National Newsletter February 2017



White Cane Week 2017++

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

2017 AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happenings at Camp Bowen++

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

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

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

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

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

The Camp Bowen Team

Save the date!++:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for consideration

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

In the News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Susan Stamberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global DR Barometer Report sheds light on preventable vision loss

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

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

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

The high cost of vision loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a Wonderful February!