Visions May 2018 DIGITAL
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Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter
“A lack of sight is not a lack of vision”
Welcome to spring! By now I hope everyone is enjoying sunshine and warmer days. As this is now, “grass fire season” and with the lack of moisture in the ground please be cautious and be prepared in case of needing to be evacuated, depending where you live –either fires or floods due to excessive rain in some areas.
Exciting news with Script Talk which will be coming to a Sobey’s brand pharmacy near you! Learn all about it here (http://www.envisionamerica.com). This is a device that identifies your prescriptions to help avoid medicine errors when you are unable to identify pills, etc.
In working with a variety of Patient Groups, CCB is kept abreast of what is happening with changes that are taking place with health care in Canada and how it affects our members. In several provinces changes to drug programs can lead to adverse health issues that can cause complications. All voices are being heard to prevent this from happening so that our members with other disease processes are receiving the same care that will promote better health care for all.
Together with Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) and CNIB we sent a Patient Submission on the use of implants in the eye for the treatment of Glaucoma. More studies are being done relevant to the patient experience in loss of sight, quality of life and blindness.
Recently there were a group of individuals from the Ottawa and surrounding area invited to tour and access the VIA Rail Station in Ottawa for accessibility concerns and needed improvements. The assessment went well with a resulting working group to continue with VIA Rail during the improvement phase. VIA is also invited CCB to work with them with the renewal fleet project
Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) held a teleconference to provide information on Emerging Braille Technology. The following information for each device was discussed: Background on the team developing the device, Physical description, features and capabilities, expected cost, expected date that the device will be available for purchase in Canada. BLC will be holding their AGM on May 26th at our CCB office in Ottawa.
CCB’s newest program “CCB Health & Fitness” is growing steadily.
The [email protected] group at Groups.io, a free, easy-to-use email group service. Now that spring is here we can get more involved in outdoor activities – check out how to get involved.
Enjoy the many articles in VISIONS for May.
Louise Gillis, National President
It’s all in the Fingertips: Hands of Fire’s Five Years of Creativity++:
Based in Toronto, Hands of Fire is a sculpture group for blind and visually impaired individuals. The group prides itself not only on the level of creativity it boasts but on the thriving sense of community that emboldens the members with confidence in their artistic abilities as well as their social lives.
Hands of Fire is proud to announce 5 incredible years of operation! Thanks to the support of its members, volunteers, and CCB, it has been able
To expand, push boundaries, and showcase the incredible artistic abilities of its members to the community.
Jim Tokos was in attendance on behalf of CCB as well as Sue Marsh Woods on behalf of CNIB to offer Congratulations to all Members and volunteers on their accomplishments.
CCB Health & Fitness++:
Happy spring everyone!! Well, maybe spring will be here soon enough but in the meantime you can certainly look ahead to all the great activities you can take part in, when the weather turns warm again.
Location? Where ever you are in the country!
Make sure you sign up for our spring edition of the Virtual 5k, a great event that gets you out and active and kicks off your summer right.
For our spring edition we are hoping you gather your friends, find a fun, safe location to do your walk or run, then get out and get training. If you have any questions, you certainly can contact Ryan and he can help guide you through some tips to get you to that finish line.
Get your hat! If you register by May 6th, we are going to send you a #eyeammore team hat to show off and wear proudly. If you register after May 6th, we can’t guarantee that you will get your hat in time, but we will have a few extra just in case.
Win an awesome prize! Every registrant will be entered to win a really cool prize, either a $50 Sportcheck gift card OR a smart heart rate monitor that will sync with your Apple or Android device and many different apps, to give you realtime, accurate heart rate.
Register: Simply go to https://ccbhealthandfitness.wordpress.com and click the “Register Now” link near the top.
Get a team hat
Get entered in to win a gift card or heart rate monitor
Just a reminder that our podcast is pumping out great content regularly and the episodes are generally 20-30mins so nothing too long but just long enough to provide some great health and fitness topics.
Everything from blood pressure, to axe throwing, we cover lots of random and useful things. If you have a topic you’d love to learn more about, we encourage you to suggest them!!!
