Category: Front Page

Liberal Funding for Reading Material for Persons with Print Disabilities.

Mar 13 2018

Dear Minister Duncan

The Canadian Council of the Blind was pleased to learn of your recent decision to ensure funding will be available for production of reading material for persons with print disabilities. Our members have been pleased with the service we have had for many years and would be in a very serious situation without that same type of service.

Our services have improved greatly with an increase in accessible materials but we still need production to continue in Canada, therefore continued funding will help here.

Production of materials as in the past needs to continue at the same rate or increase to keep up with demand. It is important that CNIB continues this great work to insure the access to the reading material we are entitled to.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter,

Louise Gillis,

National President

Canadian Council of the Blind

WBU statement for World Braille Day, January 4, 2018

Dec 18 2017


By Kevin Carey, Chair of the WBU, World Braille Council


2018 will be one of the most exciting years for braille since its invention by Louis Braille almost 200 years ago. The World Blind Union and International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) have recently released a piece of software, Easy Converter Express, which will enable teachers and others who work with blind children and adults to produce braille text from digital files with little or no training. The software is free of charge to all, but the very richest countries and it can be downloaded from


The software was developed by the WBU Technology Committee at the request of ICEVI with funding from the Royal National Institute of the Blind of the United Kingdom through a grant from


At the same time, the Orbit 20 refreshable braille display, developed by a consortium of WBU Members, is beginning to emerge in substantial quantities from the factory. This device, which was designed in consultation with the WBU, is a low cost refreshable braille device which acts as a book reader, a simple note taker and a terminal to tablets, phones and computers. For more information see:



As we celebrate this year’s World Braille Day, January 4, it is important that we agree how to give braille a new lease of life now that we have overcome many of the technical and financial factors which have made it expensive and hard to obtain. This is also the year when we will also try to secure the future of braille music by adopting a much more co-operative approach to its production and cataloguing.


Braille is still, in spite of a massive increase in audio resources through internet broadcasting, the primary literacy medium for blind people; and we know that the use of braille gives a massive boost to employment opportunities. But if we are to ensure its survival we now have to do two things: we must make sure that braille as available to far more children and adults; and we must ensure that braille producers, no longer limited by the need to make hard copy braille products, produce far more braille titles for use on braille displays. The temptation will be to see expanding access to braille through cheap displays as an add-on to traditional production but the only way we will be able to afford a rapid expansion of title availability is to cut hard copy production except in those areas, like mathematics and law, where it is essential.


We have the technology for a massive breakthrough; now we need to win the argument about how we maximise it.


World Braille Day is celebrated annually in honour of the birth of Louis Braille, inventor of the reading and writing system used by millions of blind and partially sighted people all over the globe. The World Braille Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about issues facing the blind and the importance of continuing to produce works in braille, providing the blind with access to the same reading and learning opportunities as the sighted.


The World Blind Union believes that reading is a human right. For more information and resources about braille, please visit our resources section of  our website at:



The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit our website at


For further information, please contact:


Terry Mutuku

Communications Officer, World Blind Union

You’re Invited! November 18 2017 Tele Town Hall

Oct 27 2017


You’re Invited!

On November 18 2017, the Tele Town Hall organizing committee will continue
its series of teleconference meetings as it hosts the fourth gathering, and
the second of a series of 3 international presentations.

To capture the international focus of these upcoming Tele Town Hall
gatherings we have titled the Series, “Advocacy Without Borders”.

In November our international focus will be on the United States.

So, please put the date of November 18th in your agenda!

Date and start times across Canada

Date: November 18th, 2017

Times: 10:00 am Pacific
11:00 am Mountain
noon Central
1:00 pm Eastern
2:00 pm Atlantic
2:30 in Newfoundland

This meeting will last no longer than two hours.

Moderator: Jane Blaine.

