Category: CCB Newsletters

National Newsletter October 2016

Sep 30 2016

 

 newsletterAnnouncements

++CCB National Cribbage Tournament: The National Cribbage Tournament is about to begin.  Your Chapter must be registered on or before October 19, 2016.

 

Information packages will be sent out to you immediately, following your request.

 

This year, the entry date was changed because of my computer crashing. The tournament is starting on November 6th and closing date for all submissions is December 3rd.

Read more ...

National Newsletter September 2016

Sep 01 2016

CCB National Newsletter
September 2016

Announcements
++Welcome to New CCB Chapters!
We would like to welcome our newest chapters, CCB Trust Your Buddy and CCB Hands of Fire Sculpture Group

Read more ...

National Newsletter Summer Edition

Jul 04 2016

CCB National Newsletter

Special Edition: Summer 2016

 

++Message from the Editor

There is always something happening at CCB, even during these hot summer days!

 

Our newsletter usually breaks for the summer months, as do our chapters, but recently there have been so many positive things happening within the Council, that I felt they couldn’t wait until September!

Read more ...

National Newsletter June 2016

Jun 02 2016

newsletter

CCB National Newsletter

June 2016

Announcements

++CCB Atlantic Sports Weekend: The 39th Annual Atlantic Sports and Recreation Weekend was held in the Halifax area during the weekend of May 20-22, 2016.

 

The Friday night Idol Show had some fabulous performers. The Saturday track and field events all went very well. We had beautiful weather for all these outdoor activities. Although we had some rain on Sunday, all the events planned for Sunday were indoors.

 

There were approximately 55 participants along with family, friends and volunteers from around the Atlantic Provinces. A huge thank you goes out to all those volunteers who helped make this event a success.

 

We are all looking forward to attending the 40th Annual Atlantic Sports and Recreation Weekend next year in Bathurst, New Brunswick.

 

See you there!

Brenda Green,

Sports & Recreation Chapter

 

++Congratulations!:  Shane Wheeler, Chairperson of the CCB Lewisporte & Area chapter, would like to pass my congratulations along to the organizers of the CCB Atlantic Sports Weekend in Dartmouth. It was very well organized!

 

There were 11 participants from NL, and congratulations to all of the participants in the Atlantic games. Congratulations to all winners and congratulations to all people that participated. Congratulations to third-place winner of ring toss and table pulling ribbons from the CCB Lewisporte & Area CCB Chapter, Lisa Cakes.

 

++CCB Update: A quick note to update our readers on the positive progress CCB has made recently. With a boost in membership over the last year, we are now up to 80 chapters!

 

With our Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) pilot going strong in the Ottawa region, we are out visiting schools and seniors’ residences and protecting people’s sight.

 

We are very excited to hire some summer students this year, not only to benefit from some new ideas, but to give blind and vision impaired youth some work experience.

 

These are just a few of the positive impacts CCB is making in our community as we continue to grow and support those living with vision loss. Stay tuned for more to come!

 

++GTT Nanaimo Meeting Invitation:

Aroga Technologies Demo, NuEyes Visual Prosthetic Device, June 2, 2016

You’re Invited

 

Where:  The 710 Club, 285 Prideaux Street, Nanaimo BC;

When:  Thursday, June 2, 2016

Time:  1:00 until 3:00 PM

 

Agenda:

  1. Steve Barcley, COO of Aroga Technologies will present all that is new in blindness and low vision assistive technology.  He will focus on the latest device to make its way into Canada, the NuEyes Visual Prosthetic Device, then he’ll move into demonstration and discussion of other recent developments to benefit GTT members.  
  2. *Important discussion lead by Donna Hudon: GTT wants to open the topic of adding peer mentoring into our meetings that could cover issues like skills of independence at home, at work or while being active participants in recreational pursuits.
  3. General discussion on the devices you are having trouble with and the devices you’ve just discovered that you want to share with others.

Bring your gadgets, questions and solutions to share with the group.

 

To RSVP, please call Albert Ruel at 1-877-304-0968 Ext. 550 email at GTTWest@CCBNational.net or Donna Hudon at 250-618-0010 email at IamDonnaHudon@Gmail.com

 

++Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers: Teams of blind golfers, and their coaches, from across Canada and the United States will come together from August 12 to 14 to compete at the 2016 Ontario Open Blind Golf Championships at Chippewa Creek Golf and Country Club. This event, recognised by the Golf Association of Ontario, is hosted by Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers (OVIG).

 

OVIG successfully hosted the 2008 Canadian Open Blind Golf Championships in Cambridge Ontario.  It is seeking approval to host the 2017 Canadian Open Championships, also in Hamilton. For now, however, it is focusing its efforts on a great season of golf for its members and a fantastic championship event in August.

 

If you would like information about competing in this Ontario Open Championships event, please contact:

Lois Babcock, OVIG, Events Coordinator

Tel: 905-731-1114

E-mail: OntarioBlindGolf@rogers.com

 

If you would like to support the 2016 Ontario Open Blind Golf Championships as a sponsor, or volunteer, please contact:

David Burnett, OVIG, Fund Raising Team Chair

Tel: 1-905-415-2012

E-mail: DBurnett@EndToEnd.com

 

For more information about blind golf in general, and OVIG in particular, please visit OVIG’s website: www.OntarioBlindGolf.ca

 

++BLIND GOLF INSTRUCTION: Develop or renew a love for golf despite your visual impairment. The Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers will be playing at the Fanshawe Golf Club on Saturday, June 11.  They will host a concurrent golf clinic for people who are blind or visually impaired that may be interested in learning, or resuming, the game of golf.

