VISIONS – November 2019

Cover of the VISIONS newsletter for November, featuring a poppy and some daisies.


Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

November 2019

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

President’s Message++

Welcome to fall! October was busy with many webinars and information sessions along with our regular committee meetings.

We at the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) are very pleased to be working to make prescriptions much more accessible for those of us who are unable or have difficulty reading our medication labels. We are working with Sobeys Pharmacies across Canada to provide Script Talk to overcome these issues with identifying medications.

ScripTalk Labels and Talking Prescription Reader:

  • As many as 1.9 million drug-related injuries occur each year due to prescription errors or adverse reactions.
  • Nearly 10% of those injuries are life-threatening or fatal and more than half are preventable.
  • Prescription drug mistakes are a leading cause of death and injury to seniors.
  • More than half of all patients do not take medications as prescribed.

Now there is a solution!

ScripTalk talking labels and prescription readers are available by request at many pharmacies, free of charge.

Hear your prescription information!

  • Drug Name, Dosage, & Instructions
  • Warnings & Contraindications
  • Pharmacy Information
  • Doctor Name
  • Prescription Number & Date
  • And More!

ScripTalk Station is a prescription reader device. Simply press a button and place the special ScripTalk talking label over the reader. A pleasant natural sounding voice speaks all the information printed on the label.

ScripTalk Station uses RFID and text-to-speech technology. A thin antenna and microchip embedded within the label are programmed with all the printed information. Because the data is stored in the label itself, it can be used on any size prescription container.

ScripTalk Station Features

  • Lightweight and Portable
  • Natural Voice
  • Earphone Jack for Privacy
  • One-Touch Operation
  • Read as Many Times as Needed
  • Scrollable Data
  • Adjustable Volume
  • Works with any Prescription
  • Multiple Languages

ScripTalk Station is the only talking prescription reader to meet all federal requirements listed under the Federal Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

For more information on how to have your pharmacy participate and issue your prescriptions with a ScripTalk Station, call En-Vision America: 1-800-890-1180

Sobeys Inc. is the second largest food retailer in Canada, with over 1,500 stores operating in Canada under a variety of banners such as Safeway, FreshCo, Needs, etc. all pharmacies will carry Script Talk so speak to your local pharmacy. Watch for the formal announcements in the New Year.

Now that the election is over and new cabinet will be announced on Nov. 20th we will be getting back to the advisory government committees to help guide the way to an accessible Canada.

On October 8th I attended the CNIB Annual Community Meeting in Halifax. It is at this event that volunteers are honoured. Congratulations to Jenny Bovard on winning the Holly Award this is a great honour for her. Many guide dog puppy handlers were also acknowledged for their continued work in this area. For me I was the very surprised recipient of the Arthur Napier McGill Distinguished Service Award. This is presented by John Napier McGill son of Arthur every year since 1976 I honour of his father’s work. His father was the second CEO following Cor. Baker. This award was an honor for me to receive.

We are now in the curling season as our team prepare for the National AMI Championship during White Cane Week. Looking forward to some changes in other activities while we are in Ottawa. Curlers stay tuned!

This month of November is a particular time to remember our veterans as well as our Canadian Forces as they serve and protect us all. “Lest We Forget” wear your poppy.

Louise Gillis, National President


Early Bird Winners++:

We would like to congratulate the winners of the Early Bird Draw for the Membership 2020 season.

CCB E. A. Baker Club

CCB York Region Lighthouse Chapter

All your dues paid until the draw date will be returned to you in a cheque soon.  Watch your mail boxes.

Save the Date: AMI Segmentation Study Research++:

AMI Segmentation Study Research Town Hall

Wednesday, December 4th at 2:00pm ET

This will be a teleconference Town Hall, although individuals living in the Toronto area are welcome to attend in person at 1090 Don Mills Rd.  Approximately 20 people can be accommodated at the AMI office.  Further details, including call in information, will be provided the week of November 18th.

CCB Peterborough Chapter Announcement++:

My name is Leslie Yee and I am the very proud Chairperson for the Canadian council of the Blind Peterborough Chapter.

Harmonious Hauntings was our first Fundraiser and we were overwhelmed by the community support that was given to us for this event. 

CCB Peterborough started 3 ½ years ago, with 4 people and our Chairperson who started the Chapter is Shawn Johnson. It is because of Shawn’s passion for CCB that we exist today. We now proudly have over 29 members and volunteers in our Chapter. Not bad, however, we are always trying to reach out to more members of the community who are visually impaired.

Membership with CCB provides inclusion, purpose, fellowship and social interaction with persons who understand and support each other’s unique strengths and abilities.

 All the support and donations we have received will go towards activities, sports and programs to help improve the lives of persons with vision loss.

