VISIONS – April 2020

Cover of VISIONS  April 2020 featuring sunlight through fruit blossoms.

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Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

April 2020

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

President’s Message

Welcome to spring! This will be one to remember! I do hope that all of you are doing well and staying safe. In a few short weeks our lives have changed in so many ways that when this is over life will be much different into the future from how we have lived most of our lives.

To protect our staff, they are all working from home. All can be reached by phone and email as usual.

We have increased the GTT call-in meetings to three times a week which have been used by many people. I have been hearing great feedback from our members on this initiative and I encourage you to keep taking advantage of this important service.

Some of our staff have been reaching out and calling chapter contacts just as a check-in. We have also put relevant information on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

I know that for many that use library services you will be running low on books because libraries have been classified as non-essential services. We are hoping that can change soon so that we can at least get some books, and we are working hard to advocate for this.

Most importantly is to follow what you hear from the Government and Health Departments–not to the rumors. Do not get caught up with fake test kits and scammers. Remember to ask any home caregivers to wash their hands and use cautions as prescribed by Health Canada.

CCB will continue to be here to help where we can and I strongly encourage you to take full advantage of the resources presented in this edition of the newsletter. Although all in person gatherings have been suspended until further notice. Remember to check in on friends who may not have access to technology, unable to get food or medications, and any other necessities.

On a more cheerful note check out the many interesting articles in this edition of Visions. If you have some interesting ideas during self-isolation, please send them along to our office.

Until next month stay home and keep safe.

Louise Gillis

CCB National President

Message from CCB National First Vice-President

I hope this finds you and Family well during these difficult times we are facing.

Further to Louise’s message, I wanted to update you on the outstanding work that the GTT program are doing as they are contacting all Chapter contacts across Canada. GTT are offering any assistance required, and conducting a true outreach program by telephone to ensure Chapters are doing well, understanding the situation, and reaching out to their Membership.

This is extremely important for those who are especially isolated prior to the inception of the Pandemic, which even isolates these persons more so.

The group is assembling comments and feedback they receive from Chapters and such Members, and if required will identify those who require additional follow up from Board or Committee Members via a further outreach call. A huge step the GTT group is offering is the use of Zoom for Chapters to conduct virtual meetings of their members, and who better than this group to offer their assistance with setting up this platform.

The target time for this is April, and David, Albert, Kim, and Shelly are doing the initial set of calls, and we will get together again once the calls have been completed to touch base and decide on further steps.

This is a wonderful step being undertaken, and with the current situation we are all facing it truly magnifies the wonderful idea of personal contact and outreach by a great group such as the GTT.

Please read on to find out more details on how you can access these initiatives in this newsletter and stay tuned for more on what the CCB will be doing to keep our members engaged through these unprecedented times.

Jim Tokos

CCB National First Vice-President


URGENT Response Required – Let your voice be heard – This survey is important to your present circumstance and well being.



Dear members of Canada’s vision loss (blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted) community:

We hope that this finds you safe and in good health in these challenging times of COVID-19. We are informed that federal, provincial, and municipal governments are all working to determine how to create policies that will best assist those living with disabilities during the pandemic. Those in the vision loss community are confronted with some serious challenges and we need to identify and respond to just what is required to address and overcome these challenges. 

The vision loss community needs help to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadians are looking at many weeks, if not months, of “living in place” and those living with vision loss need help now. We have prepared the survey to identify most of those issues our governments need to address. Please complete the survey by clicking on one of the links above or below and answering the questions online. It shouldn’t take much more than 15 to 20 minutes of your time. The data collected will greatly assist the CCB’s ability to help you and other members of our community experiencing challenges at this time. Our goal is to feed the information gathered from this survey to those in the various levels of government in order to help them understand the need and to help set priorities and policy.

It is completely up to you whether or not you participate. Do not answer any question that makes you feel uncomfortable. Answer only questions that apply to you. Your responses are completely anonymous and the data collected will remain private. Your name is not attached to the survey. Only the CCB research team will have access to the data collected. If you have any questions about the study, you can contact me at the email address below.

Note: You may use Aira or Be My Eyes to aid with the survey by working with a professional or volunteer.  Smart Device Download Links:  Aira iOSAira AndroidBe My Eyes iOSBe My Eyes Android

Here is the link to the study. Please do it now: 

TAKE THE SURVEY HERE!                                                                             

For more information on how the Government of Canada is supporting individuals, businesses, and industries during the COVID-19 crisis, please see the following link:

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Keith Gordon, Ph.D., M.Sc. (Epid.)

