CCB National Newsletter September 2017



CCB National Newsletter September 2017






Welcome to the beginning of our Fall season.
I would like to start off by addressing the disastrous forest fires
which ravished huge areas of BC this summer. My heart goes out to all those effected by the fires, and my thoughts are especially with our members who were impacted. I am very confident our BC members will quickly get back on their feet, as I know many of them personally, and I can attest to their strength and resiliency.

I commend the brave fire fighters, first responders, families, friends and strangers who offered help, food, shelter, and support as needed. CCB National have also been there to support our members who may have been in need of emergency assistance in any way that we could.

We as CCB members work together to support those who need it by suggesting agencies, safe places for temporary shelter and any other immediate needs until the urgency settles and people can get back on track.

Looking forward, CCB is very much anticipating a productive fall, as we continue to build our programs and reach out to our fellow blind and vision impaired Canadians. This is the time that we begin our activities for 2017-2018, prepare our homes and families for school and work plus much more. Please keep safe as we move into a new season.

Louise Gillis
CCB National President




Please note that all membership packages were mailed out to each Chapter Contact at the end of August.


If you did not receive the membership renewal package for your chapter, please contact Becky immediately at

1-877-304-0968 or


Remember the Early Bird Draw deadline is Friday, October 27, 2017 and is a chance for two chapters to win back all the dues their chapters have paid before the draw.


Regardless of who wins the Early Bird Draw, ALL chapters who get their membership renewals in before Monday, December 4, 2017 will receive the rebate of $5.00 per person plus $1.00 per e-mail that CCB offers every year.

Something New++:

The back of the membership card is changing this year.  There is a place there to put a paid sticker.

There seemed to be some confusion that the membership cards were proof of payment, which they cannot be because they are sent out with your membership packages.


Stickers will be sent to the chapters for all paid members when we receive their cheques.  These stickers should be put on the backs of the membership cards as another method of tracking payment.


Thank you for your help with this little change,

Becky Goodwin

Administrative Assistant – Canadian Council of the Blind




WCW Order Forms were included in the Membership Renewal Packages that were sent to each chapter’s chapter contact person.


To avoid shipping delays PLEASE NOTE the deadline for submitting WCW orders is Friday, December 8, 2017 so that orders can be assembled and shipped in plenty of time for WCW February 4 – 10, 2018.


Please plan carefully and place your entire order at one time to avoid confusion & the extra shipping costs incurred by sending multiple packages to one chapter.


You may also use the same form to request up to $100.00 in WCW funding support of your chapter’s WCW events.








Assistive Technology and Living with Retinal Disorders

Living with vision loss can make everyday tasks seem daunting. Assistive technology helps mitigate these challenges, allowing low-sighted people to live at a level of independence that was not possible even ten years ago. There’s a vast array of technologies on the market—guest author Gerry Chevalier focuses on his two favourites.

To read Gerry’s article please go to or



GTT on Twitter and Facebook++:


GTT is an exciting initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind, founded in 2011 by Kim Kilpatrick and Ellen Goodman.  GTT aims to help people who are blind or have low vision in their exploration of low vision and blindness related access technology.  Through involvement with GTT, participants can learn from and discuss assistive technology with others walking the same path of discovery.


GTT is made up of blindness related assistive technology users, and those who have an interest in using assistive technology designed to help blind and vision impaired people level the playing field.  GTT groups interact through social media, and periodically meet in-person or by teleconference to share their passions for assistive technology and to learn what others can offer from their individual perspectives.


To follow, and join in on the discussions undertaken my members of the Get Together with Technology initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind, please find us on Twitter and Facebook.


GTT Program on Twitter:

To stay in touch with GTT on Twitter please follow the three Twitter Feeds listed below:

@GTTProgram @GTTWest @CCBNational


GTTProgram on Facebook:

To follow GTT on Facebook like and share the following FB pages:

CCBNational GTTProgram


Or join the General and Youth GTTProgram Facebook Groups;

Join the GTTProgram Group for blindness related assistive technology discussions.  This group welcomes participants of all ages.  For more information contact Kim or Albert at or


Join the GTTYouth for lively discussion on matters related to blindness assistive technology.  Canadian Youth aged 18 to 25 are encouraged to join this group.  For more information contact


For more information please contact your GTT Coordinators:


Albert Ruel                   or                Kim Kilpatrick

1-877-304-0968,550                        1-877-304-0968,513




The story so far: At the beginning of March there was a catastrophic flood in the national office.  Three feet of water filled the entire space.  We were very lucky and found temporary space in the same building and climbed stairs all summer.  We worked on folding tables and did our best to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.