Our Chapter has Insight Peterborough, a Trent radio talk show, hosted by our very own member Devon Wilkens,

Our Members participate in Blind Curling, outings, and social groups.

Our organization has developed “From the Blind for the Blind”, run and organized by Debbie Haryett, one of our members. It is a lending library of visual aids, so all persons with vision loss can get some help regardless of their financial circumstances.

Donations given at the fundraiser will help support these programs and purchase technology to support the lending library program.

This wonderful event could not have happened without the support from the community.

We would like to thank our event sponsors:

Canterbury Gardens Retirement Center in Peterborough, ON and Kawartha Lakes Construction in Lakefield, ON.

Their support made this event possible.

Our raffle prizes were donated by many businesses. The Peterborough community is very generous and I encourage you all to support them as they support us.

Supporters include: Lynda Todd-Artist, BE Catering, Kawartha TV and Stereo, Peterborough Escape, Hand and Stone Spa, Hi Ho Silver, The Pasta Shop, Chasing the Cheese, Fresh Dreams, Charlotte Products Ltd., Peterborough Refrigeration, Tupperware-Tammy Thirnbeck, Pet Smart, Pammets Flower Shop, BIKe, Gail Brierley-Quilts, Canadian Tire, Monaghan Lumber, Costco, Daniel E. Lee- Float Plane sightseeing Tours and Master Mind Toys and Games.

We would also like to thank the volunteers that helped at the event and the organizers who put this event together.

Debbie and Jim Haryett, Aileen Hill and Christel Galachiuk

Thank you to each of you for your time and dedication.

Our Story tellers for the evening belong to the Canadian Storytellers association, Peterborough Chapter.

Betty Bennett is a retired librarian who discovered her second adulthood through telling stories. She is now a professional storyteller who tells across genres, including folk tales, fairy tales, and personal stories.

Harper, Singer and Storyteller Angelica Ottewill and Her Friends Perform for All Ages and Occasions.

We had a very fun and entertaining evening and with everyone’s help and support we reached our fundraising goals.

Thank you Peterborough!

Connecting the Dots Conference 2019:++

By Kim Kilpatrick

During the last week of October, I was given the opportunity of representing CCB at the “Connecting the Dots” conference. It was a two-day event held in Toronto.

I presented on a new multi-line braille display called the Canute 360 which I am testing now.  I also presented with Jason Fayre from CNIB who co-leads the Toronto GTT group.

There were other fascinating presentations on blindness and mental health, blindness and employment, braille, apps and technology, and visited the exhibitors, which I was happy to attend.

I have been attending this conference for several years and one of my highlights always is the braille creative writing contest.  The kids who win this competition, read their short stories or poems to a very appreciative audience.

CNIB has promised to hold these events in other parts of Canada over the next year.

Results of Accessible Canada Act Survey++

By way of follow-up from the September 25, 2019 – Accessible Canada Act: Candidates’ Forum, co-hosted by Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Reena, we are sharing a number of resources related to the event and preliminary survey results from the Accessible Canada Survey circulated by the two host organizations and Accessible Media Inc.

On the evening of October 17, 2019, CTV National News ran a lead story dealing with the hidden issue of the 2019 Election – Accessibility.

We are providing the preliminary side-by-side analysis of the Accessible Canada Act Survey; both results shared at the 9/25 Candidates Forum, as well as the results generated from a second publicity push from Accessible Media Inc.

3 Major takeaways from the survey;

* More education is needed to explain ACA and to differentiate between Federal & Provincial responsibility

* A consensus is developing as to the priorities of Bill C-81 improvements, and suggested approaches

* There is a Canada-wide interest in improving the ACA / Bill C-81

Going forward, and independent of the results of the October 21, 2019 Federal election, insights generated from this survey will be relevant to the national effort to improve and strengthen Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act.

Assistive Technology

Windows from the Keyboard Tips, New Weekly Blog:++

Hello. This is Gerry Chevalier from the CCB GTT Edmonton Chapter. We have begun a new weekly blog called, Windows from the Keyboard Tips. These weekly posts will contain useful keyboard shortcuts, tips, and strategies that I find useful as a keyboard user of Windows. The information is for Windows10 and Office 365, although many tips will still apply to older versions.  The tips do not require a screen reader unless specifically noted. Thus, most of the tips apply whether you are a keyboard user or low vision mouse user.

There are over 50 weekly tips planned in the next year that will cover Windows 10 in general, including the desktop, Start menu search, settings, and File Explorer. Office apps such as Word, Excel, and Outlook will also be included.

If you know people who might be interested in reading the blog posts, they can read them on the GTT National blog web site

If they prefer to receive the posts in their email inbox there is a Follow link at the bottom of that web site where you can submit your email address.

