from the players’ bench, watched the game with her family from seats 19 rows behind the net and met Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano in the locker room after Calgary’s 5-2 victory over the Islanders, all while wearing her eSight glasses that help improve her vision from 20/400 to 20/40 – glasses she didn’t have at her last Flames game.

“I was able to see all the colors, all the shots, all the names on the jerseys, all the blocks and how fast they were moving,” Lettich said in a phone interview Monday. “It was all so amazing.”

When Lettich was 4 months old, she had a bilateral retinoblastoma, a rare pediatric eye cancer, diagnosed. She would go through nine rounds of chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and 50 radiation treatments before doctors removed her right eye to prevent the tumors from spreading.

Lettich’s cancer is in remission but she is legally blind in her left eye.
She has worn eSight glasses, which uses high-definition camera technology, for the past 18 months in school, at movie theaters, sporting events and concerts, but does not wear them throughout the day.

All that, however, hasn’t stopped the energetic preteen from swimming, equestrian jumping and skiing. In addition to her love of hockey, Lettich is a big Baltimore Ravens fan. She rarely misses watching the Ravens on Sundays and the Flames whenever the family is home.

“We watch the Flames at home as much as we can,” said Lettich’s mother, Meredith. “We have an ottoman and she’ll sit right on it, within a foot of the TV.”

Several months ago, Meredith received what she called a “very cryptic phone call” from eSight asking questions about Lettich’s favorite hockey players.
Once she found out the plan that was initiated by eSight and put together by the Calgary Flames Foundation, Meredith kept much of it as a surprise for her daughter.

It wasn’t until last minute that Lettich found out that she was going to the game, and she didn’t know until the day of that she would meet the players.

“They were so amazing, not just to Liv but all four of our kids,” Meredith said. “They fawned over all the kids, and made them feel special. I can’t say enough about their experience.”

As for Lettich, she left with a story of a lifetime, and the ability to recall not just the raucous atmosphere of a Flames game she experienced years ago, but also the incredible athleticism of professional hockey players that she was able to see for herself.

“It was so much more exciting,” Lettich said. “I didn’t have to ask anyone what was going on and I could physically see it with my own eyes. It was so much more fun because you could see the amazing blocks and you could see [painful] looking smashing in the boards. .I hope to go again soon.”
Washington Post, March 7, 2017.

Happy Spring.

National Newsletter February 2017

Feb 01 2017



White Cane Week 2017++

Get ready for another fun and exciting awareness week from February 5 to 11. Events include our annual AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship and countless local activities. Please visit the CCB website to keep yourself updated on the many exciting events that will be taking place this year across the country. And stay tuned for reports on events in upcoming newsletters!

2017 AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship++

Our annual Blind and Vision Impaired Championship will again be held at the Ottawa Curling Club. We wish all the participants Good Curling!

CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter to host the 2017 White Cane Week ‘Experience’ Expo! ++

As part of the Canadian Council of the Blind’s ‘White Cane Week’ public awareness campaign in February, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, in collaboration with CNIB Toronto and with the generous sponsorship of Accessible Media Inc, is hosting the 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo

A hands-on, interactive exposition in which exhibitors share their ‘experience’, providing creative, adaptive solutions to all aspects of life with vision loss. Through interactive demonstrations and activities, visitors can ‘experience’ new ways to overcome barriers, gain independence, and live a full, rich life.

Come and engage with dozens of exhibitors to find out what it’s like – hands on – to navigate using a smart phone with Blind Square, test your putting skills – blind-folded! – with the Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers, try your hand at sculpting in clay with Hands of Fire Sculpture Group, or climb onto a tandem bike with Trailblazers Tandem Cycling! The CNIB will be on hand, demonstrating everything from cooking techniques to screen-readers! And much, much more! So come out to the ‘Experience’ Expo, get interactive, try something new, and explore the possibilities!

When: Saturday, February 4, 2017 from 10am to 4pm
Where: CNIB Centre, 1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto.

Immediately following the Expo from 4pm to 8pm, the CCB Toronto Visionaries will be holding a Community Social featuring music, food, a cash bar & door prizes!

Admission is free to the Expo and Community Social.
But if you plan to attend the Community Social, please RSVP to our Voice Mail Line, 416-760-2163 or at

So come out and share the ‘Experience’ at the 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo!

Have Issues? Facing Barriers? Introducing CCB National Advocacy Committee++

Pat Gates, Chair of the Halifax based Access & Awareness NS Chapter, has been named Chair of a National Advocacy Committee. If you, as CCB members have concerns about issues and barriers you face as an individual or group with vision loss, bring those concerns to your Chapter and have a discussion on the matter. If you cannot find a solution, then ask your Chair or President to bring it to Pat’s attention and she will bring it forward to the Advocacy Committee which meets regularly. Your Chair or President can email and ask Pat to bring it forward to the Advocacy Committee.

Let’s put our heads together to resolve these mutual concerns in a positive manner!

GTT Victoria Meeting Invitation, Mobility Aids and Strategies, February 1, 2017++:

GTT Victoria
Date: February 1, 2016
Time: 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Where: Community Room, GVPL, Main Branch 735 Broughton St

First Hour: Low-Tech Support
Let us know ahead of time, and bring the gadgets you’re having trouble with, and send us your other questions so we can arrange to have skilled people in the room to assist you. For example, iDevices, PC computers and Talking Book machines.