Guest Speakers:

Mitchell Pomerantz

From February 1975, through December 2008, Mitchell Pomerantz was employed
by the City of Los Angeles in a variety of human resource and
disability-related positions including discrimination complaint
investigator, executive recruiter, and training manager. He was the first
blind person to be hired in a professional capacity by the City.

In August of 1995, Mitch became the City’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities
Act) Compliance Officer, working out of the Department on Disability. His
responsibilities included overseeing and coordinating City-wide compliance
with the ADA, as well as conducting training and providing technical
assistance to City departments on ADA and human resource-related issues. Mr.
Pomerantz was responsible for developing the City’s ADA Self-Evaluation and
Transition Plan which was given final approval and funding by the City
Council in June, 1999. Subsequently, Mitch guided the City’s implementation
of the Plan which – with limited exceptions – was completed on June 30,

Mr. Pomerantz now works as an independent ADA consultant and trainer
specializing in programmatic accessibility, Titles I, II and III of the ADA,
successful strategies for providing reasonable accommodations, and
“real-world” disability awareness. Mitch has conducted training for a wide
variety of not-for-profit and government entities including: the National
Association of ADA Coordinators; Goodwill Industries of Southern California;
Cities of Pasadena and Rocklin, California; and Tuolumne County, California.
He was a trainer for the internationally recognized “Tilting At Windmills”
attitudinal awareness program for over 25 years. Mr. Pomerantz has also
testified in legal proceedings as an “expert witness” on blindness-related

Mitch served three two-year terms (2007-2013) as President of the American
Council of the Blind, a major national consumer advocacy organization of
blind and vision impaired persons. Mr. Pomerantz is serving his second term
as Vice President of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind
Union. He was appointed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to a term
on the California Commission on Disability Access and is currently serving
on the State Department of Rehabilitation Blind Advisory Committee as its

Mitch has been a member of the Pasadena Host Lions Club since 2008 and is
presently serving as the Club’s First Vice President.

Among his many awards, Mr. Pomerantz was a 1986 recipient of the “Mainstream
Milestones” Award given by the Los Angeles County Junior Chamber of Commerce
for “extraordinary achievement,” and in 1995 was honored with the Los
Angeles County Commission on Disabilities’ “Access Award” for his many years
as an advocate in Los Angeles and throughout the State and Nation. In 2014,
Mr. Pomerantz was inducted into the California Council of the Blind Hall of
Fame for his decades of dedicated service to blind persons and the

Mitch holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Political Science from
the University of Southern California.

john panarese
John is the Director of Mac For the Blind. He provides long distance or in
person training on all Apple products, including Mac computers, iPhone,
iPad, iPod Touch and Apple Watch. Besides being contracted to work with
several state agencies in the united states, he also works with colleges and
universities as well, and several private clients.
In addition, on his website, there are a number of audio tutorials for the
Mac and iDevices available for sale.
John brings a bit of a different perspective to our discussion in that he
will be representing the opinion of a consumer who is often required to
interact and communicate with various State Agencies across the United
States both as someone advocating for himself as well as on behalf of
He will share with us what it is like to navigate a much bigger system when
it comes to a comparison between Canada and the United States.

This Tele Town Hall meeting is being jointly sponsored by the following:
The Tele Town Hall organizing committee (Donna Jodhan, Robin East, Anthony
Tibbs, Albert Ruel, Pat Seed, Louise Gillis, Paul Edwards, Jane Blaine,
Melanie Marsden, Kim Kilpatrick, and Leo Bissonnette).

Organizations –
Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)/Get together with technology (GTT),
Citizens with Disabilities of Ontario (CWDO).
The objective of this Tele Town Hall meeting is to give participants an
opportunity to hear how consumer advocacy and rehabilitation services are
carried out in the U.S.A. and to give them a chance to ask questions of our
guest speakers.  Subsequent Tele Town Hall meetings will be similar in
format to this one.
It is our hope that participants will be able to use the information
presented to consider a possible platform for the development of our own
made in Canada advocacy initiative.
This 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.

