National Newsletter January 2017

Happy New Year from CCB!++
Welcome to 2017! Another year has come and gone; and now we look
forward to an active and engaging New Year at CCB.

Lots of positive, new and exciting things continue to happen at CCB!
2016 saw a lot of activities at all levels with sports events,
meetings, planning for the future, the Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC), a
growing Get Together with Technology (GTT) program, as well as lots of
important advocacy initiatives coming to fruition.

I am extremely happy to have welcomed over a dozen new chapters, from
coast to coast, which joined CCB in 2016. We must continue to reach
out to potential members, selling the benefits open to them by
becoming active in The Council.    Let us work as a unified
organization to accomplish this task.

I would like to wish everyone a happy healthy and prosperous New Year,
and look forward to another active year ahead.
Louise Gillis, National President



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!





We are happy to announce that Mary Sweeney and Lyette Gauvin, members of the CCB Ottawa Chapter, have both won the Governor General Medal. Congratulations on this wonderful achievement!



CCB Toronto Visionaries launches a New Web Resource++


The CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter has launched a website designed to promote the Canadian Council of the Blind in Toronto, and to offer an enormous information resource to those living with vision loss. “The site is part of an overall communications strategy for our Chapter that includes Facebook, Twitter, bulletins sent out through email, and a telephone Voice Mail Line, and it really establishes us as a major resource for the blind community in the Toronto area.” said Ian White, CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter President.


Designed by a committee of volunteers on the CCB Toronto Visionaries Executive over the past year, the site was realized by MacLeod Information Services, a Toronto-based web development company. Since the site is to be used by everyone, regardless of their visual ability, accessibility was built into the site from the beginning. The design of the site had to be Accessible HTML5 compliant, with clear fonts and straightforward layout to make navigation easy. Pages are navigable using standard JAWS keystroke commands, and have been tested using NVDA and ZoonText screen readers to ensure maximal access for those using a variety of adaptive technologies.


The site includes a profile of the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, its governance and Executive Committee, and pages detailing the advantages of becoming a member and how to support the Chapter’s mandate of providing social and recreational opportunities for those living with vision loss in Toronto. The Outreach page outlines the Chapter’s efforts to promote inclusion through its ‘Schools Outreach Program’, and there is a page profiling Toronto’s ‘Get Together with Technology’ Group, whose monthly meetings provide a forum for Assistive technology users to share information about everything from talking watches to navigation apps on a smart phone.


For CCB Toronto Visionaries members, their families and friends, there is a calendar of upcoming activities and outings, listing the Chapter’s monthly meetings, GTT group meetings, dates for pub nights and meals out, trips to the City’s cultural and historic sites, and everything from walking tours and musical events to bowling and Beach Barbeques!

As well, there is a page with more detailed information on major special events, like the upcoming 2017 WCW ‘Experience’ Expo on Saturday February 4, 2017at the CNIB Centre in Toronto (please see previous article for more information).


“One of the most exciting aspects of the new website is the Community Resources page,” said White. Clicking on the Community Resources link brings up a listing of a whole host of clubs, groups, organizations, service, and product providers in the GTA, offering a wealth of information about the supports available to the Toronto community. Divided into 10 categories, the page lists everything from Sport & Fitness to Rehabilitation Services, from Employment and Transportation options to Recreation & Leisure activities, from Arts and Entertainment to Other Disability groups. Each listing provides a description of the group or organization, with contact information and links to their web pages. “When I first lost my vision, I didn’t know where to turn to get the information I needed to rebuild my life”, said White. “Our hope is that this website will be one place to find that information and get those new to vision loss connected to the supports and services they need”.


Even those who have been living with low-vision or blindness for many years, or those who help and support persons with vision loss, may find some surprises here. “There is information out there, but it tends to be in isolated pockets, with some people knowing some things, and other people knowing others. We wanted to bring all this existing knowledge together in one place.” White said. “And as the site attracts viewers, we’re hoping that we can add even more resources to the list.”


The site’s ‘Community Resources’ page is a compendium of an astonishing variety of options open to those living with vision loss in Toronto, including listings for sculpture groups, blind hockey teams, where to buy adaptive technology, educational resources, and how to get onto the City of Toronto’s Snow Removal program for residents with disabilities. There is information here on blind community theatre groups, employment mentoring programs, VIA Rail’s passenger escort policy and the World Blind Union. There are links to a blind curling group and a dragon boat team, an entertainment download service specializing in described video content, and how to access reading materials in alternate formats through the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).


“There are nearly 5000 people in Toronto living with vision loss”, White said, “and we’re hoping that when they, their friends or their family members are looking for information on what’s available in Toronto, they’ll hit our site and see that there is help out there.”


The CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter website can be viewed at You can like the Facebook page at or follow the Twitter feed at /ccbtovisionaries. You can email the Chapter at or call the Voice Mail Line at 416-760-2163.


With the launch of its website, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind is expanding its digital footprint, reaching more people – those living with vision loss and those who are sighted – and is offering access to knowledge touching every aspect of life with a vision disability. “The goal is to advance our objectives of providing opportunities for visually impaired individuals to come together with their peers, to share information, interests, learning and recreational activities, and to encourage members to explore their potential for living a full, rich life through social engagement”, said White. “But,” he insists, “We can only achieve this if we know what is possible. And this website is another step toward sharing the information about what those possibilities are.”

Submitted by the CCB Toronto Visionaries


Trust Your Buddy 2016 Recap++


Wow, where do we start?! This has been a wonderful year, full of new friendships, new challenges, personal growth, skills learned and practiced, as well as lots of new exposure to the Chatham-Kent, ON community on just how capable persons with Vision loss are.


I am certainly excited for 2017 and beyond and I hope our group here in Chatham Kent continues to grow with athletes and buddies….as well as new groups around the province.


Here is just some of what we’ve done this past year: Curling,

Skating, hockey, learn to run/walk and a 5km as a group, golf clinic and our first 9 holes as a group, tandem cycling, stand Up Paddling, Lawnbowling, regular bowling, group outings, and TONS of extra curricular get togethers, get well wishes, and peer support.


I think we can see why the name TYB was given. It is crucial that even though we can do most everything independently, we certainly need our buddies, to trust as they help us with some of the finer points of our activities. The team aspect we enjoy with our buddy/guide is truly a unique advantage that others in sport don’t get to experience. We are truly lucky.


So, 2016 is at an end and 2017 already has some pretty cool plans awaiting.

For more information on the TYB program, please contact the undersigned.

Submitted by: Ryan Van Praet   (Reg.Kinesiologist)

Program Manager- “Trust Your Buddy Program”

Canadian Council of the Blind




The Importance of Braille Literacy, World Braille Day++


On January 4th, we celebrate World Braille Day and the huge impact that Louis Braille’s invention has had on the lives of blind people all over the world. Braille always has been and always will be more than just a tool for blind individuals who use it. Braille represents competency, independence, and equality.


Braille is not a code to be deciphered but it is a method of reading and writing that is equal in value to print for sighted people. The way in which blind and partially sighted people develop literacy skills may differ, but the goal is the same: to use reading, writing, and other literacy tools to gather and understand important information and to convey important information to themselves and to others.


A lot has changed since Braille was invented almost 200 years ago, both in technology and educational practices. Nowadays, various students have access to different kinds of devices such as refreshable braille displays and/or braille note takers (a dedicated computer for braille users). The books in Braille that are used now are often produced by high-speed braille embossers using translation software that converts the printed word into Braille cells. However, the fundamental importance of Braille remains unchanged and as important as ever.


There is a real concern in the blind community that there is less support for teaching, using and investing in Braille, particularly among educators and governments, due to the belief that technologies such as e-books, audiobooks, and screen readers can replace Braille. This issue is a worldwide concern, in developed and developing countries alike. “Other formats such as audiobooks, which are generally cheaper than Braille, cannot replace Braille and advances such as the newer and more affordable refreshable Braille displays will support Braille literacy in the future,” said Kevin Carey, the new Chair of the World Braille Council.