The continuation: We have moved back into our renovated space.  The floors have been changed and we have found new office furniture. There are still boxes everywhere as we attempt to refile all of our papers, and sort out the supplies.  All of this, of course, happening at the beginning of fall as we ramp up our membership, get the Mobile Eye Clinic back to the schools, and GTT swings into high gear.


Thank you to everyone for your patience and support as we have worked through this.




A Reminder to Always be Prepared

(This article is an excerpt, please read the full submission on our website at


The summer of 2017 will never be forgotten in British Columbia.
Despite my extreme vision impairment, I saw the first plume of smoke of the Gustafsen Lake fire from my deck; it was July 6th. It started about 5 miles west of 100 Mile House and within 24 hours, evacuation alerts and orders were underway.

As many new fires continue to ignite all around the province and new individuals are in the process of evacuating, the Cariboo has begun its return to normalcy. The knowledge that fire season is still not over keeps us on guard; packed and ready to go again should need be.

It is with eternal gratitude that I salute the emergency personnel and volunteers who so bravely and successfully fought the battle on our behalf. I would like to thank those individuals who reached out to us all here in 100 Mile House during the crisis and to my evacuee hosts who took in a few of us evacuees while they also were on alert having to be ready to go at any minute.

Submitted by Lori Fry


FFB Fall Vision Quest Learning Opportunities++:

At the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), we are motivated by a singular goal: develop new treatments for blindness and vision loss. This goal fuels all of the research that we fund and everything that we do! Every year, we strive to share the latest breakthroughs in vision science directly with our supporters through our Vision Quest educational programming. In 2017, Vision Quest will take on a variety of formats, from smaller lunch & learn sessions to larger symposiums, hosted in regions across Canada.

It has been an incredible year so far, with Vision Quest having already come to Vancouver (BC), Sudbury (ON), Timmins (ON), and St. John’s (NL).

Upcoming events are listed below. Please register while space is still available!

Please Call 1-800-461-3331 if you would like more information. You can register on their website at

Toronto (Sep 19): Lunch & Learn

12:00PM – 1:30PM ET

The FFB’s education series will come to Toronto with a Lunch & Learn session focused on cutting-edge vision treatments and sight-saving research. Dr. Netan Choudhry will lead a discussion on AMD and other eye diseases, as well as share insights into his vision research.

Registration is $20 and space is limited!

Toronto (Oct 4): Speaker Series

6:30PM – 8:00PM ET

The FFB’s education series will come to Toronto with a Speaker Series focused on cutting-edge vision treatments and sight-saving research. The event will feature Dr. Derek van der Kooy, who discovered stem cells in the eye, and Dr. Robert Devenyi, who brought the bionic eye to Canada and is now collaborating with Dr. van der Kooy to drive the future of stem cell therapies for vision loss.

Registration is $20 and space is limited!

Montreal (Oct 10): Speaker Series

6:30PM – 8:00PM ET

The FFB’s education series will come to Montréal with a Speaker Series focused on cutting-edge vision treatments and sight-saving research. The event will feature Dr. Robert Koenekoop, a leader in emerging therapies for inherited blinding eye diseases, and Stuart Trenholm, an expert in optogenetics focusing on the interactions between light particles and living tissue.

Registration is free and space is limited!


Calgary (Oct 21): Conference

AMD Session: 9:00AM – 11:00AM MT

Lunch: 11:00AM – 12:00PM MT

IRD Session: 12:00PM – 2:00PM MT

The FFB’s education series will come to Calgary with a Conference focused on cutting-edge vision treatments and sight-saving research. The day will be divided in two, with the first session focused on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the second on inherited retinal diseases (IRDs). The conference will be chaired by Dr. Amin Kherani, Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Calgary, as well as a staff physician and surgeon at Alberta Health Services.

Registration is $20 for a single session or $30 for both (including a lunch). Space is limited!


Described Theatre Opportunity ++:


Tarragon Theatre is proud to present:

The World Premiere of Undercover, created by Rebecca Northan and Bruce Horak, the Dora award winning team behind the international sensation Blind Date.


In an effort to make our theatre more accessible to a new audience, Tarragon Theatre is excited to offer a described performance on Sat Oct 14th at 2:30pm


Tickets are $55 for adults or $49 for seniors, and with a valid CNIB card we offer a complimentary ticket for your companion to join you.

To order simply call 416-531-1827 and speak to our box office.  Please mention you would like an earpiece set aside for you when ordering and we’ll have it waiting for you at the theatre when you arrive.


As well, groups of 10 or more can receive 20% off!  Bring your friends and watch as Rebecca and her partners in crime recruit one intrepid audience member for a ride into the criminal mind.


More information about the show can be found here:

We hope you’ll be able to join us at the theatre!


Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship 2018++:


Hello Curlers!

The Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship for 2018 is fast approaching.  As those of you in the Canadian Council of the Blind curling community know, I’m fairly new at running things.


