Happy International Women’s Day from the WBU

The World Blind Union Logo

04 March 2019

RE: World Blind Union statement on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2019

The World Blind Union joins the United Nations to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2019. The theme this year is Think equal, build smart, innovate for change. It focuses on innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure. Hence it is a day to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, including women with visual disabilities.

Generally, blind and partially sighted women and girls experience multiple forms of discrimination, which infringe on their basic human rights and empowerment.  Due to the intersections of discrimination based on gender and disability, blind and partially sighted women are at a higher risk of neglect, gender-based violence and exploitation.

The latest data shows that 55% of the world’s visually impaired are women (139 million). States must address the unique needs of blind and partially sighted women to ensure equal participation and access to education, innovation and technology opportunities, employment, rehabilitation, among other basic rights.

According to Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) states parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Furthermore, gender inequality continues to hold women back and deprives them of basic rights and opportunities as per Sustainable Development Goal 5. This Goal states that empowering women requires addressing structural issues such as unfair social norms and attitudes as well as developing progressive legal frameworks that promote equality between women and men. The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals requires transformative shifts, integrated approaches and new solutions, particularly when it comes to advancing gender equality, innovation and the empowerment of all women and girls.


The World Blind Union, therefore, reminds states to fulfil their obligations by protecting and respecting the rights of women, particularly blind and partially sighted women. As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we appeal to states, UN agencies, development partners and civil society to mainstream the rights of women with disabilities in their development plans, programs and policies. We urge governments to end all forms of discrimination against women with disabilities and put in place necessary provisions to promote gender equality and other fundamental rights of all women.

It is vital that women’s ideas and experiences equally influence the design and implementation of the innovations that shape our future societies.

——————

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit our website at www.worldblindunion.org

For further information, please contact:

Terry Mutuku

Communications Officer, World Blind Union

Terry.Mutuku@wbu.ngo ​​

Survey Deadline EXTENDED!

CCB Survey on Accessibility and Assistive Technology

You now have until MARCH 18th to finish the survey!

As you know, the employment rate of Canadians who are blind, partially-sighted, and deaf-blind is very low, and the cost of assistive and accessible technology is very high. Given these facts, the CCB is endeavouring to better understand your thoughts, experiences, and goals in these matters so that we may advocate for you more effectively. We want to work with you towards a future with a higher employment rate for those with vision loss as well as increased accessibility and independence. 

Our goal is to eliminate or minimize the barriers limiting those with vision loss from acquiring the education of their choice and from entering and thriving in today’s workforce. So help us help you and submit the survey below!

Tell us about your circumstances. Where you are and where do you want to go? We want to help you get there.

CLICK HERE TO COMPLETE THE SURVEY in ENGLISH!

CLICK HERE TO COMPLETE THE SURVEY in FRENCH!

Please invest the 8 to 10 minutes it will take to complete the above survey by March 18, 2019. With the accumulated information you will provide, we will be able to better understand the present status of Canadians with vision loss and to act accordingly. Thank you in advance for your participation.

All the best,

Louise Gillis' signature

Louise Gillis

National President

Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

In Memorium – John Rempel

The Canadian Council of the Blind is sad to inform you about the passing of Mr. John Rempel on January 17th.  Please see the letter below from the National Board of Directors about John.

I think of John on a regular basis.  If it was not for John I would not be here, and most likely neither would the Council.  His dedication and belief in the council assisted and encouraged the members to work together for the benefit of the community.

John’s leadership helped steer us through some very difficult and challenging periods for the Council.  His Strong leadership, knowledge, commitment, and ability helped bring the council together.

Since 1975 John has been active in the Council at Chapter, Divisional, and National levels. John’s involvement with the CCB began in the Saskatoon White Cane Club, where he served as President for seven years.  He then moved on to serve the Division for another six years becoming Division President for his last two years.  In 1998 he became National President, and spent the following six years directing and building programs to create a better Council.

What I see as one of John’s best moments was during the 2006 Convention where he brought together the members allowing them to pass the bylaws they were working on at that time. We all owe him a strong debt of gratitude for all he has done for the Council. 

John always put the Council first before his own interests. He maintained a great interest even after his retirement which I really recognized when I visited him in his home when I last was in Saskatchewan. From 1998 when he became President and Past President until 2010, and even beyond, he worked through his times of pain to keep this organization alive so we could one day be the beneficiaries of his unselfish efforts and his work ethic which taught us the true value of always reaching for more. John was a soft spoken man of great wisdom and when needed he sure he got his point across for the betterment of the Council.

Selma, I want to thank you for your continued support through all these years as you not only assisted John in many ways but you also assisted any board member needing help at the meetings plus many more things that we are not even aware. Please take care of yourself and thank you for sharing John with us who helped to make us stronger leaders in the Council.\

Louise Gillis, Jim Tokos, Jim Prowse and the Members of the National Board of Directors.

VISIONS January 2019

Visions January (Word) | Visions January (PDF) | Visions (Word No Images)