While advances in technology are welcome, we recommend that technology should be used to enhance the use of Braille, not to replace it. Evidence supports our belief that those who have the opportunity to fully acquire Braille reading and writing skills attain better literacy, better education, and employment outcomes than those whose learning has been primarily supported by spoken word technology.


Literacy – the ability to read and write – is vital to a successful education, career, and quality of life in today’s world. Whether in the form of curling up with a good book, jotting down a phone number, making a shopping list, or writing a report on a computer, being literate means participating effectively at home and in society.


The World Blind Union strongly recommends that all blind and severely partially-sighted children be given the opportunity to learn and become proficient in Braille reading and writing skills and that they receive instruction from those who are thoroughly trained and qualified to teach Braille.


We also strongly recommend that all blind persons have access to a variety of books and publications in braille that are up-to-date. This recommendation can be achieved in part by governments ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, which allows for copyright exceptions to facilitate the creation of accessible books and other copyrighted works and for the import and export of such materials across national boundaries.





Minister Carla Qualtrough says Canada’s new disability act will ‘make history’++


Carla Qualtrough is the first-ever federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities. She tells The CBC Radio’s The Current’s special guest host Ing Wong-Ward that her appointment to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet as a legally blind person is “sending a strong signal to Canadians just how important disability and accessibility issues are to our government.”


“I think we do some things really well here in Canada and I think in other areas we have work to be done,” Qualtrough tells Wong-Ward.


Minister Qualtrough has been travelling across the country for an ongoing national public consultation on creating new Canadian accessibility legislation – the first of its kind in Canadian history. And while she’s honoured by the work she has been asked to do, “I certainly feel the weight of the responsibility.”


She says Canada can do better in terms of creating real meaningful change for those with disabilities.


“We have strong attitudes around inclusion and equity…but sometimes that doesn’t translate into opportunity for Canadians.”


Qualtrough highlights the importance of proactive legislation instead of reactive ones that come after a barrier has already interfered with somebody’s life.


“Systemically there’s a huge onus or burden on individuals to pursue more systematic complaints,” Qualtrough tells Wong-Ward.


“If I see a barrier in a bank for example, you know, it’s a barrier that anyone with my disability would face but it’s up to me to pursue it.”


She says it takes a long time to identify the barrier before the system can make it better.


“I’m hoping that some proactive legislation will allow organizations and government to go into that bank before it gets to the point of exclusion.”


Qualtrough emphasized that disability is not just physical, and that it’s “broader than physical access.”


Wong-Ward asked Minister Qualtrough what she was doing to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities.


“We’re not typical in that we have jobs, good paying jobs,” Wong-Ward tells Qualtrough.


“We are two women with our families of our own. I, like you, am a parent. I wonder how do we shift things so that more people with disabilities can have the same opportunities, so we’re not outliers generation from now?”


“We are lucky, but we’re in the minority,” responds Qualtrough.


“It’s a question that weighs heavily on me more regularly than I care to admit.”


“I’m convinced we’re going to make history here.”

This story was featured on CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti.



Learn about Professions in the Field of Visual Impairment and Braille!++


Are you exhilarated when someone finally masters a skill you’ve been teaching them? Are you creative, curious, and able to think “outside of the box” to solve the world’s more unusual problems? Do you like meeting and working with a wide variety of new people every day? Have you ever wondered what “braille” is or how those little dots work? Do you have a background in education, rehabilitation or the social sciences and are wondering what the next step in your career path should be? If so, then you might be interested to learn about the little known but highly rewarding career options available in the field of blindness and visual impairment. Exciting and in-demand opportunities exist for teachers and rehabilitation therapists who work with blind and partially sighted children, adults and seniors, as well as in braille and alternative format transcription, production, and proofreading.


Braille Literacy Canada is pleased to announce that our next teleconference will consist of a panel of speakers who will provide information about professions within the field of visual impairment and blindness, including:

-Dr. Cay Holbrook from the University of British Columbia will describe the Master’s program in Special Education, Teaching Students with Visual Impairments

-Darleen Bogart from CNIB will describe CNIB certification courses to become a braille transcriber or proofreader

-Representatives from the University of Montreal will describe the Master’s program in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy


Though diverse in scope, all three career paths share a common interest and theme in that they relate to visual impairment and braille. The speakers will describe program requirements and what careers in these respective fields involve. There will be time for questions at the end of the presentations.


When: Saturday, January 14th, 2017, from 13:00-14:30 PM (Eastern time)

Duration: 1.5 hours


To register, please email Jen Goulden at before January 12th, 2017.

Find out more about these exciting career paths! Sign up today, as space is limited!




In the News


Blind man sets out alone in Google’s driverless car++


A blind man has successfully traveled around Austin, Texas – unaccompanied – in a car without a steering wheel or floor pedals, Google announced this month.


After years of testing by Google engineers and employees, the company’s new level of confidence in its fully autonomous technology was described as a milestone.


“We’ve had almost driverless technology for a decade,” said Google engineer Nathaniel Fairfield. “It’s the hard parts of driving that really take the time and the effort to do right.”


Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, was the first non-Google employee to ride alone in the company’s gumdrop-shaped autonomous car.


“It is like driving with a very good driver,” Mahan said. “If you close your eyes when you’re riding with somebody, you get a sense of whether this is a good driver or whether they’re not. These self-driving cars drive like a very good driver.”


Google says it has driven more than 2 million miles on public roads to test its vehicles.


“In early 2015, we began to see some signs that we were getting close,” Fairfield said. “The cars were going for longer and longer times without the humans having to intervene.”


Fairfield said the company spent six months scrutinizing the vehicle’s performance before Mahan was allowed to set out alone.


“That is a whole different beast – to get that driver out of the car, to take off the training wheels,” Fairfield said.


Mahan said: “I had the greatest time driving around a neighborhood in Austin, Texas. It was so much fun, being aware that the vehicle was navigating intersections and I was in good hands, perfectly safe.”


The car Mahan rode in had a backup computer and multiple systems to control it.


“If you removed the driver from the loop, you really have to have your backups,” said Dmitri Dolgov, who heads technological development for Google’s self-driving effort.


Mahan said: “This is a hope of independence. These cars will change the life prospects of people such as myself. I want very much to become a member of the driving public again.”


Google also announced that it is spinning off its self-driving-car project into a company called Waymo, an independent division under Google’s parent company, Alphabet.


John Krafcik, chief executive of Waymo, said the Austin solo ride is an indication that “we’re close to bringing this to a lot of people.”


Costa Samaras, an automation expert at Carnegie Mellon University, said the move by Waymo “puts a marker down that says to Uber, Lyft and auto companies that the race to capture market share in driverless mobility has begun in earnest.”


Samaras said that “without a human in the loop, there’s also now a lot less room for computer error in case something goes wrong. I’m guessing Waymo has run these numbers and is betting on the computer.”


Google was among the first technology companies to plunge into an area traditionally dominated by automakers in Detroit and elsewhere in the world. After initial testing by its employees, the company embraced a decision to put fully autonomous cars on the road – probably without steering wheels or floor pedals – from the outset. In that decision, Google became an outlier, as the existing industry, mindful of its need to sell cars each year, took an approach intended to introduce self-driving features incrementally.


The Google announcement came on a day when the Obama administration proposed a rule that would require all new cars to be able to communicate with other cars wirelessly, a move that advocates said could save lives but that also raises privacy and hacking concerns among opponents.


The wireless box could, for instance, tell a car to brake when another vehicle is about to run a red light. Federal officials said the required technology “will not collect, broadcast or share information linked or linkable, as a practical matter, to individuals or their vehicles.”


Vehicle-to-vehicle communication is considered an essential building block toward autonomous vehicles by some – but not all – of the companies working to develop them.


“If they’re connected to each other, then we likely will not need signs, markings or even traffic signals,” said Jim Barbaresso, vice president for intelligent transportation systems at HNTB Infrastructure Solutions. “Cars could go through intersections without hitting each other, without the need of a traffic signal.”


Fairfield said direct vehicle-to-vehicle communication is an asset but less than essential to putting autonomous cars on the road.