2nd Hour: White Canes, GPS and other mobility aids/strategies.
As the CCB will be celebrating White Cane Week across Canada from February 5 through 11, 2017 we thought it a good time for us to look at and discuss the many strategies and tools we all use for mobility.

We hope to see you there……For more info contact Albert Ruel at 250-240-2343, or email us at

Happenings at Camp Bowen++

White Cane Week is this month and we at Camp Bowen are looking forward to connecting with members of the community. This year, we are involved with three White Cane Week events.

Firstly, we will have a table at the 6th annual White Cane Week event held at Park Royal Shopping centre in North Vancouver. The event will be taking place on February 7 from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM. Make sure to come say hi and learn more about our programs. Everyone who attends the event will be entered into a draw for a $100 mall gift card.

Secondly, we will be visiting with school children on Bowen Island to talk about living with a visual impairment. We will be discussing topics such as Braille, technology, service dogs, and cane travel, as well as having a Q&A session.

Last but certainly not least, we will be holding a White Cane Week themed event and fundraiser at Doc Morgan’s Pub and Grill on Bowen Island on March 11. Come join us for a fun evening of live music and food. There will be an auction, a 50/50 draw, and a door prize, with proceeds supporting our adult, child, and youth camp programs. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

For more information on these and other events, keep an eye on

The Camp Bowen Team

Save the date!++:

On March 04 2017, the tele town hall team in collaboration with some organizations of the blind will be holding its second tele town hall meeting as a follow up to its first town hall titled “let’s get it out there” that was held on October 29 2016.
Time: 1:00 pm Eastern
10:00 am Pacific
11:00 am Mountain
Noon Central
2:00 pm Atlantic
2:30 in Newfoundland

This second town hall meeting is being jointly sponsored by the following individuals:
Richard Marion, Robin East, Anthony Tibbs, Donna Jodhan.
Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB),
Citizens with Disabilities of Ontario (CWDO),
Get together with technology (GTT).

The objective of this second tele town hall is to give participants an opportunity to follow up and build on the previous town hall which was held on October 29 2016.

This second tele town hall is not meant to be used as any sort of decision making mechanism but rather as an open forum for constructive discussion.

We have prepared a short list of questions which you can use to help you to spark and formulate your ideas and this is pasted at the end of this article.

If you wish to participate then you may send an email to us at

You will receive an email confirming your registration.
During the week of Feb 27 you will receive an email with details of the call-in info along with the rules of engagement.
Registration will close at noon Eastern on Mar 01.
We look forward to hearing from you.

The “Let’s get it out there” tele town hall team

Questions for consideration

Question 1
How should service and advocacy organizations be transparent and accountable to the community?
Question 2
How do we engage individuals and organizations in the blindness community concerning our needs and rights in the broader Canadian Society?
Question 3
What specific actions can individuals and organizations take to promote transparency, integrity, accountability and respect?
Question 4
What should be included in Rules of Engagement that will govern ongoing collaboration in the blindness community?

In the News

Museum Helps Blind Art Lovers ‘See’ Exhibits Through Sound And Touch++:

Blind Art Lovers Make the Most of Museum Visits with ‘InSight’ Tours
Dorlyn Catron’s cane is making its radio debut today — its name is Pete.
(“He’s important to my life. He ought to have a name,” she says.)

Catron is participating in one of the America InSight tours at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum offers twice-a-month tours, led by specially trained docents, to blind and visually impaired visitors.

Docent Betsy Hennigan stops the group of nine visitors in front of Girl Skating, a small bronze sculpture from 1907 by Abastenia Saint Leger Eberle.
The roller-skating girl is full of joy. The visitors — of varied ages, races and backgrounds — stand close together, hands on top of their long canes, facing Hennigan as she describes the artwork: The little girl careens forward, arms outstretched, her hair and her dress flow behind her.

Carol Wilson trains the 12 volunteer docents. “Sight isn’t the only pathway to understand art,” she says. Wilson suggests the docents invite visitors to imitate the pose of a sculpture and use other senses in their verbal descriptions.

“There’s a red in one of the paintings and I’ve said it’s like biting into a strawberry,” says docent Phoebe Kline.

William Johnson’s painting Café depicts a man and a woman sitting side-by-side, having a drink in a jazz cafe. “There’s no way you can see music in this piece,” says Hennigan, “but I ask them to imagine hearing jazz. … Can you smell cigarettes? Can you smell the alcohol?”

Docent Edmund Bonder uses real music to help bring to life a painting of a young woman at a piano. He describes her fingers on the upper right part of the keyboard, and then plays some classical piano music on his smartphone right in the middle of the gallery. No one shushes him.

“I check with security personnel beforehand and let them know this is what’s going to happen,” Bonder says with a laugh.

Sometimes low-vision and blind visitors can actually touch the art — in Latex-free gloves. Kline learned something herself, when a sixth-grader felt Hugo Robus’ sculpture Water Carrier.

“She ran her hands down the body of this female figure, and her first remark was: Oh, she’s pregnant,” Kline recalls. “And I had never thought about that. But in fact, the figure does look like a pregnant woman. Here was a kid really showing me something that I had been looking at for 35 years, probably, and had never noticed.”

The visitors move slowly through the museum, some “seeing” in their imaginations, others, with low vision, getting really close to the artwork to see it better with magnifying devices. The docents take questions about the art and the artists. Visitor Kilof Legge listens intently. He’s taken lots of these tours. He has had macular degeneration since childhood and has deeply missed art.

“For the longest time I really felt angry when I came into a museum,” he says. “And hurt and insulted, almost. Because these are public places and I felt I was denied access.” He says he is “grateful and excited” to have the art world opened back up to him through tours like these.

This was visitor Cheryl Young’s second American InSight tour. She was born sighted, so she has color memory. “This experience … brought back another piece of my life that I haven’t been able to explore since my vision loss,”
she says.

Twice a month, the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum helps blind and low-vision visitors to see art in their minds’ eyes — and demonstrate that there are many ways to experience a work of art.

By Susan Stamberg

Seeing the benefits of teaching yoga to the blind ++:

Sarah Perritt places her left foot and palm squarely on the mat, lifts her right leg towards the ceiling and extends her other arm into the air.

Behind her, in the studio, a dozen students twist their bodies into the same yoga stance; the half-moon pose.

But despite all appearances, this isn’t your typical yoga class.

All of the students in this weekly workshop at NorQuest College are blind or visually impaired.

Perritt has been leading the program – run through the Alberta Sports and Recreation Association for the Blind – since last fall, when she inherited it from a friend.

To help her students master the movements, Perritt explains each one in detail, and often tracks back and forth across the studio floor, adjusting wayward feet and fingers.

Students line up along the edge of the gymnasium wall in orderly rows so they can use the wall for added balance.

“Probably the most significant difference is the amount of descriptive cueing that I give the students, down to really small details that when you have sight you really take for granted, because you’re looking at the teacher,” Perritt said during an interview on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“There is no feeling of judgment. They know I’m just trying to help them get their bodies to develop that muscle memory of how to execute those poses.”

Perritt, who began practicing yoga when she was 19, said the benefits of yoga are more pronounced for the visually impaired, and students who stick with it make major gains.

“When you don’t have sight, balance can be a significant challenge,” she said.
“So we really work on core strength, and these minute details in how to gain that balance when you don’t have the sight.”

“We’ve built that up, and now many of them are gaining that confidence, stepping away from the wall and relying on their own bodies. And when they hit those milestones, they celebrate them. We all do.”

Perritt said her students have taught her a lesson in resilience, and she continues to be inspired by their dedication to the class, one she hopes to keep teaching for many years.

“I’ve learned so much since I met this group of individuals,” said Perritt.
“In learning through them, and learning how they experience the world, how they feel it, and sense it, it amazes me what our bodies are capable of when we give them the chance.”
CBC News

Why Vision Loss Due To Diabetes Is A Pressing Health Issue ++:

Worldwide, the prevention of unnecessary vision loss associated with diabetes has a particular urgency surrounding it. The risk of blindness due to untreated diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME) is serious. With DR alone, approximately one in three adults with diabetes is affected by the
condition — a staggering 93 million people worldwide.

Sobering facts like these inspired this year’s theme for World Diabetes Day (November 14). “The theme ‘Eyes on Diabetes,’ reflects how critical we believe the role of eye health to be within diabetes management,” says Dr. David Cavan, MD, Director of Policy & Programs, International Diabetes Federation.

Global DR Barometer Report sheds light on preventable vision loss

More findings are contained in the DR Barometer Report, a landmark study of nearly 7,000 adults with diabetes and health care professionals from 41 countries.
It raises serious concerns about the critical need for clear patient care pathways and responsive health systems to address preventable vision loss.

In Canada alone, 11 million people are currently living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a recent update to The Diabetes Charter for Canada, created by the Canadian Diabetes Associations.

According to Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing, “We are currently experiencing one of the most important demographic upheavals of our time in terms of our global population aging, and the impact of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes is rising at a rapid rate.”

The high cost of vision loss

Vision loss touches lives on a personal, social and economic basis, causing increased rates of unemployment, divorce, and clinical depression. As Peter
Ackland, Chief Executive Officer of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), explains: “Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the working-age population of most developed countries, and the sight loss caused by this condition can have a profound impact on both an individual’s quality of life and their ability to work.”

Clearly, now is the time for those with diabetes, their families, and health care professionals to take action — but how? One important step is to have more discussions about vision loss. Findings within the DR Barometer Study estimate one quarter of people with diabetes are not talking about potential eye complications with their health care providers. Despite the fact that the risk of vision loss is twice as high as other diabetes complications, such as stroke and cardiovascular disease, it is not always addressed.

Good news on prevention
“DR and DME can be successfully managed with the right screening and treatment,” says Mr. Ackland. “However, many people with diabetes are being placed at unnecessary risk of vision loss due to barriers within the referral system and patient care pathway.”

The other critical part of the prevention picture is linked to issues with health care systems. Globally, there is a worrying lack of guidelines for health care professionals. The DR Barometer Study reveals 50 percent of providers surveyed did not have written protocols for the detection and management of diabetes-related vision issues. With late diagnosis cited as the greatest barrier to improving outcomes for those with the disease, this finding is especially concerning.