 
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VISIONS
Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter
January 2019
“A lack of sight is not a lack of vision”
President’s Message++
Happy New Year to all! I hope 2019 brings you good health and a great year to celebrate as this is our 75th year as an organization of the blind.
As we approach this New Year “Our Year of Accessibility” we have a lot to be proud of from 2018 which we will work to continue and grow into the future. CCB is always looking for new ideas that will interest both young and old, new to sight loss or blind since birth so that we all can live life to the fullest.
As you will see in the newsletter there are activities taking place in February but our anniversary can be celebrated anytime through the year so that we can showcase our abilities and improve accessibility for all. Please send announcements of any celebrations in your chapters so that we can add them to the website and newsletters and also send a report on the event with photos.
We are always looking at new treatments to prevent or slow down sight loss and new technology to assist in mobility, communication and entertainment. So if you come across something new let us know so we can share it with others.
I hope all had a good holiday season with family and friends and now it’s time to get back to work and our winter sports and activities. I hope you enjoy this edition of Visions which contains many interesting items.
Louise Gillis, National President
Announcements
White Cane Week 2019++
Get ready for another fun and exciting awareness week from February 3 to 9. 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!
White Cane Week Dinner++
JOIN THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND AND OUR KEYNOTE SPEAKER THE HONOURABLE CARLA QUALTROUGH AS WE CELEBRATE OUR 75th ANNIVERSARY
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) is thrilled to announce that the Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility will be our Keynote Speaker as we celebrate our 75th Anniversary. So mark your calendar, and join us in Ottawa, for our gala dinner, 6:00 PM Wednesday February 6, 2019, at Christ Church Cathedral’s Great Hall, 414 Sparks Street.
The CCB was founded 75 years ago, in the waning months of 1944 and World War II, by returning blind veterans and schools of the blind. The CCB is the largest membership based organization of the blind with 85 chapters across Canada.
To celebrate our 75th Anniversary the Canadian Council of the Blind is dedicating 2019 to “our Year of Accessibility”. The CCB is dedicated to working towards improved accessibility and a barrier free Canada while at the same time continuing its efforts to enhance the quality of life of Canadians who are blind and have low vision.
Purchase a table for eight (8) for $800.
For More Information Contact: Becky Goodwin 1-613-567-0311.
Email: bgoodwin@ccbnational.net
‘EXPERIENCE’ EXPO 2019++:
Ad for Experience Expo 2019 Saturday February 2 10am to 4pm, at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre 750 Spadina Ave. Toronto, ON. For more information please visit www.ccbtorontovisionaries.ca
An Experience Expo Special Event
Your special invitation to attend a forum on assistive technology.
Check your calendar and RSVP now!
Saturday, February 2 at 4:00 pm. Miles Nadel Jewish Community Centre, 750 Spadina Ave, Toronto ON.
Your chance to participate in a panel discussion dedicatedt o brindging technology for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted and designed to achieve inclusive, progressive accessibility. Followed by a question and answer session.
Panel will include Louise Gillis, National President, CCB, Chelsea Mohler, M. SC. Community Engagement Specialist at Balance for Blind Adults and a assistive technology educator and Alvert Ruel, CCB’s GTT Program Coordinator, Western Canada.
Space is limited to the first 75 reservations. Please direct your RSVP to CCB toronto Visionaries Voice Mail Line: 1-416-760-2163 or by email: info@ccbtorontovisionaries.ca
Don’t forget to RSVP if you would like to attend this fantastic event.
“The CCB mysteries chapter extends holiday greetings to everyone that are already thinking about 2019.++
On January 22 we will be holding our first Improv evening of the year and we hope to see you there.
Our very first Improv evening held in November was a roaring success.
Time – 6 pm to 8 pm.
Location – the CNIB hub.
Come and let your imagination do the rest!
Light refreshments will be provided.
For more info please call 416 491 7711 or email info@sterlingcreations.ca
Guide Dog Night In Ottawa++
On December 6, a group of Ottawa Guide Dog handlers and their 4-legged companions gathered at CCB’s national office to watch Pick of the Litter, a documentary that follows 5 Labrador Retriever puppies from birth to adulthood. The evening was moderated by David Greene with his second Guide, Impreza nearby. Among the attendees were seasoned Guide Dog handlers, new dog/person partnerships, and those who were considering having a Guide. An experienced Animal Health Technician specializing in animal massage was along to pamper the pooches during the show. Additionally, a Guide Dog Emeriti and a Guide-In-Training were present.
Set in the Guide Dog School for the Blind in San Rafael California, the movie chronicles the journey of each pup, three boys and two girls. As the story unfolds, it is evident that not all dogs would be destined to become guides. Just like people, each dog has his or her own personality and may be better suited for another career path.
A Descriptive Video soundtrack accompanied the movie so that those of us with low or no vision would not miss a thing! The crucial role played by the puppy raisers was presented in great detail—a variety of people, with different lifestyles and motivations work with the dogs during this critical stage of their development. All puppy raisers possessed a genuine kindness, a willingness to provide a loving home, a desire to help others and the knowledge that one day, their puppy would leave. Some dogs had one puppy raiser while others, for various reasons, had two or three. A ‘family reunion’ of sorts took place as the brothers and sisters were brought together at a few months of age. The support and guidance of the school figured prominently as puppy raisers and canines alike worked hard in preparation for the important job that lay ahead. There was not a dry eye in the room as it was revealed that some puppies would follow a different career path and would not go on to be trained as Guide Dogs.
Once returned to the school, the potential guide dogs were put through a stringent series of tests to make sure that they would succeed as Guides. The safety of the dog/handler team is of utmost importance. All of us watched in suspense as the dogs completed a rigourous set of tasks in the hopes that they would pass. More tears flowed from the audience as prospective handlers were introduced; some returning for a second, third or fourth Guide, and others, who were both new to blindness and new to life with this special four-legged friend. “Dog Day,” as dog and handler meet for the first time was a poignant moment, and sure to bring back memories for the many Handlers in the room.
While not all the dogs in this story became guides, each found his or her perfect home. The movie ends as the circle of life begins once more as Veterinary staff welcome another litter of puppies into the world.
After the movie, memories were shared and stories were exchanged in this warm and welcoming social setting. People asked questions and exchanged tips and tricks while many of the dogs snoozed contentedly on the floor. The meeting adjourned with best wishes for a Happy Holiday and promises made to reconvene once again in early 2019.
Shelley Ann Morris
World Braille Day++
News Release, December 17, 2018:
The United Nations General Assembly has today adopted the World Blind Union’s Resolution recognizing the World Braille Day.
The purpose of the World Braille Day, celebrated every January 4, is to raise awareness of the importance of braille to converting the written word to tactile form for the benefit of blind and partially sighted persons worldwide.
WBU members and partners around the world have reacted with excitement upon receiving the news.
“This is a wonderful achievement especially because braille is the means of literacy for blind people. Literacy is the foundation of education and foundation of full integration of employment’ says WBU’s President Dr. Fred Schroeder, from the UN Head Quarters in New York City. Watch his full remarks on WBU YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=29
“In United States braille has come to be recognized as an important item because if we can read and write, we can fully participate in all the activities in life that everybody else takes for granted, says Former President of the National Federation of the Blind-USA, Mr. Marc Maurer. Watch his full remarks on WBU YouTube Channel:https://youtu.be/5YrrqwbAkIm
From Rwanda, the WBU Second Vice President Ms. Donatilla Kanimba, said “This is a great opportunity to advocate for braille as the most important literacy tool for the blind community, especially children here in Africa who cannot pursue education because they cannot access braille for their literacy needs, she says.”As the World Blind Union, we believe that reading is a human right and therefore we are grateful that the UN is recognizing this right. We urge governments to recognize this right as well and provide braille literacy in schools”.
Braille Literacy Canada Commends the United Nations adoption of World Braille Day and Canada’s Accession to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
January 4, 2019 – Toronto – Braille Literacy Canada/Littératie braille Canada (BLC), as the Canadian braille authority, celebrates the United Nations’ recent adoption of World Braille Day, recognizing it as an official day to be celebrated annually on January 4th around the world, to coincide with the birth date of Louis Braille. Official recognition of World Braille Day on the international stage brings with it a strong message to both raise awareness and celebrate the importance of braille literacy for the generations of blind people who continue to benefit from it around the globe.
“Braille represents literacy, freedom and equality for the millions of blind people who use it around the world. It is as important as print is to the sighted,” explains Natalie Martiniello, president of Braille Literacy Canada. “It enables blind children to acquire literacy, raises employment and income levels, enables people who are blind to independently vote and exercise their citizenship, and to read personal and professional communications independently.
We commend the United Nations for recognizing the importance of braille by designating January 4th as World Braille Day, and we celebrate alongside Braille readers everywhere.”