In an effort to not miss a team, any team that wishes to participate is encouraged to contact Becky at  Each team must have a B1 Lead, Skip, Second, Third, Sweeper, a sighted Coach, and a sighted Guide.

Please let me know before September 22, 2017 if you wish to participate.

Team Canada will be represented this year, by last year’s winners Team British Columbia (Kelowna).


I’m looking forward to hearing from you,

Becky Goodwin, Administrative Assistant/CVICC Organizer, 1-877-304-0968

In the News

Toronto Blind Jays hit the road for Beep Baseball World Series++:

With the crack of the bat, an umpire’s call and the hustle and bustle on the base paths, baseball boasts a soundtrack all its own.


At a Toronto Blind Jays practice, the collection of sounds also includes a beeping ball and buzzing bases.


In preparation to represent Canada at the NBBA Beep Baseball World Series in Florida, the Jays went to work at Maryvale Park in Toronto’s east end. Most of the squad is made up of players who are completely blind or have less than 10 per cent vision.


“We’re all just passionate about the sport,” said Canadian general manager Arthur Pressick. “A lot of these people never even tried baseball until beep baseball and they just love it.


“To be able to hit a ball and crank it out into the field, it’s a fantastic thing.”


Beep baseball is similar to the traditional pastime in some ways. The goal is to hit the ball and score runs but the general setup is quite different.


Eye shades are worn to negate any potential vision advantage. Players use their hearing to track the ball, which starts beeping once its pin is pulled as play begins.


Players also rely on audio to determine the location of the bases, represented by two padded four-foot cylinders on opposite sides of the field that start to buzz when a ball is in play.


The pitcher, catcher and spotters are sighted and work with batters — they’re all on the same team — to co-ordinate pitch timing and help guide players in the outfield.


If a ball is hit into fair territory, the race is on as the batter tries to reach base before the fielder locates and picks up the ball. A spotter calls out a number — for example, a two for a shallow ball or a three if it’s deep — to give the fielder an idea of where the beeping ball might be.


“Sometimes it’s really scary because the ball is not always on the ground,” said Cassie Orgeles of Fort Erie, Ont. “It could be going over your shoulder.”


If the batter reaches base before the ball is secured, a run is scored. If the fielder gets to the ball first, it’s an out.


Pressick, a videographer from Meaford, Ont., became interested in the sport after shooting documentaries on beep baseball. He helped put a Canadian squad together for the 2015 tournament in Rochester, N.Y., and while that team later dissolved, a core group of players got together last fall and the 2017 Blind Jays’ roster, which is co-ed, was filled out in the spring.


Most of the players have other athletic pursuits. Orgeles, 27, who competed at the Paralympics in goalball, found the transition to beep baseball was a smooth one.


“We’re all a very active group and we decided we really want to try this,” she said.


Beep baseball bases are in foul territory to avoid player collisions and the ball must clear a line behind the pitcher to be deemed in play. In addition, there are four strikes instead of three, a game lasts six innings, and fielders use their hands instead of baseball gloves.


Even though the Canadian team is in its infancy, camaraderie and team spirit were evident on a sunny afternoon in the city’s east end. A 90-minute practice was the second session for the full squad and the first with new blue and white Toronto uniforms and red Canada hats — a welcome donation from Baseball Canada.


The players already have their celebratory handshake routines down pat. There was even some good-natured chirping among the teammates.


“Keep your eye on the ball, Wayner!” one outfielder shouted in the direction of home plate to chuckles all around.


A sponsor is on board to help with costs and the team has received some donations on its GoFundMe page. To keep accommodation costs down, the 12-player team plans to drive 24 hours straight to Florida with Pressick at the wheel.


“I’m a GM, coach, pitcher, driver, chef, masseuse and waterboy,” he said with a smile. “All in one.”


Orgeles said it can take a little while to get the hang of things on the beep baseball field. Finding a rhythm at the plate is one of the biggest challenges.


Standing about 20 feet away, the pitcher uses a four-beat sequence with a ‘Set, ready, pitch,’ declaration before the batter swings.


“When you click with your pitcher, it’s the greatest feeling to hit (the) ball,” Orgeles said.


Effective communication is critical. And when the team has great spirit and energy, it’s a nice bonus.


“It’s a stronger bond I think with this group than traditional baseball,” Pressick said. “They’ve all gone through stuff in life that have brought them together to this point so right there, they have a lot of things in common just off the beginning.”


Canada finished 18th at the 2015 tournament. Pressick is hoping for bigger things this time around at West Palm Beach’s Village Park.


“I can’t wait to get this team down there and win a World Series,” he said.


