National Newsletter February 2016



++White Cane Week 2016: Get ready for another fun and exciting awareness week from February 7 to 13. 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!
++2016 AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship: Our annual Blind and Vision Impaired Championship will again be held at the Ottawa Curling Club. We wish all the participants Good Curling!

In Memory

1944 – 2016
It is with great sadness that I write these words to announce the passing of Harold Schnellert, Past President of the Canadian Council of the Blind. Harold has been a friend, a confident, and a mentor for me since I first met him many years ago. He was more than well deserving of his recognition of the 2014 “Person of the Year Award”.
He devoted his entire working life to improving the lives of Canadians with vision loss in one way or another.
Words cannot express how truly grateful I am for Harold guiding me through both the good times and those that were more difficult. He was always there for me. Harold has been dedicated to his work with CCB for over 20 years ensuring that the Council will continue to grow and develop well into the future.
Harold was a great supporter of Canadians with disabilities. As the CCB President, his leadership and efforts helped bring the issues of disability and accessibility more to the forefront of the Canadian social agenda.
As a knowledgeable, caring, diligent and sensitive individual Harold gave to the Council endless years of full time volunteerism. He was a good and loyal friend who was truly devoted to his work and we can only thank Wendie and his family for sharing him with us.
Born and raised near Steinbach, Manitoba, where he attended a one-room country school to grade eight then Harold completed high school at the Ontario School for the Blind in Brantford. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Social Work Degree at the University of Regina, and receive Non-profit and Volunteer Management Certificates in Edmonton.
His work experience included both profit and non-profit management positions as well as working in various group homes for adults with disabilities. He had Alberta CCB Chapter and Division involvement for over twenty years in many positions as well as Director on the National Board. He was National President of the organization from 2004 to 2010.
While President of CCB, Harold was a visionary leader and a hard-working advocate for Canadians who are visually impaired. During his time as President, Harold reinvigorated and motivated the organization, moving it into the 21st century and setting the stage where it thrives today.
Harold worked with the CCB board and members to launch new programs and marketing initiatives, as well as to better support
Canadians who are visually impaired and increase public awareness of both vision-related issues and the CCB.
When considering his achievements in the blind and vision impaired community Harold’s legacy and what he may best want to be remembered for were his efforts and dogged determination in “changing what it means to be blind” in Canada. Efforts that remain mainstream CCB to this day.
The Past President galvanized his vision for CCB as a dynamic and accessible national network of people and agencies providing support and services to Canadians who are visually impaired. Harold made sure people with vision challenges were connected to their communities and the world. He revitalized and placed a new emphasis on White Cane Week at the same time expanding programs such as the education bursary and a computer-training program that was successful in training hundreds of people from across the country who were blind.
As we celebrate the life of Harold Schnellert our sympathies once again go out to his loving wife, Wendie, and his family. Harold’s passing leaves a void in our community that will not be easily filled.
On behalf of all Canadians we thank him for his service to those people who are blind and vision impaired. In Harold we have lost a true statesman. A leader, an advocate, a mentor and thus it can be said that for this, for his many contributions and for his life lived
Harold will not be forgotten.
By Louise Gillis
CCB National President

++Get Together with Technology (GTT):

GTT Nanaimo Meeting Invitation, February 4, 2016

You’re Invited!
Where: The 710 Club, 285 Prideaux Street, Nanaimo BC;
When: Thursday, February 4, 2016
Time: 1:00 until 3:00 PM
Agenda for the first hour:

  1. We will work on recommending ways of accessing audio books from the iPhone, as well as other helpful hints about useful services offered by iDevices generally.
  2. Albert will provide another demo of the new OrCam OCR device,

  1. Hugh and Aedan will demonstrate two types of iPhone/iPad stands that facilitate the use of the K NFB Reader app for scanning text.
  2. Albert will report on the Barrier Free BC/Canada initiative intended to work toward the enactment of a British Columbians with Disabilities and Canadians with Disabilities Acts.
The second hour is for you to bring up technology issues you need answered, so bring along your devices and ask for support and guidance.
To RSVP, please call Albert Ruel at
1-877-304-0968 Ext. 550
email at, or Donna Hudon at

GTT Victoria Meeting Invitation, February 3, 2016

You’re Invited
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Community Room, GVPL, Central Branch
735 Broughton Street

  1. Games People Play on their smart phones and computers: Eadan Staddon from Nanaimo, and Albert Ruel will attend the meeting to tell us about the very large number of available games ranging from the simple to the complicated.
  2. Music Apps for smart phones and the computer: Tom Dekker will demonstrate how he accesses music from all over the world.
  3. Open Forum

And of course, during the second hour, there will be plenty of opportunity for networking and to find someone that can assist you with any devices you may care to bring along. Hope to see you on Wednesday!
To RSVP, please call Tom Dekker at,
Or by email at,

GTT Vancouver Meeting Invitation, February 10, 2016

People who are blind or partially sighted of all ages are invited to this month’s GTT where we will learn what iCloud is, how to use it and the accessibility features built-in.
Who Should Attend?
– People who have, or plan to have an iPhone, iPad or iPod
– People who want assistance with other assistive technology like Mac and PC computers, talking book machines etc.
Time: Wednesday, February 10, 10AM to 12Noon
Location: Blind Beginnings Office, 227 6th Street, New Westminster
Transit Directions: Catch the 106 from New Westminster Skytrain Station and get off at 3rd Ave. and 6th St. If you would like to be met at the bus stop for the short walk into the office, call 604-434-7243.
During the first hour we will learn how to use iCloud to back up our iDevices, why it’s important and how it integrates with your PC. The second half of the meeting will include an opportunity to seek tech advice from those with more knowledge. Please bring the device you want assistance with.
If you plan to attend please RSVP no later than Tuesday February 2 by Emailing or call 604-434-7243.
++New Book Announcement: Charles Mossop, great friend and supporter of CCB, is pleased to announce the release of his latest novel The Golden Phoenix. Like his two previous novels, it is historical fiction, moving from seventeenth century India and eighteenth century Siam, China and England to the present. As is his customary style, the historical thread is interwoven with a present day story which draws the plot together at the end. The protagonist, searching for a semi-legendary objet d’art reputedly of enormous value, becomes unwittingly involved in a dangerous, multimillion-dollar, scheme launched by her client, a wealthy Hong Kong business tycoon. If you’re interested in knowing more, or reading the book, please visit Charles’ page at:
CCB is also extremely pleased to present the 2016 Person of the Year Award to Charles Mossop. Congratulations!
++Nova Scotia Health Authority (Central Zone) Diversity Bursary: Deadline February 5, 2016
The Nova Scotia Health Authority (Central Zone) is taking steps to create a more diverse workforce that better represents the communities we serve.
Post-secondary students who identify as African Nova Scotian, Aboriginal, immigrant or a person with a disability are invited to apply for a diversity bursary. Students must be:

  •    Continuing studies in a health profession
  •    Attending a Canadian post-secondary institution that is recognized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
  •    A resident of Halifax Regional Municipality or West Hants with an intention to practice in the area.

*Applications are available at *
For more information please contact Anna Jacobs,,
(902) 460-6888.
Applications will be evaluated by Community Health Boards on a number of factors including: community involvement, financial need, educational goals and field of study in health care.
++KELOWNA BLIND CURLERS HOST ANNUAL BONSPIEL: The Kelowna Blind Curling Chapter of the CCB hosted the annual provincial blind curling bonspiel from January 8-10th, 2016. The welcome mat was rolled out for teams from Vancouver, Prince George, 100 Mile House and the host Kelowna team. Volunteers from the host committee have spent the last several months to insure that all visitors had a good time in Kelowna and the bonspiel ran smoothly. We wish to salute all of those people that gave of their time from our volunteer drivers, people that helped to serve the meals and the officials at the rink that supervised the games. This spiel could not happen without their participation. Of course, we further wish to express thanks to our sponsors: CCB Yukon Division, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Remedies RX, Costco and independent Grocers for their sponsorship of the event.
The opening ceremonies were highlighted by a moment of silence for Jim Harris, a member of the Kelowna Blind Curling Club. Jim was an active member of our group. Learning of his passing the day prior to the start of the spiel was extremely sad and we will miss Jim’s contribution to our Club.
Kelowna won the event and will represent BC at the 2017 AMI Canadian visually impaired championships in Ottawa. The second place team was Vancouver and they will take one of the 2 spots at the Western Blind Bonspiel from February 24-28th, 2016 in Lanigan Saskatchewan. The third place team was 100 Mile House and they passed on the second spot for the Westerns and offered it to Prince George. We wish all of this team the best of luck in their respective bonspiels. Good luck to the 100 Mile House team this coming February at the 2016 AMI Canadian Visually Impaired Championships.
SUBMITED BY: Bill Mah, Kelowna blind curlers
++Outreach project: The International Disability Alliance is launching an outreach survey in partnership with the World Health Organization. The Canadian Council of the Blind, as a member of the World Blind Union, is also part of the International Disability Alliance. Your participation would be invaluable in this project which we see as a critical step towards the universal realization of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).
The objective is to create a Priority Assistive Products List.
Your support will be critical. The aim is to have a large representative sample of users and potential users of assistive products, as well as their family members and organizations, to complete this survey. This data will then be used as an advocacy tool and guide for governments in prioritizing access to assistive products for their populations, contributing to their implementation of the UN CRPD.
The survey can be completed through this online portal:
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you very much for your time and we look forward to your participation in the survey.
Jahan Taganova
Communications Assistant, International Disability Alliance
205 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017

++New Service to Access Information on Prescription Medication Labels Dispensed by Shoppers Drug Mart in Ontario:

Reading or understanding the contents and instructions of labels on prescription medications is a source of problems and frustration for many people, particularly for persons who are blind and others who have difficulty reading print material. The small print and look-alike packaging of medicine vials can lead to confusion, non-compliance, and mistakes. A solution to this serious issue, the ScripTalk Station prescription reading device, developed by EnVision America, is now available at Shoppers Drug Marts in Ontario.
The ScripTalk works by simply pressing a button on the device and placing the special talking label over the reader, which then speaks all the information printed on the label including drug name, dosage & instructions; warnings and contraindications; pharmacy information; doctor name; prescription number and date; warnings etc. More information on the ScripTalk technology can be found at ScripTalk | En-Vision America – Assistive Technology for the Blind and Low-vision Community. You can also view an overview video of the ScripTalk for Pharmacies on YouTube and an overview video of the ScripTalk system for customers on YouTube.
The first step to obtain a ScripTalk prescription reader is to contact your Shoppers Drug Mart owner/pharmacist who is responsible for initiating the process. Information on the ScripTalk was sent, a while ago, to all Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Ontario. Customers who are blind should discuss their needs with their pharmacist, who can then contact their field support teams with any inquiries regarding available options.
Once you have decided to get the ScripTalk reader, you will be asked to sign a program registration document required by EnVision America, who will then send a reader directly to you. There is no cost to the customer who is blind.
There is, at present, a 48 hour lag time between requesting a medication at your pharmacy, and the pharmacist sending the information to Shoppers Drug Mart Head Office who then prepare the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) lables required by the ScripTalk device. New prescriptions requiring immediate use will be a problem for the customers initially. Hopefully, this lag time issue will soon be resolved, so that customers can access their prescription information at the same time as the print ones are dispensed. For medications that are being refilled on a regular basis, it is a matter of planning for this lag time when renewing your supply.
I have received my free ScripTalk prescription reader. It is very easy to use. An instruction CD is included to help with set up and operation. The ScripTalk labels are on each one of my medications, which enables me to read all the pertinent information for all my medications, for the first time.
If your Shoppers Drug Mart Store is totally unwilling or unresponsive to your drug prescription information needs, tell them to contact Ashesh Desai, who is the senior manager responsible for this service. If that does not work, then contact him directly at the coordinates below. He was very helpful to me.
Ashesh Desai Bsc. Phm |
Senior Vice-President, Pharmacy Operations and Transformation Shoppers Drug Mart HQ
243 Consumers Road, Toronto ON M2J 4W8
Tel. 416-490-2769
Toll free: 1800-746-7737 Open until 8:00 PM and ask for him.
At present, there is no link for information regarding the ScripTalk on the Shoppers Drug Mart website. However, Shoppers Drug Mart’s Accessible Customer Service Practice document for Ontario can be accessed at:
The ScripTalk Mobile app is also available in the Google Play Store. It provides another way to read the ScripTalk labels prescription information on some, but not all, Android devices. ScripTalk is not available at present for iPhones and other Apple devices, because Apple does not allow the use of Near Field Communication (NFC), which is required in order to read the RFID labels being affixed on medication containers for the ScripTalk.
I would like to thank Rob Sleath and Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers (ASIC) for all their work on this issue in B.C. and for their help and advice to me as I worked with my local Shoppers Drug Mart. More information on ASIC and other drug store chains in B.C. offering the ScripTalk is available at
Submitted by
Chris Stark
++AMI Programming: AMI has recorded a piece on the new Service Dog Park in Halifax. It’s going to be a great story that will reach people all over Canada!
The segment will first air on AMI Friday, February 5th, at 8:30pm on Bell Aliant channel 65 and Eastlink channel 888 (Nova Scotia). It will be part of our White Cane Week episode.
See channel guide for your area. It can be found online at the following link or by calling 1-855-855-1144.:
AMI Channel Guide
Submitted by
Louise Gillis, National President
The Canadian Council of the Blind

Assistive Technology

++new smart watch: This New Watch Lets Blind People Read Real-Time Smartphone Data in Braille
The Dot uses a moveable braille interface made of magnets and pins strapped to the wrist like a watch.
Until now, visually impaired smartphone users have had to rely on Siri and other readers to find their way around the Internet and digital world, but a new device in development in South Korea may change their experience completely by instantly turning text messages and other information into braille.
The Dot, a device that straps around the wrist like a watch, uses magnets and a grid of pins to create four braille characters at a time that change at adjustable speeds, allowing users to read text messages and use apps on any device via Bluetooth.
Eric Ju Yoon Kim, co-founder and CEO of startup Dot, told Tech in Asia he hopes his company’s innovation will free blind people to interact with their devices on their own terms. “Until now, if you got a message on iOS from your girlfriend, for example, you had to listen to Siri read it to you in that voice, which is impersonal,” he said.
“Wouldn’t you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend’s voice saying it in your head?”
That kind of technology is not groundbreaking, but transferring it to a mobile device certainly is – just like the price: computers using so-called “active Braille technology” can cost $3,000, while Kim says that when the watch arrives in the U.S. this December it will sell for less than $300.
“Ninety percent of blind people become blind after birth, and there’s nothing for them right now – they lose their access to information so suddenly,” Kim told Tech in Asia. “Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers.”

Nova Scotia Health Authority (Central Zone) Diversity Bursary: Deadline February 5, 2016

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (Central Zone)  is taking steps to create a more diverse workforce that better represents the communities we serve. Post-secondary students who identify as African Nova Scotian, Aboriginal, immigrant or a person with a disability are invited to apply for a diversity bursary. Students must be:

  • Continuing studies in a health profession
  • Attending a Canadian post-secondary institution that is recognized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
  • A resident of Halifax Regional Municipality or West Hants with an intention to practice in the area.


Applications are available at  For more information please contact Anna Jacobs,, (902) 460-6888.

Applications will be evaluated by Community Health Boards on a number of factors including: community involvement, financial need, educational goals and field of study in health care.

National Newsletter January 2016


Happy New Year!


++White Cane Week 2016: Get ready for another fun and exciting awareness week from February 7 to 13. 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!
++2016 AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship: Our annual Blind and Vision Impaired Championship will again be held at the Ottawa Curling Club. We wish all the participants Good Curling!

++Welcome Two New Chapters:

Canadian Council of the Blind is pleased to welcome the following two new chapters:
CCB Hamilton Blind Curlers Chapter, based in Hamilton, Ontario, joins CCB with an initial membership of 13 members. The chapter aims “to promote sport recreational opportunities and social interaction,” and meets every Friday at the local curling club.
CCB GTT Edmonton, based in Edmonton, Alberta, joins CCB with an initial membership of 28 members. This chapter meets monthly “to learn about and share their experiences using assistive technologies in their daily lives at home, school, or at work.”
++Announcing the 2016 WCW (White Cane Week) Recreation & Leisure Expo in Toronto!: As part of the Canadian Council of the Blind’s White Cane Week public awareness campaign, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, in collaboration with CNIB Toronto, is hosting the 2016 WCW Recreation & Leisure Expo:
An exposition of the clubs and organizations offering access to sport, recreation and leisure activities to the vision loss community in Toronto.
When:       Saturday, February 6, 2016 from 10am to 4:30pm
Where:     Rooms 124 & 126, the CNIB Centre,
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
Come check out the wide variety of activities on offer! Our exhibitors include: Blind Curling Club of Toronto, Blind Sailing Association of Canada, Connect4Life internet radio, hands of Fire Sculpture Group, Med-Fit Exercise classes, Ontario Blind Sports Association, Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers, Toronto Ice Owls (Blind Hockey), Toronto Public Library, Trailblazers Tandem Cycling! From Square Dancing and Dragon boating To Bingo! And so much more!
Immediately following the Expo, the CCB Toronto Visionaries will be hosting a ‘Community Social’ in the same space from 4:30pm to 8:30pm, with light refreshments, a cash bar & door prizes.
We would like to thank CNIB for generously providing the space for these events.
Admission to both the WCW Recreation & Leisure Expo and the Community Social is free. But if you plan to attend the Community Social, we do require you to RSVP.
RSVP to: Voice Mail Line, 416-760-2163 or
So come out and join us in celebrating the variety of recreational opportunities available in Toronto for those living with vision loss!
Sponsored by Accessible Media Inc.

++GTT Victoria, BC:

January 6, 2016
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Community Room, GVPL, Central Branch
735 Broughton Street
Topics to be covered:

  1. Windows Ribbons: Mike Gower will attend the meeting to show us how to work with the ribbons in Microsoft programs.


  1. Windows 10 Smart Phone: Tom Dekker will demonstrate how the latest version of the Windows Smart Phone works with screen reading technology like the native app called Narrator, or the 3rd party apps like JAWS or NVDA.


  1. Q-Seek: which is the latest assistive program released by the writers of Chicken Nugget, Q-Cast, Q-Read Etc. Tom Dekker will demonstrate this newly released app.


  1. Open Forum:

And of course, during the second hour, there will be plenty of opportunity for networking and to find someone that can assist you with any devices you may care to bring along. Hope to see you on Wednesday!
Tom Dekker
++Congratulations!: GTT and GTT coordinators have won awards.
Gerry Chevalier who is a leader of GTT Edmonton was recently honoured with an award from CNIB:
Gerry Chevalier Receives Arthur Napier Magill Distinguished Service Award
Edmonton resident recognized for outstanding service to Canadians living with vision loss
CNIB presented Gerry Chevalier with the Arthur Napier Magill Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of his outstanding accomplishment in service to Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, at the Chair’s Reception for CNIB Alberta and Northwest Territories.
A CNIB volunteer for almost two decades, Chevalier is a former member of the CNIB National Board of Directors and Chair of the CNIB Library Board of Directors. As a person living with vision loss caused by retinitis pigmentosa, Chevalier has been a passionate advocate for the access of library services to people who are blind or partially sighted.
“Gerry understands the desire for people with vision loss to lead full, independent lives,” says John McDonald, Executive Director and Regional Vice-President CNIB Alberta and Northwest Territories. “His longstanding involvement with CNIB and professional career has benefited the lives of many people. Gerry has been instrumental in helping make alternate format literature accessible to Canadians with print disabilities.”
Chevalier was one of the earliest champions of the CNIB digital library and DAISY digital talking book player. He contributed his technological expertise to the development team, helping make the CNIB digital library a reality.
Chevalier’s passion for the cause didn’t stop at CNIB; he was also Chair of the Alberta ACCESS Project Team, a committee working to provide access to information for people who are blind and print-disabled.
Chevalier remains an advocate for library services for people who are blind or partially sighted. Now retired, he continues to volunteer his time with CNIB developing web-based tutorials for library users, as well as providing one-on-one guidance in answering technology questions across the country.
Congratulations Gerry and your contributions to GTT are invaluable!
++Congratulations! On December 3 (international day of person’s with disabilities) GTT program in Ottawa was nominated at the Celebration of People awards dinner for the education award.
This is the 15th annual celebration of people awards ceremony, and we are delighted to tell you that GTT won the award!
Kim Kilpatrick and Ellen Goodman (founders of GTT) accepted the award. “I would like to thank everyone who makes GTT great, who makes it a great pleasure for me to work on GTT every day!”, stated Kim. “I am so happy doing what I do and expanding GTT and learning from everyone.”
Thanks to all of our partners for making GTT what it is.
++CCB’s Trust Your Buddy Program Updates: On behalf of the Chatham, Ontario based Trust Your Buddy Program I wanted to say THANK YOU!
Thanks for a great start to the program here in 2015 and I am excited for 2016 and beyond.
What’s on tap?:
With the success of our initial Floor Hockey and Curling outings, we will be:

  1. a) Setting up our first Floor Hockey GAME in early 2016, with the hopes of having a few games before spring time
  2. b) Setting up regular Curling ice time on Thursdays at 6:30 & 8:30pm (alternating each week).
  3. c) Getting out for an Ice Skating day in January
  4. d) Group Fitness (spin class) at the HealthPlex
  5. e) Learn to Run/Walk program aiming for a spring 2016 5km race!

