2018 CCB in Review – the President’s Report

2018 was an extremely busy year for the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). As the National President I travelled from coast to coast in Canada, into the USA, Switzerland and Turkey representing CCB at various meetings.

This year we worked on many advocacy issues as an organisation and with a variety of other organizations. One of the first items is a project we partnered with Neil Squires Foundation and CNIB on a project called “Enabling Access to Retail Payment Systems by Persons with Disabilities”. Canadians with disabilities such as blindness are not offered the necessary assurances of security, verification and independence to which every Canadian is entitled. A described video was made and then we invited some of Canada’s senior representatives from government, banking and industry to motivate them to take action. This continues to be a work in progress.

Our National Advocacy Committee has been busy on several concerns such as:  A letter has been written to the Passport Office in regards to inaccessible cue signage which has been acknowledged. Script Talk, a device for reading prescriptions labels with a chip on container to provide information in an audio format became available through Sobeys (and related pharmacies) with a “soft opening” on April 17 following our meetings. Contact your pharmacy for further information.

The World Blind Union Women’s Committee has been active. Members have been compiling criteria for an Empowerment Award for women and surveying women globally to determine barriers preventing women to achieve leadership roles.

In May CCB sponsored the North America/Caribbean Regional meeting in Ottawa. The World Braille Council and Braille Literacy Canada also held their meeting during the same week.

During White Cane Week (WCW) the annual AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship was held at the Ottawa Curling Club with seven teams from across Canada attending. Many other activities of awareness and demonstrations of Ability were held in various locations. The annual Atlantic Sports & Recreation Weekend event was held in Sydney, NS in May. A variety of other sports such as golf, fitness, cycling, etc. are on-going. “Experience Expo” held at the beginning of White Cane Week took place in Toronto with CCB Visionaries Chapter and was a resounding success.

The By Laws committee continues to working on all sections to comply with the Canada Not for Profit Act. This will take some time to complete. 

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 Victoria BC we met with various Government officials on the use of Biologics and Biosimilars and the potential changes that may take place. Included were the official opposition Health Critics, seniors’ care, Mental Health & Addiction Critic, Co-critics for Jobs, Trade, & Technology and the BC Green Caucus Health Critic. Other members of the working group continue to follow up on this issue in other parts of Canada.

Together with FFB and CNIB we sent Patient Submissions to the Canadian Agency on Drugs and Technology (CADTH) on the use of implants, MIGs, and drops 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. 

Engagement sessions were held in various Canadian cities regarding the National Pharmacare Standards attended by CCB members from across the country. The sessions provided input from patients and patient groups as to what will change. CCB members stressed the need that a fully informed consent between patient and physician needs to be at forefront and not a decision made just to save health care money by switching to a cheaper product. The patient and caregiver need to be well aware of the treatment process.

On March 20, stakeholders were invited to participate in an information session on Bill 160, Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act, 2017. Ethics and Compliance Expert Rosy Sasso provided an overview of the draft legislation and regulations in Ontario and answer questions from Ontario stakeholders.

CCB has been involved with a Working Group in breaking down the barriers for accessible formats. Gerry Chevalier is our lead on this group among representatives from other Blindness organizations, industry and government.

The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) recommends that the Canadian government adopt a policy position that the public library system is responsible for serving all Canadians including those with a print disability. Accordingly, the federal government should consistently fund a centralized production capability for creating alternative formats to print that include at least recorded audio and braille books with consideration for e-text, e-braille, large print, and other accessible formats that may become viable over time as technology may permit.

Some public engagement sessions for the Accessible Nova Scotia Act have been held this spring. This is to advise on shortfalls on the new Act. Recommendations from across the province were provided to the working committee on needed changes to the act.

The Government introduced the proposed Accessible Canada Act in the legislature in June. This historic legislation would enable the Government of Canada to take a proactive approach to end systemic discrimination of people with disabilities. The goal is to benefit all Canadians through the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. As the Government was going into summer recess Bill C-81 An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada was tabled until the fall sitting. At present Bill C-81 has passed third reading and now is with the Senate.

At the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting, the CTA’s vision of a national transportation system that is the most accessible in the world, and discussed the results of the extensive consultations and analysis that the CTA conducted as part of the first phase of its Regulatory Modernization Initiative (RMI), which deals with accessible transportation.

The main focus was in the formulation of one new set of regulations to cover persons with disabilities regardless of which mode of travel is used under Federal jurisdiction. Members representing a variety of disability organization had the opportunity to provide input and when the Agency has completed the Regulation those in attendance will again have an opportunity for review prior to it going to the Government for legislation. Organizations were asked to do a written submission which CCB did. Go to https://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng for up to date information

With the potential Accessible Canada Act the Federally owned transportation and communication agencies began consulting with various disability organizations to make recommendations needed to improve their services. CCB was invited to tour and access the VIA Rail Station in Ottawa for accessibility concerns. 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.

Marine Atlantic (MA) held the first meeting of the newly formed Accessibility & Inclusion Advisory Committee which I attended. The new group has several disability groups represented along with top management personnel of MA. Meetings have taken place in Newfoundland regarding their needs both within employment of persons with disabilities and their terminals and vessel accessibility.

As you know about the Mobile Eye Clinic, through our work with the Lions Club and the Military we were able to assist a parent in getting a very special pair of glasses for a baby so that she would be able to see her parents.

Braille Literacy Canada has been very active in providing information on Emerging Braille Technology and Unified English Braille (UEB). CCB is represented on their Board. CCB is also on Barrier Free Canada Board, and a member of Best Medicines Coalition. We have worked with the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) – making presentations and armchair discussions on eye health at their Global Conference. We continue to work with FFB and CNIB in completing CADTH submissions and other advocacy work.  

CCB National Membership Committee continues to meet working to discover new programs or initiatives to grow our membership.

In August CCB was invited to Troy, Çanakkale, Turkey as guests of the Turkish Federation of the Blind to take part in the writing of a declaration for world peace and to do readings from Homer’s Iliad. The blind are the most sincere and determined opponents of war, as war increases the population of the blind to a significant extent and leads to the use of resources needed in the prevention of disability or in improving living standards for persons with disabilities to be wasted.

We are the representatives of the organizations of the blind from various countries who are gathered in the ancient theatre located in the ruins of Troy, hosted by the office of the Çanakkale Governor, at the invitation of the Turkish Federation of the Blind, in keeping with the fact that 2018 has been declared the “Year of Troy” by the government of the Turkish Republic. Each of us is working to strengthen people with visual impairments in our own geographical area by establishing local, national and international networks, and considering each other from the perspective of knowledge and love.

As you can see CCB has been busy working to improve the quality of life for those living with blindness as well as in the prevention of blindness as per our mandate. As we move into our 75th anniversary year we will continue doing what it takes to meet these needs.

Respectfully submitted

Louise Gillis Signature

Louise Gillis, National President