BLC also commends the Government of Canada which has recently announced that Canada will accede to the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD sets guidelines to bolster the rights of persons with disabilities and calls for the abolishment of laws and practices that perpetuate discrimination. Importantly to BLC, the treaty also affirms and reinforces the importance of equal access to information for those unable to read print, including those Canadians who are blind or who have sight loss and who use braille.
Though Canada ratified the treaty in 2010, it only recently agreed to also be bound by the Optional Protocol, allowing the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to consider complaints against Canada and providing a further level of recourse at the international level for Canadians with disabilities facing discrimination.
“Access to information is not a privilege, but a right,” explains Martiniello. “We applaud the Government of Canada for acceding to the optional protocol. We hope that the Optional Protocol will provide an additional protective layer where gaps in accessibility remain and that the introduction of the Accessible Canada Act will usher in an era of increased accessibility.”
iHabilitation.ca Offers Online Training for Voice Over on iOS Devices++
One of the GTT Victoria members and periodic contributors, Tom Dekker wants you to know about his paid online training service now available.
Are you ready to gain greater command of your iPhone? Are you willing and able to work at it? iHabilitation Canada is very happy to announce a new iPhone instructional opportunity that will help you do just that. At the same time, you will gain experience with the latest in inclusively designed meeting and webinar platforms – a skill that offers ever-increasing educational and employment potential.
We also offer the opportunity to engage in a Structured Discovery approach to what we like to think of as touch screen O&M. That’s right! Orientation and Mobility, “on screen” as with “on land”! This means that you gradually learn the location of everything you may need on an app’s screens before making serious use of the app. Familiarity reduces frustration.
This is very different from the kind of iPhone Voiceover instruction where learners are simply taught a “flick-and-tap route”. They flick and tap through the steps of a task without learning much about other on-screen clues and landmarks that would otherwise provide a broader picture of the virtual environment.
Imagine the fun and benefit of transforming that sometimes seemingly endless bead flicking experience to a full-screen Mind’s Eye view, independent of physical vision. Imagine whizzing around the screen with your finger just as you would with a mouse as if you could see to use one.
Find out more about iPhone Structured Discovery coaching and online multi-media learning possibilities available via Zoom Cloud Meetings!
For more information, visit ihabilitation.ca/coaching
To learn more about our methodology and some of the apps and possibilities for increasing personal iPhone-based productivity in general, check out our workshop document from the 2018 CNIB National Braille and Technology conference. Ihabilitation.ca/bc2018
Sincerely,
iHabilitation partners
Tom Dekker and Ken Sudhues
Assistive Technology
New tech helps deaf-blind people ‘watch’ TV ++
Innovation lets these individuals know what’s happening without asking for help
A TV delivers content through images and sound. But for those who cannot see or hear, watching TV is impossible without special technology.
You may enjoy TV — as do many people with hearing or visual disabilities. But those who are both deaf and blind need special help to follow along. Now an innovative technology is turning television signals into a form that deaf-blind people can understand.
Deaf people can’t hear. But they can use closed captioning to read subtitles of the words spoken on TV. Blind people can’t see. But they can make use of visual description in voice-over comments that describe what’s happening on the TV screen. Neither method, however, works for people who are both deaf and blind. That makes it harder for them to “watch” television shows or programs.
Roughly 45,000 to 50,000 deaf-blind people live in the United States, according to the National Center on Deaf-Blindness in Monmouth, Ore. By that center’s count, almost 10,000 of them are under age 22. Thousands more deaf-blind people live elsewhere around the world.
Ángel García Crespo is a computer engineer at Carlos III University of Madrid in Spain. His group has invented a new way for deaf-blind people to “watch” TV. He unveiled the technology at a conference, last year, in Aveiro, Portugal. The team went on to describe what they’d done in a paper, earlier this year.
The idea for the system grew out of previous work by García Crespo’s group. The team had already worked on making audiovisual materials accessible to people with either vision or hearing disabilities. But the group wanted to help people with both challenges. So they asked some deaf-blind people what would help.
“We heard from them that they would like to know, without intermediaries, what is said in the TV newscasts,” García Crespo says. In other words, the deaf-blind people didn’t want to always need someone else to tell them what was going on. That sent the team brainstorming.
Getting technologies to work together
Deaf-blind people rely on their sense of touch to communicate. One way to get info is to have someone on hand — literally. A deaf-blind person can get and give information through touch-based hand signals with another person. But it isn’t always “handy” to have someone else around.
An innovative system can let deaf-blind people “watch” television in real time on their own. Audio and video information from the TV is sent to a machine called a refreshable braille display so deaf-blind people can read it with their fingers.
People who can’t see can also get and send information with a braille line, better known as a refreshable braille display. The braille system uses patterns of raised dots to stand for letters and numbers. A refreshable braille display is an electronic machine with a changeable braille display. Dots or pins rise up or drop down based on electronic information sent to the machine. With such a portable device, someone who cannot see a screen can still read email or other information from a computer.
The new system converts TV signals to data that a refreshable braille display can use.
“Key to the system is the possibility of using subtitles to collect TV information,” García Crespo explains. “Subtitles travel with the image and the audio in electromagnetic waves that we do not see. But an electronic system can capture those waves. That is what we do.”
First, a computer program, or app, pulls out the subtitles and visual descriptions from the broadcast signal. The system then combines the information and converts both into data for braille. “No one had done this before,” García Crespo notes.
Now another app gets to work. It sends the data out to people’s refreshable braille displays on demand. “This is done in real time, in less than a second,” García Crespo says. This lets a deaf-blind person “watch” TV as it is broadcast. The system will work with all types of refreshable braille displays, as long as there is a Bluetooth connection available.
Currently, the system is only used in Europe. Teams need to tweak the decoding process to work with the TV signals used by broadcasters in different regions.
The Dicapta Foundation in Winter Springs, Fla., has been working with García Crespo’s team and others to make that happen. They call their project GoCC4All. Apps for Google and Apple phones are just about ready, says Lourdes Fiallos. She’s a project manager at Dicapta. Testing with deaf-blind users should start in a few weeks.
García Crespo’s team also wants to create a “universal communicator” for deaf-blind people. It would let them communicate with anyone without the need to have a human assistant present.
Javier, a deaf-blind person, talking with Angel Garcia Crespo Anindya “Bapin” Bhattacharyya is a technology-development and training specialist at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults.
It’s in Sands Point, N.Y. Bapin is deaf-blind himself. And he says the new technology sounds like “a great development.”
Bapin does raise a few questions. “There needs to be a menu to allow me to select a channel or show that is captioned and also has audio/visual descriptions,” he points out.
Bapin also would like a way to skip an ad. People with sight and hearing can take a break when a commercial comes on. When they hear or see that the show resumed, they can again pay attention. Deaf-blind people would like such a signal to let them know when a show resumes, he says.
Technologies to assist people with disabilities “are fantastic and give deaf-blind people access to digital info and communication,” Bapin says. However, he notes, gaps remain. Examples include self-help machines at some stores and banks. Too often the developers forget to include accessibility features.
Inventing new technologies to boost their accessibility takes work, as García Crespo’s team has learned. For instance, the TV system had to work in real time. Yet no one knew in advance which show someone might want to “watch.” To deal with that, the team has different computer processors handle each TV channel’s signal. Then one server centrally manages all of them. It collects the processed subtitles and visual descriptions and then sends them to users on demand.
Getting the whole set-up to work was tricky, but García Crespo liked the challenge.
“I like to solve problems,” he says. “If the solutions are related to technology to improve people’s lives, I like those problems better.”
By KATHIANN KOWALSKI
In the News
Works of art reimagined++
Peter Coppin remembers the discussion with a visually impaired student that helped him understand how much can be misunderstood when a person has to depend on words to understand what someone else can see.
They were talking about Italy and the student knew that Italy is shaped like a boot. But when Coppin described it as a boot with a high heel like the Three Muskateers would wear, the student laughed out loud. He had been envisioning Italy as an entirely different kind of boot shape and the idea of Italy as a Muskateer boot was comical to him.
It’s these chasms in understanding that Coppin and the Art Gallery of Ontario are trying to bridge with a program that brings multisensory projects, based on works of visual art, to AGO museum tours for people in the blind and low vision community.
While in the past museums have relied heavily on audio recordings and guides to bridge that gap, new practices are being brought on board, including multisensory aids designed by graduate students at OCAD University.
“Visuals are dominant in our culture. If you are a part of society and you don’t have access to visual items, then you don’t have access to a lot of stuff about the culture that people who have vision have access to,” says Coppin, associate professor of the inclusive design graduate program and director of the perceptual artifacts lab at OCAD University.
This year – the second year of the program – the works included four paintings: Tom Thomson’s The West Wind, Otto Dix’s Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann; La Demoiselle de magasin by James Tissot and Jar of Apricots by Jean-Siméon Chardin.
