CCB National Newsletter
++New Get Together with Technology (GTT) in Vancouver, BC:
GTT is coming to Vancouver! Blind and low vision GTT participants meet monthly to share their experiences using assistive technologies in their everyday lives at school, work, or at home.
Agenda for the First Vancouver GTT Meeting:
Location: Blind Beginnings Office, 227 6th Street, New Westminster
Time: Wednesday, September 23, 10AM to 12Noon
Theme: Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod – can low vision people benefit from these amazing touch screen devices?
- How to use the touch screen to read information and navigate apps.
- Basic tasks such as making phone calls, texting, emailing
- Learn how to type on the screen or issue voice commands.
- Useful apps, accessories, and resources for blind and partially sighted.
Who Should Attend?
- Any blind or low vision person, regardless of age, who is interested in learning about the features built-in to Apple iPhone, iPod, or IPad.
- Existing users of Apple devices who have questions or want to share your experience.
- Anyone interested in contributing to the future of the Vancouver GTT group by sharing ideas for future meetings to discuss other blind or low vision assistive devices.
For more information contact:
Shawn Marsolais: Shawn@BlindBeginnings.ca or (604) 434-7243
Albert Ruel: GTTWest2015@Gmail.com or (250) 240-2343
++New Book Release: August 31, 2015: Charles Mossop, author and great friend and supporter of CCB, is pleased to announce the release of his latest short story, With Different Sight. It’s a historical time travel fantasy – far from his usual mystery offerings – and the thing that makes it special for him is that it’s the first, and so far the only, story he has written in which sight loss is a central theme. It’s a tale about a young man who is able to meet and talk to three disabled people from the past and thereby come to a different understanding of who he is and of his life with a disability.
If you’d like to read it, you can find it in the format of your choice at most of the usual retailers such as Amazon, etc. or direct from the publisher at:
Thanks everyone, and we hope you enjoy the read!
++Get Set to Vote! The dates are set, the candidates are ready and it’s time for you to make your decision. But what are your options if it happens that you can’t read that ballot as well as you used to?
Voting is a fundamental right for all Canadians over the age of 18, but for a long time people living with vision loss have experienced barriers when exercising their democratic right. Over time, many barriers have come down, but recent developments at Elections Canada have made the process more accessible than ever.
Previously, many people with vision loss had to vote with the help of a sighted assistant. In 2006, with the help of CCB, CNIB and other groups, Elections Canada produced a new plastic template that will allow people with vision loss to vote in private. The tool includes raised numbers and braille, and a large print list of candidates’ names. The template will be available in all polling stations for the next federal election.
++Onkyo Braille Essay Contest: The Onkyo Corporation is again sponsoring a braille essay contest for people of all ages. Contest winners receive cash prizes valued from
$500 to $2,000. Essays must be received by September 13. The link for full information and application for the contest is below, but here are the basics. Please help us spread the word!
The Onkyo Braille essay contest is being administered by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) on behalf of the North America-Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union.
Essays must be written by contest participants, in English or their native language, in Braille on paper, and must be completely original in nature. Participants are also asked to email their essays in electronic format (such as Microsoft Word or something similar). Entries should be no fewer than 800 words and no more than 1,000 words in length. There will be two groups of competitors-one Junior group, aged 25 and under; and one Senior group, aged 26 and up, and prizes range from $500-$2,000.
Note that this year, the contest is running on a shorter timeline than previous years, so the time to begin writing is now! All essays must be received by September 13, 2015. In the US, they should be sent to the NFB, and in Canada, they should be sent to Braille Literacy Canada; the contacts are listed on the application at the link below.
- How do you acquire knowledge and information through Braille or audio devices? (Illustrate with some interesting personal stories/episodes.)
- How can blind persons become independent by learning Braille or music?
- Individual concept about world peace from the viewpoint of persons with disabilities.
Visit http://www.nfb.org/onkyo-braille-essay-contest for more information and an application.
Please use the following contacts if you have questions:
In Canada: Jen Goulden at firstname.lastname@example.org In the US: Trisha Tatam at email@example.com
++Young Leaders Summit: The National Young Leaders Summit is an opportunity for young people living with vision loss to learn valuable leadership skills, connect with others and to help imagine and initiate a better future for those with visual impairments.
The Young Leaders Summit is open to Canadians aged 17-29 and will take place in Toronto on October 16th & 17th, 2015, alongside our Vision Quest educational session.