Then you can simply watch your inbox each Wednesday for the first tip in the series!

This is yet another way CCB is promoting communication regarding accessibility and a great example of peer mentoring and enhancing independence.

Please see below for an example of a great tip!

Windows10 Accessibility

Many people who are experiencing progressive vision loss find it increasingly difficult to see their computer screen and ask what kind of assistive tech software they should buy.

The good news is you can improve the accessibility of your computer without buying anything. Windows 10 has built-in accessibility settings for both screen magnification and screen reading with speech.

Just hold down the Windows logo key and press U to open the Ease of Access settings. You will find a list of accessibility features such as screen magnification, contrast, and alternative mouse pointers. Try setting these parameters to improve your screen reading experience.

Also, within the Windows 10 Ease of Access Centre is a speech screen reader called Narrator that should be explored if your vision loss is significant and you would benefit more by having the contents of your screen spoken to you.

In the News

 Microsoft Awards ObjectiveEd “AI for Accessibility” Grant++

Kim Charlson was 11 when she started losing her eyesight because of glaucoma. An operation a year and a half later not only didn’t help, it resulted in complications that hastened her blindness.

Her pragmatic parents insisted she learn Braille, a key to literacy for people who are blind or have low vision. Without that literacy, Charlson likely wouldn’t have gone on to college or a career. Only 13 percent of blind students in the United States know Braille, and roughly 70 percent of adults who are blind or have low vision are unemployed.

Those troubling statistics are one reason Charlson is excited about an app that will help increase the amount of time students can spend learning and practicing Braille. ObjectiveEd, the company that’s developing the Braille AI Tutor app, is a new recipient of Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility grants to people using AI-powered technology to make the world a more inclusive place. Ten other recipients joining the program in conjunction with National Disability Awareness Month include City University of London, inABLE, iMerciv and The Open University

“We have a huge opportunity and a responsibility to be making technology smarter and more useful for people with disabilities,” says Mary Bellard, Microsoft senior architect lead for accessibility. The aim of the AI for Accessibility program, which began in 2018 and now has 32 grantees, is to help people “build something really useful at the intersection of AI, accessibility and disability.”

The Braille AI Tutor app is the latest project for ObjectiveEd’s president, Marty Schultz, a longtime software developer and volunteer teacher who created an iPhone game five years ago called “Blindfold Racer” for children who are blind. It led to more than 80 games for the iPhone and iPad that have together been downloaded more than a half-million times.

Charlson, former president of the American Council of the Blind, is a big fan of Schultz’s work. So is Judy Dixon, consumer relations officer for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and the two women often talked with him about the importance of Braille education for literacy and employment. Schultz took it to heart — and to the drawing board.

Some students who are blind or have low vision attend schools that are geared to their needs, and where Braille is taught and used daily. But many attend public schools and learn Braille from teachers who visit their schools once a week, spending about an hour with each student.

“If you only get an hour a week with the teacher — I mean, how many kids would learn how to read print if they only had an hour a week of instruction?” says Charlson. “It’s just not enough. You have to immerse yourself in it at that developmental stage, or you’re not going to be as fluent in it as you need to be as an adult.”

The Braille AI Tutor app will incorporate AI-based speech recognition, using Microsoft’s Azure Speech API, to help students practice reading Braille with personalized, gamified learning plans. The app will send a word or a sentence to a refreshable Braille display, one of the types of hardware used for reading Braille. The student will feel the word in Braille, say the word or sentence out loud, and then the app will process the audio feedback and let the student know immediately if they are correct or not.

Teachers will be able to monitor students’ progress, with results sent to a web dashboard.

“We see our role as not teaching the student but giving the student the ability to practice when that teacher’s not around,” Schultz says. “The teacher teaches, and we make practicing fun and engaging and something that can be done without the teacher being there. So the next time the student meets with the teacher, the student has made some real progress.”

Schultz says the extra practice will help students “accelerate more quickly through school, which will lead to college, and to much better employment opportunities in the future.”

Access: Technology lags for people with vision, hearing impairments++

Heidi Prop’s fingers run over the raised white cells on her BrailleNote Touch Plus. She easily reads more than 200 words per minute, consuming online content with the tips of her fingers faster than most people can with their eyes.

Without vision since birth, Prop doesn’t ‘see’ the words in her head when the pins pop up to form braille words on the android-based braille tablet, she instead hears them like a narrator. She’s sitting in an office at the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) in Victoria, but the braille display allows her to read and write almost anywhere. With a braille output, Prop can check her email, browse the web, download apps, and more.