In a way, it’s about getting back to the roots of what museums used to be, said Melissa Smith, co-ordinator of the gallery guide, adult education officer and access to art programs for the AGO.
Early museums began as private collections, typically belonging to the wealthy, who would share art and artifacts they had purchased or collected on their travels. They were displayed in “wonder rooms.” People were allowed to touch the items as part of the experience.
The AGO already offers multisensory tours for people living with vision loss, which include some works that can be touched – including the museum’s large Rodin sculptures – under supervision, but providing 3-D support for works of visual arts offers the possibility of evoking more than just the sense of touch.
For months, Coppin’s students grappled with the idea of how to render the terrifying look on Dr. Stadelmann’s face into a tactile experience and how to communicate the cold of the water in The West Wind.
“We were totally drawn to this portrait; the eerie atmosphere,” said student Shannon Kupfer, speaking of the Dix portrait. “I was dying to interpret it.”
Dix layered paint on the doctor’s eyes – they appear to bulge. He seems haunted. His hands are in fists by his sides. Kupfer and her partner, Tyson Moll, wanted viewers to feel that tension, and also feel the deep wrinkles in his face.
They made a 3-D replica of the doctor’s head in polymer clay that felt cold and a bit yielding, but still firm to the touch. The eyes bulge like they do in the painting.
They sewed hair onto his head in little batches, to mimic the strokes of the paintbrush in the painting. They made the body boxy and rigid, to communicate the physical tension in the painting. They gave him a rigid collar, backed by cardboard. His fists were made of polymer clay coated in silicone.
They also made it out of products that were easy to care for – the clothes are fastened with Velcro to make it easier for curators to remove them and wash them if necessary.
They recorded an audio component – a fluent German speaker reading a passage from one of Dr. Stadelmann’s writings, concerning avant-garde art in relation to what was then considered psychiatric wisdom. They included the hissing noise that used to accompany recordings played on records.
“It’s not just engaging for the low-sight community, it’s engaging for everyone. It’s such a cool way to get kids – or anyone – more engaged with art,” Kupfer said.
The problem of communicating the coldness of the water in Tom Thomson’s piece was solved more simply, with a bag of blue slime. To convey the feeling of wind, the students invested in a $20 miniature fan from Amazon.com.
“When you stand in front of this painting you can feel the strong wind because of the shape of the tree and the waves on the lake,” said student Norbert Zhao.
John Rae, who lost his eyesight in his 20s and is now blind, has been on the AGO multisensory tours and experienced the works made by this year’s OCAD students.
While he liked the Otto Dix sculpture, some things didn’t communicate as planned. For example, without knowing anything about the painting, when Rae touched the sculpture, he thought the doctor was a boxer wearing gloves, because of the way the hands felt. “That comes from me as a sports fan,” said Rae, a retired public servant and a board member of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.
Rae liked the multisensory adaptation of Jar of Apricots, by students Nikkie To and Grace Mendez. The painting is a still life that includes a jar of apricots, a glass of wine, bread and a cup of tea.
Their model included dried apricots for tasting, jarred scents including a cork soaked in wine and apricot jam with added artificial apricot scent; 3-D printed objects including a tea cup and wine glass to handle, background music from the period and others sounds – touching the wine glass triggered the sound of a liquid being poured.
While Rae believes the multisensory aids provide another tool, he thinks museums in general need to consider making more objects available for handling by the blind and vision impaired. He cited as an example ancient pottery – while a museum may have perfect examples on display, it may also have imperfect examples in storage. What would be the harm, asks Rae, in making those available to people with limited eyesight, especially since the tours happen infrequently, involve about six to 12 items, and small numbers of people?
“One can learn a fair amount from the expertise that the people who run these tours bring to the table, but there is no substitute for being able to touch,” Rae said.
The challenge at the AGO, Smith said, is that in an art gallery the works tend to be flat and one-of-a-kind.
“Our conservators and curators do their utmost to ensure the objects, like sculptures, which make the most interesting objects to touch, are cared for and exhibited to support this program,” Smith said.
Ian White, president of a local Toronto chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind called the CCB Toronto Visionaries, said that while AGO tour leaders excel at describing art in a way that triggers the imagination, the multisensory tours are evocative.
“It starts a conversation about the piece, about the artist, about the history,” White said. “It really allows people to engage with works that are part of our collective culture.”
By Francine Kopun, The Toronto Star
Blind juror was almost rejected++
Disability advocates seek removal of courtroom barriers
A recent criminal trial at Toronto’s downtown Superior Court featured what may be a first in Ontario: a blind juror.
The fact that is, if not a first, an extremely rare occurrence in Ontario underscores that much more needs to be done to remove the barriers to equal treatment in the criminal justice system, disability advocates say.
“Certainly this applies to ensuring adequate representation of persons with disabilities on juries,” says Luke Reid, a lawyer with ARCH Disability Law Centre in Toronto.
The Criminal Code allows people with vision or hearing disabilities to serve on juries. However, an accused may challenge a juror’s service and the Juries Act deems jurors ineligible if they have “a physical or mental disability that would seriously impair his or her ability to discharge the duties of a juror.”
“However, human rights law would demand that this (or any) requirement not be interpreted in an overbroad way and that persons with disabilities have the right to the necessary accommodations,” Reid wrote in email.
Juror 29743 almost didn’t get picked. While there are likely numerous reasons preventing people with impaired vision from sitting on juries, there is still a “very active debate” around the ability of a “trier of fact” to see a witness’s demeanour in order to assess credibility, Reid noted in an email.
“I think courts tend to err on the side of caution where the right of an accused to a fair trial is potentially at issue.”
This fall, a day before jury selection in an impaired driving causing death trial, prosecutor Marnie Goldenberg told the judge she and defence lawyer Carolyn Kerr had some concerns about a prospective juror, who had shown up at the courthouse with a service dog. Goldenberg told the judge numerous photos would be introduced during the two-week trial.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Rob Goldstein told the lawyers while it was entirely appropriate to raise the issue, he didn’t intend to treat Juror 29743 any differently than other jurors.
“I think it’s something we canvass and we treat her the way we treat any other juror who has a health issue,” Goldstein said. The next day, after Juror 29743 entered the courtroom with her service dog, the judge asked her how she would “deal” with all the photos in the case.
“It would be through description … I cannot see them,” the woman, who works in human resources, told Goldstein.
“OK, all right, so if they are described – you can absorb what’s in them?” the judge asked. She said yes.
The jury selection process continued in the normal course with two already selected jurors, designated as “triers,” deciding whether or not she was an acceptable pick.
Juror 29743 said she had not heard about the case involving a man charged with impaired driving causing death on April 23, 2016, near Jane St. and Humberview Blvd. She also indicated she could consider the evidence without prejudice or bias after being told the accused was a visible minority and Muslim. Nevertheless, the triers immediately rejected her.
Goldstein, however, wasn’t satisfied. He told the triers he was going to reread their instructions and asked them to consult each other again. The test to decide is if a juror would approach jury duty with an open mind and decide the case based solely on the evidence and his legal instructions, the judge told them.
This time, the triers found Juror 29743 acceptable while counsel on both sides said they were “content” with the choice. After a few days of deliberations, the jury returned to court with a guilty verdict. The Star’s attempts to speak to Juror 29743 were unsuccessful.
Lawyer David Lepofsky, a retired Crown attorney who is blind and was not involved in the case, said having a blind juror not only makes the legal system more representative of society, it makes lawyers more effective.
There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a courtroom that is visual and needs to be explained for the transcript, or audio recording, so having a blind juror will help ensure that happens, “so you get a better record, and it’s better for everybody,” Lepofksy said.
But there are some exceptions where a visually impaired juror might have to be excluded, he added. If, for example, the guilt or innocence of an accused is entirely based on whether a jury believes an accused looks like an assailant captured in a surveillance video.
Lepofksy, now a visiting professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall law school, said traditionally, appeal courts said trial judges were in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses, because they, unlike appeal judges, can access demeanour.
That view has evolved, and now appeal courts are increasingly warning “it’s wrong to over emphasize visual demeanour when assessing credibility.” He uses himself as an example to explain how everyone has different ways of doing that.
“Sighted people use eyes. I listen to a voice … and the whole idea of a jury is it’s a bunch of different people … pooling their different ways of assessing credibility and then voting as a group. Well, who’s to say visual is the only way to do it,” he said.
“Those of us who experience the world non-visually, have our own experience too.”
While jurors don’t have to be statistically representative of society, there is an expectation that they bring to the courtroom their own life experience, “drawn from different parts of the community, and they pool to form a collective assessment, a very difficult assessment, who to believe about what happened.”
By Betsy Powell, Toronto Star
www.ccbnational.net
ccb@ccbnational.net
1-877-304-0968

United Nations General Assembly adopted the World Blind Union’s World Braille Day.

The United Nations General Assembly has today adopted the World Blind Union’s Resolution recognizing the World Braille Day.

The purpose of the World Braille Day, celebrated every January 4, is to raise awareness of the importance of braille to converting the written word to tactile form for the benefit of blind and partially sighted persons worldwide.

WBU members and partners around the world have reacted with excitement upon receiving the news.

“This is wonderful achievement especially because braille is the means of literacy for blind people. Literacy is the foundation of education and foundation of full integration of employment’ says WBU’s President Dr. Fred Schroeder, from the UN Head Quarters in New York City. Watch his full remarks on WBU YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=29&v=uWwwLjBiG80

“In United States braille has come to be recognised as an important item because if we can read and write, we can fully participate in all the activities in life that everybody else takes for granted, says Former President of the National Federation of the Blind-USA, Mr. Marc Maurer. Watch his full remarks on WBU YouTube Channel:https://youtu.be/5YrrqwbAkIM

From Rwanda, the WBU Second Vice President Ms. Donatilla Kanimba,said “This is a great opportunity to advocate for braille as the most important literacy tool for the blind community, especially children here in Africa who cannot pursue education because they cannot access braille for their literacy needs, says. “As the World Blind Union, we believe that reading is a human right and therefore we are grateful that the UN is recognizing this right. We urge governments to recognize this right as well and provide braille literacy in schools”.

VISIONS December 2018


Visions December 2018 DIGITAL | Visions December 2018 DIGITAL -PDF | Visions December 2018 TEXT

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VISIONS

Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

 

December 2018

 

“A lack of sight is not a lack of vision”

 

President’s Message++

 
As many of us have experienced winter rather early this year it seems today happens to be a bright, sunny and slightly warmer day more typical of the season. I hope that this continues for everyone so that we can enjoy a bit of family time as we prepare for the holiday season.
 
We continue to be very busy in many areas with a variety of CCB programs. GTT has been posting a lot of great information to assist in mobility, new apps and some simple ideas to make life easier for those living with vision loss. Thank you to all the leaders working with GTT to continue to make it a successful program.
 
This has been a busy month with the Accessible Canada Act which has now moved through the third reading unanimously and on to the Senate for consideration and hopefully approval. We have sent in a written submission to the Standing Committee as did many other organizations of persons with disabilities. The Act, as it stands now does not give time lines and some other concerns expressed by varying organizations, for a fully accessible Canada by a specific date but what it has is standards for regulations for federally run agencies which will have to comply with the Act. You can check out on the “HUMA” website many of the submissions and the progress of Bill C-81. http://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/HUMA/StudyActivity?studyActivityId=10268658
 
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is busy making changes to regulations for air, rail and ferry services under federal jurisdiction. For those who have computer access you can go on their website to follow what is transpiring. This is also taking place with CRTC as well for communications. The changes are being made to comply with the anticipated Accessible Canada Act. CCB has been involved in providing input and submissions to both agencies. Thank you to Kim Kilpatrick and Shelly Morris on their work with CRTC. Several CCB members have been working with rail, air and ferry services and thank you all for your input.
 
We have recently completed a submission to Canadian Agency on Drugs and Technology (CADTH) for a new treatment (eye drops) for Glaucoma. It is the first of its kind also there has not been any new drops in many years. What is CADTH? CADTH is an independent, not-for-profit organization responsible for providing Canada’s health care decision-makers with objective evidence to help make informed decisions about the optimal use of drugs and medical devices in our health care system. Created in 1989 by Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments, CADTH was born from the idea that Canada needs a coordinated approach to assessing health technologies. The result was an organization that harnesses Canadian expertise from every region and produces evidence-informed solutions that benefit patients in jurisdictions across the country.
 
CCB continues to work with Best Medicines Coalition, FFB, CNIB, and others to ensure that Canadians get the best care possible not only eye care but other disease processes that many of our members may be dealing with in their lives health promotion and illness prevention.
 
The Mobile Eye Clinic continues to check children in the Ottawa region schools. Results still show that approximately twenty five percent of children attending have previous undetected eye concerns needing further follow-up.
 
ll our committees have been very active over the fall. It takes a lot of time and important work to complete items as we make our way through to ensure everything meets requirements that are set for compliance. Thank you for the work of the committee members for their great work and time commitment.
 
It is now time to enjoy holiday festivities with families and friends. As our country is made up of a vast number of nationalities I would like to wish everyone a time of enjoyment, relaxation, spending time with fellow workers or neighbours as we will soon will be moving into a new year with lots of hope for continued strength and growth.
Best wishes for the holidays and Happy New Year to all.
Louise Gillis, National President
 

Announcements

 

‘EXPERIENCE’ EXPO 2019++:

Ad for Experience Expo 2019 Saturday February 2 10am to 4pm, at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre 750 Spadina Ave. Toronto, ON.  For more information please visit www.ccbtorontovisionaries.ca

An Experience Expo Special Event

Your special invitation to attend a forum on assistive technology.
Check your calendar and RSVP now!
Saturday, February 2 at 4:00 pm.  Miles Nadel Jewish Community Centre, 750 Spadina Ave, Toronto ON.
Your chance to participate in a panel discussion dedicatedt o brindging technology for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted and designed to achieve inclusive, progressive accessibility.  Followed by a question and answer session.
Panel will include Louise Gillis, National President, CCB, Chelsea Mohler, M. SC. Community Engagement Specialist at Balance for Blind Adults and a assistive technology educator and Alvert Ruel, CCB’s GTT Program Coordinator, Western Canada.
Space is limited to the first 75 reservations.  Please direct your RSVP to CCB toronto Visionaries Voice Mail Line: 1-416-760-2163 or by email:  info@ccbtorontovisionaries.ca
 