 

Cost: $25 (free for first-time participants)

Location: Fanshawe Parkside 9

Corner of Clarke Rd and Fanshawe Rd in London

When? June 11, 2016 at 12:00 – 1:00 pm

Maximum:  8 participants

Optional 9 holes after the lesson

 

TO REGISTER:

Call (905) 731-1114 or email OntarioBlindGolf@rogers.com www.OntarioBlindGolf.ca

 

++BLIND GOLF INSTRUCTION

The Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers will be playing at the Cambridge Golf Club on Sunday, July 10.  They will host a concurrent golf clinic for people who are blind or visually impaired that may be interested in learning, or resuming, the game of golf.

 

Cost: $20 (free for first-time participants)

Location: Cambridge Golf Club, 1346 Clyde Road, Cambridge

Date and Time: July 10 at 11:30

Optional 9 holes after the lesson

 

TO REGISTER:

Call (905) 731-1114 or email ontarioblindgolf@rogers.com

 

++More Blind Golf!: Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers (OVIG) has golf events planned for June 5, 11 and 26, as well as events for July, August and September.  For details, please check OVIG’s event schedule at: www.OntarioBlindGolf.ca

 

++Ottawa Dragon Boating

ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A NEW ACTIVITY THIS SUMMER?

 

The Ottawa Dragon Masters is a dragon boat team that is making their dragon boat available, free of charge, to people with low vision for a paddling activity on the Rideau River.  The paddling sessions are offered in a non-competitive atmosphere and are held every Thursday evening at the Rideau Canoe Club (RCC), from 6 to 7 pm.  The RCC is located at 804 Hog’s Back Road, Ottawa, K2C 0B1.  The club is also accessible by OC Transpo bus route #111 that will drop you off near the corner of Prince of Wales and Meadowlands.  From the bus stop, it is a 5-minute walk on Meadowlands towards the Hog’s Back Bridge to get to the RCC.

 

Guide dogs can be tied to the rail on the covered deck facing the water at the clubhouse and there is an overhang so dogs will be protected from the rain.  The clubhouse also has change rooms with washrooms.  Please note that there is limited parking onsite – that is, only two handicap spaces and another 15 spaces.  Since the club is very busy in the evening, parking can be an issue.  There is additional parking at Hog’s Back after crossing the bridge heading East or at the northwest corner of Meadowlands and Prince of Wales to the left (West) of the government building.

 

Since this paddling activity involves upper body movements such as twisting and pulling, as well as some cardiovascular stamina, it is recommended that you consult with your family doctor before participating in this activity. 

 

For more information on location, directions, paddling, parking, etc., please contact Mr. Jeff Boucher by email at bouch1957@gmail.com or by phone at 613-884-3637.

 

++Invitation to Participate in Study:

The School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University is conducting a study to understand the role of parents in supporting physical activity among children and youth with disabilities.

 

This study involves completing online questionnaires and participants will receive a $10 gift card as a token of appreciation.

 

Eligible participants must have a child (age 5-21 years) with a disability (e.g. physical, sensory, psychological, development disability)

 

Parents who wish to participate in this study, please visit:

http://fluidsurveys.com/s/TPB_baseline/

 

++Invitation to Participate in Study: The Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education at the University of Toronto is conducting a study to understand current trends in physical activity among

Canadian youth with physical disabilities.

 

Participants will be asked to: (1) complete two telephone interviews; recalling what activities they did the day before, (2) answer a few questions about parental support and motivation to be physically active, and (3) wear an accelerometer for one week.

 

Participants can receive up to $35 in gift cards as a token of appreciation, and can count hours spent participating toward volunteer/community service hours.

 

Eligible participants must be 14 – 21 years old, with a mobility impairment.

 

To participate in this study, please visit:

http://fluidsurveys.com/s/NPAM/

 

++CNIB CAREER OPPORTUNITY – Executive Director – Ontario East:

CNIB are currently recruiting for a new position of Executive Director, Ontario East. This full time position located in Eastern Ontario provides an exciting opportunity to assist with the development of the organization’s charitable arm and ensure people who are blind or partially sighted have timely access to high quality and sustainable services and programs.  Reporting to the Regional Vice President (RVP), Ontario Division, the Executive Director – Ontario East is a member of the Divisional Senior Management Team and assists the RVP, Ontario Division with the leadership of the charity.  The Executive Director serves as a spokesperson and representative for the charitable entity of the organization, its staff, volunteers, programs expansion and execution of its mission.

 

Closing date for applications is June 17, 2016.  For more information on this position, please visit:   http://www.cnib.ca/en/about/Careers/Pages/default.aspx

 

Accessible Technology

++First ever lightweight, wireless, head worn, voice activated device for the visually impaired: Wearable technology is the future, and NuEyes brings the future to you in a lightweight, wearable solution for people with macular degeneration and other vision related diseases. NuEyes finally makes it possible for those with visual impairments to connect with loved ones and others without always having to use a big clunky machine.

 

This removable visual prosthetic helps the visually impaired see again by allowing for 1x – 12x magnification through an HD camera mounted in the center of a custom headset. The image is then delivered to a pair of frame mounted displays, resulting in a seamless experience for the user — wherever and whatever they look at is magnified.

 

The unit itself is not much bigger than a regular set of eyeglasses and supports voice control — the user has the option of controlling the magnification through a series of simple voice commands as well as through a Bluetooth wireless controller or even through physical buttons on the glasses themselves. NuEyes has been designed to be simple to use and effortless to control.

 

Whether you have macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, or other visual conditions NuEyes can help!

 

Read and Write using NuEyes

Watch TV and Movies

See the faces of loved ones

Continue to enjoy hobbies such as reading music and playing cards Regain Visual independence Variable Magnification from 1 x to 12x Various contrast and color changes Voice activated Wireless Lightweight design Easy to use

 

Call today at 1-800-561-6222

To learn more about this state of the art removable visual prosthetic and see how it can change you or a loved one’s life visit www.aroga.com and order yours today.

 

++Low-cost refreshable Braille display set to revolutionize the market: A device that could become ‘the world’s most affordable refreshable Braille display’ – costing around 80-90% less than current systems – has been unveiled, and should be available for purchase later this year.