If you wish to participate, please send an email to the committee at:

You will receive an email confirming your registration immediately,  then
during the week of November 12 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 November 16.

We will be posting additional announcements in the coming days.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Donna Jodhan, Robin East, Anthony Tibbs, Albert Ruel, Pat Seed, Louise
Gillis, Paul Edwards, Jane Blaine, Melanie Marsden, Kim Kilpatrick and Leo

CCB National Newsletter June 2017

Jun 06 2017



Presidents Message++:

Now that winter is finely over, the sun is shining most days and temperatures are improving, a lot of chapters will soon be winding down for summer. But the work with the Canadian Council of the Blind continues all year to prevent vision loss and improves the lives of those of us who have lost some or all of our sight but certainly not our vision.

As you will see in this newsletter a lot of exciting and positive things are happening. The organization has been working through some difficult situations due to the recent flood at the office and I want to commend the staff for doing a great job under these conditions. All the positives allow us to continue to build relationships so that we can move forward.

Congratulations to “Trust Your Buddy” for their great videos as you will read about below. It is very important to have someone we can trust to help us move through this journey with eye disease of one type or another. It helps to build confidence, to accept our loss and then work with it to the best of our abilities.

Other great news comes from the Peterborough Chapter, the GTT groups, the Eye See You campaign, receiving the Helen Keller Award from the Lions of District A4 and the partnership with Essilor for example. There’s lots more good news out there so send it in so we can share it with others.

The Atlantic Sports & Recreation weekend was held by CCB Bathurst, NB on the long weekend in May. Although attendance was down everyone had a great time participating in all the variety of sports, dance and banquet. Thank you for a great job Bathurst!

June is AGM month so stay tuned for more information coming out very soon.

Louise Gillis, National President


Canadian Council of the Blind Annual General Meeting++:

Our AGM is fast approaching, on June 21 at 10:00am edt.  For the first time ever the meeting will be available for everyone to listen to and fully paid members will have the ability to vote by phone if they cannot make it to the meeting in person.  This is very exciting.  More detailed information will be sent out shortly.



CCB Trust Your Buddy Goes National!++:

As the 2 year grant which was responsible for the creation of the TYB (Trust Your Buddy) program comes to an end, creator and program Manager Ryan Van Praet looks to broaden horizons.


TYB was created to “provide opportunity for blind/VI to participate in mainstream sports alongside sighted family, friends and peers”.  It was a local program centred in Chatham-Kent Ontario.  By all accounts it was successful, getting more than 15 blind/VI participants and as many guides, out and active.


Now TYB will be looking to turn its focus to providing a national resource for all CCB members and blind/VI persons across the country and beyond.


Ever wanted a personal trainer, fitness coach, health professional, elite athlete to bounce questions off of as you seek to become or maintain your physical fitness?


Ryan Van Praet is a Registered Kinesiologist, elite paratriathlete, with over 20+ years experience in the health, fitness and sports field.  He will be your FREE resource to provide answers to questions you may have, such as “How much should i exercise?” or “How do blind people ride tandem bikes?” or “I am stuck in a rut and I can’t figure out how to get off the couch and get motivated”.


CCB is seeking to revolutionize the way blind people think about physical activity.  Ryan will provide an outlet for you to learn online about sports, health and fitness topics, while interacting through posting or emailing questions of your own.  Watch or listen to the videos, submit questions, comments, topics of your own and learn how you too can become physically active for life despite any barriers you may face.


To subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow the Facebook page, simply type “CCB Trust Your Buddy” in their search fields and you will be linked to the videos.


Also the CCB will have a page dedicated to TYB on it’s website where you can find all the links to Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.


Watch, share and interact by submitting your comments and questions.