*Please note all activities are in the Chatham, Ontario area.
If you have interest in any of these please let me know!
Also please pass along this info to others you know!
If you have not checked out the website, please do so, as I will be posting updates on it regularly in the new year, as the group grows it will be easier to get the word out.
Go to:
Go under the “Latest News” page and keep up to date!
Also for those on Facebook, check out the “Trust Your Buddy” page and “LIKE” it!!
If you can’t find it, let me know and I will send a friend invite to you.
As always, if there is a sport/recreation activity you’d like to see included, let me know and we will do our best to accommodate.
On behalf of the TYB program, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES!!!
Stay tuned into the website and Facebook early in January to see the details regarding our Hockey and Curling.
All the best!
Ryan Van Praet
TRUST YOUR BUDDY, Accessible Recreation for the Blind
++GTT News: The GTT Edmonton Chapter is the latest to become part of the CCB family. We received our charter in December, with 28 charter members, and more joining every month.
This group was spearheaded by Gerry Chevalier, formerly employed by HumanWare, and the first thing he did was to gain the assistance of several experts in adaptive technology, student needs and employment. We started getting together in April of 2015, and have met the second Monday of each month since then. We’ve covered many aspects of specialized technology, including the use of the Trekker Breeze and the downloading of books from the CNIB/CELA library. Our last meeting was highlighted by a visit from two Aroga Technologies reps with an amazing array of products. There are so many types of CCTV’s now, as well as braille readers/writers, etc. and the quality and versatility have improved tremendously.
We look forward to an interesting and productive 2016, with more members and much more technology.
Submitted by Wendie Schnellert, Secretary
++CCB’s Mobile Eye Clinic: The CCB Mobile Eye Clinic is out in the Ottawa community, helping to identify eye problems in youth and seniors.
Visual impairment is common in older persons and the incidence increases with age. The vast majority of persons over 65 years of age requires refractive correction for optimal vision. Unfortunately, visual impairment can lead to decreased quality of life and social exclusion, and older persons with visual impairment are twice as likely to suffer falls.
Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind, Bruyère Continuing Care and the Lions Club 4A, a mobile eye clinic visited a number of retirement residences and long-term care homes in Ottawa from 2013 – 2015.
602 residents from 27 retirement residences and long-term homes were examined during 52 mobile clinics from May 2013 to October 2015.
Out of the 602 seniors evaluated, 339 (53.5%) Participants were noted to have at least one ocular condition and
Cataracts was the most frequent vision abnormality (33.1%) followed by AMD (9.1%) and glaucoma (5.1%). 4.2% of all participants – representing 17.1 of residents with vision difficulties – had other ocular problems: diabetic retinopathy (14) and retinal scarring or detachment.
The mobile eye clinic also examined youth in the Ottawa area as well.
From May 26, 2013 – December 04, 2015, the Mobile Eye Clinic examined 1430 children at 19 Eastern Ontario Schools.
The results found 241, or 17% of children with one or more vision problems, and 191, or 13% of children who require a follow-up appointment.
These students had their vision corrected, however, if they had not been able to correct the vision with glasses they would have had the same vision acuity as a person who is legally blind.
16 Students were found with high visual acuity out of 1447 students taken in a total of 20 schools visited.
Total Students Examined: 1130 Students from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board 291 Students from the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario 26 Students from Upper Canada District School Board
These are just some of the examples of how CCB is working to prevent vision loss in our communities.
++World Braille Day:
Braille Literacy Canada Affirms January 4th, 2016 as World Braille Day, to be Recognized with Celebrations across Canada.
Follow the link below to learn more and share with others!

++Press Release from the World Blind Union: World Braille Day 2016:

Toronto, January 4th, 2016: Every January 4th, we celebrate World Braille Day to honour Louis Braille, and to recognize the importance of his invention; the Braille system. Louis was born in France in 1809 and lost his sight at age three as a result of an eye injury. However, Louis overcame this disability and went on to be a devoted and high-achieving student. As a student, Louis struggled with the limited modes of reading and writing available to the blind and partially sighted. These limitations to his independence as a scholar encouraged Louis to invent a new system for reading and writing for the blind. He created a simplified yet versatile coded system, using raised dots to represent numbers and letters, that we now call Braille. (To learn more about Louis Braille, click on the following link to the World Braille Foundation website:
The invention of Braille changed how blind people could read, allowing them more independence in their literacy, which has given them increased opportunities to become competent, independent and successful individuals. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also recognizes the importance of Braille, as it explicitly mentions the need to recognize Braille’s importance in several Articles, including Article 2, 9, 21 and 24. The language in the CRPD stresses the use of Braille as a means of communication for blind persons that can also help to ensure their social inclusion. Braille, however, can only contribute to the improvement of the lives of blind and partially sighted persons if it is widely taught and available.
There is a real concern in the blind community that there is less support for teaching, using and investing in Braille, particularly among educators and governments, due to the belief that technologies such as e-books and screen readers can replace Braille. This issue is a worldwide concern, in developed and developing countries alike. In the UK, for example, only 4% of blind and partially sighted children, aged 5-16 years, can read braille. That is only 850 children out of a possible 25,000+. Braille is also the only non-technological equivalent to reading and writing to print, and those unable to afford new technologies are most likely to suffer from the decrease in Braille education and distribution. It is important to not forget about old but essential systems when new technologies are introduced.
The WBU wants to stress that other accessible formats, including those accessed via technology, and Braille do not compete, but rather supplement one another. Just as recorded books or e-books cannot replace hard copy books for the sighted, similarly,
Braille books cannot be wholly replaced as they are integral components of meaningful education and rehabilitation for blind persons. The importance of Braille is no better described than by former Secretary-General of the WBU, Pedro Zurita, who wrote:
“And you know what, Louis? … I exhibit your invention everywhere.  I read material the way you invented it; standing, lying down, sitting, in any position, … Because your code, Louis, has afforded many, many blind people–myself among them, naturally–dignity, freedom, and many hours of incomparable spiritual enjoyment.” (Click on the following link to download Pedro Zurita’s “A Letter to Louis Braille” from our website:
On World Braille Day 2016, the WBU is calling upon specific actors to do their part to ensure Braille education and investment continues to be prioritized:

  • We urge the United Nations, and related organizations such as UNESCO, to enhance the promotion of braille as provided for in the UN CRPD
  • We call upon all States Parties to submit to their responsibilities according to the UN CRPD and thereby
    • Facilitate easier access to Braille materials
    • promote the education of blind children, youth, and adults, as well as those with partial sight who could benefit from Braille instruction, in reading and writing braille
    • ensure the education of professionals in the teaching of braille as well as the adaptation of materials into braille
  • We ask that all member organizations of the WBU, educators, and professionals supporting the blind, as well as blind people themselves, promote the use of braille in all aspects of political, social, economic, cultural and community life.

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by 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. ​
For further information contact:
World Blind Union
Caitlin Reid
Communications Coordinator​

++Bowling Rails for the Blind:

I was so frustrated. I absolutely could not find a way to keep that ball out of the gutters and traveling down the center of the lane. I knew there had to be a better way to throw the ball than the method I was using. Touching the foul line, feeling the board cracks, and feeling the gutters just did not work.
I had also used the conventional guide rails used in bowling tournaments and by the ABBA (American Blind Bowlers Association). Although they will work, and they are universally accepted, I decided to design a better rail for myself, one that was more portable and less of a problem for sighted bowlers who were using the same or adjacent lane.
In 1989 I designed the rail that I call the “Magic Touch.” It’s created from lightweight plastic PVC pipes that snap together with pressure-fits. There are no wing nuts, no angle irons, no support bars… just four pieces of rail that extend to make a 12 foot length guide raile, three vertical posts, and three wooden feet that support the vertical uprights. The “Magic Touch” needs only three heavy bowling balls (preferably the 16 pounders) to make the rail stable so it will not move with normal use. (On each railing foot, there is space to hold one bowling ball.)
If bowlers who are unfamiliar with this type of bowling guide have a tendency to push the rail or to move it, it can be held in place more permanently by using paper masking tape at each end of the wooden feet.
Unlike the traditional guide rails that stand 36 inches up off the floor, the “Magic Touch” is only 30 inches off the floor and has no curved ends on it. This makes it less noticeable by sighted bowlers who are using the same or nearby lanes. Because the rail is 6 inches lower than traditional rails, it is not only less noticeable, it is also less likely to be toppled over. And, the lower height puts the bowler in a more natural position at the point of delivery at the foul line, making the bowler less likely to drop or slam the ball onto the lane.
Because the handrail breaks down into four sections, the entire device fits comfortably into a carrying bag small ENOUGH TO BE taken on an aircraft and stored in the luggage compartment above the seat when traveling. Each section is 3 feet long with a 5 inch extension bar that joins it to the next section.
So, how reliable is this portable rail? I am totally blind, so I get no help from light or from object perception. In 1989, my bowling average was between 40 and 50. I’ve been using the “Magic Touch” rail since then and have never had any problems with it breaking or malfunctioning during play. I’ve had a high game of 177 and I’ve had an average as high as 120 since bowling with this rail. Hooray!
These rails are not mass produced. Because of the nature of the plastic, each section has to be individually tooled and some of the fittings are not always in stock. Therefore, it may take several weeks to complete an order. The price of the “Magic Touch” bowling rail, with a carrying bag, is $75 plus $10 shipping and packaging, for a total of $85. All units come complete with instructions for assembly and use. The instructions are in both print and cassette tape formats.
Anyone interested in purchasing a “Magic Touch” bowling rail should contact
Harry Cordellos
1021 Second Street, Unit B
Novato, California 94945
Telephone: 415-893-9457