Simply search “The Canadian Council of the Blind” on your Apple podcast search app or anywhere you find your podcasts
As always, if you have questions, want to chat 1 on 1 with Ryan for some fitness advice, or any feedback at all, just drop us an email.
Have an awesome day!!
RYAN VAN PRAET (R. Kin)
CCB Health & Fitness
National Program Manager & Coach
Go to our page: https://ccbhealthandfitness.wordpress.com
To find links to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Podcast & Email Chat List
CCB Technology Buy, Sell and Trade Email List is up and running++:
Hi all. For those of you who have previously enjoyed assistive tech to donate or sell, or if there are things you seek please subscribe to this new group and hopefully you will find the perfect device, or a new home for those items no longer needed.
To register please send an email message to:
Tell all your friends about it as well so we can capture a large number of donors, sellers, buyers and traders. Not that we want the political type of traders, but we’ll welcome the assistive tech traders and users.
Companies may only advertise special sales and donations of used equipment, not their new offerings.
A full set of rules will be released soon, so stay tuned. Of course it stands to reason that the CCB will not assume any responsibility for the quality or value of the equipment/software exchanged on this list, and anyone offering or requesting illegal items will be removed.
Now, let’s start trading!
Submitted by: Albert A. Ruel, GTT Coordinator
Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)
Get Together with Technology Program (GTT)
Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968 Ext. 550 ( tel:1-877-304-0968;550)
iPhone: 250-240-2343 ( tel:250-240-2343)
Email: [email protected] (
GTT Blog: https://gttprogram.wordpress.com/ (
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ccbnational (
Facebook Group: https://m.facebook.com/groups/414313508657159?refid=27
Twitter: @GTTWest @GTTProgram @CCBNational
CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter hosts a fantastic night of Blues!++:
|2The Lucas Haneman Express Left to Right Martin Newman, Lucan Haneman, Megan Laurence and Jeff Asselin. Photo from www.lhexpress.ca|
On Friday April 13, the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter hosted the Ottawa-based Blues band, the Lucas Haneman Express, in an evening of great Blues music, performing a show built around the contributions of blind Blues musicians and great Blues divas over the past 100years. Organized by the CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter as part of its regular Spring calendar, the concert, called ‘Blind Boys & Blues Queens’, was an enormous success, drawing almost 100 Blues lovers from across the vision loss community, their friends and families.
“As a show comprised of music primarily by blind musicians and song writers, performed by a blind musician and band leader, and played to a predominantly blind audience, the concert was an affirmation of the accomplishments and lasting contributions of people living with vision loss to our musical heritage,” said Ian White, President of the CCB Toronto Visionaries. “Lucas is an incredible guitar player! The show was truly inspiring!”
It was also just a lot of fun! Covering 10 decades of song-writing – from Blind Willie Johnson in the 1920’s and 30’s through the 1950’s, to the present, the band covered dozens of Blues classics in their own inimitable way. Set lists included a number of the band’s original tunes and ‘House Is Burning Down’, a real rocker from one of Lucas Haneman’s inspiring mentors, the late Jeff Healey. The audience was hooked from the opening bars, enthusiastically encouraging the band to offer up a two-song encore, including a spectacular rendition of one of their best-loved live tunes, ‘Take 2’!
Lucas Haneman is an incredible and captivating guitar player, and has the education, awards and accolades to prove it. With a degree in jazz guitar from Concordia, he’s worked as a session player and multi-instrumentalist on dozens of albums and his style ranges over funk, folk, country, jazz and, of course, the blues. And the rest of the Express are no slouches, either. The rich, textured playing of Jeff Asselin (drums) and Martin Newman (bass), and the soaring vocals of Megan Laurence, the band’ tightly woven, 3-part vocal harmonies, and their finely-honed musical interplay, all come together on stage. The band’s second album, Tearing Up the Rails, earned them a nomination for Best New Act at the Canadian Maple Blues Awards. And they’re in the studio now, working on their third album, due for release in September.