Thank-you!++

 
CCB would like to acknowledge and thank Ken Christie, from the Windsor Low Vision Chapter in Ontario for his many years of support and activity within the Council. Ken joined CCB in 2005, after having volunteered with CNIB for over 25 years. He was already quite active in the blind bowling community, and decided to bring his enthusiasm for bowling and community engagement to CCB. Ken pulled together the communities of Sarnia, Chatham and Windsor to bowl, and each May, he would organize a tournament followed by a banquet. He worked closely with the local Lions Club, who ended up cosponsoring the bowling tournament. Ken and the Windsor chapter could also always count on lots of support from his wife, Catherine, who volunteered to drive members to meetings and help organize fundraising activities. Ken will be turning 89 years old in January, and he has decided it’s time to take a step back from his active role in the chapter and reflect on the wonderful times he spent with the chapter members in CCB.
 
Jim Tokos adds:
Ken was a mentor to me, as when I first joined the Ontario Board, Ken, along with Don Grant, Theresa Dupuis, Doug Ayers, to name a few, always encouraged me to move forward, and how can you not be motivated to succeed when you are surrounded by such wonderful and devoted persons.”
 
I have also been fortunate enough to know Ken quite well over the past and upon request from Ken have spoken to the Windsor Low Vision Chapter on many occasions.  Ken will certainly be missed as he touched a lot of hearts, and Ken and Kay, what more can the Council say but Thank You for your outstanding service to the CCB.
 
 

CCB Toronto Ski Hawks Ski Club Chapter at the Toronto Ski and Snowboard show.++:

In late October the Ski Hawks had an exhibit at the Ski and Snowboard show. This was the first time in many years that we have been at the show.
Over the course of the 4 day show the booth was staffed, in rotating shifts, by 9 of our blind skiers and several volunteer ski guides. Many of the visitors to our booth were truly amazed that blind people actually ski downhill.
 
Of particular interest was our short video that describes how we ski with a guide. At the very least it definitely raised awareness that people with low vision or no vision can be skiers.
 
One of our goals at the show was to recruit volunteers to be trained as guides and this was indeed a success! The other was to get some form of sponsorship from the ski industry, we are currently pursuing some leads from the show.
 
The highlight of the show for our blind skiers was when they had a visit with Kelsey Serwa winner of the gold medal in ladies ski cross at the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Not only did they have the opportunity to ask her questions but also got to hold her gold medal and discovered that the edge was inscribed in Braille.
Submitted by Chris Wyvill
 

The Situation of Blind and Partially Sighted Persons in Accessing their Human Rights – from the World Blind Union

 
Persistent cultural, social, legal, physical and institutional barriers pose restrictions to the full inclusion of visually impaired persons in society in all areas of private and public life, including education; employment; health care; cultural, recreational, sporting and leisure activities; and political participation.  They face huge barriers to personal mobility owing to lack of accessibility.  Poor access to justice limits their access to communications and compounds their isolation and exclusion.  Unemployment of persons with visual disabilities is a significant challenge and they remain the poorest of the poor, unable to compete with the labour market.  Therefore, disaggregation of data by disability, sex and age is fundamental for understanding the situation of blind and partially sighted persons and informing policies to ensure their effective inclusion and the full realization of their human rights.
 
While significant progress has been made towards the inclusion of bind and partially sighted persons in the international human rights and development frameworks, concerted advocacy efforts are still needed to ensure that these commitments are translated into an enabling environment that mobilizes stakeholders, enhances participation of organizations of persons with disabilities and strengthen political will and the capacity of governments to implement to 2030 Agenda in line with all the UN International human rights instruments, together with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).  This requires constant attention to ensure that human rights mechanisms uphold the highest CRPD standards and facilitating interconnections and consistency of these mechanisms with normative development frameworks.
 
We further celebrate the adoption and ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty that calls upon researchers, publishers, and the academia in line with the intellectual property rights to ensure that persons with visual disabilities receive and access information in accessible formats of braille, large print, audio and electronic formats.  We celebrate this achievement, but we call upon states to ratify this instrument and domesticate it into their legal framework to ensure that the obligations spelt under the treaty are met.  However, this is still a big challenge by many states, as this goal has not been adequately implemented.  This poses a barrier to our participation as blind and partially sighted persons on an equal basis with others.
 
We advocate for the availability of resources to accommodate the different needs for blind and partially sighted persons.  We appeal to governments and international agencies to provide consistent statistical data for persons with visual disabilities to provide evidence during planning, budgeting, programming, policy development and implementation.
 
We further request governments and development partners to promote the full and effective participation of persons with visual disabilities by ensuring that their organizations and their representatives are permanently consulted on contentious issues and rights affecting them during development processes.
 

Canada accedes to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

News release

December 3, 2018         Ottawa, Ontario                  
Employment and Social Development Canada
 
The Government of Canada is working to create a truly accessible Canada. Today, as part of these efforts, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, along with the ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Canadian Heritage, announced that, with the support of all provinces and territories, Canada has acceded to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
 
Accession to the Optional Protocol means that Canadians will have additional recourse to make a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated.
Along with the proposed Accessible Canada Act, which was recently adopted by the House of Commons and is now before the Senate, today’s announcement shows that the Government of Canada is taking another step towards creating a barrier-free Canada.
 
Recently released data from Statistics Canada reinforce the importance of a more inclusive and accessible Canada. The 2017 Canadian Survey on Disabilities shows that the prevalence of disabilities among Canadians is greater than many realize, with 22% of Canadians identifying as having a disability. The new data will be used by the federal government to help build a more inclusive society that benefits all people in Canada – especially persons with disabilities – through the realization of a Canada without barriers.
 

Quick facts

  • The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) is an international human rights instrument that requires State Parties to the Convention to promote, protect and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. Canada ratified the Convention in 2010.
  • The Optional Protocol establishes two procedures. The first is a complaint procedure that allows individuals and groups to take complaints to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the case of an alleged violation of their rights under the Convention. The second is an inquiry procedure that allows the Committee to inquire into allegations of grave or systematic violations of the Convention by a State Party.
  • The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention by States Parties.
4The members of the UN CRPD Committee
  • As of November 2018, there are 177 States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with 93 States Parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
  • Under Bill C-81, approximately $290 million over six years would serve to further the objectives of the proposed legislation.
  • One in five people—22 percent of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over, or about 6.2 million individuals—had one or more disabilities, according to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disabilities.
  • The survey also reports that people with severe disabilities aged 25 to 64 years are more likely to be living in poverty than their counterparts without disabilities (17 percent) or with milder disabilities (23 percent).

 

Assistive Technology

 

Donna’s Low Tech Tips++

Meet the Talking First Aid Kit

Carl Augusto of the American Foundation for the Blind Blog posted the following about this great product.
 
I think it’s always important to keep safety in mind, so I thought I’d let you know about a new product from Intelligent First Aid, the First Aid “talking” Kit. The Kit includes nine injury-specific packs to help treat common injuries, including Bleeding, Head & Spine Injury, and Shock. The packs are individually labeled and color-coded, which I love because it would help someone with low vision easily distinguish the packs. The best part, though, is that with the press of a button, the audio component attached to each card provides step-by-step instructions to manage the wound. Situations often become chaotic when a loved one, an acquaintance, or even you, experiences a minor injury.
 