In the News

++Voice-activated email system a saviour for blind Victoria man: It may seem as if there’s no end to the ways we can communicate with each other these days.
We’ve got telephones, email, Skype, text messages, voice-controlled smartphones, social media sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat and Twitter and letters sent through Canada Post.
Even so, some people are shut out of this plethora of options.
That’s what happened to Victoria’s Greg Koyl, 64, who lost most of his vision in August 2014 as a result of glaucoma. He turned off his computer and 600 emails piled up. These were messages he could not read or respond to.
But now he’s using a computer-free system to send and receive emails using only a telephone.
That’s thanks to Peter Young, general manager of Victoria’s Priority 1 Computer Service and Alan Perry of eGurus Technology Tutors.
The duo worked together to offer a service called Talk and Send, based on a Voice on the Go system. Young said he contacted the company, which refined an existing system to suit Koyl’s needs. Priority 1 is the reseller of the product in Victoria.
Koyl is its biggest fan.
“It has made a huge difference in my life,” Koyl said. It is “incredibly simple” to use.
Talk and Send has allowed Koyl, a former B.C. public servant with more than 100 contacts, to communicate with friends and relatives in a way “that really helps me feel like I’m part of society again.”
With just 10 per cent of vision remaining, Koyl can only pick out large shapes. He anticipates losing the rest of his sight.
This is not the only technology for those with restricted vision.
Young, Perry and Koyl believe this system doesn’t only assist those with reading and typing challenges. It could suit those with arthritis.
It’s also inexpensive, costing just $8.99 per month, and a contract is not required. The subscription includes 100 minutes of long distance calls throughout North America, Young said. There’s a $60 initial set-up cost through eGurus.
Only a telephone is needed. Landlines or cellphones can be used. Text messages can be sent as well.
Koyl uses his landline to connect to the system, which operates through voice commands picked up through its speaker. When he states someone’s name, the system confirms that it has the correct person, and Koyl dictates an email. He listens to incoming messages, gets updates from Facebook and could use Twitter if he wished. It also operates in a number of other languages, including Spanish and French.
Emails go out in text form, with Koyl’s voice recording attached to the email. This allows recipients to hear a voice — something that could also be popular for grandparents who get messages from their grandchildren, Young said.
Koyl can vet emails before they are sent and rewrite them if he wishes.
He would be pleased to discuss the service with anyone interested. His email:
The system is easy to use, said Young. It suits people who find technology confusing, he said. He recalled when his own parents found email increasing difficult to use as they aged. “I wanted something simple, especially for people who can’t memorize.”
Perry connected Koyl’s phone to the system in April. By the next day, Koyl had sent out 40 emails.
Working out easier access to technology and to help people remain independent is one of Young’s interests. His business has specially adapted products, such large-button devices. He refurbishes computers to sell them at low prices to seniors so they can send emails and surf the net.
In 2009, Priority 1 donated $7,000 worth of computer equipment to set up a lab for people in Salvation Army facility. The donation included a dozen computers, plus LCD monitors and printers.
Anyone wanting to try out the Talk and Send system can contact Priority 1 at 250-475-7510.
By Carla Wilson / Times Colonist
++Community Funded program helps keep community active: Local clinics in Chatham, Ontario will soon be available to help the blind and visually impaired who not only wish to take part in athletics, but also improve their health and well-being.
The “Trust Your Buddy” program will initially offer blind floor hockey and curling at local venues, in an effort to help who may not have otherwise had the chance to become active.
“Being a visually impaired guy myself, I sort of found that when I played various sports … there weren’t any blind or visually impaired people to play with,” program director Ryan Van Praet told The Daily News.
“You can still play with sighted people, but when I wanted to know mainly how to adapt a sport so that I could play, I really didn’t have any resources.”
The program is free to participants. It is funded by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, as well as the Canadian Council of the Blind.
Van Praet, a kinesiologist, is well-known on the athletic scene, having competed in the world paratriathlon championships, as well as many other sports.
During the clinics, sighted guides will assist the players as they run through the fundamentals and play an adapted version of the sport.
“It’s really about showing that you can be integrated,” Van Praet said. “It’s not blind-only sports and sighted-only sports. It’s sports for all.”
He said more sports could be offered in the future if there is an interest.
“There is no limit to the sports that could be played,” he said, adding that those who wish to pursue competition at a higher level can be directed to the appropriate organizations.
“It’s really just to get them out the door and let them know it’s possible.”
Noting that interest for the program has been trickling in, Van Praet expects it will increase once the word gets out.
He said some may be hesitant to take the first step.
“(The program) is really to help people who have visual impairments, or who are blind, to basically lead an active lifestyle like everybody else should,” he said.
“When the population that I’m part of, the blind community, is sort of left without the resources to live healthy lifestyles, then they are extra susceptible to these chronic diseases.”
To register, contact Van Praet at 226-627-2179 or
By Trevor Terfloth, Chatham Daily News
++Our Condolences: As many of you are aware, AMI has lost a dear friend and colleague. Robert Pearson died suddenly of cardiac arrest on the morning of December 26, 2015.
Robert was a tireless advocate for accessibility and was recognised globally for his passion and support of accessibility issues. He was frequently called upon as an expert speaker at conferences around the globe. He led the development of described video best practices here in Canada and most recently was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission’s Disability Advisory Committee in the US and Chaired the FCC’s Video Description Working Group.

National Newsletter December 2015


CCB National Newsletter December 2015


++Editor’s Note for Screen Reader Users:

The Newsletter is now formatted with Microsoft Word headings. Each main section has a level 1 heading and sub sections have a level 2 heading. Most screen readers support shortcut keys for navigating headings. For example, with JAWS, after opening the document in Word, you can press the JAWS key with the Z key to switch to navigation mode and then you will be able to press the H key to jump from heading to heading. You can also press the JAWS key + F6 to bring up a list of headings in the newsletter. Arrow up and down the list to find the section you are interested in and press Enter to jump to that heading.
The ++tags at the beginning of each main heading have been maintained for those who wish to use the FIND Next search command to jump from heading to heading.


++A Job Well Done!-GTT Ottawa November Meeting Recap: The GTT Ottawa group held their November meeting on the 23rd, and the topic for the meeting was accessible household gadgets. The group talked about accessible household items such as thermostats and scales and discussed tips and tricks on making your inaccessible items such as stoves, microwaves and washers and dryers a little more blind friendly. CCB Vice President Jim Tokos was in attendance for the meeting. Jim gave his thanks on behalf of the Board of Directors to the work of the GTT program, noting how it has expanded across Canada, and thanked Kim Kilpatrick and the participants for their important commitment and input to the great success of this program.
Editor’s note: Personally, I learn something new at every GTT meeting I attend, and at this meeting I learned that Netflix has audio description for many of their TV shows and movies! I had been a Netflix user for several years and had no idea about this feature, so thanks GTT! To learn more about Netflix audio description, please visit:
If you are interested in starting a GTT chapter in your area, please contact Kim Kilpatrick, GTT Coordinator at (613) 567-0311 or at
To hear about all of the latest GTT news, to find resources notes
and articles, subscribe to the GTT blog at
++GTT Kingston: Maryse who coordinates GTT meetings in Kingston Ontario wants you to know about the following upcoming GTT meetings.
The next meeting is December 10th and the topic is using Braille note takers and the Braille pen handson with Aroga
The January14th meeting will feature how to use the 3D printer with access technology (3D printer available at Kingston library) and the February meeting will include power Point with access technology.
The meetings are always the second Thursday of the month at 10:00. To find out more or to RSVP please contact
Maryse Theberge
Independent Living Skills Specialist, CNIB
826 Princess Street
Tel: 613-542-4975 x5088
++CCB congratulates Carla Qualtrough on appointment as new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities: The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) would like to congratulate Carla Qualtrough on being appointed Canada’s new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.
CCB looks forward to working with the Hon. Carla Qualtrough on improving the lives of Canadians living with vision loss, as well as promoting their abilities in sport and recreation.

++My trip to the Braille Conference:

For years, I have been dreaming of attending the national braille conference. I first learned braille when I was 6 years old and loved it right away. Now I could read and write for myself. That was, and always has been very important to me.
I was excited to attend and to be able to present about the GTT program with one of its co-coordinators and founders Leona Emberson from the Ottawa CNIB office.
In addition, I was excited to be able to go and learn about new technologies and to meet others with similar interests.
It was wonderful to receive my conference program, workshop preferences and hotel amenities in braille.
This does not happen often enough and was a real treat.
Also, the indoor navigation system with I Beacons and Blind Square made it possible for me to travel around the hotel and conference area independently with my guide dog.
As I moved through the indoor space, the app announced in my ear where I was. I could find the registration table, door to go out to relieve my dog, conference rooms, bathrooms, and more with little or no sighted help.
That was almost as liberating for me as braille was all those years ago.
I enjoyed going through the exhibit area and finding out about new products and catching up with old friends.
The buzz clip is a new product with some promise for letting you know of objects in your path. I enjoyed testing it and finding out more about the OrCam.
The workshops I attended were interesting and informative.
There were so many to choose from that it was not easy to make choices. They cover a wide variety of topics and areas so there is something for everyone.
I also really enjoyed hearing the winners of the braille writing essay contest read their creative winning entries in braille.
I thank CCB for allowing me to attend and hope to attend many more in the future.
Submitted by Kim Kilpatrick
GTT Coordinator

++About Blind Ice Hockey:

The sport of Blind Hockey has been played in Canada since 1972, and has recently expanded into the United States. This sport is played by athletes who are blind or partially sighted, and is immediately recognizable as the exciting game of Ice Hockey with only minimal modifications allowing the athletes to compete. The most notable adaptation is the puck – which makes noise and is both bigger and slower than a traditional puck, which, along with only a few adapted rules, allows for safe, effective, and inclusive gameplay.
At the competitive level, all athletes must meet International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) standards and be classed as either a B3 – approximately 10% vision or less, a B2 – approximately 5% vision or less, or a B1 – who may have light perception but no functional vision for hockey. In order to ensure fair competition, each player is assigned a vision-based point value corresponding to their class (3, 2, or 1) and each team may only have a maximum of 14 points on the ice at any time. This ensures that each team has approximately the same amount of combined vision and that there are roles for all players regardless of level of vision.
The highest vision players (B3) who can typically see the puck tend to play forward, lower vision or players with no vision tend to play defense (B2 or B1), and all goalies must be completely blind (B1). The sport has more than doubled in participants in the last 2 years, and there are now over 100 Blind Ice Hockey players and 4 annual tournaments across North America.


