VISIONS – March Edition

VISIONS Newsletter cover featuring snow covered tree buds against a blue sky.

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Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

March 2021

“A lack of sight is not

a lack of vision”

President’s Message

February was a very busy month with White Cane Week events. This year was unique in the way that we could not celebrate this week of awareness as we normally would have in the past.

Thank you to the BC Division for hosting four Zoom meetings that were well attended and brought great information to the membership. The National events were held on different dates over a few weeks. Again there was great attendance and lots of discussions and interesting topics. For those who missed attending here are the links that you can watch at your leisure. We are hoping that next year we will be back in person.

Most of the events you will find on the second link. 

CCB has continued to have our committees meet, work with other organizations to improve some advocacy issues, and spreading awareness to preventing barriers into the future.

We are pleased to announce that the new Bylaws passed with a very good majority and now puts CCB in alignment with the Canada Not For Profit Act. This is very important for our accounting and sponsorships to know we are in this position so that we can continue providing our programs to improve the quality of life and in the prevention of blindness. Thank you to all for achieving this goal.

As this month is a long one we will MARCH right on as we continue our programs and strive to bring new ones along to suit more needs. If anyone has a thought of a new program that would be feasible please let us know so we can check it out.

Keep healthy, stay safe and let’s beat COVID-19 now that vaccines are rolling out across the country.

Louise Gillis, National President



Last month CBC Ottawa announced its 2020 Trailblazers and we are so proud to have CCB’s very own Kim Kilpatrick included as one of them!

A Trailblazer is someone who is making a positive impact — big or small — in Ottawa through their passion, dedication, creativity and drive.

Last year, CBC Ottawa received hundreds of nominations for the 2020 Trailblazers Awards submitted by our audience. However, due to the global pandemic that ultimately changed the way we lived and worked across the city, we had to put the awards on hold. 

CBC Ottawa is pleased to finally announce the recipients of last year’s awards, who continue to support and help their respective communities by pivoting their businesses and lives amid the pandemic. 

We are extremely pleased to announce that Kim Kilpatrick was one of this year’s recipients of the award.

Kim Kilpatrick is an artist, disability rights activist, radio host and teacher who aims to make a difference in the lives of others with impairments. 

Born blind, Kilpatrick has handled four guide dogs throughout her life. They were the inspiration behind her multimedia collaborative theatrical performance Raising Stanley/Life with Tulia, a show about working with guide dogs for the blind. 

For the past two decades, Kilpatrick has performed as a storyteller in local schools and long-term care facilities. She has also mentored other storytellers by helping them shape their own autobiographies.

Besides her artistic career, Kilpatrick also works at the Canadian Council of the Blind and is regularly invited to test and report on the accessibility of public transport, municipal voting machines, construction sites and post-secondary projects.

Kilpatrick hosts the hour-long weekly radio show Welcome to My World on CKCU, which aims to change the conversation and dispel preconceptions about disabilities.

Additionally, Kilpatrick created a program called Get Together with Technology, or GTT, that enables blind people to teach each other how to use their technological devices.

Kilpatrick in 2020: 

Navigating a sighted world as a blind person has its challenges, and for Kilpatrick, who’s blind since birth, the pandemic amplified those barriers. The California-based guide dog school she’s worked with since 1992 has been unable to send her a new guiding partner; the Plexiglas shields that are now everywhere

make communicating difficult; and she doesn’t always know when she’s straying closer than the prescribed two meters.

Despite these challenges, Kilpatrick is enjoying the reduction in traffic on the streets, and has started a virtual book club for other blind Ottawans.

Congratulations Kim!

Keeping Together While Staying Apart:  How some CCB Chapters are using creativity during COVID

Not a day goes by without the words “distancing” “stay home” “avoid gatherings” filling the airwaves, scrolled on social media and punctuating everyday conversation.  To say that the 2020 holiday season and the past eleven months have been ‘a little different’ would be a gross understatement. Undaunted, CCB chapters found ways to connect. Chapters represent diverse situations, locations, group sizes and composition. Some have been able to leverage a variety of community connections as well as securing funding sources and other helpful resources. Some chapters are making use of technology, and some have found ways to tap into local businesses. 

The following is a snapshot of how some chapters have made the best of a very difficult time.