For more information, please visit the below links:

Ryan Van Praet (Reg. Kinesiologist)

Program Manager


Accessible Sport & Health Education

Canadian Council of the Blind


Search us on Social Media:

Facebook & Youtube:

“CCB Trust Your Buddy”

Twitter:  @TYB_CCB



New CCB Partnership++:

CCB is very excited to announce an agreement with the Essilor group for working on expanding our mobile eye‎ clinics. Essilor is the world leader in ophthalmic optics with a presence in 100 countries. The Group designs, manufactures and markets an extensive range of vision care solutions that help to correct, protect and prevent risks to the visual health of around one billion people worldwide. It shares a mission with CCB to improve lives by improving sight. This is a great partnership for CCB and will really help to improve the vision health of Canadians.





News from the Peterborough, ON CCB Chapter++:

I would like to share an awesome outing some of our members and volunteers attended this weekend.


Shawn Johnson our chapters President welcomed us to a traditional native Pow Wow at Hiawatha.


It was a super afternoon.  The traditional dress was colourful, textural and made wonderful noises.  The people were very eager to share stories about their dress, dance and culture with us.    With permission we were even able to touch feathers, fur and more.  The music and laughter were joyful.  This is a great family experience and it is an honour to learn the culture and traditions.  Hopefully next year we can make it an even bigger event for CCB.


This was not a usual type of outing but so much more than expected.

Submitted by Debby Haryett



Business awards for accessibility++:

CCB Peterborough, ON had a kick off for national accessibility week at Peterborough square. CPD did a wonderful job putting the event together. I worked with Jessica Taylor of the CNIB and Lynda Todd, volunteer, in helping our dignitaries (city council members) try out simulators, showing them sighted guide while wearing the simulators and then asked them to sign their name and read regular print. It was a good experience for them to try these things with a visual disability.


Also I, on behalf of CCB Peterborough had nominated Bill from Saugeen Shafts for a Peterborough business award. The award is for a business which has gone above and beyond to be accessible. There were 24 submissions and 4 winners. Bill was one of the winners.


Bill had made guiding stands in his archery range for low to no vision archers. He also started to work with 5 counties 20 years ago and has helped many organizations and people with a variety of disabilities enjoy the sport of archery.


Well done Bill


Submitted by Leslie from the CCB Peterborough Chapter



GTT Edmonton Meeting++:

You are invited!  Blind and low vision GTT participants meet monthly to learn about and share their experiences using assistive technologies in their daily lives at home, school, or at work.


Agenda for the Next Edmonton GTT Meeting:

  • Date: Monday June 12, 7pm to 9pm. Note: This is the last meeting before our summer break – no meetings in July or August.
  • Location: Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton. Enter from back door. If you arrive late the door may be locked. Please ring the bell to the right of the door.


Theme: Your iPhone and Your Edmonton Public Library

  • Lorne will demonstrate the Hoopla iPhone app which, together with your Edmonton Public Library card, provides access to audio books, eBooks, movies, subscription databases   and more.


Continuing with the public library theme, we will also discuss downloading the CELA audio books to your DAISY players.


  • We will provide individual DAISY player training to those who wish it.
  • General discussion regarding other technology.


Who Should Attend?

Any blind or low vision person who is interested in learning how assistive technologies can help them lead more independent lives.


For More Information contact:




Vision Health Month++:

The Eye See You campaign, as part of Vision Health Month, has been a great success, including significant pickup from national media such as AMI – Live from Studio 5 and coverage in the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, and the Ottawa Citizen, amongst many others.  The success of any campaign comes about because of the commitment of others to outreach and mobilise active and inspiring individuals.


The IFA is grateful for the efforts of all who participated in Vision Health Month through the month of May by sharing Twitter posts, creating your own posts, and/or using the hashtags #EyeSeeYou2017.


In particular, we thank the Eye See You campaign partners – including the Canadian Council of the Blind

– for their commitment and support during Vision Health Month and throughout the Eye See You campaign.


The IFA is confident that the ongoing Eye See You campaign will continue to create strong responses that highlight both good practices and the need for further development in the understanding of vision health in Canada.