Individuals and communities should not be complacent while vision loss due to diabetes threatens quality of life. Talk to your health care professional and get the facts about early detection and treatment options before sight problems occur.

For more information on the DR Barometer Report and its findings, which will soon include Canada-specific data, please visit You can learn more about the importance of vision health at

CES Las Vegas Highlights Accessible Technology for the Blind++:

A little over a week ago now, President Riccobono and myself were at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. President Riccobono demonstrated the AIRA service in front of a large audience at the AT&T developer summit on our first day there, which made for a high-profile way to kick of the NFB’s participation. There was, however, also time the next day, Thursday, to tread the vast exhibit floor. As has been the case in the past, the small and medium businesses are often those that make the biggest impression by dint of being approachable and not entirely constituted of PR videos.

Whirlpool was showing off its Alexa integration for appliances and their booth personnel proved knowledgeable. While I would be a little reluctant to rely on wireless connectivity to operate my washer, it makes for a very appealing feature that lets users set and query the state of any of Whirlpool’s current and next generation of connected devices.

There is now an accessibility area at CES, but accessibility is not solely found there; in fact, most of the devices of interest were elsewhere. AIRA’s visual interpreter was at Eureka Park; and apart from VFO most of what we found that specifically targets blind users was to be found elsewhere. The Blitab tablet took persistence, but in the end we did get our hands on a prototype. It’s an interesting technology, but the company behind it seems to have some gaps in its understanding of the US market, with their claims that tablets are currently inaccessible, and their plans for doing server-based translation into Braille. Another Braille device at the show was Bonocle, a single-cell Braille device aiming to be something of a virtual Braille display. Again, the concept is interesting, and I look forward to future iterations.

On Friday, the day started with President Riccobono participating in a panel on autonomous vehicles and their potential for people with disabilities. It proved a fascinating overview of the many scenarios where autonomous vehicles can now flip the script and cut down barriers to employment, healthcare and, yes, entertainment. The rest of the day was largely devoted to the automotive industry, and in learning more about what operating systems drive in-vehicle entertainment. As Android already drives much of this segment of the industry, accessibility would be easy to enable, providing a powerful example of how such interfaces can work for blind users. With that in place, the step to using autonomous vehicles would be a much smaller one.

With that, it was over already, and as traffic to CES has increased, as evidenced by the endless lines of vehicles everywhere, so has the attention for consumers who use alternate means of access. When I first went to CES, nobody had any idea of what I meant when I asked about accessibility. While knowledge still frequently lags behind awareness, this is now a rarity. Most companies now at least have a general acquaintance with the topic, and many can answer in-depth questions. Nor are blind people or those with disabilities rare at the show anymore, at least in part because of the efforts of the foundation arm of the Consumer Technology Association. It’s further evidence of changing trends in the ongoing dance of electronics accessibility. Moreover, it shows the importance of the National Federation of the Blind being there to lead the way, and to be a voice for good and accessible design as the blueprints for the next big thing are drawn up, even as the evidence of our previous endeavors, such as the Blind Driver Challenge™, is already present.
By: Clara Van Gerven, Manager of Accessibility Programs at National Federation of the Blind

Have a Wonderful February!

National Newsletter January 2017

Jan 03 2017

Happy New Year from CCB!++
Welcome to 2017! Another year has come and gone; and now we look
forward to an active and engaging New Year at CCB.

Lots of positive, new and exciting things continue to happen at CCB!
2016 saw a lot of activities at all levels with sports events,
meetings, planning for the future, the Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC), a
growing Get Together with Technology (GTT) program, as well as lots of
important advocacy initiatives coming to fruition.

I am extremely happy to have welcomed over a dozen new chapters, from
coast to coast, which joined CCB in 2016. We must continue to reach
out to potential members, selling the benefits open to them by
becoming active in The Council.    Let us work as a unified
organization to accomplish this task.

I would like to wish everyone a happy healthy and prosperous New Year,
and look forward to another active year ahead.
Louise Gillis, National President



White Cane Week 2017++


Get ready for another fun and exciting awareness week from February 5 to 11. Events include our annual AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship and countless local activities. Please visit the CCB website to keep yourself updated on the many exciting events that will be taking place this year across the country. And stay tuned for reports on events in upcoming newsletters!




2017 AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship++


Our annual Blind and Vision Impaired Championship will again be held at the Ottawa Curling Club. We wish all the participants Good Curling!



CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter to host the 2017 White Cane Week ‘Experience’ Expo! ++


As part of the Canadian Council of the Blind’s ‘White Cane Week’ public awareness campaign in February, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, in collaboration with CNIB Toronto and with the generous sponsorship of Accessible Media Inc, is hosting the 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo


A hands-on, interactive exposition in which exhibitors share their ‘experience’, providing creative, adaptive solutions to all aspects of life with vision loss. Through interactive demonstrations and activities, visitors can ‘experience’ new ways to overcome barriers, gain independence, and live a full, rich life.


Come and engage with dozens of exhibitors to find out what it’s like – hands on – to navigate using a smart phone with Blind Square, test your putting skills – blind-folded! – with the Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers, try your hand at sculpting in clay with Hands of Fire Sculpture Group, or climb onto a tandem bike with Trailblazers Tandem Cycling! The CNIB will be on hand, demonstrating everything from cooking techniques to screen-readers! And much, much more! So come out to the ‘Experience’ Expo, get interactive, try something new, and explore the possibilities!