Senior Research Officer

Canadian Council of the Blind

[email protected]

GTT Zooming Forward through the current Physical Distancing Situation

The COVID-19 pandemic means that we all must observe ‘physical distancing’ in order to ‘flatten the curve’ and stem the spread of the Coronavirus.  Whether you are distancing or in isolation, there is no need to feel isolated.  Now more than ever, technology allows us to be more ‘connected’ even when we have to spend time apart. 

Blindness and low vision sometimes causes the need for additional supports like sighted guides and visual assistance in our homes and communities, which is greatly impacted by the need to “Physically Distance” ourselves.  In such instances it isn’t just the virus that is isolating us, its blindness or low vision that is intensifying the situation.

The CCB’s GTT program is making plans to support Canadians who are blind and partially sighted. We will help you to learn how to stay safe and connected.  If you need assistance with your technology, this will now be provided through one-on-one telephone training sessions and with 90-minute open chat calls three times a week, and through the already-available GTTSupport email distribution list, WhatsApp Group, GTTProgram.Blog site and on Facebook. One-on-one telephone coaching sessions can also be facilitated should people need to learn how to download audiobooks from Canada’s accessible Libraries, or to learn how to get sighted assistance through BeMyEyes and Aira services using smart phones and tablets.  See below for booking information.

 Zoom Conferencing One-On-One Tutorial Sessions:

Starting on March 18, 2020 GTT staff and volunteers will be available for one-on-one telephone sessions aimed at assisting those who want to learn how to install and use the very accessible Zoom Conferencing system on iOS devices, Android devices, or PC and Mac computers.  For one-on-one training sessions contact GTT staff and volunteers as per below. 

In the meantime, download the app for your device by following the below links to download the Zoom Cloud Meeting app for:

Zoom For Windows Computers;

Zoom for Mac Computers;

Zoom for iOS from the AppStore;

Zoom for Android from the Google Play Store. 

 GTT Weekly Open Chat:  Building Community among Canada’s blind and low vision population

Starting on March 27, 2020 for 90 minutes each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM (Eastern), GTT staff and/or volunteers will host a vision loss and blindness related Zoom call to discuss all manner of assistive technology and adjustment to blindness issues that are on your mind.  These calls are free of charge, and the topics are open, and will address a variety of needs.  For now only the Wednesday calls will be facilitated, however if the need arises for all gatherings to be lead by a facilitator that will be added in due course. Connect with us through your landline telephone, iDevice, Android device or computer as best suits your interests and abilities. 

Here’s how to get connected:

Join the GTT Open Chat Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 983 959 5688

Toronto One tap mobile for Smart Phones:


Toronto: +16473744685

Alberta: +1 587 328 1099

BC: +1 778 907 2071 Canada

Manitoba: +1 204 515 1268

Montreal: +1 438 809 7799

 GTT Audiobook Download Tutorial Sessions:

While in-person book clubs may have been cancelled and libraries may have closed, staying at home means that you have more time to catch up on your reading.  Are you struggling to download audiobooks from your favourite Library; has the volunteer who usually does this for you had to self-isolate?  GTT staff and volunteers can help you learn how to download the audiobooks you need into the listening device you own. 

 BeMyEyes and Aira for Sighted Assistance:

If you can’t have visits with people in your community and/or your family supports you count on to get those important things done around home or beyond on a daily basis, and if you have a smart phone or tablet, let GTT show you how to connect with sighted volunteers and staff of these two services so they can help.  Contact GTT staff and volunteers for your one-on-one session to learn how to utilize the free BeMyEyes and subscription based Aira services. 

Online Shopping:

If you need to do more online grocery and other types of shopping, and your access to such apps and websites is a struggle, contact GTT staff and volunteers and book a time for someone to coach you to learn the app or website that best meets your shopping needs.  Please be sure to let us know the specific store(s) where you want to shop so the right person can be assigned to coach you. 

 Podcasts and Streaming:

Are you finding yourself with more time on your hands these days?  Would you like to learn how to stream movies, podcasts and other forms of entertainment?  GTT may be able to help, so contact us and book a time for a telephone or Zoom coaching session. 