USA Hockey organizes hockey programs for athletes with disabilities including sledge hockey, deaf hockey, standing amputee hockey, and special hockey. Since they were introduced to the sport last season at the first USA Blind Ice Hockey Summit in Newburgh, NY, they are taking the lead in bringing the sport of Blind Hockey to the USA. There are several try-it sessions being organized this 2015 – 16 season including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington DC, and for the first time ever a Blind Hockey division will be part of the 2016 USA Hockey Disabled Festival taking place in Detroit, Michigan April 9 – 11th. Registration is open for both the try-it sessions as well as the USA Hockey Disabled Festival and all American hockey enthusiast who are blind or partially sighted are encouraged to apply to take part!
The International Blind Ice Hockey Federation (IBIHF) is the newly formed governing body for the sport of Blind Hockey. The IBIHF will lead the development of the sport, maintain member relations with countries that have Blind Ice Hockey programs which currently include Canada and the USA, and will focus on bringing the sport to other nations around the world. The long term goal of the IBIHF is to create a truly global sport with both World Championship competition and ultimately inclusion in the Winter Paralympic Games by 2026. The IBIHF will be focused on growing the sport outside of North America during the 2016 – 17 season and encourages any interested groups or individuals to contact us for more information.
For more information about the sport of Blind Ice Hockey and opportunities to participate please contact:
Matt Morrow,
Sport Director
International Blind Ice Federation
(604) 812-6786
++Universal Children’s Day: Every child deserves the appropriate support and education needed to become an independent adult and active citizen. Unfortunately, many children with low vision and blindness are not given the chance to reach their full potential. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that of the 19 million children that are visually impaired globally, less than 10% of them have access to education (largely due to the lack of accessible reading materials), and they are more likely than sighted children to suffer from malnutrition or starvation, abuse (in all of its forms), a lack of recreation, a lack of health care and infant mortality.
Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) explicitly calls for States Parties to ensure that the “best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
What is often best for the child is ensuring that their parents or caregiver(s) have all of the information and support they need in order to enable their child’s development into an independent and employed adult, capable of advocating for their own rights.
Many parents of visually impaired have reported feeling poorly prepared for raising a low vision or blind child, often receiving less than adequate support and information from medical professionals, educators and social workers. Parents can be the best, or worst, advocates for their children’s well-being. What parents need is support of their own, and associations of parents of children with visual impairment are an essential way to help parents better know how to raise a visually impaired child. The World Blind Union’s (WBU) Representative to the NGO Committee to UNICEF and Executive Director of the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) Susan LaVenture, explains the importance of Parent Associations:
“Parent Associations have made an impact within communities and have affected public policies on the national level for improvement of education and services for families. National Parent Associations of Children with Visual Impairments have emerged around the world and should be recognized by NGOs and governments as part of the solution as being a resource for families and encourage collaboration to provide parental education and support services.”
Parents and caregivers also need to reach out to organizations of the blind in order to connect their children to mentors and possible role models that will further their development into independent adults. Parents cannot always be there for their children, and while it is important to ensure your child is supported, it is also important to know when to let children begin taking care of themselves and advocating for their own rights, and the rights of others in the visually impaired community. Organizations of the blind can help parents navigate this difficult but crucial process.
For families to learn more about the role of parents and mentors in effectively supporting children’s educational and personal development, follow this link to the Friends and Family page on our Project Aspiro website
Aspiro is a comprehensive career planning and employment resources for individuals who are blind or partially sighted. It offers many resources and tips to help low vision and blind people gain employment, live independently and become strong self-advocates.
++International Day for Persons with Disabilities:
2015 has been a seminal year for persons with disabilities, as well as for global civil society and the UN system as a whole. The world’s governments, civil society actors and citizens came together to decide the way forward for the post-2015 development agenda, resulting in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs will direct the work and funding of the global development community for the next 15 years. Persons with disabilities, including the visually impaired, were among the many voices championing for strong and inclusive global goals.
It is fitting that the theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2015 is “Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities,” as several of the SDGs cover inclusion and accessibility.
The Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD) has also identified three key sub-themes that highlight the need “to reduce inequalities and remove barriers to equal participation for persons with disabilities in society.”
Sub-theme #1: Making cities inclusive and accessible for all. The full inclusion of all persons with disabilities, including persons with low vision and blindness, is essential for their education, employment, access to information, and therefore, equality. Universal design is an essential part of building inclusive and accessible cities, environments, and products. Universal design is the “design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (Martine Abel-Williamson, WBU Strategic Lead for Access to the Environment). Examples of universal design are Apple products with accessibility features built in, braille on elevators buttons and stop announcements on transit vehicles.

Sub-theme #2: Improving disability data and statistics.

Global and national data on persons with disabilities are sorely lacking. In order to accurately know what barriers and discrimination persons with disabilities face, and how to improve policy and programs to remove these barriers, we need accurate data. Within the SDG framework, there are multiple targets and indicators with responding data requirements for every goal that will measure the progress (or lack thereof) of the development work relevant to that goal. If these targets and indicators do not explicitly call for disaggregated data on essential aspects of persons with disabilities’ lives, namely health, education and employment data, they will be left behind as they have been in the development agendas of the past. These indicators will likely be finalized in March 2016, so it is imperative for all of us to advocate directly to our governments and nationals statistical offices on the importance of disability-specific SDG indicators.

Sub-theme #3: Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development.

Persons with “invisible disabilities” are often overlooked and misunderstood. The SCRPD argues that it is important “to include the unique characteristics of invisible disabilities when taking measures towards full participation and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.” Persons with invisible disabilities includes those who have low vision but do not use a cane, guide dog, or other visible assistive device, and they are often elderly. Features for low vision persons, such as good lighting and contrast, are often overlooked when designing spaces and products, even though they are an important of accessibility and inclusivity, and therefore need to be included alongside features for blind persons.
++World Braille Day: Braille Literacy Canada Affirms January 4th, 2016 as World Braille Day, to be Recognized with Celebrations Across Canada.
Follow the link below to learn more and share with others!

++The Braille Superstore: A Treasure Trove of Braille

Based in B.C., the Braille Superstore sells blindness and low vision products, ranging from books, to toys, games, accessible kitchen items, housewares and talking products. Browse the catalogue by visiting
I’ve turned to the Braille Superstore as both a braille enthusiast and teacher of braille. Though, as mentioned above, the Braille Superstore (despite its name) includes items for both braille and non-braille users alike – I’ll focus on some of my favourite braille related products here.
Books: The Braille Superstore carries books in uncontracted and contracted braille, and all titles are available in UEB upon request. A wide selection of books are available for different age groups, ranging from read-aloud and print-braille books, to those for elementary, middle grade, higher grade and adult readers, including touch and trace books (you’re never too old to enjoy those!)
Writing tools: Found under their “houseware” section, this is where you will stumble upon several slates and styli. This is where I found a full-page slate (25 lines, 28 cells) which I still use as a handy alternative for more extensive jotting down.
Games and toys: Several of the items here are popular around our household, but, games can also serve as fun (and sneaky!) ways to spice up a braille lesson. Several of the games here were a huge success during an adult braille group I organized. Uno, Skip-Bo and Bingo are great games to play at home, but also great ways to reinforce braille symbols. If you enjoy board games, there are a variety to choose from, including Scrabble, Monopoly, Chess, Checkers, and a really neat tactile Snakes and Ladders. If you’re more into brain teasers, then you can find a particular favourite of mine: a braille Sudoku set! (I’m still trying to work through mine). Among the puzzles, there is a nifty braille keychain that can form different braille symbols – practical, but also another creative way to practise braille wherever you are. The raised-line drawing boards (found in the toy section) also caught my attention.
Stop by the “braille workshop” centre if you’re searching for braille learning aids or items to use when introducing braille to sighted groups: Braille alphabet buttons, cheat sheets, flash cards, magnets, stickers, bookmarks, name cards, and more.
The “copy centre” is where you can find information about transcription requests for braille business cards, menus, personal letters, textbooks and other documents.
Glance through the greeting cards and the gift shop: You will find braille mugs, wrist bands, keychains, bookmarks, magnets and my favourite: The braille chocolate molds! We used these to make chocolate bars to include in everyone’s stocking last year, and they were a huge hit! Some of the hand-carved braille Christmas ornaments also found a home on our tree.
Searching for a gift but can’t decide? You can also select an amount and purchase a gift certificate.
I’ve barely scratched the surface. The BLC board wishes you happy browsing and happy holidays, whatever you may be celebrating this holiday season.
By Natalie Martiniello

In the News

++CNIB demands more funding for vision rehabilitation programs:
A Nova Scotia woman who is blind says it’s time the province steps up its funding to help people with vision loss transition to their new reality.
Pat Gates says there’s a double standard in health care, where some with disabilities are fully funded, while those who are blind are on their own.
In 2000, Gates lost all sight in one eye, and was left with cloudy vision in the other. At 47 years old, she was legally blind and had no idea what to do.
“I was afraid to go out on my own because of what I might not see on the sidewalk,” she said. “I was very angry.”
She said she entered a “vacuum.” Over the next 10 years, she rarely left her apartment.
“I had no support. I didn’t know anyone who had lost vision so I couldn’t say to them ‘what did you do?'”
Finally, she discovered the services offered by Canadian National Institute for the Blind. A therapist helped her relearn basic skills such as cooking and how to use her computer.
“I was able to learn how to use the white cane, which gave me back my independence,” she says.
But CNIB says it may have to cut some of its six therapists that offer those programs in Nova Scotia.
The charity depends on provincial funding to cover the costs. This year, it received $530,460 from the departments of health and community services.
Some of it – $175,000 – is stable funding, but the rest is determined annually and was recently cut. CNIB says it needs just more than $1 million to operate the rehabilitation programs.
Pam Gow-Boyd, regional vice-president of CNIB, says there’s a double standard.
“When a Nova Scotian requires rehab for reasons other than vision loss – as the result of a stroke or hearing loss or amputation, for example – the rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy and the support of an audiologist or social worker are provided within our health-care system,” she says.
“Our question is, why are blind Nova Scotians treated differently?”
Gates uses stronger language.
“What the government needs to do is to offer a credible explanation to the blind and partially-sighted population in this province as to why they’re discriminating against us,” she says.
“We deserve the same services as everyone else, but for some reason they put us in a different category.”
CNIB recently cut five positions including two public education jobs to save money, but Gow-Boyd says any more cuts will hurt the rehabilitation specialists if funding isn’t increased.
“When we cut a position at this point, we are in a crisis situation,” she says.
Gow-Boyd is offering a solution. She says if a stable funding formula can’t be established, CNIB will gladly hand over control of the therapy programs.
Gates will be joining CNIB Thursday afternoon at a planned rally at Province House to draw attention to the funding issue.
CBC News


Don’t forget – your chapter still has time to get your dues in to receive the 50% rebate. The deadline for the rebate is Monday, December 7, 2015.