The Summit is free to attend, and we are hoping to establish a scholarship to provide financial assistance. You can find out more about the summit and how to apply at: http://www.ffb.ca/youthspace/YoungLeaders.html
Please note that all applications should be completed and forwarded to our Director of Research & Education, Dr. Mary Sunderland, no later than September 4, 2015 at:
Mary Sunderland, PhD
Director of Research and Education
416.360.4200 ext. 238
++Farewell and Thank-you!: After 49 years as Secretary-Treasurer for the CCB Moose Jaw White Cane Club, Geri Roman has decided to resign and move to the Okanagan Valley in BC. it will be a tearful departure as Geri considers the members to be like family.
We would like to welcome Leslie Knelsen, the new Secretary-Treasurer, for the chapter.
++New CCB Chapter coming! I am pleased to introduce CCB members throughout Canada to the new CCB Chapter that is forming. This chapter has no specific home base, we meet monthly on the telephone conference line.
Presently the four Atlantic Provinces are represented, and hopefully other provinces will get on the band wagon and join us.
The name of our group will be CCB Crafts & Hobbies Chapter. During our preliminary meeting in June, we did a lot of brain storming, and came up with endless ideas from knitting to gardening and lots in between. There were many things talked about that we would like to accomplish. This is a great brain wave of Michelle Bartram from Sydney, N.S.
The purpose of this chapter is to promote, encourage and enhance crafts and hobbies for Blind and Visually impaired People.
For persons interested in joining us, the group will meet on the conference line the second Monday of every month, at 6:30 pm Maritime time, and 7 pm NL time starting in September! Come and join us, we would love to have you!
If you already pay the yearly dues to a specific chapter, you can join this new chapter as an “Auxiliary Member” and will not have to pay dues again join.
Any interested persons please get in touch with Michelle Bartram at 902-567-6871 or firstname.lastname@example.org
++Accessible Travel Kiosks: The update to section 1.3 (accessible kiosks) of the Communications Code was published this summer and can be found at the links below. The update sets out criteria to be met beginning December 2016.
Implementation Guide Regarding Automated Self-Service Kiosks:
Removing Communication Barriers for Travelers with Disabilities:
++Atlantic Sports Weekend: CCB Miramichi Chapter enjoyed a wonderful weekend in Saint John New Brunswick. Seven members attended the Annual Atlantic Sports and Recreation Weekend Hosted by the CCB Saint John Chapter. Participants were there from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
The Hotel Staff of the Delta Brunswick were terrific accommodating all our requests and were there to assist with everything even down to the janitor who helped when we got lost. We could not ask for anything better!
After arrival, registration and supper we attended the CCB Idol. The entertainment was terrific and the numerous door prizes were a real hit with everyone. It was great to meet old friends as well as make new ones throughout the weekend activities. The bright sunny Saturday morning was spent bowling and after Lunch there were all the track and field events – 60, 100 and 400 meter runs, Javelin, Shot Put, Discus, Horse Shoes and Washer Toss – with many taking part. Later that evening a social and dance was enjoyed by all and again lots & lots of door prizes.
After the late night we were up early and off to play Darts and Table Bowling. The Sunday afternoon found some of us playing cribbage and some participants having a leisurely afternoon. Sunday evening the crowd enjoyed a delicious Awards Banquet and medals were presented together with participation certificates and ribbons.
The past National Board Member for Newfoundland, Elizabeth Mayo, was presented with a Plaque and a Gift Certificate on behalf of the CCB National Board.
I applaud the CCB Saint John Chapter for all their work and efforts hosting this event especially Gerry Harris, Scott Rinehart and Estelle Middleton. A Big Thank you to all three of you. It takes many hours of planning, recruiting volunteers, organizing and a lot of long hours to make this happen and I believe you did a wonderful job.
Also, a big “Thank You” to the Atlantic Sport & Rec. Committee Chairperson, Michelle Bartram and the Sports Director for NB, Ross Needham, for assisting in this process. Of course, our biggest “Thank You” goes out to Sandra Needham who volunteers and spends most of her weekend doing the stats of all of these events, organizing and presenting the Medals, Ribbons, etc. with the assistance of her husband Ross. She does a great job and we commend her for her efforts.
On behalf of those attending I want to say that without all of these hard workers, especially the volunteers who were there for all Blind and Vision Impaired participants, we could not have done it without them.
We are already planning and looking forward to next year.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of CCB Miramichi Chapter
In the News
++Boston from my perspective:
I am a deaf, blind runner from Aylmer, Quebec. I ran and completed the Boston Marathon on April 20th, 2015.
It was a super team effort led by Team with a Vision, a group of blind and sighted athletes who run the Boston Marathon every year to raise funds and awareness for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Running Boston is everything they say it is. I’m told there were a lot of very fit-looking runners in and around our hotel. You could feel the energy, the excitement in the air everywhere.