GTTProgram.Blog Site, for all GTT Events and Activities:

On the GTT Program Blog site you will find postings of all the upcoming events and activities we have planned, as well as some useful resources that might help you to stay connected.  Register your email address on this site and all that gets posted there will land seamlessly in your Inbox in an easy to read format.  If you’re not successful at the below steps, ask Albert Ruel to add you by email at:

[email protected]

To get started, go to:

Near the bottom of the page find and click on the Follow Link, type your email address and click on the Submit Button.  That will prompt the system to send you a Confirmation email message, and once you have clicked on the Confirm Button within that message you’ll be registered.  Welcome aboard. 

 Book Your One-On-One GTT Training Session Today:

Toll Free: +1-877-304-0968

Kim Kilpatrick, GTT Coordinator, Extension 513 [email protected]

Albert Ruel, GTT Coordinator, Extension 550, [email protected]

David Greene, GTT Trainer, Extension 509 [email protected]

 CCB and GTT on Social Media:

GTT Blog: https://GTTProgram.Blog/


CCB Facebook:

GTT Facebook Group:

GTT Facebook Page:

Twitter: @GTTWest @GTTProgram @CCBNational

CCB Craft and Hobbies chapter:

This chapter meets once a month by phone on the third Tuesday and we discuss ways to deal with crafts as a Visually Impaired person and share craft ideas. We also share ideas and sites by e-mail including recipes. We share ideas on crafts we are individually creating and working toward and we do like to make opportunities to show our crafts to the public.

If you are interested please contact Michelle Bartram at; 902-567-6872 or [email protected]

Advertisment: Get GPS apps for vision accessibility needs, brought to you by Bell. BlindSquare Promo and Nearby Explorer Online provide for safe, reliable, and independent travel by voicing directions, points of interest, and descriptions of surrounding areas both indoors and outdoors. Take advantage of these apps anywhere you go on Canada’s largest network. Learn more at Get Nearby Explorer Online for both Apple and Android devices for $0, or get BlindSquare Promo for Apple devices at an exclusive price of $9.99 for Bell Mobility customers (regularly priced at $54.99). Exclusive price available for a limited time only. Visit or call 1 800 268-9243 for more information.

Assistive Technology

Introducing a New Assistive Technology Blog: Windows from the Keyboard Tips

Hello. This is Gerry Chevalier from the GTT Edmonton Chapter. This weekly blog provides tips that I find useful as a keyboard user of Windows. The information is for Windows10 and Office 365, although many tips still apply to older versions.  The tips do not require a screen reader unless specifically noted. Thus, the tips apply whether you are a keyboard user or low vision mouse user. Here is a new tip.

Windows File Explorer – Folder Options

The following are suggested settings for the folder options of your computer’s file system. I believe setting these folder options will make browsing files on your computer safer and easier especially if you do not use a mouse.

  • Begin by opening the Documents folder.
  • Press Control+Spacebar to ensure no files are selected in the Documents folder.
  • Press the Applications key which is beside the right control key on most keyboards. Shift+F10 can also be used if you don’t have an Applications key. Pressing Applications key will open a context menu for the folder.
  • The first item on the menu should be View submenu. Press Right Arrow to open the View submenu and arrow down to the Details item and press Enter if Details is not checked. The details view mode ensures your files are listed in a vertical list with details such as date modified and file size displayed beside each file. The icon view modes are more difficult to use because they are shown in a grid meaning you must arrow in all four directions to browse the files in a folder. For keyboard users, it’s easier to display the files in the vertical details list so you only need to browse in an up/down direction.
  • After you have pressed Enter to check the Details view mode you will be returned to your Documents folder. Press the Applications key to again open the folder context menu.
  • Press Enter to check the Name choice. This causes the files to be listed alphabetically by name.
  • Now press the Windows logo key to open the Windows Start Menu search box and type “folder options” without the quotes in the search box.
  • “File Explorer Folder Options Control Panel” should appear in the search results. Press Enter to open it.
  • TAB through the general and View tabs setting the items of interest.

In the General Tab be sure to choose “This PC” as the default place for File Explorer to open. Also, in the Advanced Settings tree view of the View tab be sure the item to “hide known file extensions” is off.

You press spacebar to toggle the on/off status. This ensures filetypes such as txt, DOCX, MP3 etc. will appear in your list of files.

That’s it for this tip. Until next time, happy computing.

“I’m Leasey, What Would you Like to Do?”