“There is vehicle technology where the car is telling you it’s going to hit the brakes or how much it’s braking,” Fairfield said. “That’s somewhat useful, but we can [determine] that with radars and lasers and cameras, so it’s not that useful.”


The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank, called the administration’s rulemaking bid a “midnight” move. Marc Scribner, a research fellow, said the incoming Trump administration should immediately withdraw the “dangerous” proposal.

The Washington Post


Visually Impaired Runner Chaz Davis Runs Record-Breaking Marathon++


Chaz Davis ran quite a debut marathon on Sunday at the California International Marathon in Sacramento.


While his 2:31:48 result would be a strong effort for any first-time marathoner, his finish time is especially remarkable given that he is visually impaired and that he only really trained for the 26.2-mile distance for about six weeks.


With the aid of his guide Jacob Huston, the 23-year-old Davis, who is legally blind, averaged 5:47 per mile en route to setting a new American record for a debut marathon in the T12/B2 visual impairment category. He was one of 40 blind runners who competed in the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Marathon National Championships, which is coordinated in partnership with the

California International Marathon each year.


Davis and Huston came through the halfway mark in 1:14:45, which is about 5:42 mile pace. That was slightly faster than planned, but the downhill profile of the course and Davis’ fitness made the miles go by with ease.


“I thought I had a chance to break 2:30 because I felt great through about 20 miles,” Davis said. “But from miles 22-25, that’s when my legs got tight and I slowed up a bit.”


Davis’ story is inspiring and empowering. After going blind suddenly halfway through his freshman year at the University of Hartford, he fell into depression, gained weight from a lack of physical activity and struggled to adapt in everyday life. But through the help of friends, family and running, he’s become a world-class visually impaired runner with the potential for more record-setting efforts.


About midway through his first year of college, Davis was stricken with Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) a rare, incurable genetic disease that causes vision loss. He thought he would never run again, but his teammates encouraged him to get back at it and helped guide him on runs. He wound up running on the cross-country and track teams at Hartford and graduated in May with a degree in criminal justice.


In September, Davis represented Team USA at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, placing 10th in the 1,500m in 3:58.28 (roughly a 4:15 mile) and eighth in the 5,000m (15:15:86) and setting personal bests in both events.


Davis recently moved from his hometown of Grafton, Mass. to Denver, for a 10-month study at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Since he moved to Colorado, he’s relied on several guides to assist him in training, either running with him or riding a bike alongside him. His longest run prior to the marathon was only 16 miles, but he learned a lot from his experience and is confident he can run faster.


He plans to turn his focus back to track and field for a while, but he says he’ll definitely run another marathon. Davis was recently awarded the Richard Hunter CIM to Boston Excellence in Running Award, which gives him the opportunity to compete in the Boston Marathon in 2017 or 2018 on an all-expenses-paid “Team with a Vision” program from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.


“I’ve had great support in Denver and that’s what the running community is all about,” he said. “Overall, I felt pretty strong, even though I didn’t have a lot of time after the Paralympics to train for the marathon. I was averaging about

70 to 90 miles per week leading up to it, but I just had to go work with what I had. Honestly, I was surprised that I wasn’t as beat up from the marathon as I thought I would be.”


Davis plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work to help people who have gone through similar experiences to his.


“The blindness has not kept me from my goals and what I want in life,” he said. “I have found a purpose and I want to work with other people like me.”

By Brian Metzler


Canada makes further commitment to support rights of persons with Disabilities++


The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, announced in December that the Government of Canada has begun a consultation process on Canada’s accession to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Optional Protocol).


The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities protects and promotes the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities without discrimination and on an equal basis with others.


Provinces and territories have an important role to play in considering Canada’s possible accession to the Optional Protocol, and consultations are currently taking place with them on this matter. The process will also involve engagement with Indigenous governments that may be implicated, as well as Indigenous organizations and civil society.



White Cane Week 2017 Events++

If you would like your chapters events included on the website, social media, and newsletter we need to receive them before January 10, 2017. Please email or call 1-877-304-0968. Just ask for Becky.