CCB Mobile Eye Clinic Receives Helen Keller Award++:

Recently, the CCB’s mobile eye clinic (MEC) received the Helen Keller Award from the Lions of District A4.  The prototype clinic was launched in 2014 directed toward eye examinations to children and older people.  Over 3000 children and 1000 older people have been examined.  The MEC visits schools and care facilities and conducts full eye examinations by a registered optometrist. The Lions assist the MEC with pretesting prior to the examination.


Almost 30% of children require a follow-up with 22% receiving some type of remedial intervention (i.e. glasses, referrals to ophthalmologists).  In some cases, children without the intervention, were effectively legally blind unknown to parents and teachers.  Educators and parents are starting to learn that low vision among children is a learning disability that has a huge negative impact on Canada’s social system.  It is estimated that only 14% of children under six years old in Canada receive professional eye treatment.


Similarly, vision loss among older people leads to a higher incidence of slips and falls, with 56% of older people requiring a follow-up and/or receiving some type of remedial intervention (i.e. glasses, referrals to ophthalmologists), which can pose a burden to the health care system.


The MEC is endorsed by the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) and free glasses are supplied to children 10 years or under regardless of income, and for others, based on family income.  The examinations are available to anyone who has not had an eye examination within the last 12 months.


The MEC raises the awareness of the importance of vision loss where 75% is treatable or preventable.  It also addresses the mobility problem especially among older people with transportation is sometimes a barrier.

The CCB is now preparing to expand the project to other parts of Canada.


For more information about the MEC program, visit




Key Information For The Blind And Partially-Sighted Community Regarding The Canada 150 Commemorative Bank Note ++:


On 7 April, the Bank of Canada unveiled the design of the commemorative $10 bank note that will begin circulating 1 June 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.



  • This commemorative note will have the same suite of accessibility features as current polymer notes—with an enhancement.
  • The $10 denomination of the Canada 150 note will be recognized by touch (tactile feature), sight (large numerals) or electronic signal (bank note reader).
  • An enhancement has been made to optimize the colour contrast of the large numeral to help partially-sighted individuals determine the denomination of the note with confidence.






  • Blind and partially-sighted Canadians who use the latest model of the bank note reader (the model distributed by the CNIB since 2014) will need to install a software adaptation for the device to recognize the Canada 150 note.
  • As soon as this adaptation becomes available, information on how to download it will be broadly communicated.
  • The previous model of the bank note reader is still in use and will determine the denomination of the commemorative note. No adaptation is required.





Information and described videos on the Canada 150 note are available on the Bank of Canada’s website:



Important Information for the Users of Window Eyes screen reader++:

Thank you for being a valued member of the GW Micro and Window-Eyes family. We regret to announce that sales of Window-Eyes have ended in the United States and Canada. Users outside of the United States and Canada should contact their local distributor for options. We are committed to our customers and will honor existing product purchases and software maintenance agreements, and we will continue to provide technical support to end users that have purchased Window-Eyes or a support package.


All users who are currently using Window-Eyes can continue to use the software indefinitely; however, as the Windows® operating system and/or applications change over time, Window-Eyes may not function adequately for your needs.


We understand how important a screen reader is to you and are offering JAWS for Windows 18 as a replacement. We are committed to providing a smooth transition and will honor existing Window-Eyes product purchases and software maintenance agreements (SMA), as follows.

– End users that paid for and are current with Window-Eyes 9.x will be converted to JAWS 18 at no charge.

– If you are using an earlier version of Window-Eyes, you can purchase an upgrade to JAWS 18.

– If you are using the free version of Window-Eyes you can continue to use it. While there is not an upgrade path from the free version, if you are interested in purchasing JAWS, please contact our sales team at 800-444-4443.

– Existing Window-Eyes SMAs will be rolled into the JAWS SMA program for end users that migrate to JAWS.