Leasey, (which functions in conjunction with the JAWS for Windows screen-reader from Freedom Scientific), is the world’s first application ideal for people wishing to learn computing through to the power user. From everyday simple tasks such as writing a letter or Email, to tools for study or leisure reading, from searching for (and listening to) books, to hearing your favourite music or the radio, Leasey has a host of tools, utilities and services to offer the computer beginner to the advanced user. Every JAWS user should have Leasey!

For more information, please visit:

In the News

Emergency preparedness for people with disabilities

At all times, but especially during the unprecedented start of 2020, it is important to have resources on emergency preparedness for people with disabilities. 

Our colleagues at the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy & Governance at Dalhousie University have recently conducted research indicating that the key issues for people with disabilities in times of emergency are: 

• Access to assistive devices, medications, health services & facilities, communications & information;

• Disruptions to personal care services and support networks, including service animals;

• Increased stigma and marginalization.

Both the Ontario and federal governments have produced excellent guidelines aimed at:

1. Knowing the risks;

2. Making a plan; and,

3. Assembling emergency supplies.

For the on-line guidelines, please visit the below links:




 Several grocery stores in Canada are opening their doors early for seniors and those with other health concerns to give them an opportunity to shop with fewer customers around amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Galen Weston, the executive chairman of Loblaw Companies, announced that some of his company’s Loblaws grocery stores and Shopper Drug Mart pharmacies would open early for seniors and people living with disabilities so they can shop before the crowds. Weston also encouraged customers who can’t shop in person to take advantage of home delivery services. Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart aren’t the only retailers offering extended hours for seniors and those with special needs. In Toronto, Pusateri’s Fine Foods declared that all of their locations, except for the one inside the Eaton’s Centre, would open early for the elderly and those at a higher risk of infection. Also in Toronto, all Longo’s locations will offer a “community wellbeing hour” from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every morning for seniors and other at-risk members of the community.

There is a growing list of stores offering these kinds of hours. If there is a store you would like to go to please call them and find out if they are offering this service.


 Karen McCall clicked eagerly on the link tweeted out by her provincial health ministry, keen to read the promised list of tips meant to help her protect against COVID-19. But a familiar sense of disappointment soon set in when she realized the pointers were provided in a format incompatible with the screen-reading technology she relies upon to access the internet. She soon resorted to trawling through a variety of other sites in a bid to access the information.

McCall, who is legally blind, said the common practice of sharing information through images rather than through text has persisted even at a time when a global pandemic is prompting both the public and private sector to share potentially life-saving advice. McCall said the oversight is especially apparent in light of the fact that Ontario is one of the few Canadian provinces to have accessibility legislation in place. A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said recent COVID-19 messaging has been in compliance with that law, but offered no further details.

A group of deaf and hard-of-hearing Canadians, for instance, is calling on the federal government to ensure public briefings include sign language interpretation in both English and French. No such interpreter was on-hand for any of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent addresses to the nation. Briefings involving a number of federal ministers only recently began including sign language, and several provincial governments and health authorities still don’t feature the service at all.

Lisa Anderson, who is deaf and served as past chair of the Deaf Wireless Canada Consultative Committee, said excluding sign language leaves roughly 365,000 Canadians out of the loop at a critical time. Anderson and other advocates said broadcasters also have a role to play by ensuring that interpreters are actually shown on-screen when they are present. Closed-captioning is another crucial service, they added.

Update from Braille Literacy Canada:

Over the past few weeks, we have all, like you, been impacted by the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation. Staying at home and practicing self-isolation will continue to be critical for overcoming this global pandemic. Many children are home as schools suspend their operations. Many people are working from home, while others may be feeling anxious if they are among those whose work has been impacted.

For some people with disabilities, this global pandemic may be presenting even more challenges. Some may have lost the social activities they once relied on, or may be experiencing the effect of temporarily suspended supports and services. For those who can’t drive, accessing essential services may be posing even more challenges.

We at BLC recognize that these are unusual and stressful times for many. On behalf of the entire board, I want you to know that we have been thinking about what we can do to help.

First, if you have a friend, colleague or family member with a disability (or without!), reach out (by phone or text). Ask if they need any help ordering groceries online. Check in with the people around you with a friendly social phone call.