With this tool, people with low vision can remain calm and have an idea of how to handle things without worrying about reading any print.
 
Check out the Intelligent First Aid website to purchase the product or get more information:
http://www.intelligentfirstaid.com/index.php
The site even allows you to listen to a sample of the audio component of the kit.
 
To contact Donna, send her an email at info@sterlingcreations.ca
 

In the News

 

Disability Advocates Criticize Lack of Teeth in New Manitoba Accessibility Regulations++

A new law is now in force for Manitoba businesses, but don’t expect a bylaw officer to show up at your door any time soon.
 
As of Nov 1, businesses and organizations in Manitoba should be following the letter of the law when it comes to providing accessibility for Manitobans with disabilities.
The Customer Service Standard Regulation is the first of five areas to come into force under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, which passed in December 2013, but at this point, officials are more interested in educating the public than imposing penalties on businesses.
 
“We would take concerns and educate and support those organizations into complying with legislation. Turning to the stiffer penalties would be more of a last resort for us,” said Jay Rodgers, deputy minister for the Department of Families.
 

 ‘Never a ramp’

That means that it could be a while before Megan Clarke can roll into one of her favourite restaurants in Winnipeg’s Exchange District.
 
When the restaurant first showed up a few years ago, she was excited about trying it out, only to find that a small lip in the sidewalk created a barrier for her wheelchair. Clarke waited outside while her friend went into the restaurant to order and bring the matter to the owner’s attention.
 
“[The owner] said ‘We’ll get a ramp made,’ so for the course of the summer, we went back and there was never a ramp, never a ramp, and then one day my friend went in to talk to him and his response was, ‘Well, we don’t have the ramp made yet, but she can have free dessert any time she comes,’ and I was like, well, that’s the last time I’m going to come to your place,” said Clarke.
 
Under the Customer Service Standard Regulation, any business or organization with one or more employees in Manitoba must provide its goods and services in a barrier-free way.
The regulations cover everything from training staff to the built environment, but don’t prescribe specific measures, such as the installation of ramps at doors with raised entryways.
 
“Our expectation, I think, would be that if the building is physically inaccessible that there might be other ways of offering the service to the customer, whether it means coming out and meeting someone at the front or doing business over the phone. Our point would be that the alternative ways of accessing the service need to be communicated broadly to the public,” said Rodgers.
 

 Documentation required

The regulations also require every business with 20 or more employees to document customer service policies and procedures, and either post them publicly or provide them on request, so those living with disabilities understand how the business is working toward eliminating barriers.
 
However, there are no clear guidelines for enforcing the standards, so businesses will be unlikely to comply, advocates say.
 
“Without effective enforcement, a law is a voluntary law, and a voluntary law is really not very much of a law at all,” said David Lepofsky, a lawyer and disability rights advocate who was highly influential in the creation of Ontario’s accessibility laws.
 
Legislators in Manitoba looked at the Ontarians with Disabilities Act while creating Manitoba’s legislation, but Lepofsky warns poor enforcement means Ontario’s law has failed in many areas.
 
“We revealed through Freedom of Information Act applications and otherwise that [officials] were aware of rampant violations and yet deployed a paltry number of enforcement staff and a paltry number of audits and therefore did a really ineffective job of enforcing [the act],” Lepofsky said.
 

 Slow rollout

Manitoba is considering using its existing bylaw enforcement officers, such as those operating under Workplace Safety and Health, to enforce the act, Rodgers said.
 
It’s a step above what Ontario is doing, Lepofsky said, but he is critical of the lack of a solid plan for enforcement.
 
“This law was passed half a decade ago in Manitoba and half a decade is more than enough time to plan to get something like this set up,” he said.  “The Manitoba government has had ample opportunity to contact Ontario, find out what they’ve learned, get this designed, get it up and running. They shouldn’t just be looking at it now.”
 

 Complaints and concerns

Bringing businesses into compliance with the act will take time, despite the November 1 deadline, Rodgers said.  Complaints and concerns about business compliance should be directed to the Disabilities Issues Office, he said. It is up to him as director to determine whether a complaint is reasonable or not.
 
Despite the slow rollout, Clarke remains optimistic about what the act could mean for her.  Already she is seeing small changes in her neighbourhood, such as the addition of accessible buttons on an automatic door at her local Starbucks.
 
“Whether it’s coffee or groceries or clothing or getting my hair cut, whatever service I’m going to, I’m going to be able to just go in and live my life. That’s what it’s all about. It’s just access,” she said.
By Kim Kaschor, CBC
 
 

Guide Dog Users, Inc. Publishes Handbook to Help People Who Are Blind Decide if the Guide Dog Lifestyle is Right for them++

 
Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI), the largest membership and advocacy organization representing guide dog handlers in the United States, is pleased to announce the recent publication of a revised handbook for perspective guide dog users which shares comprehensive information about acquiring and using a guide dog for safe and independent travel.
 
The guide, 90 pages in length, and available in e-book and print formats, “A Handbook for the Prospective Guide Dog Handler,” 4th Edition, updates a GDUI publication, called “Making Impressions,” which GDUI members wrote and published a quarter of a century ago. The original manual assisted countless guide dog users with applying for training with and adjusting to working with guide dogs. Many of those original readers are now working successfully with a third or fourth or even an eighth, or tenth guide dog. Realizing how well their original publication had served guide dog users all over the country and beyond, GDUI has spent the past several years updating the manual to reflect changes in guide dog training methodologies, growth in the community of guide dog users, changes in the number of schools now available to provide training and dogs, and evolving attitudes among the public concerning acceptance of guide dogs as reliable and respected aids for blind and visually impaired people who choose dogs for independent travel.
 
The informative handbook answers questions not only for the prospective guide dog team, but also for families of people who are blind, blindness rehabilitation professionals and educators, and the general public.
Part One, Section One sets the stage with heartfelt accounts from many guide dog users who can speak with authority about the guide dog lifestyle which pairs humans and canines in a relationship, unlike few others, that involves a 24-hour daily bond between dogs and their owners.
Then the handbook covers the whole process of deciding whether a guide dog is the right choice for mobility and safety, choosing and applying to a training program, learning to become a guide dog handler, returning home, and spending the next several years bonding with a dog who is likely to become an indispensable assistant and treasured companion.
 
The manual outlines the indispensable support that an organization like GDUI can provide to guide dog users during times when their partnership can pose uniquely stressful challenges, for example, when a guide dog team experiences denial of transit in a taxicab, or exclusion from a restaurant or other public venue, when a treasured guide dog becomes ill or passes away, or when family or friends don’t understand how the team functions safely and independently.
 
GDUI encourages readers and members to share the handbook with family, friends, colleagues, blindness and disability advocacy organizations, and other guide and service dog handlers. “A Handbook for the Prospective Guide Dog Handler” is available as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com, Smashwords, and other online sellers. Visit this link for further information and to explore options for purchase:
http://www.dldbooks.com/GDUIHandbook/.
 

I live with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Here’s which one you should pick++

 
Sure, you could chose a smart speaker based on sound or price. The go-to gadget gift of the season is available from Amazon, Apple and Google with better acoustics, new touch screens and deep holiday discounts.
 