At the start in Hopkinton, it took nine minutes just to cross the start line.
It was wet, cold, and windy most of the way. My two guides, Christopher Yule and Melany Gauvin, did a great job and kept me going. I feel we ran quite well through the Newton hills. When things got really tough in the last 12 kilometers, the knowledge that my son Marc would be at the finish line kept me focused. We crossed the finish line as a team, holding hands, with arms raised.
Marc was super helpful the whole weekend. He took photos of us around Boston. This was a special father-son adventure, and we pulled it off really well. I like to say, “When you have good people around you, it is amazing what you can do.”
This was my 16th marathon. I would love to run Boston again. I am now looking for sighted guides to train with and to run the next Boston in 2016.
by Gaston Bedard
Running Room Magazine
July August 2015, page 56.
++British Man Receives World’s First Bionic Eye Transplant, The world’s first bionic eye implant is a success: Argus II, the bionic eye that restores sight, just successfully completed a clinical trial
The bionic man is extending farther and farther beyond the scope of science fiction and into the realm of reality, especially now that the world’s first bionic eye implant has been successfully performed on an 80-year-old British man suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The operation, which took place at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, corrected the long-ailing vision of Ray Flynn, who previously suffered from central vision loss. This meant that while he still had relative use of his peripheral vision, he was unable to “put the numbers in for [his] card when paying in a shop or at the bank,” or “tell the weeds from the flowers” while gardening.
But now, two weeks after last month’s surgery, Flynn is demonstrating that the replacement of his own retina by a retinal prosthesis called Argus II was a success. In clinical trials conducted this week, he was able to determine whether a series of black and white bars on a computer screen were “patterned vertically, horizontally, and diagonally,” something that would have been impossible to do with AMD.
While previous clinical trials had proven Argus II’s effectiveness, Flynn’s case is the first to show that a human subject has been successfully cured of the degenerative disease. As Dr. Paulo Stanga, the lead surgeon on Flynn’s case, told the BBC, “Mr. Flynn’s progress is truly remarkable, he is seeing the outline of people and objects very effectively. I think this could be the beginning of a new era for patients with sight loss.”
The Argus II works by processing visual data that is collected from a tiny camera on glasses a patient wears that is later converted into electrical pulses and sent wirelessly to electrodes found in the retinal prosthetic.
This electric signal then stimulates cells that ultimately send information to the brain about what the patient is “seeing.”
The coolest thing about the implant is that it allows the wearer to “see” with his or her eyes closed – in conducting the experiment with Flynn, doctors ensured that he never opened his eyes so they could guarantee that the visual information he was processing was via the camera on his glasses and the implant, and not his natural eyes. Said Flynn, “It was wonderful to be able to see the bars on the screen with my eyes closed.” While this is by no means a way to restore 20/20 vision, Argus II is allowing patients to reclaim a level of sight that many had previously feared permanently lost.
At the end of the day, says Cathy Yelf, a member of the Macular Society, “This is an exciting result and we are following the progress of these trials with great interest. Macular degeneration can be a devastating condition and very many people are now affected as we live longer. These are early trials but in time this research may lead to a really useful device for people who lose their central vision.”
By Lulu Chang – July 22, 2015
++Kanata, Ontario-based tech company helping legally blind to see: eSight founder launches charity for vision-impaired
Take a look
Research and development that took place in Kanata, Ontario has resulted in a set of high-tech specs that can help the legally blind to see.
Now, the founder of the company which produces the glasses has launched a charitable organization aimed at helping those with vision impairments to afford the $15,000 specs as well as technology produced by other companies.
Conrad Lewis, engineer and eSight founder, launched the Lewis Vision Improvement Foundation at the Marshes Golf and Country Club on June 4, where eSight eyewear was demonstrated.
The glasses contain a pair of screens which display high quality video from a camera at the front of the glasses. The battery-powered eyewear can automatically adjust contrast, brightness and other settings to a user’s needs or preferences.
Users can also manually adjust settings and focus, allowing them to zoom or even stream video content from a DVD or other device directly to the eyewear.
The eyewear cannot help those with absolutely no vision, but improves vision for those with sight problems or who are legally blind, said eSight’s vice-president of marketing and outreach, Taylor West.
“Our sort of clinical sweet spot is from a visual acuity of about 20/60 to 20/400,” said West.
Someone with 20/60 vision can see from 20 feet what a person a person with normal vision can see from 60 feet, and someone with 20/400 vision can only see from 20 feet what others can see from 400 feet.