Learn more about the migration options and pricing by visiting


To make this process as easy as possible, we ask you to complete a simple web form that will go directly to our sales team, who will then contact you with an authorization code for JAWS 18, or request additional information if necessary.


Requests for upgrades must be submitted at

or by phone at 800-444-4443 by July 31, 2017.


Note the free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version is not part of the conversion program.


If you have any questions please call us at 800-444-4443 or email us at


Accessibility Initiatives at Toronto’s Luminato Festival++:

June 14-25


Luminato is committed to being a festival that is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. Among our new accessibility initiatives this year we are offering three specialized performances.


En avant, marche!

Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts

June 24 8pm

Alain Platel, one of Europe’s most influential theatre-makers, reunites with director Frank Van Laecke and composer Steven Prengels for this inspired and quirky take on amateur musical groups. They are joined by Toronto’s Weston Silver Band for a work of poignant theatre, riotous slapstick, and exuberant music.

Audio Described Performance for patrons who are blind or have vision loss. Audio devices for Audio Description must be reserved in advance to ensure availability.


To book accessible seats, to reserve a device for Audio Description, or for questions on group bookings, please contact Stephen Barber at or 416 368 3100 x254

For more information on each show, visit

Pacific Training Centre for the Blind accepting out-of-town students++:

The Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) is expanding its Blind People in Charge Adult program to include students from outside of Victoria.


Staff at the centre will work with an out-of-town student to find appropriate and viable housing options for these students such as billeting, homestay or other affordable accommodation while they are training.


PTCB will be accepting new students to start in the fall.

Students will be expected to attend the training centre three-days-a-week. A firm commitment to training is expected.


If practical, and the student doesn’t live too far away, students can also travel to Victoria each week for training and return home later in the week.


Through its Blind People in Charge Program, the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind teaches blindness / independence skills including Braille, travel with the long white cane, talking and Braille adaptive technology, cooking, cleaning, sewing, job readiness, organizational skills, financial management and other life skills.


The PTCB uses a positive and empowering method of teaching that encourages students to problem solve and take charge of their own lives. All instructors and mentors at the centre are blind.


If you wish to learn more, or register for the fall, please contact us.

Elizabeth Lalonde, Executive Director

Pacific Training Centre for the Blind

Phone: 250-580-4910

817a Fort St

Victoria, BC,

V8W 1H6

Blind people empowering blind people to be employed, independent and free.



Promote accessibility every day, everywhere in Canada++:

As Canada’s Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities, I believe that our country’s diversity is our strength—and when we include people with disabilities, we create a stronger Canada for everyone.


It is my pleasure to announce that launching this spring, for the first time in many years, an annual national week devoted to inclusion and accessibility.


From May 28 to June 3, 2017, National AccessAbility Week will celebrate, highlight and promote inclusion and accessibility in our communities and workplaces across the country.


We’ve made great strides in promoting inclusion for Canadians with disabilities, but there is still much work to do.


To create a truly inclusive society, we need to change the way we think, talk and act about barriers to participation and accessibility—and we need to do it right from the start, not as an afterthought. An inclusive Canada is one where all Canadians can participate and have an equal opportunity to succeed.


National AccessAbility Week will aim to bring this perspective to the forefront for Canadians, and highlight some of the important initiatives this government and its partners are undertaking to bring about this change.


Please join us in celebrating National AccessAbility Week.  I invite you to host events in your own local communities, and participate on social media. More information will be available in the coming weeks on, and I encourage you to follow @AccessibleGC

on Twitter, Accessible Canada

on Facebook and follow the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and #AccessAbility for the latest information.


Together, let’s continue working towards an Accessible Canada.

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities






The World Blind Union (WBU) is an international not-for-profit, charitable organization representing the estimated 285 million people who are blind or have low vision worldwide.  The WBU is recognized as the international voice of blind and partially sighted persons speaking on their behalf at the United Nations, UN Agencies and other international organizations.