 

The Orbit Reader 20 was announced at the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference – known as CSUN – in the United States, by the Chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Kevin Carey, in his role as president of the Transforming Braille Group (TBG).

 

TBG was conceived to realise and produce an affordable refreshable Braille display, partly as a way to give people in developing countries greater access to refreshable Braille. Current devices are prohibitively expensive, often running into thousands of US Dollars or British Pounds. TBG set about raising 1.25 million US Dollars for the Orbit Reader 20 to be produced by assistive technology company Orbit Research.

 

Refreshable Braille displays allow blind or visually impaired users to read text from a computer screen via a system of small rods in Braille cells.These rods are electronically raised and lowered, creating readable Braille that constantly changes, or ‘refreshes’, as the user scrolls or moves across the screen.

 

The Orbit Reader 20 features 20 Braille cells and can be connected to a computer or mobile phone via USB or Bluetooth. There is also an SD card slot to enable loading and reading of books and other files.

 

Speaking to e-Access Bulletin, Carey explained that the aim is for the Orbit Reader 20 to be sold for $320 per unit, but this is dependant on Orbit Research receiving enough pre-orders for the device: “Orbit needs an order of 200,000 to make the optimum price of $320 a unit, so what they’re doing is collecting wholesale orders. If it’s below 200,000, the price goes up,”

Carey said.

 

On its website, Orbit Research claims that the Orbit Reader 20 will be the “world’s most affordable refreshable Braille display”.

 

User-testing of the Orbit Reader took place in January on 27 prototype machines, in North America and Europe, by testers both with and without experience of refreshable Braille systems. Carey will be supervising further testing in India and Kenya. Speaking about the results of this testing in his CSUN speech, Carey said that the refreshable Braille on the Orbit Reader was “the best that experienced users have ever seen”.

 

The refresh rate on the device was found to be suitable for “poor-to-average” Braille-users, but not effective enough for “experienced users”. However, as Carey then pointed out: “Those who have reported dissatisfaction with the refresh rate are very experienced users of high-end refreshable Braille note-takers or Braille bars attached to generic devices- But it is important to note that these are precisely the Braille readers for whom the Orbit Reader was not designed.”

 

Carey told e-Access Bulletin that the device could be revolutionary for visually impaired Braille-users due to its low cost. “Whichever way you look at it, the [price] is just way below anything anybody else is offering,” he said. Carey also pointed out that the timing of when the Orbit Reader will be available, “is simply to do with how fast the orders come in [to Orbit Research].”

 

Find out more about the Orbit Reader 20 at the link below:

Orbit Research website:

http://eab.li/s

 

++Accessible Laundry Detergent!

Dizolve laundry detergent is made in Canada, environmentally friendly and happens to be very convenient for blind and vision impaired folks!

 

Have you ever had issues with measuring out your laundry detergent? Well now you can say goodbye to measuring cups, bulky bottles and messy spills. Introducing Dizolve Laundry detergent! 1 strip equals 1 load!

 

For more information on Dizolve laundry detergent strips, please visit:

http://mydizolve.com/faq/

 

++Deque University Scholarships for People with Disabilities: If you have a disability, you qualify for a scholarship to access to Deque’s in-depth web accessibility curriculum for a full year (normally $315) at no cost.

 

Why is Deque offering this scholarship? Here are a few of our reasons:

  • Job Opportunities:
  • The demand for accessibility professionals is growing. People with disabilities have a lot to offer in this field. You live the experience, so in many ways you’re already experts! You still have to learn the technical skills though, and that’s where the Deque University classes can help.
  • We recognize that employment for people with disabilities is often difficult, with discrimination during the hiring process and barriers to employment all along the way, including barriers to acquiring the skills necessary for employment.

 

  • Reduce Financial Barriers: Having a disability can often be expensive, both in terms of actual expenses and the cost of lost opportunities due to discrimination.

 

  • Digital Equality: Deque’s mission is to achieve digital equality for people with disabilities. This is an important step in that direction.

 

The Courses

If you have a disability, you’ll have access to the following courses:

  • Web Accessibility Fundamentals
  • HTML & CSS Accessibility
  • ARIA & JavaScript Accessibility
  • Mobile Web Accessibility
  • IAAP CPACC Certification Preparation Course • Web Accessibility Testing Techniques • Testing with Screen Readers • MS Word Accessibility • MS PowerPoint Accessibility • PDF Accessibility • InDesign Accessibility • EPUB Accessibility

 

What are the Terms and Conditions?

  • You must have a disability to qualify for this offer.
  • You will have access for one full year.
  • You cannot share your account with anyone else.

 

For more information, please visit:

https://dequeuniversity.com/

 

In the News

++Eye Health Tips: Getting regular exercise is one of the best ways to stay healthy as you age, and having a drink here or there appears to be good for your heart.

But bet you didn’t see this coming: Research suggests both may help preserve your eyesight as you get older.

 

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin poured over two decades of health data from nearly 5,000 people to see how lifestyle choices might affect aging vision. Two things seemed to make a difference: staying active and moderate alcohol use.

 

The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, found that people who got exercise at least three times per week were 58% less likely to develop visual impairment — that is, vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses or contacts — compared to couch potatoes.

 

And when non-drinkers were compared to folks who enjoyed an occasional tipple (defined as less than one serving in an average week), the drinkers were 49% less likely to face eye trouble. Heavy drinkers, on the other hand, were more likely to have issues with eye health. (So were smokers.)

 

Most declines in vision tend to be age-related, and for the most part, outside of your control. But this study suggests that lifestyle choices can also play a role. How? Researchers aren’t sure. And, of course, studies like these can’t prove cause-and-effect; it could be that people who exercise and have an occasional drink are healthier in other ways.

 

In another study, smokers who gave up tobacco lowered their risk of developing cataracts, a build-up of protein on your lenses that can reduce vision. Quitting helps you avoid glaucoma, macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome, too.

