CCB National Newsletter April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Memory++:

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

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

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

CCB and Vision Health++:

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

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

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

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

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

Invitation to Accessible Book Club++:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Together With Technology (GTT) Vancouver!++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To watch the story, please visit:

Tele Town Hall:++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happenings at Camp Bowen++:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

++From Leader Dogs for the Blind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring.