National Newsletter May 2017

 

Announcements

CCB Receives Helen Keller Fellowship Award++:

 

The CCB is humbled to have receive the Helen Keller Fellowship Award, presented by the Lions, for the hard work, dedication and progress CCB has made in improving the quality of life and vision care for Canadians.

 

The award states that “The CCB, who through untiring service, have given light in the darkness, warmth in the cold, compassion in the hurt, and humanity in the suffering to their fellow beings. They live their creed “service to others”

 

“The only lightless dark is the night of darkness in ignorance and insensibility.”-Helen Keller

 

Unveiling of Commemorative Bank Note Marking the 150th Anniversary of Canada++:

 

On April 7th, the Bank of Canada unveiled the design of the commemorative $10.00 bank note that will begin circulating June 1st, 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. I was honoured to be one of the few Canadians to attend the event and I was proud that CCB had the opportunity to provide input on the accessibility features. CNIB was also represented.

 

The Canada 150 bank note celebrates Confederation with a unique design depicting our history, land and culture.

 

Accessibility: This commemorative note will have the same suite of accessibility features as current polymer notes – with enhancements. It will be recognized by touch (tactile features), sight (large numerals) or electronic signal (bank note reader). There also is a new bank note reader available; therefore, interested persons should contact CNIB to order one. An enhancement has been made to optimize the colour contrast of the large numeral to help partially sighted individuals determine the denomination of the note with confidence.

 

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

 

For Canadians who are blind or with low vision, there will be another discernible difference in the touch of the current and the commemorative $10. Notes. On the commemorative note, raised ink can be felt on both sides of the note. Current polymer series notes have raised ink only on the portrait side of the notes.

 

Information and described videos on the Canada 150 note are available on the Bank of Canada’s website: www.bankofcanada.ca/banknote150

 

At this event I was able to meet with Governor Stephen Poloz of the Bank of Canada who thanked our organization for the input for the accessibility features. Also, I was honoured to have the opportunity to speak with the daughter of James Gladstone. Akay-na-muka (his Blackfoot name) became the first senator of First Nations origin in 1958. We talked about the newest Senator – Dan Christmas who comes from a First Nation community nearby my home.

 

At the reception I was able to meet with an artist, a designer and many of the staff involved with the note. All were very interested in our work as part of the blind community on the accessibility features.

 

Watch for the $10 note after June 1st. It is a limited edition. The next replacement will come out in fall of 2018 with Viola Desmond on it.

Submitted by Louise Gillis, CCB National President

 

Congratulations!++:

 

BC-Yukon Division President Ann McNabb has been awarded the 2017 BC Community Achievement Award for her generosity, dedication and commitment to the CCB for the past 23 years and the 52 years with the Girl Guides of Canada.

The following is an excerpt from the March 31st government press release:

 

“The Girl Guides of Canada have been at the core of Ann McNabb’s life since she first began her 52-year journey with them at eight years old. Her commitment embodies the organization’s goal to make a positive difference in the life of every girl and woman so she can contribute responsibly to her community. Moving through its ranks as both a Brownie and Guide leader, Ann now serves as the District Commissioner for Chilliwack District Girl Guides with 150 girl and adult members under her guidance. In addition to this commitment to the Girl Guides, Ann is engaged in the executive of the Canadian Council of the Blind’s Chilliwack chapter, along with two advocacy roles with other organizations for vision impaired and blind persons.”

 

The ceremony for this award is scheduled for the same day as the Division AGM and as a result of her deep dedication to the CCB, Ann has postponed the acceptance of this award.

 

As you are aware, Canada is having a big celebration for its 150th birthday and since the Order of Canada also is celebrating its 50th year, the Governor General of Canada decided that a distinct recognition celebration was in order. His Excellency appointed a committee to select 50 of the over six thousand former Order of Canada recipients that they felt were suitable for this commemorative edition.

 

Geraldine Braak, BC-Yukon Division 1st Vice-President, is one of those chosen few to be entered into this book and will receive a copy in a specially designed clam shell box. This prestigious gift will also be given to dignitaries’, royals and other visitors to Canada from around the world.

 

Congratulations to Ann & Gerry!

 

 

Accessible Voting During Upcoming BC Provincial Election on May 9, 2017++:

 

Braille Candidate Lists at Polling Stations:

If you are a braille user and would like to vote independently during the BC Provincial Election to be held on May 9, 2017, there will be a list of candidates at your polling station in uncontracted braille. Each candidate on the list has a number. When you have chosen the number of the candidate you wish to vote for, ensure that your ballot is placed correctly in the accessible template. When you find the number on the template corresponding to your choice, find the circle beside the number. This is where you will mark your x with the pencil provided. Press firmly with the pencil and make two diagonal lines from top left of the circle to bottom right and from top right to bottom left. This will make an x.

 

Once you have finished voting, remove your ballot from the template, fold it and place it in the ballot box. Using the Braille Candidates lists allows you to vote completely independently. Sometimes the workers at the polling stations do not remember or know that the list is available, so insist that they find it and don’t acquiesce and let someone read it to you. I believe that there are large print lists as well. You can vote at the advanced polls or on Election Day.

Happy voting.

By Albert Ruel, Coordinator, GGT West

 

 

Accessibility Act to Make Province More Accessible++:

 

Nova Scotia has set a goal to be accessible by 2030 under the Accessibility Act, passed April 27.

 

Nova Scotia is only the third province in Canada to pass accessibility legislation. The passage of Bill 59 will start the process of removing barriers for persons with disabilities.

 

“We are proud to have worked with people with disabilities and business to take this historic step toward an accessible Nova Scotia,” said Justice Minister Diana Whalen. “This act commits us to a timeline to make the province an accessible place to live, work, learn and play.”

 

Under the act, government will work with persons with disabilities, and the public and private sectors to create six standards for an accessible Nova Scotia. The standards will be in the areas of goods and services, information and communication, public transportation and transportation infrastructure, employment, education, and the built environment which includes buildings, rights-of-way and outdoor spaces.

 

The legislation puts in place a new Accessibility Advisory Board. The majority of the board’s members will be persons with disabilities. A new accessibility directorate will be responsible for supporting accessibility initiatives and advancing broader disability-related issues.

 

While public awareness and support will be essential in encouraging compliance with the standards the act allows for penalties and, for the most serious cases, fines up to $250,000.

 

“We’re very pleased with the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act and commend the government for its leadership,” said Gerry Post, from the Bill 59 Alliance. “The collaborative approach taken in drafting the act has established a wonderful climate for communal partnerships, including the business community, to implement the legislation. We also thank the opposition parties for giving the government the space to engage key stakeholders and for supporting this act.”

 

Bill 59 was amended after witnesses appeared at the law amendments committee and staff consulted with representatives of persons with disabilities.

 

Government also invested $1.8 million in the 2017-18 budget to increase provincial ACCESS-Ability grants for community buildings and to launch a new grant program for small businesses to become more accessible.

 

A copy of the Accessibility Act can be found at www.nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/bills/bill_59__accessibility_act

Accessible versions of government information related to disability in Nova Scotia are available at www.novascotia.ca/coms/accessibility

 

 

Walk On!++:

 

CCB London, Ontario members Len Fluhrer and Tayler McBride are attempting 3 fundraising walks this year, totaling near 15 K in all, 3 separate 5 K walks. The Alzheimer’s walk is in memory of my Grandmother Edna Fluhrer and Tayler’s “Oma” Johanna Van Lierop. Tayler’s going to try and do all three completely on her own with her white cane. The second one will be the Independent Living Centre Walk in Greenway Park and finally, later in the season the Kidney Foundation Walk at Gibbon’s Park.

If you are interested in supporting them, please see their contact info below:

Leonard G. Fluhrer: len3@golden.net

Tayler McBride: TaylerMcBride@me.com

Submitted by Len Fluhrer, CCB London Chapter

 

In the News

OC Transpo takes bus announcements outside++:

 

Ottawa-On April 23rd, OC Transpo launched improvements to its next stop announcement system. Exterior bus announcements, which audibly announce the route and destination of the arriving bus, can now be heard by customers waiting at all bus stops and transit stations.

 

Some customers are unable to see or read the visual destination sign of an approaching bus – particularly, customers who are blind or who have vision loss. This affects their ability to identify the bus, and to use transit independently and safely. Exterior bus announcements will assist all customers in confirming they are boarding the correct vehicle, especially at stops and platforms served by multiple routes.

 

Generated from a speaker located outside the front door of the bus, this technology will automatically announce, in both official languages, the same information that can be seen on the exterior destination sign of the bus. When the operator opens the door, the bus will make the announcement – for example, “Route 95 Baseline, Circuit 95 Baseline.”

 

Announcement volumes have been set to be only a few decibels above the ambient or surrounding street-level noise at the stops. They are intended to be heard by those waiting at the stop. The volume of the exterior bus announcements will also vary depending on the time of day – getting quieter from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

 

The implementation of OC Transpo’s new exterior bus announcements has been guided by feedback from an eight-member community working group, composed of residents and stakeholders with an interest in the provision of a more accessible transit service. This group helped to initiate the project, provided OC Transpo staff with an enhanced understanding of the unique challenges faced by some customers, and assisted in the development of the announcement content and sounds. The community working group included representatives of the City’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians, and Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments.

 

 

Class action over alleged abuse at Ontario school for the blind ends in $8-million settlement++:

 

A class-action lawsuit involving allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at an Ontario boarding school for the blind has been settled out of court.

 

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs say the $8-million settlement with the province – reached one day before the case was to go to trial earlier this week – must still be approved by courts. A hearing date is tentatively set for June.

 

The class action included former students of the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford, Ont. The defendant was not the school itself or any individual staff members, but rather the government of Ontario, which was responsible for overseeing the school.

 

Allegations contained in the statement of claim contended students attending the school from the early 1950s to the late 2000s were subjected to psychological degradation, physical violence and sexual abuse.

 

The suit also alleged some staff were improperly trained for their jobs and the school failed to conduct regular criminal or reference checks on employees.

 

A former student who became the lead plaintiff in the class-action suit said he welcomed the settlement and hoped it would bring an end to a painful chapter for all concerned.

 

“I’m pleased that we didn’t have to go to trial on this one,” said Robert Seed, who attended the school from 1954 to 1965. “I think all parties concerned, they were pretty level-headed about it and wanted to make sure that the people that are in the lawsuit were taken care of.”

 

Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General issued a statement outlining the general terms of the settlement, but declined further comment as the deal is still subject to court approval.

 

  1. Ross Macdonald referred all questions to the Ministry of Education, which did not respond to a request for comment.

 

The class-action suit, which was certified by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2012, covered students who attended W. Ross Macdonald between Jan 1, 1951 and May 4, 2012. A family class also covered close relatives of students who went to the school from March 31, 1978 to May 4, 2012.

 

The statement of claim in the case contained allegations of widespread physical, emotional and sexual abuse spanning at least six decades. It alleged the Ontario government, as ultimate overseer of the school, failed to protect a particularly vulnerable population from harm.

 

“Throughout the class period, the residence counsellors, teachers and administrators at Ross MacDonald treated the students with contempt, prejudice and indifference,” the statement of claim alleged. “They engaged in abusive conduct, often taking advantage of the visual disabilities of students.”

 

Students were routinely punished for minor matters such as feeling homesick, struggling with their reading skills or using too much toilet paper, the statement of claim alleged.

 

The suit claimed staff members from teachers to school aids often resorted to violence, such as forcing students to drink from urinals and jumping on the backs of those as young as six years old.

 

The statement of claim also alleged staff played upon the visual impairments of students, sneaking up on them during private conversations and spinning students around to deliberately disorient them.

 

Seed, for his part, alleged he was the target of unwanted sexual advances by a residence counsellor working at the school some time during his 11-year tenure.

 

He also alleged witnessing another teacher striking students, throwing objects at them and making belittling remarks that eroded their confidence.

 

Tom Dekker, a former student who had been scheduled to testify at the trial that was averted by the settlement, said he believes W. Ross Macdonald has undergone significant reforms in recent years and offers a valuable resource to blind students from across the country.

 

He said he views the settlement as an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and welcomes it on those terms.

 

“I think I’d be a lot better off in life if certain things hadn’t happened to me at that place,” he said from Victoria, B.C. “So this is just kind of compensation to give me some kind of resources to catch up on things I missed out on.”

 

Seed agreed, saying the suit was not meant to tarnish the school’s reputation, but rather to seek justice for people who continue to feel the effects of their time there to this day.

 

He likened their situation to other more high-profile instances of alleged abuse in residential school facilities.