The Jays roster also includes Joey Cabral of Toronto, James Kwinecki of St. Catharines, Ont., Wane St. Denis of Toronto, Ben Ho Lung of Aurora, Ont., Meghan Mahon of Timmins, Ont., Aaron Prevost of Cornwall, Ont., Mark DeMontis of Toronto, Paul Kerins of Toronto (coach), Mike Tweddle of Toronto (coach) and John Harding of Toronto (coach).


Assistive Technology


Toronto Project offers vision of accessibility; Stretch of Yonge St. will be equipped with technology to assist vision-impaired people++:


Canada’s most high-profile organization supporting people with vision loss is turning to technology in a bid to create what it calls the country’s most accessible neighbourhood. The CNIB – formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind – says it’s hoping to transform a small midtown stretch of Yonge St. into an area that blind or low-vision people can navigate easily, and also fully engage with independently.


The organization has partnered with the Rick Hansen Foundation to acquire beacons that will help blind people locate businesses on the street, then find their way around inside with confidence.

The foundation has funded the purchase of 205 of the roughly 14-centimetre beacons that stores and restaurants in the test area can acquire free and program to convey detailed information about the layout of their physical space to a blind person’s mobile phone.


Blind users hail the project as a major innovation, while the CNIB says it’s hoping the initiative convinces businesses that increasing accessibility makes good fiscal sense.

Inclusive design experts also praise the project, but note that true accessibility involves designing for a range of abilities and that more needs to be done if the area is to truly live up to the goal of being the “most accessible” neighbourhood.


The project’s rollout is gradual, with the CNIB persuading businesses in the quarter-kilometer testing range to get on board.

As beacons slowly begin to proliferate on Yonge between St. Clair Ave. and Heath St., at least one blind user said the difference is apparent. Mark DeMontis said the information available to him through the beacons gives him a sense of independence he hasn’t experienced since losing his vision 13 years ago.

By opening a GPS app called BlindSquare on his iPhone and listening to the information relayed by the beacons, DeMontis said he’s able to easily identify business entrances on the sidewalk, then find his way to various features once he gets inside.

The beacons can be customized to the space they’re occupying, he explained.


For instance, a restaurant may choose to communicate the location of tables, washrooms and staircases, while stores may be more interested in making sure visually impaired customers can quickly locate cash registers, retail displays or change rooms.


The project is meant not only to increase accessibility for visually impaired people, but also to send a broader message to corporations and governments.

Angela Bonfanti, the CNIB’s executive director for the Greater Toronto Area, said many businesses are under the erroneous impression that making their premises more accessible is an expensive and arduous undertaking.


“If we can show that an entire neighbourhood can get together and work together to show what accessibility looks like, then you really have some great research,” she said. “And we’ll go to our local governments and say, ‘The legislatures, the chambers, the museums, you name it, you need to do this. You need a beacon in every publicly funded building, because we’re taxpayers, too.'”

By Michelle McQuigge The Canadian Press



 Microsoft’s new iPhone App Narrates the World for Blind People++:


Microsoft has released Seeing AI a smartphone app that uses computer vision to describe the world for the visually impaired. With the app downloaded, the users can point their phone’s camera at a person and it’ll say who they are and how they’re feeling. They can also point it at a product and it’ll tell them what it is. All of this is done using artificial intelligence that runs locally on their phone.


The company showed off a prototype of Seeing AI in March last year at its Build conference, but starting today, the app is available to download for free in the US on iOS. However, there’s no word yet on when it’ll come to Android or other countries.


The app works in a number of scenarios. As well as recognizing people it’s seen before and guessing strangers’ age and emotion, it can identify household products by scanning barcodes. It also reads and scan documents, and recognizes US currency. This last function is a good example of how useful it can be. As all dollar bills are the same size and color regardless of value, spotting the difference can be difficult or even impossible for the visually impaired. An app like Seeing AI helps them find that information.


The app uses neural networks to identify the world around it, the same basic technology that’s being deployed all over Silicon Valley, powering self-driving cars, drones, and more. The app’s most basic functions are carried out directly on the device itself. This means they can be accessed more quickly and in situations where there’s no stable internet connection. However, Seeing AI’s experimental features like describing an entire scene or recognizing handwriting require a connection to the cloud.


Speaking to The Verge at a Microsoft event in London, Saqib Shaikh, the tech lead on Seeing AI, said he most commonly used the app for reading documents like signs and menus. He points out the app doesn’t just perform the basic task of optical character recognition technology, but also directs the user telling them to move the camera left or right to get the target in shot.


Shaikh says that the difference between this and similar apps is the speed of the neural nets: “One of the things we wanted to do was face recognition on device, and we’ve done that so within a few milliseconds you’ll hear the result. It’s all about the speed, and we try to do as much as we can on the device.”

By James Vincent, The Verge



Have a Fantastic Fall!