 

If you have diabetes, make sure to get regular eye check-ups. Diabetic Retinopathy is the number one cause of vision loss for American adults, but if caught early it can be controlled.

 

++How One Blind Marathon Runner Is Using Technology to Run Solo: By collaborating with IBM, Simon Wheatcroft wants to give blind runners the tools to run independently.

 

Of the 27,487 runners who traversed the city of Boston this year for the marathon, 39 were visually impaired.

 

Running a marathon blind can be terrifying: Hordes of runners are bolting toward you, crowds scream from the sidelines, and you have no idea if you’re about to crash into someone ahead of you.  But for 31-year-old Simon Wheatcroft, a blind Englishman who completed the marathon on Monday, there is nothing more exhilarating.

 

“I want to take it all in,” he tells Fast Company. “I want to enjoy the sounds of the other runners and the people cheering.”

 

Marathon organizers pair blind runners with guides who run at the same pace, sometimes even connected by a rope. While Wheatcroft ran with two guides on Monday, eventually he would like to be able to run a marathon independently.

 

“The idea of running solo has always been in the back of my mind,” he says. “I’ve been dreaming about it for four years. It took me some time to become mentally comfortable with the concept.

 

He believes that technology is the key to making this happen. He points out that there are already many different tools on the market-like sophisticated GPS navigation and motion sensors-that could help visually impaired runners. It’s just a matter of putting them together into a customized tool.

 

Over the last month, Wheatcroft has been collaborating with IBM to develop an iPhone app allowing him to navigate a marathon course without help. He tested it out for the first time at Monday’s marathon. Little signals alerted him whenever he veered too far to the right or left, so he didn’t worry about going off course.

 

“I could enjoy the race. I could listen to the crowd,” Wheatcroft says. “The app only alerted me if I went wrong. The rest of the time, it was completely silent.”

 

At the age of 13, Wheatcroft discovered he had a degenerative eye disease and by 17, he had lost his vision completely.

 

Before he tried running, he tried climbing. He had the romantic notion of asking his girlfriend to marry him from the top of a mountain in California. But as he began the journey, he realized the ascent would be far more difficult than he had anticipated.  There were too many dangerous cliffs and crevices to circumvent; too many ways to get hurt. In the end, he was forced to propose halfway up the mountain, and although she said yes, he still felt defeated.

 

“It was just too hard,” Wheatcroft says. “But then I had to live with the fact that I had to quit climbing. It plagued me.”

 

When the couple returned to England, Wheatcroft decided he would never again abandon a challenge because of his blindness.  Running seemed insurmountably difficult to him at the time. But while many blind people avoid running altogether because it is just too complicated, Wheatcroft was determined not only to become a runner, but to run on his own, without having to depend on a guide.

 

“When I started, I ran into lampposts and traffic lights and trees,” he recalls. When you’re charging forward at a high velocity, anything you crash into can cause pain. Cars may not see you in time to stop. Dog walkers and parents with strollers are unable to get out of the way quickly enough.  Early on, he remembers feeling an occasional rush of horror that something might happen to him.

 

“The biggest challenge is mental: You can’t be fearful,” Wheatcroft says.  “You have to just absolutely convince yourself that this is possible.”

 

Wheatcroft initially kept to safe spaces, like the distance between goal posts on a football pitch, but he eventually got bored of this.

When he ran on the street, he discovered that people don’t generally get out of the way, expecting runners to dodge them.  So contrary to widely accepted notions of safe running, he decided to run on the side of the freeway, where there is a wide berth away from the cars and no human traffic.

 

Over the last six years, Wheatcroft has evolved into a serious long-distance runner. In 2014, he ran from Boston to New York, then completed the New York Marathon, covering a total of 240 miles in nine days. On May 1, he will begin a seven-day run in the Namibian desert for a 160-mile ultra-marathon.

 

Technology Solutions

There are currently no apps specifically designed for the blind running community. When Wheatcroft began running in 2010, he relied on apps designed for sighted runners. He started using Runkeeper several years ago, which allows him to map out a route, track his speed, and receive audio signals that inform him when he needs to turn left or right. When Google Glass came out, he immediately saw its potential for blind runners. But none of these technologies are perfectly suited to his needs.

 

Wheatcroft is determined to create his own app. While training for the Boston Marathon, Wheatcroft began searching for a technology partner to help him on his quest. He decided to reach out to IBM, knowing that the Runkeeper app runs on the IBM Cloud. IBM invited him to London to visit the Bluemix Garage, its developer space, where he pitched the engineers there an idea for an app for visually impaired runners. IBM quickly came on board, agreeing to create an app for him pro bono.

 

As Wheatcroft describes his ideal app, he points out that he doesn’t want the navigation to be too noisy. The GPS systems he’s used so far have had elaborate directions communicated in complete sentences; he’d prefer a series of little sounds.

 

“We thought subtle beeps were far more immediate than hearing ‘left’ and ‘right’,” he says. “I don’t want to be taken out of the social experience of the race.”

 

Wheatcroft also says that the GPS systems built into most consumer devices are only accurate to 10 or 20 meters. “When you’re running on an edge of a cliff, a difference of 10 meters is an issue,” he points out. IBM has outfitted this new app with a more advanced external GPS receiver that gives directions that are accurate to five meters.

 

Wheatcroft piloted a version of the app at the Boston Marathon on Monday. It was a good testing ground because the course is fairly simple with only two turns. The app allowed him to focus on the race and gave him confidence that he was on the right path. To gather even more feedback about the app, he will bring it with him to Namibia at the end of the month for a seven-day run in the desert, which will be rather more treacherous and require the device to have an extended battery life.

 

“This is very much an iterative process,” Wheatcroft explains, describing how he’s tweaked the various audio feedback mechanisms to make them clearer. “We wanted to create a minimum viable product in a week and then continue making changes as I take it on the road with me. We test one thing at a time.”