“The show was everything we could have hoped for,” said White. “A fantastic evening of great music for our members and their friends, and an inspiration to anyone who wants to succeed, wherever their passion leads them.” Lucas Haneman’s success so far, and his bright future, come out of the hard work, determination, and passion he brings to his work as a musician and band leader. Nothing, not the challenges of making it in the music business, and certainly not his visual impairment, is going to stop this train.
The CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter
It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the passing of Brian Wice. He had been battling cancer for several months, and passed away on April 16th. Brian was a great friend, a caring person with a great sense of humour. He was Past President of the Canadian Council of the Blind Hamilton Chapter, and a member of the club for many years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Brian’s family and friends at this difficult time. Brian will be deeply missed by all.
Submitted by Siena Trigiani, Vice President, CCB Hamilton Chapter
The Canadian Council of The Blind recently lost a valuable leader, a true mentor, and a humble and tireless worker. Brian Wice of Hamilton passed away on April 16th, after a tough battle with Cancer. Brian was pre-deceased recently by his loving wife Angela McKay, and set aside his illnesses to care for Angela.
Brian was an active Past President of the Hamilton Chapter, and was Chapter President for four years, and personally engaged in many fund raising aspects of the Chapter to ensure the Membership was first and foremost.
Prior to becoming President of Hamilton Chapter, Brian spent many years with the CCB Brantford Facility, originally brought in to repair and rebuild computers, train Members of the CCB free of charge in Southern Ontario, and also taught Computer to students of W. Ross MacDonald School for The Blind in Brantford. Brian spent many years of his life always ensuring that any computer could always be fixed, and spent many long nights at the Brantford Facility repairing computers which to some were in disarray, but not to Brian.
Brian was very pleased when he became one of the top Computer Instructors during the CCB’s landmark and tremendously successful Mobile Computer Training Program, which taught Blind and Partially Sighted persons with the skills required to operate and fully understand the workings of lap top computers, and what in fact they offered. Brian travelled across Canada to ensure his peers were always updated on whatever their needs were, and spent many hours of his own time visiting CCB Members to understand technology better. At the conclusion of the Computer Training Program, Brian became President of the CCB Brantford Chapter for 4 years, and unfortunately the Brantford facility shut down due to high maintenance costs and declining enrolment.
Following such, Brian focused his attention to the Hamilton Chapter, where He was a tireless worker until his unfortunate passing.
Brian will truly be missed by everyone in the CCB, as well as the Blind Community at large, as Brian touched many lives with his unselfish support and friendship.
Thank you Brian, and You certainly were a role model in making the CCB a stronger Organization.
Submitted by Jim Tokos – National Vice President
Brian Wice: Rest in Peace my friend, your kind and gentle nature will be missed, and that you offered it freely to all you came into contact with will stay with me all the days of my life. I learned so much about teaching from you during our time working on the Canadian Council of the Blind’s Computer Training program in 2008-09, especially the success that can be achieved with patience, kindness and understanding. Traits you had in abundance, along with a good measure of love for your fellow human being, music and tranquility. I admired too the love and devotion you had for your wife Angela and your entire family. I will endeavour to stay on the road you blazed as I continue to work at making a difference in the lives I touch along the way, and to do so in the loving and understanding way you showed me. I thank the Universe for sending you onto my path of life, and I thank you for your teachings on that path. Go with love my friend, your work here is apparently done, all-be-it too soon.
With Love, Albert Ruel
Club 60 is the CCB community chapter for the City of Barrie. The Barrie Chapter was formed in 1956 and was the 60th club to join in Canada; hence the club’s designation – ‘Club 60‘.
Presently, there are two Club 60 Charter Members: Gerry Smith and Gary Bradley.
Our club promotes the objectives of the CCB to encourage, build and restore self-confidence, self-reliance and dignity to individuals of the city of Barrie whose daily activities have been disrupted by blindness and visual impairment by providing opportunities to participate in recreational, leisure and social activities
Club members enjoy a wide variety of social and recreational activities such as: fall, winter and spring weekly 5 & 10 pin bowling; summer lawn bowling; Christmas parties; weekly Euchre and Cribbage card games and many opportunities to enjoy excursions to dinners, lunches, the theatre and tours of attractions. CCB National holds 5 pin bowling tournaments which our members participate in. This provides an opportunity for blind and visually impaired individuals from across Canada to compete in a friendly, supportive competition. CCB National also holds Euchre card games tournaments. Club 60 members enjoy participating in tournaments.