When:       Saturday, February 4, 2017 from 10am to 4pm

Where:      CNIB Centre, 1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto.


Immediately following the Expo from 4pm to 8pm, the CCB Toronto Visionaries will be holding a Community Social featuring music, food, a cash bar & door prizes!


Admission is free to the Expo and Community Social.

But if you plan to attend the Community Social, please RSVP to our Voice Mail Line, 416-760-2163 or at


So come out and share the ‘Experience’ at the 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo!





We are happy to announce that Mary Sweeney and Lyette Gauvin, members of the CCB Ottawa Chapter, have both won the Governor General Medal. Congratulations on this wonderful achievement!



CCB Toronto Visionaries launches a New Web Resource++


The CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter has launched a website designed to promote the Canadian Council of the Blind in Toronto, and to offer an enormous information resource to those living with vision loss. “The site is part of an overall communications strategy for our Chapter that includes Facebook, Twitter, bulletins sent out through email, and a telephone Voice Mail Line, and it really establishes us as a major resource for the blind community in the Toronto area.” said Ian White, CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter President.


Designed by a committee of volunteers on the CCB Toronto Visionaries Executive over the past year, the site was realized by MacLeod Information Services, a Toronto-based web development company. Since the site is to be used by everyone, regardless of their visual ability, accessibility was built into the site from the beginning. The design of the site had to be Accessible HTML5 compliant, with clear fonts and straightforward layout to make navigation easy. Pages are navigable using standard JAWS keystroke commands, and have been tested using NVDA and ZoonText screen readers to ensure maximal access for those using a variety of adaptive technologies.


The site includes a profile of the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, its governance and Executive Committee, and pages detailing the advantages of becoming a member and how to support the Chapter’s mandate of providing social and recreational opportunities for those living with vision loss in Toronto. The Outreach page outlines the Chapter’s efforts to promote inclusion through its ‘Schools Outreach Program’, and there is a page profiling Toronto’s ‘Get Together with Technology’ Group, whose monthly meetings provide a forum for Assistive technology users to share information about everything from talking watches to navigation apps on a smart phone.


For CCB Toronto Visionaries members, their families and friends, there is a calendar of upcoming activities and outings, listing the Chapter’s monthly meetings, GTT group meetings, dates for pub nights and meals out, trips to the City’s cultural and historic sites, and everything from walking tours and musical events to bowling and Beach Barbeques!

As well, there is a page with more detailed information on major special events, like the upcoming 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo on Saturday February 4, 2017at the CNIB Centre in Toronto (please see previous article for more information).


“One of the most exciting aspects of the new website is the Community Resources page,” said White. Clicking on the Community Resources link brings up a listing of a whole host of clubs, groups, organizations, service, and product providers in the GTA, offering a wealth of information about the supports available to the Toronto community. Divided into 10 categories, the page lists everything from Sport & Fitness to Rehabilitation Services, from Employment and Transportation options to Recreation & Leisure activities, from Arts and Entertainment to Other Disability groups. Each listing provides a description of the group or organization, with contact information and links to their web pages. “When I first lost my vision, I didn’t know where to turn to get the information I needed to rebuild my life”, said White. “Our hope is that this website will be one place to find that information and get those new to vision loss connected to the supports and services they need”.


Even those who have been living with low-vision or blindness for many years, or those who help and support persons with vision loss, may find some surprises here. “There is information out there, but it tends to be in isolated pockets, with some people knowing some things, and other people knowing others. We wanted to bring all this existing knowledge together in one place.” White said. “And as the site attracts viewers, we’re hoping that we can add even more resources to the list.”


The site’s ‘Community Resources’ page is a compendium of an astonishing variety of options open to those living with vision loss in Toronto, including listings for sculpture groups, blind hockey teams, where to buy adaptive technology, educational resources, and how to get onto the City of Toronto’s Snow Removal program for residents with disabilities. There is information here on blind community theatre groups, employment mentoring programs, VIA Rail’s passenger escort policy and the World Blind Union. There are links to a blind curling group and a dragon boat team, an entertainment download service specializing in described video content, and how to access reading materials in alternate formats through the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).


“There are nearly 5000 people in Toronto living with vision loss”, White said, “and we’re hoping that when they, their friends or their family members are looking for information on what’s available in Toronto, they’ll hit our site and see that there is help out there.”


The CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter website can be viewed at You can like the Facebook page at or follow the Twitter feed at /ccbtovisionaries. You can email the Chapter at or call the Voice Mail Line at 416-760-2163.


With the launch of its website, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind is expanding its digital footprint, reaching more people – those living with vision loss and those who are sighted – and is offering access to knowledge touching every aspect of life with a vision disability. “The goal is to advance our objectives of providing opportunities for visually impaired individuals to come together with their peers, to share information, interests, learning and recreational activities, and to encourage members to explore their potential for living a full, rich life through social engagement”, said White. “But,” he insists, “We can only achieve this if we know what is possible. And this website is another step toward sharing the information about what those possibilities are.”