Here is what BLC will be doing to help:

1. Braille Zoomers Group:

You may have seen our announcement in January that we will be launching a virtual group for adults who are learning braille. In light of the current situation, we have decided to start these meetings sooner than planned. They will take place on the first Saturday of each month at 1 PM Eastern, beginning on April 4th. If you are an adult braille learner, please email [email protected] (or call 1-877-861-4576) to join our group. We will be sending the Zoom link and call in details for the first meeting in the coming days. We invite any adult braille learner regardless of where you are in your braille journey. Come join us for this social get-together through Zoom, and meet other adult braille learners just like you!

2. Resources:

We are compiling a list of resources that may be especially helpful to the Canadian braille community – online shopping apps and resources, distance learning and online homework assistance, methods for accessing alternative reading materials to maintain student skills, social get-togethers through telephone or online platforms, resources for learning how to use Zoom, and much more. If you have specific resources that you think would be helpful, please write to us at [email protected] and we will add it to the list. We will circulate this list in the coming days both by email and on our Facebook page, and will update it as more resources become available.

3. Parent support:

For parents with blind and low vision students, we want to do our part to support you while your students are not at school. Though we are not all teachers, we still can play a role in supporting you in a variety of ways. We will be circulating an announcement directed specifically to parents, inviting them to write to us with any questions they may have about the braille code, how their child’s assistive technology works, and ideas for maintaining braille and braille technology-related skills during this time. If you are a parent of a braille using child with a specific question or if you are looking for a resource, write to us at [email protected] (or call 1-877-861-4576).

4. Special teleconference:

We are organizing a special teleconference to take place in early April (date TBD) specifically directed to parents (though all are welcome). We will use this opportunity to share resources that support home learning and ideas for home-based braille activities. We will also answer any questions you may have about braille and braille-related technology. If you are a parent (or student) with questions, please join us. Registration will be free of charge for members and non-members alike for this special online workshop.

5. Facebook page:

Keep an eye on our Facebook page. Whenever we come across a resource that we feel might be helpful, we will share it there, with the hashtag #SixDotsStrong

We hope that these measures provide some added support during this time.

Here is more information on an upcoming, monthly, recurring event through Braille Literacy Canada.

Become a Braille Zoomer: Free Virtual Get-Together for Adult Braille Learners, Starting April 4th!

Braille Literacy Canada is launching the Braille Zoomers group – a monthly virtual get-together for adult and older adult braille learners. Whether you are in the process of learning braille now or you learned it as an adult at some time in the past, come join us!

Each virtual get-together will be an informal opportunity to share resources, support and ideas for adult braille learners. While there will be a general theme each month, members will determine the direction of the discussion so that we can best support your braille learning journey. If you have specific braille learning or braille usage questions you’d like us to address, you can write to us at [email protected].

To participate, write to [email protected] by Wednesday, April 1st and we will add you to the list. The details on how to join will be sent to you after you register.

We hope to have you there – let’s get the virtual braille fun started!


Fighting Blindness Canada has put together a website containing up to date information about COVID-19 as it pertains to people living with vision loss.

We understand this time of uncertainty may be confusing. We have prepared answers to some questions you may have about your eye health during these times.

Please note, different levels of government and professional associations have made recommendations regarding healthcare practices in response to COVID-19.

There may be different recommendations depending on your personal eye health, health care provider, or where you live.

Check it out right here:

Self-Isolation does not have to mean Emotional Isolation

A few weeks ago, while planning for an upcoming CCB Meeting, I had learned that COVID-19 was really picking up steam in North America.  I had been listening to the latest developments on the virus and realized that by the time our meeting was to take place, there was a great possibility that It would not be going ahead. I decided to suggest holding a virtual meeting through a conference call.

For me, the point of this call was more about allowing the membership to reach us and others within the chapter from wherever they are.  We wanted to answer questions, pass along information and just offer some emotional comfort where needed.  And yes, we did get a few small business items dealt with.

My expectations for the conference call were very minimal.  I figured maybe a half a dozen to 10 participants at best.  We ended up with 17 members joining in from all over. It was so great to have technology allow us to be accessible to our members.

Opinions of the conference call were overwhelmingly positive.  For the first little bit, it had taken some getting used to having so many on the line but in no time, the members started figuring things out and the conversation ran quite smoothly.  We are doing the conference call again on April 20th and we hope to get an even bigger turn out.

Submitted by

Shane Cashin, President of the CCB Newfoundland Division                      1-877-304-0968

 [email protected]

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