 

While the app Wheatcroft has built with IBM is an improvement on the generic running apps on the market, he believes there is a lot more it should be able to do. He wants the app to be able to explain what objects are directly in front of him and provide dynamic directions that respond to the immediate environment.  This would require the app to be able to scan his surroundings and then have an artificial intelligence system, such as Watson, that would determine the best course. He’d also like to create a belt that will vibrate so that he won’t need to depend on the beeps from the phone. He’s currently working with developers at IBM to find ways of achieving these goals.

 

He’s also very keen on Google’s Project Tango, a technology that will give mobile devices spatial vision using sensors, motion tracking, depth perception, and image processing. Google is currently selling developer kits so that it can be tailored to a range of purposes, like helping customers navigate through a store. But Wheatcroft believes that it could be game-changing for blind runners.

 

Ultimately, he’s hoping to create an app that will be widely and inexpensively available to the entire blind community. While IBM holds the intellectual property surrounding this technology, a company spokesperson says it has no plans to monetize the app because it is such a specialized use case.

 

“It’s more of an exercise in exploring the limits of human computer interaction,” the spokesperson explains.

 

Meanwhile, Wheatcroft is very excited about the possibility of putting out an app that will work on any iPhone.

 

“I don’t particularly like using any device that is specifically made for the visually impaired because it’s usually super expensive and super clunky,” he says. While Wheatcroft is testing the technology on his runs, a user doesn’t have to be a runner to see a benefit from this app.

 

“We’re creating a core technology that allows you to navigate using beeps and haptic, which can then be applied so broadly to lots of situations,” Wheatcroft says. That means whether you’re running marathons in Namibia or just finding your way around a store, Wheatcroft’s app could vastly improve life for blind people everywhere.

By Elizabeth Segran

 

National Newsletter May 2016

Apr 27 2016

 

CCB National Newsletter

May 2016

Announcements

++GTT Grande Prairie Meeting Invitation, May 6, 2016:

CCB GTT is pleased to be hosting its second meeting in Grande Prairie, Alberta!

 

Blind and low vision GTT Grande Prairie participants meet bi-monthly to share their experiences using assistive technologies in their everyday lives at school, work, or at home.

 

Agenda for the May 2016 Grande Prairie GTT Meeting:

Location: CNIB Office, Grande Prairie, 218-9804 100 Ave

Time: Friday, May 6, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Theme: how to use Facebook on your iOS device.

 

RSVP is a must as the CNIB building is locked after hours, so please contact Bobby Weir if you are attending.

780-539-4719 or Bobby.Weir@CNIB.ca

 

Topics:

  • Siri and Facebook
  • How to use Siri to post a new status on Facebook
  • How to use dictation to type status updates on Facebook
  • How to access and configure Notifications.
  • How to Like, Comment and Share the posts of others.
  • How to find friends and how to categorize them into family, friends or acquaintance lists.

How to find, join and participate in groups on Facebook

 

Who Should Attend?

  • Any blind or low vision person, regardless of age, who is interested in learning about the accessibility features of their computer, smart phone or other blindness related technology.
  • Existing users of assistive technology who have questions or want to share your experience.
  • Anyone interested in contributing to the future of the Grande Prairie GTT group by sharing ideas for future meetings to discuss other blind or low vision assistive devices.

 

For more information contact Nikita Phillips:

Email: GTT.GrandePrairie@Gmail.com Phone: 1-780-832-3535

 

++GTT Halifax Invitation, May 3, 2016:

The Halifax based Access & Awareness NS Chapter of the CCB will be holding its’ third GTT session on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria annex at the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA), 5944 South St., Halifax. This session will again involve exchanging knowledge, tips, general information and ideas regarding any technologies used by us in our daily lives. In particular, this session will focus on the iPad, used by those who are blind or who have low vision. Bring your device(s) with you and be prepared to learn and to help others learn by exchanging our knowledge and information including information about new and upcoming apps.

 

All are welcome. This session is free! So that we will know the number of attendees expected, please register by emailing Pat Gates at patricia.gates@bellaliant.net or leave a phone message at 902-422-7758. See you there!

 

++New Graduate studies Master’s program in English at University of Montreal:

We are pleased to announce a new option in the Master of Science program. This option, offered in English by the School of Optometry at the University of Montreal, is called Visual Impairment & Rehabilitation.

 

This program produces professionals who provide rehabilitation services to people of all ages who are blind or who have low vision. There are three concentrations (or tracks) in the program, enabling one to specialize in Low Vision, Orientation & Mobility, or Vision Rehabilitation Therapy.

 

The first English cohort will begin the program in September, 2016. Given the very recent approval of the program, we will work with potential candidates to accelerate the admission process. Anyone who is interested in applying should contact the University as soon as possible.

 

++Tournaments Updated

Canadian Council of the Blind is pleased to announce that the CCB Mail-o-Gram Bowling Tournament and the CCB Mail-o-Gram Cribbage Tournament have both been renamed to bring these tournaments into the current age of technology.

Therefore, effective immediately, the bowling tournament will now be called the CCB Email Bowling Tournament and the cribbage tournament will be known as the CCB Email Cribbage Tournament going into the future.

++2016 CCB Email Cribbage Tournament:

 

The 2016 Email Cribbage Tournament is about to begin!

 

Your Chapter must be registered on or before Sunday, May 1, 2016. The closing date for the tournament is Friday, May 27, 2016.

 

To register and receive the necessary forms please contact:

Bill Rizzo, Chair, National Tournaments

Phone: 613-549-6196         E-mail : bill.rizzo@sympatico.ca

 

Information packages will be sent out to you immediately, following your request.

++2016 CCB Email Bowling Tournaments to take place in October

 

The 2016 Email Bowling Tournaments have been postponed until October 2016. Watch for exact dates and additional information in upcoming coming newsletters.