WCW Order Forms were included in the Membership Renewal Packages and were sent to each chapter’s chapter contact person in late August.
To avoid shipping delays PLEASE NOTE the deadline for submitting WCW orders is Friday, December 11, 2015 so that orders can be assembled and shipped in plenty of time for WCW February 7 – 13, 2015.
Please plan carefully and place your entire order at one time to avoid confusion & the extra shipping costs incurred by sending multiple packages to one chapter. To ensure a minimum of 2 weeks for packages to reach you we will not be shipping anything after January 15, 2016.
Please also use the same form to request up to $100.00 in WCW funding support of your chapter’s WCW events.
For questions, assistance, or a copy of the form please contact Camilla Simon at or call

Treatment Access for Canadians Living with Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration May be Restricted

Treatment Access for Canadians Living with Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration May be Restricted

Do you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD)? Then, this story matters to you. Do you care about fair and equitable access to safe medications? Then, this story matters to you too.

This story matters to Canadians living with AMD because regulators are getting ready to make recommendations that could restrict access to sight-saving drugs across the country. But, this is also a much bigger story that matters to all Canadians because this particular regulatory decision would set a new precedent regarding the use of off-label medications.

Because this is such an important decision, the Foundation Fighting Blindness has been working closely with the CNIB and the Canadian Council of the Blind to be sure that patients’ perspectives and experiences factor into the decision making process. Today, we are sharing this update because we want our communities to know that we have taken a firm stance together and have formally asked the regulators to suspend their decision making process until adequate safety data is available.

Inequitable Treatment across Canada

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50. There are two forms of AMD – dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease and is characterized by the gradual loss of central vision. Sometimes, this dry form of AMD will progress into the wet form of AMD, which is when most vision loss occurs. Wet AMD can have a sudden onset and is characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye. Fortunately, there are effective sight-saving treatments for wet AMD called anti-VEGF drugs. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is normally produced in our bodies and is involved in the growth of blood vessels. However, the uncontrolled growth of blood vessels in the eye causes vision loss in wet AMD. Anti-VEGF therapies prevent (and even reverse) vision loss by removing excess VEGF from the eye. In Canada, there are two anti-VEGF drugs, Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Eylea (aflibercept), which have been approved to treat a variety of retinal diseases, including wet AMD. Avastin (bevacizumab) is an anti-VEGF drug that was designed to treat cancer, but is used “off-label” to treat retinal diseases.

Notably, Avastin is significantly cheaper than both Lucentis and Eylea. In addition, some studies have shown that is functions effectively as a sight-saving treatment. For these reasons, many doctors have opted to use Avastin as a first line of treatment, especially when their patients cannot afford the alternative.

Who pays for your medications?

In Canada, we consider health care to be right. Across the country, many of us are fortunate to receive excellent medical care, paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Accessing medically necessary drugs, however, is less straightforward. Some people have private insurance while others depend on publicly funded drug programs, such as the Ontario Public Drug Program, which is widely used by people over the age of 65.

If the public drug program in your province covers the drugs that you need, then everything usually works out well. Unfortunately, not all drugs are covered, and different provinces cover different drugs. This means that you have access to different drugs depending on where you live. In Alberta, for example, the newest anti-VEGF drug for treating wet-age related macular degeneration (Eylea) is not covered by the public drug program.

Comparing Different Treatment Options to “Optimize” the Approach

Regardless of where you live, your access to anti-VEGF drugs to treat retinal diseases, including wet AMD, is at risk. This is because the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) is currently evaluating the monetary cost and clinical efficacy of different anti-VEGF drugs (including Lucentis, Eylea and Avastin). They are conducting this “Therapeutic Review” with the goal of making recommendations to “optimize” how these drugs are covered by provincial drug plans. The word “optimization” is used to signify that decision makers are looking for ways to save money without having a negative impact on health outcomes. Optimization implies that decisions are being made within constraints; for example, each province has a limited amount of money to spend on its public drug program. If you are interested in the fine details of the review, you can learn more on the CADTH website.

In brief, CADTH is conducting this review because they realize that the prevalence of people living with wet AMD and other retinal diseases will increase significantly as the population ages, and they are aware that Avastin is considerably less expensive than the other anti-VEGF drugs. (Avastin is an anti-VEGF drug that was developed to treat cancer, but is sometimes used “off-label” to treat wet AMD.) In addition, there are now some results from clinical studies that compare the effectiveness of the different available anti-VEGF drugs.

Patient Evidence Matters

At the beginning of this review process, the Foundation Fighting Blindness was invited by CADTH to submit patient evidence. To do this, we collaborated with the CNIB and the Canadian Council of the Blind to share the experiences of people who are taking anti-VEGF drugs to treat their eye diseases. To learn more, we developed a short survey and invited people to share their stories. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback!! Because of you, we were able to develop a patient evidence submission that contained a diversity of experiences with voices from across country.

In the patient submission, we emphasized that patients care about safe and equitable access to drugs. We told CADTH that some people were having difficult experiences in British Columbia, where access is more restrained. We told CADTH that although many people shared positive experiences with taking anti-VEGF drugs, others also shared more negative experiences. Because people had different experiences with different anti-VEGF drugs, we emphasized the importance of patient choice. You can read the full collaborative submission of patient evidence on the CADTH website here.

Recently, CADTH released a “Draft Science Report” that summarized the evidence that they considered (including our patient submission). As a patient group, we were invited to provide feedback on this Draft Report.

After reading the Draft Science Report, we were all surprised for two reasons. First, the report seemed to misinterpret the patient evidence that we submitted. Second, even though the report repeatedly acknowledged the lack of available safety data, it concluded that the drugs have equivalent safety risks. To us, this was a red flag because safety is so important to patients. In fact, sufficient safety data is a necessary criterion for embarking on a Therapeutic Review.

For these reasons, we have asked CADTH to suspend making any further recommendations until there is sufficient safety data available to justify the analysis. We sincerely hope that CADTH will consider our feedback because we believe that patient evidence is an essential component to effective decision making for the health of Canadians.

Your voice still matters. Please take the AMD survey or call to let us know about your experiences with anti-VEGF drugs. There will be additional opportunities for patient input before a decision is made. As a patient group, our job is to bring your voice to the table. We are honored to have this responsibility.