The device is a model of technology that’s added ease to her life, but not all aspects of digitization have made the same leap; many aspects of the internet remain hidden to the blind community.

For example, devices called ‘screen readers’ make web pages accessible, but often stumble when navigating inaccessible websites.  Elizabeth Lalonde, PTCB executive director, opens a Wikipedia page on grizzly bears and a robotic voice begins washing over the screen at a rate too rapid for most of the sighted population to consume.

But before the screen reader reaches the information, Lalonde has to navigate a series of unlabeled links and buttons – small hurdles standing in front of the content she’s trying to reach.

PTCB helps people who are vision-impaired learn how to navigate the world around them – from crossing the street and taking transit to cooking dinner or reading braille.

The centre also focuses heavily on using the web – a skill more or less required in order to survive the modern world. But technology is advancing beyond the speed of accessibility, says Alex Jurgensen, lead program coordinator at PTCB, who adds that creators end up playing catch up, adapting their websites and devices for vision and hearing-impaired users long after initial creation.

“A lot of information is out there, but websites can often be inaccessible,” Jurgensen says, noting things such as forms, apps and anything with unusual or unlabeled text can pose a challenge.

Scrolling through unlabeled links will have the voice reader say “link” with no further description and scrolling over an image with no alt text embedded in the code will simply read off the name of the image file.

Lalonde says Instagram, for example, is simply not worth using for the vision impaired. But it could be if people described what was in their photos, or if Instagram added an alt text option for each picture, so users could describe what they posted, such as “pug sits on a red blanket in the park on a sunny day.”

Jurgensen describes it as adding a ‘sticky note’ to your image – an easy step that allows those who are vision-impaired to access a prominent element of everyday internet use.

But some elements of the information age don’t adapt. For example:

memes. Text created as part of an image is indistinguishable for screen readers. Jurgensen notes apps such as Skip the Dishes can be difficult too. Without labelled button options, he’s ordered food far spicier than he’s intended.

One exception is the iPhone, which becomes usable for vision-impaired users with the simple slide of a toggle that turns on ‘voice over.’

“Camera. Maps. Google. Finance Folder.” The robot voice used to guide drivers to their destinations guides Lalonde through her phone. She double taps on the screen when she’s ready to use an app.

But devices with built-in accessibility software are few and far between – a disheartening reality for the more than six million Canadians living with disabilities.

Lalonde and Jurgensen say websites and online content should be “born accessible,” with accessibility built-in as part of the creation, instead of as afterthoughts or available only through expensive or impractical add-on software.

People with vision-impairments aren’t the only ones facing challenges either. A huge number of videos fail to include subtitles or descriptions of content, throwing in barriers for anyone who has hearing impairments.

And the barriers are nothing new. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were published in 1999 by a group of international experts in digital accessibility. The guideline was used internationally to create digital accessibility policies.

The experts created a testing and scoring format for websites and programs, finding the most successful sites included criteria such as audio tracks (so people who are hearing impaired can understand audio information), the ability to re-size text, the ability to turn off or extending time limits on tasks, and designing consistently, so people will always know where to find what they are looking for when they are navigating the site.

And while the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms included people with disabilities when it was created in 1982, it’s only recently that a bill relating directly to accessibility was taken to the House of Commons.

The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) received unanimous support in May and is in the final stages of becoming law. Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough called the bill “the most transformative piece of legislation” since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and called its progress “a testament to the work, commitment and contributions of the Canadian disability community.”

The bill, still not fully formed, is expected to include digital content and technologies law, likely based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – meaning a number of official sites might be scrambling to get their content up to code.

“A lot of the solutions are fairly simple,” Lalonde notes. “But it’s a question of getting businesses and innovators to adapt accessibility into their process from the start.

“It’s a catch-22,” she adds. “Technology has made a major difference in my life and I know [in] the lives of a lot of blind people because it’s allowed us to access so much more information than we could access before. In some ways it’s been absolutely phenomenal, but … the lack of accessibility keeping up with the technology – that’s the problem.”

Jurgensen nods. “No matter how many steps we take forward it feels like it’s a cat and mouse game, and we’re the ones who are one step behind.”

Author: Nina Grossman


Membership Madness++

Hi Everyone!  Becky from the office here. Everyone should have their membership papers by now.  Thank you to everyone who has submitted their chapter’s membership already.

Early Bird Draw Deadline – October 28, 2019

Chapter Rebate Deadline – December 2, 2019

All 2019 Memberships Due – December 31, 2019

White Cane Week Orders Due – December 20, 2019

WCW Insurance Requests Due – December 20, 2019


Donations Received in the office in 2019 are the only ones that can be receipted for 2019.  Remember to send those donations if you want receipts.                      1-877-304-0968

        [email protected]

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