 

Assistive Technology

 

++A Lot More Needs to Be Done to Help Blind People Use the Internet:

 

Facebook’s new blind-friendly feature puts a small dent in a big problem.

 

For the blind, navigating the digital world can be as tricky as moving through the physical one.

Some companies have tried to make their sites easier for the world’s 39 million blind people to use. Facebook, for instance, just introduced a new image-recognition feature that lets blind users “see” photos on the site.

But blind advocates say fixes like Facebook’s don’t solve the biggest obstacles blind people face online.

“We think it’s pretty cool,” Mark Riccobono, the president of the National Federation of the Blind, told The Huffington Post. “But we get concerned about flashy technology.”

“For the average blind person, it’s not whether they know something is in a photo or not that determines whether they can do online banking, pay their bills or buy groceries,” said Riccobono, who is blind.

Even as the Internet becomes an increasingly necessary feature of modern life, much of the web is difficult for blind people to use effectively.

A range of technologies exist to help blind people navigate the web. Braille keyboards and text-to-speech programs convert text to audio, which allows blind people to consume information on the web aurally. The devices can also transform speech into text, which allows blind people to “type.” These devices often work well with thoughtfully designed websites. But they hit snags when sites have elements that aren’t clearly labelled or are incompatible with keyboard shortcuts, which blind people rely on.

“Websites that have been designed from the beginning with accessibility in mind are easy for blind people to use – they’re easy to navigate, you can jump around pretty effectively and get information as effectively as a sighted person,” Riccobono said. But, he said, many sites still have “artificial barriers” that make performing basic online tasks difficult for blind users.

One of the biggest barriers is unclear labelling. In order to describe what’s on a given webpage, text-to-speech programs comb through the source code for labels that describe the page’s elements. They then say those labels aloud.

If elements aren’t clearly labelled in the source code – if a checkout button, say, is just labelled “image” – it can make navigating the page very frustrating for users who rely on spoken descriptions to move around the site.

“If I go on an e-commerce website and put stuff in my cart, but get to the payment screen and have trouble because the checkout button’s not labelled – that’s a high degree of frustration,” Riccobono said.

Web developers can use accessibility guidelines for blind users when designing their websites. But even when they refer to those guidelines, web companies don’t always do a good job implementing them, Riccobono said.

“If you don’t test [your code] for accessibility, and a problem arises and it’s not dealt with, then the code gets launched anyway,” he said. Once finalized, it can be difficult to retrofit websites to improve accessibility.

Blind advocates have urged the Obama administration to update the Americans with Disabilities Act to include explicit standards for web accessibility for blind users. While President Barack Obama initially seemed amenable to the standards – in 2010, he named them among “the most important updates to the ADA since its original enactment” – last year his administration quietly postponed consideration of new web accessibility standards until 2018.

For Riccobono, updating the ADA is a necessary step toward equal access for the blind.

“We need to do in the digital world the same thing we’ve done in the physical world,” he said. “The lack of standards makes it very difficult for businesses to understand when they’ve met a high standard of accessibility.”

By Casey Williams, The Huffington Post

 

In the News

++Boston memories:

Deaf and blind runner Gaston Bédard conquers marathon:

On April 20, 2015, Aylmer, QC resident Gaston Bédard completed what many runners consider the world’s most famous race, the Boston Marathon. Bédard, 63, is blind and deaf and ran the race with his two guides, Christopher Yule and Melany Gauvin, and had his son Marc cheer him on from the sidelines.

 

The 63-year-old (62 at the time of the race) ran the race with Team with a Vision, which raises funds for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Bédard completed the race in 5:26:58.

 

To keep him on course, Bédard’s guides run with him on opposite sides while holding a tether, a plastic tube with foam gripping. Before the race, the 63-year-old has to remove his two hearing aids to prevent moisture from reaching his hearing devices which leaves him completely deaf.

Usher syndrome with retinitis pigmentosa led to Bedard’s hearing and sight loss.

 

Bédard says it took him nearly nine minutes to cross the storied start line in Hopkinton, Mass. before running 42.2K to the finish line on Boylston Street in downtown Boston.

 

Conditions were wet and cold during last year’s event, which didn’t deter Bédard and his team. Knowing that his son Marc would be waiting for him at the finish line helped Bédard push through the final 10K of the race.

 

The whole experience was a special father-son experience as the two got to experience Boston during one of its finest events of the year. Runners from around the world converge on the east coast city each year to race, which requires athletes to attain certain qualifying times, based on age and sex, to be eligible to run.

 

In 2014, the event’s 40th anniversary, Bédard ran the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon with his two guides. He achieved his goal of qualifying for Boston with a sub-five-hour marathon.

 

His motto is: “If you have good people around you, it’s amazing what you can do.”

 

The retired elementary school teacher has been a runner for much of his life. In 1981 he qualified for the Boston Marathon with a 2:51 at the Ottawa Marathon. Between 1981 and 1983, he ran sub-3:05 on five occasions including his 2:51 performance though he never raced Boston because he was a “local runner and didn’t have it on my radar.”

 

He took a decade off running before getting back into the sport in 2008.

Training led to racing four years later.

 

“I made my comeback as a deaf blind runner in May 2012, and since then I have run some 30 road races, including 2 full marathons, with sighted guides,” says Bédard.

 

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.), the organization that hosts the Boston Marathon, could not confirm whether Bédard was the first-ever deaf and blind athlete to complete the storied race.

By Tim Huebsch, Canadian Running Magazine

 

++Netflix Agrees to Offer Audio Description Tracks for the Blind on More Titles:

Many folks might take Netflix for granted: you fire up the site or the app, or grab a disc from your mailbox (yes, people still do that) and boom, you’re enjoying a movie. It’s not always so easy for blind people, however, as many popular movies and TV shows don’t come with audio description tracks. That’s about to change under the terms of a new settlement between advocacy groups for the blind and Netflix.