Available since late 2013, more than 300 pairs of eSight eyewear have been sold, said West.
Customer testimonials indicate the eyewear has a powerful impact on users’ lives, allowing some to stay in school, keep their jobs or secure new ones, and in at least one case, allow a brand new mother to see her baby despite being legally blind since childhood.
“I can’t even put it into words,” said Carolyn Bradley, client relations manager with eSight, of the glasses’ impact. “Grown men burst into tears.”
But the technology is both life changing and expensive, said West.
“I don’t think that we have any problem with value, but $15,000 is a lot of money and we want to make it as affordable as possible,” he said.
West said he could not talk about the cost of manufacturing the glasses versus the selling price, but said the technology used in the glasses is cutting-edge and costly, and eSight is continuing to improve the eyewear with software improvements and, in the long term, better hardware.
The company also supports their customers’ fundraising efforts to be able to afford the glasses by connecting them with organizations and putting together fundraising events.
The Lewis Vision Improvement Foundation charity plans to collect donations to help people with low vision or who are legally blind to afford eSight eyewear and other technologies that could help them, as well as provide services.
The foundation, which West noted is separate from eSight, is another result of Lewis’s interest in helping those with vision loss, said West.
“He actually has two sisters that are legally blind with a condition called Stargardt disease,” said West. The genetic disease causes central vision loss in childhood or young adulthood.
According to eSight, their eyewear can help those with Stargardt disease and many others, including diabetic retinopathy, ocular albinism and cone-rod dystrophy.
By Adam Kveton
++Meet Klinger, the First Certified Running Guide Dog:
A pilot program is exploring how running guide dogs can be a safe option for visually impaired athletes.
This summer, the Guiding Eyes for the Blind school in Yorktown Heights, New York, will hold a graduation ceremony and welcome a new fleet of guide dogs to their homes outside the academy. Among the pack is a special German Shepherd named Klinger, who will graduate as the first-ever certified running guide dog.
Klinger, at 2 years old, is the only dog to have been raised and trained through the school’s Running Guides pilot program. After six months of specialized training and more than 200 miles logged, Klinger will finally get to start living with his new handler, Richard Hunter.
Hunter, 48, was a second lieutenant in the United States Marines when he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 1989. The condition causes a gradual decline in vision and left Hunter legally blind. As Hunter’s sight diminished, he found his life changing in dramatic ways, but it didn’t prevent him from setting goals and continuing to race in endurance events.
“There were a lot of things I couldn’t do anymore,” Hunter told Runner’s World Newswire. “But I knew I had to focus on what I could do, especially as an example to my three daughters. The Marines taught me to love running, and one thing I could do was run.”
Hunter built up a solid record racing. He qualified for his first Boston Marathon in 2008 by running a 3:18 at the 2007 California International Marathon. He’s run four more Bostons, and now does triathlons, finishing the 2011 Florida Ironman in 11 hours and 55 minutes, making him the second visually impaired athlete with a guide to complete an Ironman in less than 12 hours.
But in 2013, two hours into a five-hour bike ride while training for Ironman Lake Tahoe, Hunter and his guide were struck nearly head-on by a vehicle.
“I went all the way through the windshield headfirst and woke up inside the car,” he said. “I had my helmet broken in two. I was helicoptered to the hospital and later sent home in a neck brace with a hospital bed that I had to use for three months.”
Despite suffering two facial fractures and a broken neck, Hunter trained for and ran the 2014 Boston Marathon nine months after the accident. Still, Hunter knew something needed to change.
“My middle daughter, Lindsay, had grown increasingly concerned about my safety after the accident and started asking when I was going to get a guide dog,”
Hunter said. “I told her if a guide program would ever allow me to jog with a dog, I would do it right away because I would be able to train more freely.”
It was at that Boston Marathon where Hunter met Thomas Panek, the CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit that provides services for individuals who are visually impaired and have special needs. Panek was also a marathoner who used a human sighted guide for racing, but for day-to-day activities he had his guide dog. The two discussed Hunter’s idea of a more dedicated guide dog running program.
From there, Panek brought the idea to his board and staff members at Guiding Eyes. His team decided to explore the best way to make running with a guide dog safe for both the handler and animal.
“What we realized was that people were running with their guide dogs anyway,” said Ben Cawley, a trainer at Guiding Eyes. “A lot of handlers were taking their dogs running, and we wanted to make this a formal program to increase safety. So we took a really conservative approach as we developed the program.”