The Position

The World Blind Union is seeking a Chief Executive Officer who will replace the incumbent CEO upon her retirement.  The position is based at WBU’s international headquarters located in Toronto, Ontario Canada


Reporting directly to the President of the World Blind Union, the CEO will have the following responsibilities and requirements:



Applicants should include a detailed curriculum vitae; the names and contact details of three (3) referees (which will only be contacted if the applicant is being considered for an interview and he/she will be notified of this in advance). We also request a letter of candidature indicating interest in and suitability for the position. All applications must be submitted in English and must be submitted electronically in MS Word format only.  Applications that have inaccessible attachments will be rejected.


People living with blindness or partial sight are strongly encouraged to apply.


Applications should be directed to;

Dr. Fredric K Schroeder

President, World Blind Union


Application Deadline: August 1, 2017


Note: A detailed position description can be requested by interested candidates from the CEO of WBU at


In the News

Visually impaired voters in B.C. given option to phone it in++:

For Reed Poynter, not being able to see has made voting difficult.


Plastic templates that help visually impaired voters cast their ballots can slip, meaning the only way he could ensure he checked off the right candidate is to ask for help – and give up his privacy.


In the last federal election, staff at his polling station told him they didn’t have any braille ballots; he was later told some officials just didn’t know where they were.


In contrast, Mr. Poynter, who has been blind since he was a child, was able to vote in advance of Tuesday’s B.C. election simply by picking up the phone as part of an Elections BC pilot program that allows people with disabilities to vote from home.


“I thought that the experience was quite good.

Their staff was polite, professional, very well done,” said Mr. Poynter, a 67-year-old who livesin Langley, B.C., southeast of Vancouver.


“It beats the hell out of going to the polling station. Over the phone is more secure.”


The 2017 election is the first in the province to allow telephone voting. The service launched in mid-April and, in the first 11 days, 555 voters used it, said Andrew Watson of Elections BC.


When someone calls in, operators verify their voter registration and ask if they have a disability as defined under the BC Elections Act. The type of disability doesn’t need to be disclosed.


Voters are then assigned a number for privacy and then transferred to two voting operators – one administers the vote and the second acts as scrutineer.


Elections BC says it doesn’t know if the program will be used in future elections, but so far the agency has only received positive responses.


Before phone voting, partially sighted or blind  voters could use large-sized poster ballots, braille ballots, plastic guides with braille and  tactile markers down the sides, or bring someone along to assist.


While all advance polling stations are guaranteed to be physically accessible, some general election voting locations are not; for those, voters with disabilities can cast their ballots at the curb or parking lot.


Rob Sleath from Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers said there are several issues with these options. He says they might allow voters to mark independently and privately, but there was no way to verify it was marked correctly. After every election, he gets multiple phone calls about physical accessibility.


“That is one of the current downfalls in the current system,” Mr. Sleath said. “People want to vote the same as you or anybody else, they don’t want to be treated in a special way.”


Greg Koyl, a 66-year-old retiree in Victoria, lost his sight in the past three years because of glaucoma. This is his first provincial election to vote while legally blind. In the federal election, he waited in line for more than 45 minutes and had to bring someone along to help him vote, while phone voting took only five minutes.


“I was quite pleased with how it unfolded,” Mr.  Koyl says. “People were very helpful and the service quality was in spades. It was a nice relief to think I could do it that way rather than have someone come along to help me get my ballot.”

By Emily Mccarty



New Treatment Improves Vision Health For Canadians With Glaucoma++:


Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, affecting more than 64 million people, including approximately 400,000 Canadians.


The Silent Thief of Sight

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve. It develops slowly over time, often has no symptoms, and can go undiagnosed without proper checkups. If left untreated, glaucoma causes impaired vision and even blindness. It has been predicted that the number of people affected by glaucoma worldwide could grow to more than 76 million by the year 2020.