National Newsletter November 2015

CCB National Newsletter
November 2015
++GTT Invitation: GTT Victoria, BC, invites you to the Belfry Theatre for the described performance of Chelsea Hotel ñ The Songs of Leonard Cohen, November 8 at 2:00†PM
The Belfry Theatre in Victoria will be hosting another VocalEye described performance on Sunday November 8 at 2:00 p.m.
Chelsea Hotel – The Songs of Leonard Cohen stars six immensely talented actor/musicians who play 17 instruments in this glowing piece, featuring many of Cohen’s most loved songs.
For tickets and to reserve your VocalEye headset call (250) 385-6815.
++GTT News: GTT (Get Together with Technology) is growing and thriving and expanding.
As the founder of GTT, I am very excited by this and thank all group leaders, participants, volunteers and community partners for all of your support.
Our newest GTT is a teleconference group for northern Ontario.†
This group met for the first time on October 15 and plans to meet every third Thursday of the month.†
The group’s first topic was adaptations around the house. We touched on everything from labeling cans, marking appliances, bar code readers, apps, talking book players and more.
To find contacts for GTT in your area, see the below list. †If you are interested in starting a GTT where you are, please get in touch.†
Remember that everyone is welcome to join in our national GTT call on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 PM Eastern.
By Kim Kilpatrick
British Columbia
For general inquiries regarding BC:
Albert Rule
(250) 240-2343
Vancouver, BC
Shawn Marsolais at Blind Beginnings
(604) 434-7243
Victoria, BC
Tom Dekker
(250) 661-9799
Edmonton, AB
Gerry Chevalier
(780) 465-7021
Ottawa, ON
Kim Kilpatrick
(613) 567-0311
Toronto, ON
Northern Ontario
Please contact Kim Kilpatrick until an official e-mail is set up.
Kingston, ON
Maryse Theberge at CNIB Kingston
(613) 542-4975 X 5288
Pembroke, ON
Leona Emberson at Ottawa CNIB
(613) 563-4021
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Louise Gillis
National call in info.
The National call is on the second Wednesday of every month at 7 pm Eastern time.
Conference Number 5670311
Follow our blog to get updates on topics and presentations for this call as well as other groups.
If your city is not listed above and you want to get involved, please contact Kim Kilpatrick the CCB National office at or 1-877-304-0968 to learn more about how you might start a local GTT chapter, or receive training and support.
++Vision Quest 2015, Vancouver November†14, 2015
GTT Vancouver has been offered a booth at this event, and Albert Ruel will present a one-hour discussion in the use of assistive technology in daily life for work, play and recreation.
Vendors will also have booths with a wide range of services, technology and supports on offer.
An education session for individuals & families living with vision loss 2015
Hosted by: The Foundation Fighting Blindness
Presented by BAYER INC.
VANCOUVER | November 14, 2015
Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre
515 West Hastings St.
REGISTER TODAY! We sell out fast.
Book now!
Phone: 1.800.461.3331 ext. 263
Social Media: Facebook/FightingBlindnessCanada
Explore how research is restoring hope and sight for people living with vision loss. Meet Canadaís top researchers, learn about the latest in sight-saving research and therapies, and have your questions answered.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Today & Tomorrow, Inherited Retinal Disease, Making Sense of Clinical Trials, Assistive Technology, Orientation & Mobility, Parenting and families, and Youth: Building a Better Future
Proudly Sponsored by: BAYER. ALLERGAN, NOVARTIS
++World Braille Day, January 4, 2016: The World Braille Day webpage has now been created on the Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) website, and there is a press release there as well. You can find the webpage by searching for the “World Braille Day” link on the BLC home page
(found right below the heading for News).
Here’s a direct link to the webpage:
Assistive Technology
++IBM Research and Carnegie Mellon Create Open Platform to Help the Blind Navigate Surroundings:
Scientists from IBM Research (NYSE: IBM) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced the first of a kind open platform designed to support the creation of smartphone apps that can enable the blind to better navigate their surroundings.
The IBM and CMU researchers used the platform to create a pilot app, called NavCog, that draws on existing sensors and cognitive technologies to inform blind people on the CMU campus about their surroundings by “whispering” into their ears through earbuds or by creating vibrations on smartphones. The app analyzes signals from Bluetooth beacons located along walkways and from smartphone sensors to help enable users to move without human assistance, whether inside campus buildings or outdoors.
Researchers are exploring additional capabilities for future versions of the app to detect who is approaching and what is their mood.
NavCog app will soon be available at no cost on the App Store.
The first set of cognitive assistance tools for developers is now available via the cloud through IBM Bluemix at
The open toolkit consists of an app for navigation, a map editing tool and localization algorithms that can help the blind identify in near real time where they are, which direction they are facing and additional surrounding environmental information. The computer vision navigation application tool turns smartphone images of the surrounding environment into a 3-D space model to help improve localization and navigation for the visually impaired.
“While visually impaired people like myself have become independent online, we are still challenged in the real world. To gain further independence and help improve the quality of life, ubiquitous connectivity across indoor and outdoor environments is necessary,” said IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa, visiting faculty member at Carnegie Mellon. “I’m excited that this open platform will help accelerate the advancement of cognitive assistance research by giving developers opportunities to build various accessibility applications and test non-traditional technologies such as ultrasonic and advanced inertial sensors to assist navigation.”
The combination of these multiple technologies is known as “cognitive assistance,” an accessibility research field dedicated to helping the blind regain information by augmenting missing or weakened abilities. Researchers plan to add various localization technologies, including sensor fusion, which integrates data from multiple environmental sensors for highly sophisticated cognitive functioning, such as facial recognition in public places. Researchers also are exploring the use of computer vision to characterize the activities of people in the vicinity and ultrasonic technology to help identify locations more accurately.
“From localization information to understanding of objects, we have been creating technologies to make the real-world environment more accessible for everyone,” said Martial Hebert, director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon.
“With our long history of developing technologies for humans and robots that will complement humans’ missing abilities to sense the surrounding world, this open platform will help expand the horizon for global collaboration to open up the new real-world accessibility era for the blind in the near future.”
IBM has been committed to technology innovation and accessibility for people with disabilities for more than 100 years, helping to ensure that employees, customers and citizens have equal access to information they need for work and life.
Some early innovations for the blind include a Braille printer, a talking typewriter, and the first commercially viable screen reader.
++Trust Your Buddy, Free Demo Day!:
Trust Your Buddy is a new CCB program, sponsored by the Ontario provincial government, to increase health/fitness in communities across the province.
It is focused on bringing mainstream sporting/rec opportunities to those who are blind/visually impaired in our communities
It is being coordinated by Ryan Van Praet, elite para-athlete, and a big believer that sport can/should be available for all. He is striving to help blind/VI persons undertake everyday activities so they too can a) live a healthy life and b) participate along with their friends and family.
Trust Your Buddy Free Demo Day details:
Accessible sport & recreation for the BLIND & VISUALLY IMPAIRED.
Sat. Nov 28, 2015 12-3pm
St.Clair College HealthPlex
Grand Ave. West, Chatham ON
Adapting everyday sports to allow for friends and families to participate together including:
Running, Cycling, Curling, TRX and more.
Sighted Guide Demos too!
All ages, abilities & visual impairments welcome!
(Under 18 must be accompanied by parent/guardian)
For more information, pleas contact: Ryan @ 226-627-2179
++Early Bird Draw Winners for 2016 Membership Dues
We are pleased to announce we had many chapters send in their dues by the Early Bird Draw deadline!
The two lucky winning chapters who will receive their entire 2016 dues back are:
CCB Bathurst Chapter, NB
CCB London Chapter, ON
Donít forget ñ your chapter still has time to get your dues in to receive the 50% rebate. The deadline for the rebate is Monday, December 7, 2015.
WCW Order Forms were included in the Membership Renewal Packages and were sent to each chapterís chapter contact person in late August.
To avoid shipping delays PLEASE NOTE the deadline for submitting WCW orders is Friday, December 11, 2015 so that orders can be assembled and shipped in plenty of time for WCW February 7 ñ 13, 2015.
Please plan carefully and place your entire order at one time to avoid confusion & the extra shipping costs incurred by sending multiple packages to one chapter. To ensure a minimum of 2 weeks for packages to reach you we will not be shipping anything after January 15, 2016.
Please also use the same form to request up to $100.00 in WCW funding support of your chapterís WCW events.
For questions, assistance or a copy of the form please contact Camilla Simon at or call
In the News
++Running with a hero:
Hero [heer-oh] (
ï a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
ï an illustrious warrior
ï one who shows great courage
Every runner goes through tough training days – days when you just donít feel like going for a run. Luckily for me, those days have been few and far between ñ but after The Army Run 2015, in Ottawa, ON, Iím not sure I will ever have one of those days again.
I have been running for quite a few years. Iíve completed a lot of races, from 5k to Ultra Marathon, but the most meaningful races to me have always been those in which I am helping someone else meet their goals. I have brought siblings and friends through finish lines ñ as well as strangers as a Pace Bunny ñ and all of those experiences have been awesome. Getting hugs and selfie requests from people I have only known for a few hours on the road is pretty cool. But at this yearís Army Run Half Marathon, I ran maybe the most meaningful race of my life: with my new running buddy, Gaston.
Gaston Bedard is 63 years old and lives in Aylmer, Quebec. Gaston has been a runner his entire adult life, and has a sub-3-hour personal best marathon time as a sighted runner. (Incredible.) Gaston has had Usher Syndrome since childhood, which gradually over the years has left him deaf blind. He has the use of hearing aids for regular life, but he cannot wear them running: so when he runs, he is both completely blind and completely deaf. In 2014, Gaston completed the Ottawa Marathon with the assistance of 3 guides in under 5 hours, a time that enabled him to qualify for Boston. He ran the Boston Marathon in April 2015 with the assistance of 2 guides.
I had contacted several organizations over the last couple of years expressing my interest in becoming a guide runner. I knew guiding would be much more difficult than being a Pace Bunny, but I also had a feeling it would be even more rewarding. I was up for the challenge.
Gaston and I were brought together by Achilles Canada (
It is very unfortunate we donít live in the same city (I live in Halifax, NS) ñ he could really use someone to train with on a regular basis, and I would love to be able to run with him more often. He does have a few guides in the Ottawa area who run with him, but since he cannot run outside unless one of them runs with him, he can never have too many. Whenever he canít run with one of his guides, he is forced to run on a treadmill at a gym, which most runners only do as a last resort. For Gaston, unfortunately, itís a necessary evil. If no guides are available, itís the only choice he has.
I had many email exchanges, a few phone conversations, and two in-person meetings with Gaston before our first run together at the Army Run on September 20th. We learned a lot about each other and he taught me how to communicate with him during the race using hand signals and touch. I thought a lot about everything I needed to do the few days before the race, going over it again and again in my head to make sure I was as prepared as I could be on race day. I thought I was prepared ñ I was so naÔve. Nothing could have prepared me for how difficult, or how rewarding, the experience would be.
First: the difficult. Running is one of the easiest things you can do. It is a very natural movement and with a reasonable fitness level, just about anyone can do it. Running fast or running far obviously brings more challenge, but just simply running on your own is very easy. Running attached to another human, though, is significantly more difficult. You have to always be aware of the other person, and try as hard as possible to stay in synch and keep the contact comfortable. Running attached to a blind person adds another level of difficulty. As sighted runners we can navigate manhole covers, large cracks in the road, metal bridge reinforcementsÖ a blind runner obviously canít navigate these uneven terrain issues and it is up to their guide to steer them and guide them properly.
After as little as 5k, I was exhausted, mostly mentally I suspect, but I felt it physically. All the pushing and pulling was taxing muscles that I clearly donít work often enough! It took me quite a while to get comfortable, but I think after that first 5k I relaxed a little bit and started doing a better job. Not being able to talk to Gaston was not as difficult as I expected it to be ñ he is very intuitive and knows what to ask me that I can answer with a simple sign. Obviously had I been able to communicate with him verbally it would have been much easier, but I think we did ok with the signing.
Second: the rewarding. I have never heard so much positive reinforcement in my life. After the race, Gaston got his hearing aids from the car and I told him it was such a shame that he couldnít hear all of the comments from the other runners and volunteers on the course. I suspect given this was the Army Run, there was more encouragement than usual, but it was the first time I had ever experienced it, and it was truly amazing. So many people thanked me, thanked him, and told him he was such an inspirationÖ And he really is.
It was a very emotional 2+ hours for me.
Iím not sure I will ever have one of those days where I donít feel like going for a run again. All I will have to do is think back to how grateful Gaston was to get out onto the streets of Ottawa on that beautiful fall day and participate in that wonderful running event with thousands of other people ñ and how much courage he has to do that, despite the significant challenges he faces doing it. The rest of us have it so easy; and we shouldnít take that for granted.
Gaston is a person who is admired for bravery, is an illustrious warrior, and shows great courage. On top of all this, he is just an all-around awesome man. He truly is a hero and I am incredibly honoured to have been able to guide him. Iím so looking forward to our next run together.
By Melinda Lee
++Accessible Tourism ñ Brazil Focuses on Visually Impaired Visitors
Brazil has launched a set of unique projects based on sensory experiences aimed at visually impaired tourists.
What is known as sensory tourism allows people with visual impairments to enjoy attractions through other senses such as touch or smell. This is the type of concept Brazils Tourism Ministry has been working on in several of its most iconic cities.
The Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, for example, invites visitors to come into contact with orchids as well as basil, rosemary, sage and mint seedlings with all their different textures and smells, especially arranged to stimulate the senses.
Marcelle Silveira, director of Environmental Education at the Brasilia Zoo, said that every two weeks they offer walks for groups of up to 15 people, where visitors are allowed to touch the animals.
According to Viviane Lemes, a travel agency owner, tour itineraries linked to coffee and the taste and aroma of traditional drinks were well received in a recent pilot visit to a farm in Araguari in the State of Minas Gerais.
The agency organized a tour with a visually impaired group, which allowed them to experience the stages of coffee production: harvesting, drying yards, pulped coffee, the bean selection process, the levels of roasting, and even tasting the quality of the drink.
Also along these lines, a gallery in S„o Paulos Pinacoteca Museum allows touching the 12 bronze sculptures that are part of the museumís collection.
Size, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity facilitate understanding and appreciation of these artistic works when felt with hands, hence their selection took into account recommendations by the people with visual disabilities.
In the view of Rosangela Barqueiro, who is part of the Brazilian Association for Assistance of the Visually Impaired, minor adaptations are all that is needed in order to include the visually impaired in tourism.
ìThe training of guides and assistants to deal with this type of visitor can solve most of the problems in this segment,î he said. According to Rosangela, another challenge is to provide audio descriptions and texts in Braille.
Currently, there is also a project underway to facilitate access to beaches in Pernambuco, RÌo de Janeiro, Alagoas, S„o Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.These sites make provision for equipment such as mechanical belts or amphibious chairs, and also promote activities like sitting volleyball and an adaptation of traditional bowling.
For its part, the Tourism Ministry has created the AcessÌvel Tourism website in collaboration with the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic and the National Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CONADE).
On the website you can check the accessibility of tourist sites, hotels, restaurants and various attractions in Brazil. Users can also suggest new facilities or places of interest which will help people with disabilities or reduced mobility to travel around the country with greater independence.
This initiative, which is also available on a Smartphone app, won last yearís National Prize for Web Accessibility.
++Running blind comes easy with a pal or two:
John Tomasino couldn’t see the cheering crowds, the other runners or even the route in front of him at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half marathon this past weekend. But he didn’t let that stop him from running.
The 53-year-old teacher is legally blind, with only some light perception. He ran with two guides, tethered to one by a short leash.
His seeing eye humans warned of obstacles such as potholes, steered him along the course and gently nudged him to drink enough water.
“It’s really a communication game,” said Tomasino, who was born with a rare genetic eye disease that has caused his vision to deteriorate almost completely.
Tomasino was one of about 30 runners, the majority of them visually impaired, who raced with volunteer guides in Sunday’s marathon and half-marathon.
The tethered groups make for “constant chatting, constant camaraderie,” and Tomasino, making the ordinarily solitary pursuit into something of a mini-team sport.
Many of his fellow teachers at the Toronto District School Board find it hard to believe he could ever run a half-marathon.
“They look at me like I’m some sort of superhuman,” Tomasino said. “It is possible.”
The guides are all volunteers, and the teams train with a group called Achilles Canada, a chapter of a larger international group for runners with disabilities.
Alastair Taylor, one of Tomasino’s guides and a long-time marathon runner, said he wanted to be a guide because his own stepson is visually impaired. The half marathon was his first guiding experience, but he said it won’t be his last.
The teams spend hours together training, talking about everything from their careers to the Blue Jays, said Taylor, who tried running with his eyes closed when he first volunteered to see what it was like.
“It was just terrifying,” he said. “If you don’t have a horizon to get used to, it’s weird.”
Being a guide is much different from running solo, but not overly challenging. “You’re constantly looking out for things that could be a problem,” Taylor said.
Brian McLean started the Canadian chapter of Achilles International in 1999 after he was forced to stop running outside as his own vision deteriorated.
“I was just constantly running in to hydrants, pedestrians or light poles,” he said.
The guide runners are recruited through social media and word of mouth, and group runs are held in the Beaches and midtown twice a week.
Most runners are visually impaired, but some have conditions such as head injuries and just need someone to run alongside them.
Tim Sullivan, from Hamilton, ran the full marathon with a team of three guides last Sunday.
Sullivan, who still has some vision, said he might be able to do marathons without the guides, but it would be much harder.
“It just makes it so much easier for me to have two or four sets of eyes that can help me get from point A to point B,” he said.
For Pamela Thistle, who was running her first half-marathon on Sunday, the guides are the only way she would be able to participate. Born with Usher syndrome, she has both hearing and sight loss and hasn’t been able to work as her condition has worsened in recent years.
The 43-year-old was not a runner when she had more of her sight.
“I don’t know what possesses me to do it, but it keeps me busy and it gives me a goal,” Thistle said. “This is a new journey.”
By May Warren, for the Toronto Star.
++Safety With Style:
Ice Halo, the Canadian owned and manufacturer of the innovative head band protection for sports or pleasure. Check out the new styles that now include Halo Hats at
Donít risk losing ice time in your favourite activity ñ Donít hold back your best because of that nagging fear of a nasty fall. Its lightweight, closed cell construction doesnít make your head hot and the Velcro closures make it adjustable and secure. The choice of material and colour make it easy to find the right one for you. Itís available in team colours, and you can customize with your corporate logo. The Ice Halo is a great way to keep you or your friends and loved ones safer on the ice.
Several styles and many colours to choose from!
Lori Fry continues in her role as representative for the blind in Canada with Ice Halo and is able to provide discounted prices to curlers or others looking for stylish head protection. Many thanks to Barbara Armstrong, President of Ice Halo for her sponsorship of the 100 Mile House Blind Curling Team and such strong support to the vision impaired and blind community of Canada. A small percentage of each sale will be donated to the 100 Mile Blind Curling Team.
In order to receive special reduced pricing on your order, please contact Lori at 250-395-2452 or
20 James Street Suite 100
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0T6
Telephone: (613) 567-0311
Fax: (613) 567-2728
Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968