But you’re not just buying a talking jukebox. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant also want to adjust the thermostat, fill your picture frame or even microwave your popcorn. Each artificial intelligence assistant has its own ways of running a home. You’re choosing which tribe is yours.
 
I call it a tribe because each has a distinct culture — and demands loyalty. This decision will shape how you get information, what appliances you purchase, where you shop and how you protect your privacy. One in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year, according to the Consumer Technology Association. And Amazon says its Echo Dot is the bestselling speaker, ever.
 
The last time we had to choose a tech tribe like this was when smartphones arrived. Did you go iPhone, Android, or cling to a BlackBerry? A decade later, it’s increasingly hard to fathom switching between iPhone and Android. (A recent Match.com survey found iPhone and Android people don’t even like dating one another.)
 
Now imagine how hard it will be to change when you’ve literally wired stuff into your walls.
 
In my test lab — I mean, living room — an Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod sit side by side, and the voice AIs battle it out to run my home like genies in high-tech bottles. Here’s the shorthand I’ve learned: Alexa is for accessibility. Google Assistant is for brainpower. And Siri is for security.
 
Amazon’s aggressive expansion makes Alexa the one I recommend, and use, the most. Google’s Assistant is coming from behind, matching feature by feature — and Siri, the original voice assistant, feels held back by Apple’s focus on privacy and its software shortcomings. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.)
 
Smart speakers are building the smart home that you never knew you needed. Inside the audio equipment, they’re home hub computers that work alongside smartphone apps to connect and control disparate devices and services. Now with a speaker and the right connected gizmo, you can walk into a room and turn on the lights without touching a button. Or control the TV without a remote. Amazon even sells an Alexa-operated microwave that cooks, tracks and reorders popcorn.
 
But home assistants can also be Trojan horses for a specific set of devices and services that favour one company over another.
 
My buddy Matt recently asked me to help him pick speakers and appliances for a big remodel. He loves the Google Assistant on his Android phone, so selecting his tribe should be easy, right? Hardly: He wanted to put Sonos speakers all around the house, but they take voice commands directly via Alexa. (Sonos says Google Assistant support is coming, though it’s been promising that for a year.)
Figuring out which connected doodads are compatible can be like solving a 10,000-piece puzzle. The best smart home gadgets (like Lutron Caseta and Philips Hue lights) work across all three tribes, but sometimes alliances and technical concerns make appliance makers take sides.
 
Each AI has its limitations. They’re not all equally skilled at understanding accents — Southerners are misunderstood more with Google and Midwesterners with Alexa. The price of ownership with some is letting a company surveil what goes on in your house. You can try, like me, to live with more than one, but you’re left with a patchwork that won’t win you any favours with family.
 
How do you find your AI tribe? Here’s how I differentiate them.
 

Alexa

Supported smart home devices: Over 20,000.
Who loves it: Families who buy lots through Amazon and experiment with new gizmos.
 
The good: Alexa knows how to operate the most stuff, thanks to Amazon’s superior deal making. The only connected things it can’t run in my house are the app-operated garage door and some facets of my TV. Amazon also has been successful at spawning new connected gadgets: Alexa’s voice and microphone are built into more than 100 non-Amazon devices. And Amazon recently announced plans to offer appliance makers a chip that lets Alexa users voice command inexpensive everyday things, from wall plugs to fans.
 
Alexa has also mastered some of the little details of home life. It will confirm a request to turn off the lights without repeating your command — super helpful when someone nearby is napping.
 
The bad: Alexa grows smarter by the week, but it can be a stickler about using specific syntax. It also has the weakest relationship with your phone, the most important piece of technology for most people today. Amazon has bolstered a companion Alexa app for phones, making it better for communicating and setting up smart home routines, but I still find it the most confusing of the lot.
 
Amazon doesn’t always show the highest concern for our privacy. This spring, when Alexa inadvertently recorded a family’s private conversations and sent it to a contact, Amazon’s response boiled down to ‘whoopsie.’ And it records and keeps every conversation you have with the AI — including every bag of popcorn it microwaves. (Amazon says it doesn’t use our queries to sell us stuff beyond making recommendations based on song and product searches).
 
Some love Alexa’s ability to order products by voice. But as long as Alexa runs your house, you’ll always be stuck buying those goods from Amazon. (That microwave will only ever order popcorn from Amazon.) The coming generation of appliances built with the Alexa chip inside could similarly trap you forever into Amazon-land.
 

Google Assistant

Supported smart home devices: Over 10,000.
Who loves it: People who are deep into Google’s services.
 
The good: Google Assistant comes the closest to having a conversation with an actual human helper. You don’t have to use exact language to make things happen or get useful answers. Its intelligence can also be delightfully personal: It’s pretty good at differentiating the voices of family members. And on the new Home Hub device with a screen, Assistant curates a highlights-only show from your Google Photos collection.
 
While Android phone owners are more likely to use lots of Assistant-friendly Google services, the Assistant doesn’t particularly care what kind of phone you use — its simple companion apps work on iOS and Android.
 
And Google is neck and neck with Alexa on many of the nuances: Night mode reduces the volume of answers at night, and it can even require Junior to say “pretty please.”
 
The bad: As a relative newcomer to the smart home, Google has been catching up fast. But in my house, it still can’t fully control my Ring doorbell or send music to my Sonos speakers. And I’m not convinced that Google has Amazon’s negotiating sway, or the influence to bring the next generation of connected things online.
 
The bigger problem is privacy. Google’s endgame is always getting you to spend more time with its services, so it can gather more data to target ads at you. Like Alexa, Google Assistant keeps a recording of all your queries — every time you ask it to turn off the lights. Google treats this kind of like your Web search history, and uses it to target ads elsewhere. (Thankfully, It still keeps data from its Nest thermostat and home security division separate.)
The potential upside is that when Google discovers your habits in all that data, it might be able to better automate your home — like what time all the lights should be off.
 

Siri

Supported smart home devices: Hundreds.
Who loves it: Privacy buffs and all-Apple households.
 
The good: Apple means business on security and privacy. Any device that wants to connect to HomeKit, its smart home software that works with Siri on the HomePod and iPhone, requires special encryption.
 
What’s more, your data is not attached to a personal profile, which aside from protecting your privacy also means that Apple is not using your home activity to sell or advertise things. (While other smart speakers keep recordings and transcriptions of what you say, Siri controls devices by making a request to its system through a random identifier, which cannot be tied to a specific user.)
 
And Apple is pretty good at keeping the smart home simple. Setting up a smart home device is mostly just scanning a special code. Even creating routines, in which multiple accessories work in combination with a single command, is easier in the Siri’s companion Home app than with competitors.
 
The bad: You have to live in an all-Apple device world to reap these benefits. Siri’s a pretty good DJ, but only if you subscribe to Apple Music. You’re stuck with the HomePod as the one-size-fits-all smart speaker, and Siri still isn’t as competent as her AI competitors.
 
And Apple’s security-first approach has kept too many appliance makers from joining its ecosystem. Sure, it’s quality not quantity, but Siri still can’t interact with my Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell, just to name two. Apple did recently loosen up a tad: starting with Belkin Wemo’s Mini Smart Plug and Dimmer, it no longer requires special hardware for authentication — that can now happen via software. The move should make it simpler to make new products
Siri compatible, and allow it access to existing ones.
By Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Washington Post
 

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