Club 60 monthly meetings serve as a forum for information, education and support for blind and visually impaired individuals. We strive for improvements in areas such as local transportation and accessibility. We liaise with organizations for and of the blind and visually impaired in matters that benefit the blind and visually impaired.
Club 60 feels that a visual impairment should not prevent individuals from enjoying an active, rewarding lifestyle. By continuing to offer this support, Club 60 can partner with Barrie residents with visual impairments so they may sustain an independent lifestyle that is stimulating and contributes to their community.
Is there life after blindness?
At Club 60 we say, you bet there is!
CCB Tech Articles: Donna’s Low Tech Tips, Clothing++:
Today, I’d like to touch on the subject of clothing.
Clothing in a closet is easier to find when it is organized. For example, garments may be separated by color, or casual clothes may be placed at one end of your closet and formal clothing placed at the opposite end.
Place matching outfits (for example a suit jacket, shirt, tie and slacks) on one hanger or several hangers tied together.
A variety of closet organizers and shelf units are available in hardware or department stores.
To identify clothing color, cut a geometric shape (from cardboard or plastic) to place over the hanger.
Put a large print and/or braille label on the geometric shape.
In order to distinguish one clothing item from another, look for differences in texture, style, type of buttons, collars, hems, etc.
If you have two pieces of clothing which are identical except for color, attach a small safety pin to the tag or label of one garment; sew one button or several buttons on the inside of a hem or a seam to identify colors. (Small, flat buttons work best.) Similarly, small braille clothing tags or an embroidery stitch can be placed on the underside of a garment to indicate color on similar designs of clothing.
That’s it from me for today and I hope that my tips are helpful.
In the News
$54 Million Contract Awarded to Bombardier for Accessibility Renovations to 17 Train Cars++:
LA POCATIÈRE, April 3, 2018 – VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) has awarded Bombardier a $54 million contract to upgrade 17 train cars. Built in the 1950s, the renovations will be used to transform them into a new generation of fully accessible cars, and will elevate the standards of accessibility in Canada. VIA Rail President and Chief Executive Officer Yves Desjardins-Siciliano announced the investment this morning in La Pocatière, Quebec, in the presence of the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Françoise Bertrand, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of VIA Rail, Sylvain Lévesque, Vice-President, Corporate Strategy, and David Van der Wee, Chief Executive Officer at Bombardier Transportation, Americas.
The contract awarded to Bombardier will allow for the stainless steel cars to become fully accessible. The interior layout of the cars was designed in compliance with modern accessibility standards and future requirements that are currently under development in order to provide a superior level of accessibility.
Each reconfigured car will be equipped with:
-Two wheelchair lifts;
-Two accessible spaces with anchoring devices; -announcement display screens, including in the washrooms; -an accessible washroom.
The work will also include the installation of Wi-Fi devices, improved interior design of the cars and mechanical upgrading of the heating system and various electrical components.
The program is scheduled to be completed in 2020. The 17 renovated cars will be deployed over VIA Rail’s long-haul routes.
Alexa Is a Revelation for the Blind++:
Legally blind since age 18, my father missed out on the first digital Revolution.
“Is it ‘Electra?’” my father asks, leaning in close to the Amazon Echo my mother has just installed. Leaning in close is his trademark maneuver: Dad has been legally blind since age 18, the result of a horrible car crash in 1954. He has lived, mostly successfully, with limited vision for the 64 years since.
“Call it the right name!” my mom shouts as Dad tries to get the device’s attention. In response, he adopts an awkward familiarity, nicknaming the Echo “Lexi.”
Hearing this, I groan. There goes Dad again, trying to be clever, getting it wrong, and relishing the ensuing chaos.
Then I stop myself. Isn’t it possible that he expects Alexa to recognize a prompt that’s close enough? A person certainly would. Perhaps Dad isn’t being obstreperous. Maybe he doesn’t know how to interact with a machine pretending to be human—especially after he missed the evolution of personal computing because of his disability. Watching him try to use the Echo made me realize just how much technology forms the basis of contemporary life—and how thoroughly
Dad had been sidelined from it.