Submitted by the CCB Toronto Visionaries


Trust Your Buddy 2016 Recap++


Wow, where do we start?! This has been a wonderful year, full of new friendships, new challenges, personal growth, skills learned and practiced, as well as lots of new exposure to the Chatham-Kent, ON community on just how capable persons with Vision loss are.


I am certainly excited for 2017 and beyond and I hope our group here in Chatham Kent continues to grow with athletes and buddies….as well as new groups around the province.


Here is just some of what we’ve done this past year: Curling,

Skating, hockey, learn to run/walk and a 5km as a group, golf clinic and our first 9 holes as a group, tandem cycling, stand Up Paddling, Lawnbowling, regular bowling, group outings, and TONS of extra curricular get togethers, get well wishes, and peer support.


I think we can see why the name TYB was given. It is crucial that even though we can do most everything independently, we certainly need our buddies, to trust as they help us with some of the finer points of our activities. The team aspect we enjoy with our buddy/guide is truly a unique advantage that others in sport don’t get to experience. We are truly lucky.


So, 2016 is at an end and 2017 already has some pretty cool plans awaiting.

For more information on the TYB program, please contact the undersigned.

Submitted by: Ryan Van Praet   (Reg.Kinesiologist)

Program Manager- “Trust Your Buddy Program”

Canadian Council of the Blind




The Importance of Braille Literacy, World Braille Day++


On January 4th, we celebrate World Braille Day and the huge impact that Louis Braille’s invention has had on the lives of blind people all over the world. Braille always has been and always will be more than just a tool for blind individuals who use it. Braille represents competency, independence, and equality.


Braille is not a code to be deciphered but it is a method of reading and writing that is equal in value to print for sighted people. The way in which blind and partially sighted people develop literacy skills may differ, but the goal is the same: to use reading, writing, and other literacy tools to gather and understand important information and to convey important information to themselves and to others.


A lot has changed since Braille was invented almost 200 years ago, both in technology and educational practices. Nowadays, various students have access to different kinds of devices such as refreshable braille displays and/or braille note takers (a dedicated computer for braille users). The books in Braille that are used now are often produced by high-speed braille embossers using translation software that converts the printed word into Braille cells. However, the fundamental importance of Braille remains unchanged and as important as ever.


There is a real concern in the blind community that there is less support for teaching, using and investing in Braille, particularly among educators and governments, due to the belief that technologies such as e-books, audiobooks, and screen readers can replace Braille. This issue is a worldwide concern, in developed and developing countries alike. “Other formats such as audiobooks, which are generally cheaper than Braille, cannot replace Braille and advances such as the newer and more affordable refreshable Braille displays will support Braille literacy in the future,” said Kevin Carey, the new Chair of the World Braille Council.


While advances in technology are welcome, we recommend that technology should be used to enhance the use of Braille, not to replace it. Evidence supports our belief that those who have the opportunity to fully acquire Braille reading and writing skills attain better literacy, better education, and employment outcomes than those whose learning has been primarily supported by spoken word technology.


Literacy – the ability to read and write – is vital to a successful education, career, and quality of life in today’s world. Whether in the form of curling up with a good book, jotting down a phone number, making a shopping list, or writing a report on a computer, being literate means participating effectively at home and in society.


The World Blind Union strongly recommends that all blind and severely partially-sighted children be given the opportunity to learn and become proficient in Braille reading and writing skills and that they receive instruction from those who are thoroughly trained and qualified to teach Braille.


We also strongly recommend that all blind persons have access to a variety of books and publications in braille that are up-to-date. This recommendation can be achieved in part by governments ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, which allows for copyright exceptions to facilitate the creation of accessible books and other copyrighted works and for the import and export of such materials across national boundaries.





Minister Carla Qualtrough says Canada’s new disability act will ‘make history’++


Carla Qualtrough is the first-ever federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities. She tells The CBC Radio’s The Current’s special guest host Ing Wong-Ward that her appointment to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet as a legally blind person is “sending a strong signal to Canadians just how important disability and accessibility issues are to our government.”


“I think we do some things really well here in Canada and I think in other areas we have work to be done,” Qualtrough tells Wong-Ward.


Minister Qualtrough has been travelling across the country for an ongoing national public consultation on creating new Canadian accessibility legislation – the first of its kind in Canadian history. And while she’s honoured by the work she has been asked to do, “I certainly feel the weight of the responsibility.”


She says Canada can do better in terms of creating real meaningful change for those with disabilities.


“We have strong attitudes around inclusion and equity…but sometimes that doesn’t translate into opportunity for Canadians.”


Qualtrough highlights the importance of proactive legislation instead of reactive ones that come after a barrier has already interfered with somebody’s life.


“Systemically there’s a huge onus or burden on individuals to pursue more systematic complaints,” Qualtrough tells Wong-Ward.


“If I see a barrier in a bank for example, you know, it’s a barrier that anyone with my disability would face but it’s up to me to pursue it.”


She says it takes a long time to identify the barrier before the system can make it better.


“I’m hoping that some proactive legislation will allow organizations and government to go into that bank before it gets to the point of exclusion.”


Qualtrough emphasized that disability is not just physical, and that it’s “broader than physical access.”


Wong-Ward asked Minister Qualtrough what she was doing to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities.


“We’re not typical in that we have jobs, good paying jobs,” Wong-Ward tells Qualtrough.