November is Diabetes & Diabetic Eye Diseases awareness month

How is diabetes related with a person’s vision? What are the diabetic eye diseases that individuals should watch for? What kind of treatment is available for patients?


There are over 10 million Canadians living with diabetes and Type 2 is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 90% of cases. Researchers today are saying that the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically and cases could double by 2025. So how does diabetes affect a person’s eyes and their vision? The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) states that:

“Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness, farsightedness and premature presbyopia (the inability to focus on close objects). It can result in cataracts, glaucoma, paralysis of the nerves that control the eye muscles or pupil, and decreased corneal sensitivity. Visual symptoms of diabetes include fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field, and flashes and floaters within the eyes. Sometimes these early signs of diabetes are first detected in a thorough examination performed by a doctor of optometry. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.”


So what is Diabetic Retinopathy? The CAO explains that:

“Over time diabetes can cause changes in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels that feed the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. When retinopathy advances, the decreased circulation of the blood vessels deprives areas of the retina of oxygen. Blood vessels become blocked or closed, and parts of the retina die. New, abnormal, blood vessels grow to replace the old ones.  If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result.”

However, vision loss in patients diagnosed with diabetes can be controlled. Thus the importance in having routine eye exams performed by an optometrist and to have early detection for any signs of threatening vision changes. Physicians and optometrists alike also stress the importance of controlling your diabetes in order to minimize the risk of developing retinopathy.


Treatment for diabetic retinopathy involves the use of intraocular injections of anti-VEGF therapy (Lucentis, Avastin) or laser therapy (photocoagulation), where a bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a laser burn that seals off leaking blood vessels. Nevertheless, early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial, as treatment is much more likely to be successful at an early stage.


To summarize, it is important to control your diabetes symptoms, follow your physician’s instructions and to have frequent eye exams by your optometrist.

diabetic retinopathy image

Want to know if you are at risk of developing diabetes? Click on the link and take the CANRISK test!


Source: Types of Diabetes – Canadian Diabetes Association; Diabetes – Canadian Association of Optometrists; The Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire – Canadian Diabetes Association

Tidbits of information about MEC – Seniors

Are you interested about what the Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) does in the community? Want to know how many clinics we have done since the start of the MEC? Curious about how many seniors have vision problems? Interested in having the MEC come to your community?

The CCB has created an initiative with local optometrists and the Lions Club District A4 to offer yearly OHIP covered comprehensive eye exams to seniors in their residences. The CCB and its partners along with the support of the community are funding the MEC program by covering the cost of the portable equipment and the administrative tasks associated with promoting and organizing the clinics.

lionlogo_2cDriver side

This program is a first of its kind in Ontario and has a research component to measure the impact of vision problems in seniors and the prevention of falls among them. Our optometrists use portable equipment to perform eye exams. Once the exam is done, we issue a letter with the exam’s results and give it to the seniors for their records/medical doctors. Also a prescription for glasses or a referral to a specialist for follow up is provided when required.

In reality, the Mobile Eye Clinic program offers a cost effective and efficient way of providing ocular support, prevention and treatment to communities and seniors that may otherwise go unvisited, undiagnosed and untreated. This initiative thus creates better vision for seniors, which in turn reduces isolation, falls, and injuries and therefore increases their overall quality of life.

Since May 2013, the MEC has seen a total of 633 seniors, with an average age of 80 years, and has visited a total of 28 seniors’ residences within the Ottawa Valley region. Of those patients, 39% of seniors have improved their vision with prescription glasses and 56% are living with an ocular disease or condition that is treatable.

The MEC is offering OHIP covered comprehensive eye exams to seniors 65 years and older (living in Ontario) whom have not had an eye exam within the past year. If you are interested in having the MEC visit your community/residence or want to have more information about the program, please contact Monica or Julie at 613-567-0311 or via email at or

Source: CCB MEC –seniors 2015-2016 ppt presentation; Seniors master list Eye clinics’ results ALL as of October 19, 2015-NEW DATA.