Companies like Amazon are presenting voice-activated devices as the ultimate easy-to-use technology. Just speak naturally to Alexa (or Apple’s Siri, or Google’s Assistant), and it will answer your questions and respond to your commands. What could be simpler?
But every other supposedly obvious technical interface has proved to require some prior knowledge or familiarity. People had to be trained to operate a mouse, for example; direct control of a cursor was awkward until it became habitual. The touch screen built on the mouse, replacing the pointer with the finger. Its accompanying gestures—flicking through a feed or pinch-zooming a map or swiping right on a love interest—have come to feel like second nature. But none of them are actually natural.
Voice assistants appear to bypass that legacy, offering hands-free operation for able-bodied folk and new accessibility for those with limited mobility or dexterity. Yet they still require expertise. Dad loves classical music, so I suggest that he try out Amazon’s extensive music library. “Alexa, play Brahms’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5,’ ” he says. He’s gotten it partly wrong—the composer is Liszt, not Brahms—but Alexa throws up her hands completely:
“I can’t find ‘Rhapsody No. 5’ by Brahms Hungarian.” Someone familiar with web searches would realize he’d provided too much information and simplify the request. Instead, Dad just looks baffled.
Another problem: While voice-activated devices do understand natural language pretty well, the way most of us speak has been shaped by the syntax of digital searches. Dad’s speech hasn’t. He talks in an old-fashioned manner—one now dotted with the staccato march of time. “Alexa, tell us the origin and, uh, well, the significance, I suppose, of Christmas,” for example.
Dad always hid his disability as much as possible, seeking to pass as able-bodied. This worked well enough—he completed a doctoral degree and maintained a private practice as a clinical psychologist for decades—until, one day, it didn’t anymore.
Computers seemed like unnecessary accessories at first, ones Dad could ignore while remaining operational in the world.
The issue was partly his age, and partly the way the media ecosystem had changed. Print newspapers, television, and radio had lost ground, and information got siphoned into glass-and-metal rectangles that require clear vision and deft motor control. Dad can read newspapers with a strong magnifier and watch television if he sits close enough to the set, but those formats don’t require user interaction like computers do. Print doesn’t require scrolling or zooming, and its pages don’t time out and turn themselves off.
A screen reader—a kind of software that provides assistance for people with vision problems—might have made computers more accessible to Dad, but arthritis hindered his fine-motor movement, and obstinacy made him spurn help of any kind. “I can see it,” he often says, ironically. Computers and smartphones seemed like unnecessary accessories at first, ones he could ignore while remaining operational in the world. But those devices have become ever more central to daily life. Sure, Dad can still pick up the phone and call people. But who talks on the phone anymore?
Now, at 82—and with a different technology on offer—Dad is willing to adapt. After his initial fumbles with the Echo, he begins to get the hang of it, asking Alexa for football scores and stock-market updates, or to tell him who the president of Venezuela is. He discovers that, for some reason, Alexa isn’t set up to report the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Nikkei index, and he begins to enjoy posing questions the device can’t answer. He taunts it the way everyone else does: “Alexa, what would you like for breakfast?”
Dad’s background as a psychologist makes his initial error of address—Electra rather than Alexa—accidentally funny. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, coined the Electra complex to name a girl’s competition with her mother for the attention of her father—the feminine corollary of the Oedipus complex. But unlike in Jung’s formulation, my mother relishes this new interloper. For decades, Mom has facilitated my father’s access to news and information—and she’s happy to be unseated by a rival, even if it’s just a fabric-covered cylinder with a light on top. Even so, this new setup is not perfect. “Dad often gets his commands wrong,” Mom reports, “and he gets frustrated when she does not understand him.”
When I was younger, Dad would write me letters—big, weird, angular script on stationery left over from his private practice. That became harder for him over time, as his vision and dexterity degraded—and I was never a very good written correspondent anyway. Then email and text messaging came along, and communication began to channel through computers—and for Dad, through my mother. There’s a difference between being read a letter addressed to you, and being a secondary party to communications on someone else’s personal device.