“We are two women with our families of our own. I, like you, am a parent. I wonder how do we shift things so that more people with disabilities can have the same opportunities, so we’re not outliers generation from now?”


“We are lucky, but we’re in the minority,” responds Qualtrough.


“It’s a question that weighs heavily on me more regularly than I care to admit.”


“I’m convinced we’re going to make history here.”

This story was featured on CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti.



Learn about Professions in the Field of Visual Impairment and Braille!++


Are you exhilarated when someone finally masters a skill you’ve been teaching them? Are you creative, curious, and able to think “outside of the box” to solve the world’s more unusual problems? Do you like meeting and working with a wide variety of new people every day? Have you ever wondered what “braille” is or how those little dots work? Do you have a background in education, rehabilitation or the social sciences and are wondering what the next step in your career path should be? If so, then you might be interested to learn about the little known but highly rewarding career options available in the field of blindness and visual impairment. Exciting and in-demand opportunities exist for teachers and rehabilitation therapists who work with blind and partially sighted children, adults and seniors, as well as in braille and alternative format transcription, production, and proofreading.


Braille Literacy Canada is pleased to announce that our next teleconference will consist of a panel of speakers who will provide information about professions within the field of visual impairment and blindness, including:

-Dr. Cay Holbrook from the University of British Columbia will describe the Master’s program in Special Education, Teaching Students with Visual Impairments

-Darleen Bogart from CNIB will describe CNIB certification courses to become a braille transcriber or proofreader

-Representatives from the University of Montreal will describe the Master’s program in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy


Though diverse in scope, all three career paths share a common interest and theme in that they relate to visual impairment and braille. The speakers will describe program requirements and what careers in these respective fields involve. There will be time for questions at the end of the presentations.


When: Saturday, January 14th, 2017, from 13:00-14:30 PM (Eastern time)

Duration: 1.5 hours


To register, please email Jen Goulden at before January 12th, 2017.

Find out more about these exciting career paths! Sign up today, as space is limited!




In the News


Blind man sets out alone in Google’s driverless car++


A blind man has successfully traveled around Austin, Texas – unaccompanied – in a car without a steering wheel or floor pedals, Google announced this month.


After years of testing by Google engineers and employees, the company’s new level of confidence in its fully autonomous technology was described as a milestone.


“We’ve had almost driverless technology for a decade,” said Google engineer Nathaniel Fairfield. “It’s the hard parts of driving that really take the time and the effort to do right.”


Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, was the first non-Google employee to ride alone in the company’s gumdrop-shaped autonomous car.


“It is like driving with a very good driver,” Mahan said. “If you close your eyes when you’re riding with somebody, you get a sense of whether this is a good driver or whether they’re not. These self-driving cars drive like a very good driver.”


Google says it has driven more than 2 million miles on public roads to test its vehicles.


“In early 2015, we began to see some signs that we were getting close,” Fairfield said. “The cars were going for longer and longer times without the humans having to intervene.”


Fairfield said the company spent six months scrutinizing the vehicle’s performance before Mahan was allowed to set out alone.


“That is a whole different beast – to get that driver out of the car, to take off the training wheels,” Fairfield said.


Mahan said: “I had the greatest time driving around a neighborhood in Austin, Texas. It was so much fun, being aware that the vehicle was navigating intersections and I was in good hands, perfectly safe.”


The car Mahan rode in had a backup computer and multiple systems to control it.


“If you removed the driver from the loop, you really have to have your backups,” said Dmitri Dolgov, who heads technological development for Google’s self-driving effort.


Mahan said: “This is a hope of independence. These cars will change the life prospects of people such as myself. I want very much to become a member of the driving public again.”


Google also announced that it is spinning off its self-driving-car project into a company called Waymo, an independent division under Google’s parent company, Alphabet.


John Krafcik, chief executive of Waymo, said the Austin solo ride is an indication that “we’re close to bringing this to a lot of people.”


Costa Samaras, an automation expert at Carnegie Mellon University, said the move by Waymo “puts a marker down that says to Uber, Lyft and auto companies that the race to capture market share in driverless mobility has begun in earnest.”


Samaras said that “without a human in the loop, there’s also now a lot less room for computer error in case something goes wrong. I’m guessing Waymo has run these numbers and is betting on the computer.”


Google was among the first technology companies to plunge into an area traditionally dominated by automakers in Detroit and elsewhere in the world. After initial testing by its employees, the company embraced a decision to put fully autonomous cars on the road – probably without steering wheels or floor pedals – from the outset. In that decision, Google became an outlier, as the existing industry, mindful of its need to sell cars each year, took an approach intended to introduce self-driving features incrementally.


The Google announcement came on a day when the Obama administration proposed a rule that would require all new cars to be able to communicate with other cars wirelessly, a move that advocates said could save lives but that also raises privacy and hacking concerns among opponents.


The wireless box could, for instance, tell a car to brake when another vehicle is about to run a red light. Federal officials said the required technology “will not collect, broadcast or share information linked or linkable, as a practical matter, to individuals or their vehicles.”


Vehicle-to-vehicle communication is considered an essential building block toward autonomous vehicles by some – but not all – of the companies working to develop them.