“Glaucoma is sometimes called ‘the silent blinder’ as patients normally don’t feel any difference during the early stages of the disease,” warns Dr. Hady Saheb, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of Resident Research at McGill University. “But eye care professionals are able to detect early changes brought on by glaucoma and either prevent them from happening or from getting worse.”


“Because eye diseases like glaucoma are chronic and asymptomatic I can’t stress enough the importance of proper screening and monitoring,” agrees Dr. Ike Ahmed, a Lasik surgeon at TLC Laser Eye Canada renowned for his ground-breaking work in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of highly complex eye diseases. “While there may be no symptoms and no pain, the damage being done can be irreversible.”


Although damage caused by glaucoma can’t be reversed and even the development of the disease is not completely understood, we do know a major risk factor for developing glaucoma is increased eye pressure. This occurs when fluid in the eye – used to transport important nutrients to the lens and cornea – accumulates and cannot drain naturally, limiting a person’s vision and field of view


Recent advancements in glaucoma treatment have focused on relieving increased eye pressure using stents to drain excess fluids. A new treatment category, known as minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS), has been developed with a view to expanding access to treatment and reducing the complications associated with standard glaucoma therapies and surgeries.


“Although MIGS is a relatively new procedure and more study is necessary, it has already demonstrated its value,” says Dr. Ahmed.  “There is a very significant percentage of the Canadian population that can benefit from MIGS.”


While standard glaucoma surgeries are often effective at lowering eye pressure and preventing progression of the disease, they are major surgeries with a long list of potential complications. Ophthalmologists are hesitant to recommend them except in the most serious of cases. The only other option previously available for more moderate cases was a combination of medications and daily eye drops.


“MIGS fills a gap between medication and more aggressive surgery,” say Dr. Saheb. “It fits nicely into the space where patients haven’t been treated adequately because eye drops are not quite doing the job, but surgery is too risky.”


Safer Surgeries with Fewer Complications


Before the MIGS group of operations, Canadians with glaucoma experienced reduced quality of life not just due to visual field loss, which can be associated with falls and accidents, but also because of the complications inherent to onerous medication protocols and invasive surgeries.


“The introduction of MIGS has allowed us to offer safer surgeries, earlier,” says Dr. Saheb. “We are now able to provide low-risk treatments to the majority of glaucoma patients, those in the more moderate portion of the disease spectrum, while reserving more invasive surgeries only for the most advanced patients.”


There are currently five MIGS procedures available, all of which work by using microscopic-sized equipment and tiny incisions to reduce pressure on the eye. Not only are the results impressive, the micro-invasive nature of the surgery reduces complications and allows for a rapid recovery. In one recent study, 72 percent of patients receiving treatment using microscopic stents no longer needed to take glaucoma medication after 12 months.


“Every doctor will have specific preferences for when patients can go back to regular activities,” notes Dr. Saheb, “but on average, the recovery time for MIGS is approximately 10 to 15 percent of that associated with more invasive procedures.”


MIGS is already improving the lives of Canadians, but it is not yet an option for every Canadian suffering with glaucoma. In fact, the rollout of this new technology has been somewhat uneven, with local availability often depending on a number of factors beyond the patient’s control.


“While MIGS is available in most provinces across the country it is mostly limited to glaucoma specialists and the biggest challenge to access remains the budgets allocated by individual hospitals,” says Dr. Saheb. “The scientific backing for the technology is there absolutely, but public funding to support the purchase and operation of the devices is lagging behind.”


As the scientific literature in support of MIGS continues to grow, there is hope that with increased awareness, and ultimately funding, MIGS can be used not only to improve the vision of tens of thousands of Canadians suffering with glaucoma, but also to reduce pressures on multiple aspects of our healthcare system.



Summary of Oct 29 tele town hall meeting

Dec 05 2016

Hi everyone:
As previously promised, we are pleased to share a summary of the recently
concluded tele town hall that was held on October 29.
We invite you to share your feedback with us by writing to

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