The Echo promised to rectify this slight. Dad can dictate a message to Alexa, and it will arrive on my Echo, as well as in an app on my phone, as both a recording and a transcribed text message.
At first, Alexa resists: It has a hard time understanding “Ian” and matching my name in Mom’s address book. (And the fact that it’s “Mom’s address book” only demotes Dad to the dependent invalid he so hates to be.) After we iron this out, Dad and I start using the Echo for small talk—quick life updates, holiday greetings, sports commiserations.
The recordings Alexa delivers to me are comprehensible, but Dad’s mumbles and pauses make the transcriptions incomplete or inaccurate. This mode of communication feels like something between leaving voicemails and texting, a technological pidgin that travels across eras in time as much as it does across the space between my father and me. Still, we probably haven’t spoken this often in years, if this counts as speaking.
Then, while out to dinner with their neighbor Ron, my parents discover that he recently bought an Echo—making Ron another Alexa pen pal for Dad. Soon after, I ask Dad how his correspondence is going. A pause follows. Dad’s hearing is on the wane, too, and he takes a medication that makes him drowsy, so sometimes he vanishes silently from a conversation. At last, he reports: “It’s nice to be able to communicate back and forth.”
I let the idea roll around in my head and realize what I’ve gotten wrong. I was thinking of the Echo as a tool for exchanging information. That explains why I’m sometimes frustrated with the results. But for Dad, the Echo doesn’t carry information so much as it facilitates independence of connection—to me, to Ron, to the fast-moving facts and responses that smartphone and Google users have had at their fingertips for years, or decades.
It doesn’t really matter whether Alexa provides Dad with useful knowledge or a seamless way to communicate. It does something more fundamental: It allows him to connect with people and ideas in a contemporary way. To live fully means more than sensing with the eyes and ears—it also means engaging with the technologies of the moment, and seeing the world through the triumphs and failures they uniquely offer.
By IAN BOGOST
Latest Report from NNELS on Library Services Project++:
In late July 2017, NNELS was among a number of organizations invited to apply for a grant from the Government of Canada through the Social Development Partnerships Program – Disability Component (SDPP-D) to develop partnerships and produce alternate formats for Canadians with print disabilities. In mid-December we were notified that the BC Libraries Co-op would receive $1 million to carry out the activities in a revised NNELS proposal. Work began in January and a public announcement about the project was made on February 15th. The deadline for the completion of the work was originally set to March 31st but was revised on March 19th to May 31st, 2018.
Most of the projects are nearing completion and final reports on each of them will be distributed before the end of May. This interim update is for members of our partner organizations.
We hired six people with vision impairments to learn how to produce ebooks and help improve both book quality and the NNELS workflow. This work was complete as of March 31. During the project, weekly activities related to book analysis and production were led by our team of Production Assistants in Alberta. Through email and discussion forums (discuss.nnels.ca), the new production assistants analyzed EPUB files, explored the functionality of reading and editing tools, and learned by working on books of their own choosing, some of which are complete and available in NNELS. Some projects are continuing, thanks to momentum: in particular, a team from the Ontario College of Art and Design is working with one of our now-former production assistants to explore how a university-level physics textbook could be accessible through audio, tactile, and visual modalities.
We loved this experiment. We have ideas for next steps for involving readers of accessible formats in book production and hope to work again with the outstanding people who helped us so much. Our thanks to Karoline Bourdeau, Daniella Levy-Pinto, Ka Li, Richard Marion, Steve Murgaski, and Ryan Ollis. Thanks also to the production assistants in
Alberta: Leah Brochu, Jenn Lortie, and Rachel Osolen.
We organized seven workshops with EPUB accessibility expert Laura Brady of Brady Typesetting. These workshops took place in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, and Toronto. A total of 73 publishers, editors, and alternate format producers attended, with about ten more requesting access to a video recording. Special thanks to provincial publishers’ associations who helped with promotion, and to Alternative Education Resources for Ontario (AERO), and Bob Minnery there, for organizing and sponsoring local arrangements for the Toronto workshop.