Knowing that an increased pace would magnify the challenges the dog faced when navigating busy streets, Cawley and the other trainers decided on a walking pace in areas of high traffic. They also limited the number of routes the dog would learn to two, and they started with a 5K as the goal distance.
The handle was modified in consideration for the ergonomics of the dog and human, and the handle allows the dog’s front legs full range of motion. The school also knew it had to choose the right dog.
Besides his love of running, there were other things that made Klinger an obvious choice. “Klinger has a nice drive to work,” said Jolene Hollister, another trainer who worked closely with the dog. “He wants to have a job and purpose and wants to please his handler. He also has an undying amount of stamina. He loves to play ball, and that was our first step in building up his endurance.”
After lots of games of fetch and retrieve, Hollister started taking Klinger on mile-long runs, gradually getting him going. The team would introduce distractions and things like intersections and street crossings for Klinger to clear. Once he was able to navigate those obstacles, they increased pace.
To ensure total safety for when Hunter would become Klinger’s owner, the trainers ran 25 percent of the runs blindfolded.
Hunter has been running with Klinger for three weeks on the routes near the Guiding Eyes school. After graduation, Cawley will travel with Hunter back to his home outside of Sacramento to help Klinger adjust to two set routes.
“On a busy sidewalk, we go at about a nine-minute pace,” Hunter said. “But on a clear trail, we can get down to eight-minute miles.”
All of Klinger and Hunter’s runs are primarily for training. Because guide dogs do their best work away from large crowds, Klinger will not be Hunter’s eyes in races.
The Guiding Eyes team will be monitoring the new running duo’s progress and looking to see how many years the pair can run together. But even if the exploration phase takes time before they bring more dogs into the running program, Hunter is hopeful that this will change running for the visually impaired.
“One of my greatest passions is helping my fellow visually impaired and blind peers,” he said. “I know blind runners who have trained for races exclusively on treadmills. This could get them outside or get some to lace up sneakers for the first time.”
By Ali Nolan, Friday, August 21, 2015
++Blitab: World’s first tactile tablet is ‘iPad for the blind’:
The first-ever braille tablet has been developed, using a new liquid-based technology to create tactile relief outputting braille, graphics and maps for the blind and partially sighted.
Austria-based startup Blitab Technology claims the “revolutionary” technology could be used to open up the digital era to the visually impaired, with plans to develop a braille smartphone.
“We are creating the first tactile tablet for blind and visually impaired people,” Slavi Slavev, chief technology officer and co-founder of Blitab Technology, told IBTimes UK at the Hello Tomorrow Conference in Paris.
“What we are doing is creating a completely new technology which outputs braille in a completely new and innovative way without any mechanical elements.
Other devices currently on the market are mechanical and only allow for one line of braille to be generated at any one time. They also cost about three-times the price of the €2,500 (£1,778, $2,802) Blitab. More recent refreshable braille concepts, such as the Anagraph e-reader, have run out of funds before being able to bring the product to market.
The Blitab tablet uses liquid bubbles to instantly generate braille text or relief images, while the corresponding technology allows text files to be instantly converted into braille from USB sticks, web browsers or NFC tags.
“Currently there are some solutions which are extremely expensive and they represent only one line [of braille],” Slavev said. “These devices were developed 40 years ago and because no one has offered any new innovations since then, that’s still all that’s on the market.”
Blitab is currently in the prototyping stage but if the ongoing investment round is successful the startup is hoping to bring the first product to market by September 2016.
++World’s first braille smartwatch is an ebook reader and more: On the surface, Dot sounds like a fairly standard smartwatch: It resembles a Fitbit and features a messaging system, navigation functions, Bluetooth 4.0, an alarm and, of course, a timepiece. Dot is remarkable because it’s a braille smartwatch — the world’s first braille smartwatch, in fact.
Its face features a series of dull pins that rise and fall at customizable speeds, spelling out words in braille as the user places a finger on top. With this system, Dot allows users to read ebooks without throwing down thousands of dollars for a portable braille reader. The watch should hit the market for less than $300, with pre-orders starting this year. Plus, Dot has an active battery life of 10 hours, according to inhabitat, so get ready for some serious reading time.
However, building a braille smartwatch comes with a catch: The US-based National Federation of the Blind estimates that just 10 percent of visually impaired people actually learn braille, while the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People reports literacy figures of less than 1 percent. That’s why it’s so handy that Dot also features a braille-learning system.
“90 percent of blind people become blind after birth, and there’s nothing for them right now — they lose their access to information so suddenly,”
Dot co-founder and CEO Eric Ju Yoon Kim tells Tech in Asia. “Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers, which is the goal of Braille literacy.”
By Jessica Conditt