“In a lot of cases we were measured up against the residential school abuse that the indigenous people suffered,” he said. “I attended the hearings in Thunder Bay, Ont., and the stories that I heard were much the same as W. Ross Macdonald.”

By Michelle Mcquigge. The Canadian Press, April 8, 2017.

 

To Become a Better Cook, Sharpen Your Senses!++:

 

Kate McDermott describes it as “the sizzle-whump.”

It’s the sound a pie makes when it’s perfectly baked, said Ms. McDermott, the author of “Art of the Pie.”

The “sizzle” is the sound of hot butter cooking the flour in the crust, melding it into a crisp, golden lid. The “whump” is the sound of the thickened filling bumping against the top crust as it bubbles at a steady pace.

“I call it the heartbeat of the pie,” she said.

 

Ms. McDermott, who is 63 and lives in Port Angeles, Washington, US, leads intensive baking seminars across the United States. But before she became a pie coach, she was a professional musician. “I experience the world primarily through sound,” she said. “I’ve been listening to pies since I started baking them.”

 

Any experienced cook knows that there is much more to cooking than just taste. There is touch (tapping the top of a pie to make sure it is completely firm), smell (inhaling the changing scents of the crust as it bakes), sound (listening to its heartbeat) and sight (watching for the juices to turn thick).

Learn to use all five senses in the kitchen and you’ll become a better cook- especially if you sharpen the ones that are less associated with cooking: hearing, touch and smell.

 

Cooks with visual impairments, who cannot see the golden brown of a pie crust or the shine of perfectly scrambled eggs, know this better than anyone. The cook and writer Christine Ha, 37, said that touch has become her primary guide in the kitchen since she began losing her sight soon after starting college.

“It’s like my fingertips have become my eyes,” she said. “I can learn so much more by touch than I would have thought.”

 

Ms. Ha, who lives in Houston, learned to cook only after she could no longer see. Like about 90 percent of visually impaired people, she is not completely blind: She can see some light and color, and describes her view of the world as “like looking into a steamy mirror.” All the more impressive, then, that in 2012 she won the third season of the frenetic television cooking competition “MasterChef.”

She started cooking with her late mother’s deep-fried spring rolls, reverse-engineering them through touch and hearing as well as taste and smell. Her fingers test the pliability of the wrappers; she listens for the sound the bubbling oil makes when she throws in a bit of filling to test its heat; she taps the frying rolls with tongs to test whether the shells are crisp and blistered.

 

David Linden, a neurobiologist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of the book “Touch,” confirmed that the fingertips become more sensitive in people who are blind from birth and in those who learn to read Braille.

“Hearing and touch become more acute in the absence of sight,” he said. The part of the brain dedicated to gathering information from the eyes actually shrinks in size, while the parts that receive signals from the ears and touch-sensitive nerve endings grow larger.

 

Dr. Linden said, however, there is no comparable adaptation for people who lose their ability to taste and smell, a condition called anosmia. “People who become anosmic are much more likely to stop cooking and eating than people who become deaf or blind,” he said; anosmics are also at much greater risk for depression and suicide. “The shared experience of food seems to be one of the things that makes us human.”

 

Kate Crohan, who teaches cooking at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., said that culinary education for the blind often relies on heating prepared foods in microwaves – a safe and practical option, but one that eliminates much of the sensory experience. Ms. Crohan, 68, has been blind since birth, but she took over the family kitchen when she was 11, after her mother’s death, cooking for her father and five siblings. She has been cooking without sight for so long that she is entirely comfortable around sharp knives, boiling water and raw ingredients.

 

“An organized kitchen is more than half the battle,” said Ms. Crohan, who has memorized the location and shape of key ingredients like baking soda, flour and onions. “I don’t waste a lot of time finding things.”

 

These workarounds can be useful to any cook. Many of the important cues in any kitchen have nothing to do with sight or taste: distinguishing the sound of a boil versus a simmer; knowing the feel of a rare steak versus a medium-well one; biting into pasta as it cooks to catch the brief, perfect moment between chewy and soft.

 

For most of human history, children learned those cues simply by being near the stove. But today, unless they spend a lot of time in a kitchen, their sensory cooking skills may be limited to listening for the moment when the microwave popcorn stops popping. Those children grow up to be cooks who focus on reading and rereading recipes, often at the expense of paying attention to the stove.

 

But recipes are inherently limited when it comes to sensory information. An instruction like “simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, until thickened” can produce endlessly different results. The recipe doesn’t know what your stove considers “low” heat. It doesn’t know what your pan is made of. It doesn’t know what “thickened” looks like to you.

That’s why the best cooks learn to work not just with their minds and their taste buds, but also with all their senses.

 

The cooking teacher James Peterson uses a chicken breast to teach students how to feel for doneness, because it has thick and thin areas. “As it cooks in the skillet, keep your fingers moving from the thin part to the thick,” he said. “You’ll be able to feel how the heat gradually moves through the meat.”

Edna Lewis, the doyenne of American Southern cooking, taught that listening to a cake is the best way to know when it’s done. A cake that is still baking makes little bubbling and ticking sounds, but a finished cake goes quiet.

The chef Justin Smillie of Upland in Manhattan built the short rib dish that made him famous by seeking not a certain flavor, but a certain mouthfeel. “I knew how to get the flavor where I wanted it,” he said. “But the texture was the challenge.”

Like any chef, he knew how to braise a collagen-rich cut of meat to make it meltingly tender and umami-rich. But he wanted more: the crust of a steak and, for good measure, the juiciness of prime rib. Eventually, by steaming the meat in big pieces and applying a coat of cracked peppercorns, he reached his goal. (According to Dr. Linden, this quest makes sense: The most universally liked mouthfeel across human cultures is a crispy crust around a soft interior, like Middle Eastern falafel, Japanese tempura, Italian arancini, Indian samosas and French fries.)

 

In Mr. Smillie’s thrice-roasted chicken recipe (cooked first on the stovetop, then in the oven, then back to the stove to be basted in butter), all three steps move the dish toward a particular mouthfeel as well as flavor. Well before the cooking begins, the chicken is brined (for juicy flesh), then air-dried in the refrigerator (for crisp skin). All along the way, Mr. Smillie is touching, listening, sniffing, prodding: paying attention to all the cues that make the dish transcend the category of “roast chicken.”

 

“Sensory cooking is the opposite of technique,” Mr. Smillie said. “The formulas you learn in culinary school won’t make you a chef, but cooking with all your senses will.”

 

A multisensory approach to food is not only practical, but also all the rage. Ever since the chef Heston Blumenthal put headphones on his guests so they could listen to his dish Sound of the Sea while they ate it, and Grant Achatz served a deep breath of lavender-scented air at Alinea (it arrived at the table trapped in a pillow), chefs have been trying to create dishes that challenge our assumptions about how we experience food.

 

The most recent multisensory development is the connection between food and autonomous sensory meridian response, or A.S.M.R. A newly defined sensory state, A.S.M.R. is a kind of pleasurable shivering or tingling that spreads along the scalp, upper back and shoulders in response to soothing repetitive sounds. Originally, these included soft whispering, pages turning or having one’s hair brushed.

Now, A.S.M.R. devotees have discovered food. Video series like Silently Cooking and Peaceful Cuisine have no talking, no music, nothing to distract from the sounds of cooking: the rasp of a knife shaving chocolate, the rhythmic scrape of a whisk whipping egg whites, the glug-glug of olive oil pouring into a pan. Even eating sounds have A.S.M.R. devotees, especially if it involves chewing candy and whispering at the same time.

 

A.S.M.R. may provide a pleasurable new way for Ms. McDermott to experience pie. She learned that she had celiac disease in 2006 and can no longer eat most of the pies she teaches others to make (though she has devised a gluten-free crust recipe). When a particularly beautiful specimen comes out of the oven, she said she appreciated it nonetheless.

“It doesn’t matter if I can’t eat this pie,” she said. “I can see it, I can smell it, I can touch it. The only sense I can’t have for it is taste.”

 

Blind Windsor woman denied help filling out passport documentation++:

 

An Ontario woman says the federal government is letting down residents with disabilities by forbidding staff at Passport Canada from helping applicants fill out their forms.

 

Rebecca Blaevoet of Windsor, Ont., says she learned of the policy last month when she went to have her passport renewed.

 

Blaevoet, who is completely blind, asked Passport Canada staff to fill out her form according to the responses she provided, but they refused, saying that would violate official guidelines.