“If they’re connected to each other, then we likely will not need signs, markings or even traffic signals,” said Jim Barbaresso, vice president for intelligent transportation systems at HNTB Infrastructure Solutions. “Cars could go through intersections without hitting each other, without the need of a traffic signal.”


Fairfield said direct vehicle-to-vehicle communication is an asset but less than essential to putting autonomous cars on the road.


“There is vehicle technology where the car is telling you it’s going to hit the brakes or how much it’s braking,” Fairfield said. “That’s somewhat useful, but we can [determine] that with radars and lasers and cameras, so it’s not that useful.”


The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank, called the administration’s rulemaking bid a “midnight” move. Marc Scribner, a research fellow, said the incoming Trump administration should immediately withdraw the “dangerous” proposal.

The Washington Post


Visually Impaired Runner Chaz Davis Runs Record-Breaking Marathon++


Chaz Davis ran quite a debut marathon on Sunday at the California International Marathon in Sacramento.


While his 2:31:48 result would be a strong effort for any first-time marathoner, his finish time is especially remarkable given that he is visually impaired and that he only really trained for the 26.2-mile distance for about six weeks.


With the aid of his guide Jacob Huston, the 23-year-old Davis, who is legally blind, averaged 5:47 per mile en route to setting a new American record for a debut marathon in the T12/B2 visual impairment category. He was one of 40 blind runners who competed in the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Marathon National Championships, which is coordinated in partnership with the

California International Marathon each year.


Davis and Huston came through the halfway mark in 1:14:45, which is about 5:42 mile pace. That was slightly faster than planned, but the downhill profile of the course and Davis’ fitness made the miles go by with ease.


“I thought I had a chance to break 2:30 because I felt great through about 20 miles,” Davis said. “But from miles 22-25, that’s when my legs got tight and I slowed up a bit.”


Davis’ story is inspiring and empowering. After going blind suddenly halfway through his freshman year at the University of Hartford, he fell into depression, gained weight from a lack of physical activity and struggled to adapt in everyday life. But through the help of friends, family and running, he’s become a world-class visually impaired runner with the potential for more record-setting efforts.


About midway through his first year of college, Davis was stricken with Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) a rare, incurable genetic disease that causes vision loss. He thought he would never run again, but his teammates encouraged him to get back at it and helped guide him on runs. He wound up running on the cross-country and track teams at Hartford and graduated in May with a degree in criminal justice.


In September, Davis represented Team USA at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, placing 10th in the 1,500m in 3:58.28 (roughly a 4:15 mile) and eighth in the 5,000m (15:15:86) and setting personal bests in both events.


Davis recently moved from his hometown of Grafton, Mass. to Denver, for a 10-month study at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Since he moved to Colorado, he’s relied on several guides to assist him in training, either running with him or riding a bike alongside him. His longest run prior to the marathon was only 16 miles, but he learned a lot from his experience and is confident he can run faster.


He plans to turn his focus back to track and field for a while, but he says he’ll definitely run another marathon. Davis was recently awarded the Richard Hunter CIM to Boston Excellence in Running Award, which gives him the opportunity to compete in the Boston Marathon in 2017 or 2018 on an all-expenses-paid “Team with a Vision” program from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.


“I’ve had great support in Denver and that’s what the running community is all about,” he said. “Overall, I felt pretty strong, even though I didn’t have a lot of time after the Paralympics to train for the marathon. I was averaging about

70 to 90 miles per week leading up to it, but I just had to go work with what I had. Honestly, I was surprised that I wasn’t as beat up from the marathon as I thought I would be.”


Davis plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work to help people who have gone through similar experiences to his.


“The blindness has not kept me from my goals and what I want in life,” he said. “I have found a purpose and I want to work with other people like me.”

By Brian Metzler


Canada makes further commitment to support rights of persons with Disabilities++


The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, announced in December that the Government of Canada has begun a consultation process on Canada’s accession to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Optional Protocol).


The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities protects and promotes the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities without discrimination and on an equal basis with others.


Provinces and territories have an important role to play in considering Canada’s possible accession to the Optional Protocol, and consultations are currently taking place with them on this matter. The process will also involve engagement with Indigenous governments that may be implicated, as well as Indigenous organizations and civil society.



White Cane Week 2017 Events++

If you would like your chapters events included on the website, social media, and newsletter we need to receive them before January 10, 2017. Please email or call 1-877-304-0968. Just ask for Becky.





National Newsletter December 2016

Dec 02 2016



++CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter to host the 2017 White Cane Week ‘Experience’ Expo!:

As part of the Canadian Council of the Blind’s ‘White Cane Week’ public awareness campaign in February, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, in collaboration with CNIB Toronto and with the generous sponsorship of Accessible Media Inc, is hosting the 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo

A hands-on, interactive exposition in which exhibitors share their ‘experience’, providing creative, adaptive solutions to all aspects of life with vision loss. Through interactive demonstrations and activities, visitors can ‘experience’ new ways to overcome barriers, gain independence, and live a full, rich life.

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National Newsletter November 2016

Nov 04 2016


++Welcome to our Newsletter, a note from our president

As the fall season is in full swing now all chapters are busy with many activities. There are lots of exciting things going on. GTT (Get Together with Technology) continues to grow across the country with up to ten active groups getting together every month to share ideas, learn new equipment, do peer mentoring and make new friends. Plus the National telephone group is very active.

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