 

In a settlement between Netflix and the American Council of the Blind (ACB), as well as the Massachusetts-based Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) and a blind individual, the company has agreed to make many more movies and videos offered through Netflix’s streaming and DVD rental subscriptions accessible to people who are blind by adding audio description tracks.

 

Audio description tracks are exactly what they sound like — explanations of what is appearing on screen, from physical actions to facial expressions, whether someone is wearing a chicken suit or a pin-striped suit, changes in the setting or scene and anything else that needs describing.

 

Going forward, Netflix will request audio description assets in all its new contracts with streaming content providers. For third-party content that’s already in the Netflix streaming library, the company “shall make reasonable efforts to obtain existing audio description assets” for those videos.

 

As for its original content, Netflix will provide audio description for scripted streaming content for TV and movies branded as “Netflix Original,” and for which it has the necessary rights for creating audio descriptions. If Netflix doesn’t control the audio description rights, it will “make commercially reasonable efforts to secure and offer audio description.”

 

If there’s an original title that offers audio description already, Netflix will have within 30 days of the launch date of that title to offer audio description, though it will “strive” to offer those tracks at the launch of the title.

 

Netflix will make these changes across the Netflix streaming website for browsers that use HTML5 video, applications for all Applicable Devices, and “any other Netflix platform that supports audio description.”

 

For DVD subscribers, Netflix “shall make commercially reasonable efforts” to offer discs that are equipped with audio descriptions on videos from third-parties, “whenever such videos are available.”

 

It’s not just the titles themselves that will be more convenient for blind customers, either: Netflix has agreed to add audio description search, and will also make its website and mobile applications accessible to individuals who are blind and use screen-reading software to navigate websites and apps.

 

“We applaud Netflix for working with us to enhance access to its services for people who are blind,” Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind, said in a statement.”Movies and television are a central pillar of American culture. As television and movies are increasingly delivered through streaming and home delivery services, ensuring that the blind community receives access to this content is critical to ensure that people who are blind are integrated into modern society.”

 

Last year, Netflix agreed to include audio description tracks on one of its most popular original shows, Daredevil — which features a blind main character — after customers complained. At that time, Netflix said it would work with “studios and other content owners to increase the amount of audio description across a range of devices including smart TVs, tablets and smartphones.”

By Mary Beth Quirk

 

++Canadian Copyright Bill for the Blind in Need of Fine Tuning:

As the political world was focused on the Liberal government’s inaugural budget last month, Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, introduced his first bill as minister by quietly moving ahead with plans to reform Canadian copyright law to allow for the ratification of an international treaty devoted to increasing access to copyrighted works for the blind.

 

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Marrakesh Treaty expands access for the blind by facilitating the creation and export of works in accessible formats to the more than 300 million blind and visually impaired people around the world. Moreover, the treaty restricts the use of digital locks that can impede access, by permitting the removal of technological restrictions on electronic books for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired.

 

The Canadian decision to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty is long overdue. The Conservatives announced plans to do so in last year’s budget but waited to table legislation days before the summer break and the election call. With that bill now dead, the Liberals have rightly moved quickly to revive the issue.

 

The treaty (and the Canadian bill) addresses three key issues. First, the bill establishes a new rule that permits non-profit organizations acting on behalf of persons with a print disability to reproduce copyright works in accessible formats without the need for permission from the copyright holder. This ensures that more accessible works will be created and distributed in Canada.

 

Second, once an accessible version of the work is created, the bill also allows the non-profit organization to make it available upon request to persons with print disabilities in other countries that are part of the treaty. With many countries signing on, this approach offers the potential to significantly increase the availability of accessible works with exchanges across borders.

 

Third, the bill amends the overly restrictive digital lock rules enacted in the 2012 copyright reforms. The Conservative government claimed that an exception for the blind addressed concerns that the law could create significant access restrictions, but the reforms represent a tacit admission that the exception is ineffective.

Interestingly, the same restrictive language is used in an exception designed to address privacy concerns, suggesting that further copyright reforms are needed.

 

While the introduction of the bill represents an excellent first step, upcoming committee hearings offer the opportunity to fine tune the Canadian approach, which is more restrictive than required by the treaty. For example, the Canadian bill envisions the possibility of establishing additional fees payable by the non-profit organization to copyright collectives. The Marrakesh Treaty does not require adding royalty payments and many countries (including the United States) do not have such a provision.

 

The Canadian approach to exporting accessible works to other countries is also unnecessarily complex. The export exception does not apply to works that are “commercially available” “within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price” in the other country.

 

The limitation seems likely to create uncertainty and legal risks for those using the exception, creating the danger that some organizations may be reticent about exporting works for fear of running afoul of the law. The limitation is not found in proposed implementing legislation developed by international groups representing libraries and those with print disabilities.

 

Despite its shortcomings, the decision to focus on the world’s first user rights treaty sends a strong signal that the government recognizes the importance of ensuring that the law does not unduly restrict access to copyright works. With the Marrakesh Treaty nearly reaching the 20 ratifications necessary to take effect, the government must move quickly if it wants Canada to stand as one of the original group of ratifying countries.

By Michael Geist.

 

++The Blind Leading the Blind: How Berkeley Alums Are Designing an Inclusive World:

 

Joshua Miele has been blind ever since a violent acid attack took away his vision before his 5th birthday. But he says he no longer spends time wishing he could see. Instead, from his office at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, he dreams up new technologies for the blind, and helps turn those visions into reality: maps that can talk, YouTube videos that can speak, electronic gloves that can text.

 

As is true for many blind people, his iPhone has become as vital to navigation as his cane. These days, anyone with an iPhone can use VoiceOver to read texts on a touch-screen out loud or use voice commands to ask Siri, a personal assistant program, to send messages or get directions to the nearest sushi bar. An app is capable of telling visually impaired people what color pants they’re wearing; another tells then how much money is in their wallets.