Laura Brady also analyzed EPUB files for 21 Canadian publishers, creating comprehensive three to five-page reports for each publisher, full of accessibility and coding suggestions.
The workshops and audits both contained a lot of information and were overwhelming for many people. We learned that most publishers are still producing EPUB 2 files, probably out of habit, and very few publishers know much about accessibility. Also, many publishers outsource their ebook production to overseas companies. Many ebooks, whether outsourced or produced in-house, are missing basic accessibility functionality such as headings for navigation and descriptive text for images.
Our collective goal is for books to be published accessibly so that they do not require further intervention to be read with assistive technology. We are a long way from reaching that goal. There is a lot of pressure on publishers to learn and implement accessibility changes, and they are nervous about the cost and time required to implement everything being recommended to them. Many publishers do not know a lot about HTML and CSS, let alone standards such as ARIA. We need to chunk lessons into short, prioritized, and digestible lists, and find ways to support publishers in making changes. We have some ideas for what to do next.
Coincidentally, this project was supported by our purchasing work: while we were prescribing a standard for accessible publishing, we were offering to pay publishers for any EPUB 2 or 3 files that they had already published. This was a good approach and we suspect it encouraged publishers to work with and sell files to us.
These projects also gave us some recognition in advance of our presentation to publishers and editors at the ebookcraft conference in Toronto in late March, organized by BookNet Canada. Laura Brady opened many doors for us: she was a conference co-organizer, she presented alongside us, and she initiated a number of conversations which we expect will be fruitful for years to come.
Print-Braille Children’s Books
This project benefited from the extended deadline: these 15 print-braille children’s books are still in production and we’re looking forward to seeing the results. We’ve chosen great books, and the team at the Vision Impaired Resource Network in Winnipeg is using an innovative approach to create a fully accessible reading experience: stay tuned.
National Braille Study
Mary Ellen Gabias, President of the Canadian Federation of the Blind, has been volunteer-leading a team of five writers: Michelle Creedy, Danny Faris, Holly Hoffmann, Kerry Kijewski, and Marcia Yale, and one research assistant, Lilith Lee, to propose a sustainable long-term strategy for making braille accessible to all Canadians in print and digital forms. The report will discuss how to manage decisions about storing and mailing braille material, and the comparative costs and benefits of building library collections, supporting digital collections, and printing on demand. The extended deadline has allowed for extra writing and editing. When complete, the report will be available in both French and English.
Recording Kits for Libraries
Thanks to support from the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), we’ve had a really great team for the past few months: two people with audio recording experience and two librarians have created a plan and instructions for volunteers to record audiobooks in Canadian public libraries. We have ten recording kits complete with good quality headset-microphones, USB keys, quick instructions, and a bright red shipping case. These kits are in the final stages of assembly and are about to be sent to the first libraries that have expressed interest so far. They can be sent to any library in Canada that wants to record an audio version of a children’s picture book. Working with this team, and with CCB, has been an immense pleasure.
Purchasing EPUB & Audiobooks
Thank you to members of the Alliance for Equality for Blind Canadians (AEBC) and the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) for their help with making purchasing suggestions, and encouraging members to request books.
To date, we have purchased 17,767 EPUB files (we committed to 14,000) and 3,435 audiobooks (we committed to 3,000) and we are currently adding these files to the NNELS repository. With the weight of the Co-op behind us, we were able to get favourable pricing from vendors, and work with eBOUND and Demarque to purchase a large amount of Canadian ebooks in both English and French. We’ve also been able to work directly with a number of Canadian publishers, many of whom were probably able to sell files to us because the accessible publishing work that was happening alongside this project.
We also commissioned 30 narrated audiobooks, some of which were requested by AEBC and CFB members. We have notified some of the requestors that their books are now available, and there are more to come.
Finally, the extended deadline gives us more time to work with the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired. Their team is using machine learning tools to help us improve our production workflow, and we are supporting them to develop that technology. They are also producing 50 books in accessible formats, contributing a number of narrated titles, and making much-needed improvements to the NNELS website, particularly our catalogue searching.
If you have comments or questions about any of these projects, please get in touch with us: [email protected] or 1-888-848-9250, option 5.