 

Staff offered her a braille form, which would only have allowed her to read the application rather than complete it. Passport Canada quickly had to retract the offer upon realizing they did not have any braille forms in stock.

 

Another staff member asked Blaevoet’s husband if he could fill out the forms for her, but that question offended her even further.

 

“That’s a reasonable question, but it’s really wrong on several levels,” she said about the principle of not having the services available for blind citizens who might not be fortunate enough to have someone there with them.

“It was my issue, I had to handle it. My husband might not have even been there.”

 

In the end, Blaevoet says she was asked to handwrite the form as a staff member placed a writing guide – an aid to show her where to write – on each individual line. Blaevoet said this option would not be helpful for people whose disabilities prevented them from holding a pen or writing in print.

 

Passport Canada says the rule barring staff from filling in forms on behalf of others is applied across the country. There is no exemption in place for Canadians with disabilities.

 

Blaevoet, who has filed an official complaint about her experience with Passport Canada, said the policy represents a complete failure to accommodate those with disabilities.

 

“There is no excuse for such ethical laxity in providing decent services for all Canadians, regardless of disability, race, ethnic origin, whatever,” she said in an interview. “I just think it’s reprehensible that they have such a gap.”

 

The incident occurred March 22 when Blaevoet and her husband went to renew their passports. Unaware of the existing policy, Blaevoet said she thought having a Passport Canada employee complete the one-page, double-sided form would be the most efficient way of processing her application.

 

Upon arrival, however, a clerk informed her he could not fulfill her request, saying doing so was “not his job,” Blaevoet recalled.

 

She then asked to speak to a supervisor, who said Passport Canada staff could not complete the form for fear of “leading the applicant” to provide inaccurate answers. When Blaevoet offered to sign a document authorizing staff to assist her, she said no such accommodation could be granted.

 

Blaevoet was offered a braille form, which would have allowed her to read the application, but would not provide a means of filling in answers. Staff then discovered they had no braille forms in stock.

 

Blaevoet was ultimately told she could handwrite the form, an option she said she accepted to illustrate what she called the absurdity of the policy.

 

“I said, ‘fine. I’m going to stand here and handwrite it, it’s going to take me a long time, and good luck to anybody who can read my handwriting. This is outrageous,”‘ she said, adding the majority of visually impaired people do not have sufficient handwriting skills to make use of that option. The same would hold true for those with physical disabilities limiting their movements.

 

Blaevoet said a staff member placed a handwriting guide on each line of the form to ensure the proper fields were being filled out. To Blaevoet’s surprise, however, the staff member volunteered to take over once they reached the “references” section of the form, willingly filling in fields and even offering to look up addresses online.

 

During this time, Blaevoet said staff approached her husband asking if he would complete the application on her behalf. He declined on principle, saying it was not appropriate for staff to assume a person accompanying a disabled applicant could be trusted to complete the task.

 

“He could have been a taxi driver who just helped me find the office and I just paid to wait for me. Or he might have been my husband, but completely dyslexic.”

 

The government said staff is barred from helping applicants fill out forms as a security measure to protect against forgery.

 

“Generally, any addition, modification or deletion of information on an application form must be completed by the applicant and initialed,” reads a statement from Service Canada, the agency that oversees the administration of passports.

 

“Although the policy in place speaks to amendments to the application form and does not reference providing assistance to visually impaired applicants, it is understood that any annotations on the application form should be completed by the applicant themselves, when possible.”

 

The statement said visually impaired Canadians can designate a friend or family member to complete the form for them.

 

The Passport Canada site also offers an accessible online form that can be completed in advance. Service Canada said, however, that there are no accessible terminals for those with disabilities at passport offices – meaning those without an Internet connection or appropriate technology would have issues.

Blaevoet noted that in her case, staff at the Passport Canada office did not point her to an online form.

 

Michael Prince, professor of social policy and disability studies at the University of Victoria, said the proposed solutions are typical of too many customer service experiences across Canada that limit a person’s ability to take independent action on their own affairs.

 

He said Blaevoet’s case exemplifies the need for federal legislation to ensure accessible customer service standards across all services provided by government, adding the ideal scenario would result in universal access in everything from banks to stores to voting booths.

 

“Many people with disabilities will find the existing limited set of options demeaning and insulting,” Prince said. “As a country committed to equality and to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we can do much better.”

CBC News