 

Yet despite the fact that the blind and visually impaired can now navigate more efficiently than ever before, their unemployment rate is still at 62 percent, according to the National Federation for the Blind. In other words, among all adults actively looking for work, only about 2 out of 5 have jobs.

 

A community of blind technologists around the Bay Area are out to improve not only those employment numbers, but also the quality of life for people who share their situation. Many, like Miele, passed through UC Berkeley and—during their time at the first university in the country to offer a student-led program for disabled students, in a city that helped pioneer the Disability Rights Movement—they gained a new sense of inspiration and empowerment, and the technical skills to help enhance the lives of other people with sight challenges.

 

When he applied to Cal in 1987, however, that wasn’t Miele’s plan. He wasn’t even aware of Berkeley’s storied history. He just wanted to get away from suburban New York and study physics.

 

“I wanted to spread my little blind wings,” Miele recalls. “I didn’t know anything about the social dynamics of Berkeley. All I knew was that it was a huge campus and it had an element named after it.”

 

Back then, blind and visually impaired students would spend hours working in a windowless underground room in Moffett Library nicknamed “the Cave.” They would typically study with their “readers”—people who would read books aloud to them while they took meticulous notes in Braille. It was there that Miele had his blind awakening.

 

“I met awesome blind people who were just kicking ass,” he says. “They were cool about being blind. They were having interesting conversations about it.”

 

After 18 years of trying to keep low-key about his blindness, he started to embrace it as a cool component of himself. Or, as he puts it, “I basically went to college and got Blind Pride.”

 

One semester short of finishing his physics degree, he took time off to work for Berkeley Systems, a startup that made the Macintosh computer accessible to blind people. “I realized that I might never be a brilliant physicist, but I would make a much bigger contribution by getting involved in the accessibility world,” Miele says. “I had something to contribute there, and I was smart enough to help guide things in the right direction.

It was cool, it was fun, and it was very important to me.”

 

He later returned to UC Berkeley to wrap up his physics degree and earn a Ph.D. in psychoacoustics. His goal: to study hearing and garner inspiration for designing better audio features for computers.

 

Now, much of his work at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute involves making gadgets and programs talk. Take YouTube, for instance. Of the hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos out there, few include audio descriptions. Miele came up with YouDescribe: Now people who sign on to YouDescribe can find the video they want, pause the video, and record their own descriptions of it. Blind people can now find and listen to this growing collection of YouDescribe-enhanced videos in which recorded voices tell them what they can’t see. Among the selections: videos depicting how to make green tea and chocolate waffles, how to explain Donald Trump to kids, and how to interpret guinea pig noises.

 

“Well, yes, I want blind people to build goofy robots. But I want blind kids to have the same opportunities for science—the same opportunities for learning—as sighted kids.”

 

Miele, who has black curly hair and skin that still bears the scars left by the acid, lights up when he talks about his Blind Arduino Project. “You know how the maker movement is a big thing now? You know how every 2-year-old is making robots now?” he asks. “So, there’s a lot of ways to make robots, but one of the most popular ways is with a platform called Arduino.”

 

Arduino is a tiny programmable computer, about the size of a deck of cards, that uses software that allows users to write code that can interact with the world through electronic sensors, lights, and motors. Tinkerers and hackers have used Arduino to make LEDs blink, program robots to move around, and Tweet at coffee pots to get them to make a fresh brew. The operating principle: Through Arduino, blind people gain an affordable tool to make even more accessible technology for themselves.

 

“So I started this thing called the Blind Arduino Blog, a project for documenting and disseminating ways blind people can work with Arduino independently, and for documenting the types of things blind people might want to build that they can’t find,” Miele explains. He believes that if more blind kids felt included in the maker movement, there would be more blind kids dreaming of being physicists. “I don’t just want blind people to be able to build goofy robots,” Miele says. “Well, yes, I want blind people to build goofy robots. But I want blind kids to have the same opportunities for science—the same opportunities for learning—as sighted kids.”

 

He’s also concerned with the everyday challenges blind people face just getting around. That’s why he collaborated with the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco to create accessible maps of every BART transit station.

 

“It’s this kind of accessibility that I get excited about,” Miele says. “It seems basic, and it is. But that’s why it’s exciting, because we don’t have the kind of ready access to basic information we want.”

 

He discovered that making an accessible map—complete with Braille, large print, and audio—is also really complicated. For the audio element, Miele adapted a LiveScribe smartpen, a pen designed to record audio and notes. He uses it to read off information on the map. When he taps the pen on the map, the pen reads out information, like ticket fares and which buses come to which stop.

 

Next he designed an accessible periodic table, the kind he never got to see when he studied chemistry in high school. He taps on the square, and the pen reads off the name of an element. He taps again, and this time it’s atomic weight. The more he taps, the more information pours sonically out of the pen. From there, he just kept going—making an accessible sudoku, an accessible eyeball, an accessible nerve.

 

These days, Lighthouse, the San Francisco nonprofit Miele partnered with to make his maps, has turned into something of a tactile-map-making factory.

 

The Lighthouse produces accessible floor plans for dormitories, and maps of parks, transit systems, and campuses including UC Berkeley.

 

But Lighthouse CEO Bryan Bashin cautions that although these sophisticated technological breakthroughs are vital, employment prospects for the blind and visually impaired remain grim.

 

“What I’ve learned is that there are a lot of blind people with a mountain of technology at home [who] go nowhere because it’s necessary but not sufficient,” he says. “What we need as blind people is a sense of the possible. The challenge is to find ways to motivate blind people, beyond putting hunks of iron on their table. How do we install the improbable belief that, yeah, you can go to work, you can support your family, you can be a source of giving to the community as well as receiving?”

 

That’s why Lighthouse does more than make innovative gadgets. Lighthouse also gives skills training and counseling services, and it’s a place where blind people can meet other blind people.

By Holly J. McDede

Happy May!