The CCB Cornwall Chapter has been able to use lottery pull tickets as part of their fundraising efforts.  Through their local municipality, arrangements with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG) and ticket sales at Mitchell’s Variety store, the chapter raised money to celebrate special occasions. For example, they delivered flowers at Thanksgiving to their members.  Normally, the group would get together for a Christmas meal.  This year, to celebrate the holiday season, members could choose to receive a ham or a cake, and they would also get gift certificates for meals to be delivered from local restaurants.  This groups’ membership is comprised of older members, or members who have other disabilities along with vision loss.  While they are not able to get together in person, the gifts and numerous telephone check-ins go a long way to help them to stay connected and feel less isolated. The CCB Cornwall Chapter would also like to extend much thanks to the Rotary Club and the Lions Club for their support.


This large chapter contains members with varying degrees of access to technology.  There are members who make regular phone calls through their informal network. Some members have known each other for a long time and relationships have formed over time.  When someone in this group is ill or in need, the group provides a lot of well-wishes and supports over the phone.

This chapter has not been able to meet for its monthly meals at the Montgomery Legion. Getting together for meals was out of the question, including their annual holiday dinner. With support from the Ottawa Community Foundation and Swiss Chalet restaurant, each member received a traditional festive chicken dinner, delivered to their homes.

There are as many stories of strength, hope and resilience as there are chapters.  Across Canada, geography, location, history, chapter membership and composition, and access and availability to community and government resources vary greatly. The power of creativity, collaboration and commitment are strong as evidenced by the vignettes presented here.  Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from our chapters in upcoming newsletters. To share your story, or to find out how CCB can support your chapter’s efforts during this difficult time, please get in touch. [email protected] or call 1-877-304-0968

For adults and seniors who acquire a visual impairment: Braille equals empowerment:

The primary means of literacy for the blind is the braille code, developed by Louis Braille (who himself was blind) in the 1800s. Braille provides the flexibility and independence that can often not be gained through other methods alone. Braille is as vital (and as liberating) as print is to the sighted.

There are many reasons why you may want to learn braille as an adult or senior with an acquired visual impairment. For example, many adults with low vision find the use of braille labels on household products to be much more convenient than having to find a magnifier all the time. There are countless household items you can find in braille to make life easier: from measuring spoons and cups, to playing cards and board games. You can always learn just enough braille to meet your current needs, or once you are comfortable, you may choose to move on to more advanced use. Braille can be incredibly helpful for maintaining a list of phone numbers, accessing grocery lists and instructions in a portable format, reading recipes in the kitchen (without the fear of spilling or damaging expensive technology), and for learning new skills like how to read and write a foreign language. For those who grew up with a love of literacy, braille is equal to the print you remember as a sighted reader and will provide you with the same joy of opening a physical book and interacting with the words on a page. Today, electronic braille displays that connect to iPads, iPhones and computers provide instant access to braille, allowing you to read email, browse the internet, and access eBooks, and these devices are increasingly available at a lower cost.

Most of all, braille provides choice. If you never learn braille, then you never truly have the option to choose the method that is best for a given task. For example, you may decide that reading an audiobook is preferable when you are performing other chores at home. But you may really appreciate braille when giving a presentation, so that you can easily access your notes while speaking.

There is a large community of braille users here to support you! Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) is the Canadian braille authority. Our members consist of braille users, teachers, transcribers, parents of blind children, adult braille learners, and anyone else with a passion for literacy – and we want you to join us!  Through our resources and information, we hope to encourage you as you embark upon this rewarding journey towards greater empowerment.

This past year, BLC initiated a new program called Braille Zoomers. Through this program, adult and senior braille learners can meet monthly in a virtual format to provide tips, resources and support, and to learn from experienced braille experts in a fun, informal and supportive environment. You might choose to attend each month, or just to drop in when you have time. Participants now also have access to a free starter kit of braille items thanks to many generous donations to support them on their braille journey.

In addition to Braille Zoomers, BLC offers many other benefits: bimonthly workshops on braille related themes; a regularly published newsletter filled with braille updates; a scholarship for those who wish to become a certified braille transcriber or proofreader; opportunities to participate on our many active committees, and the chance to have a voice on important braille related issues at the international level.

To participate in the Zoomers program (or to take advantage of any other benefit!), we invite you to become a member of BLC. Membership is only $20 per year. Write to us at [email protected] or check out our web site at for more information.  We can’t wait to have you join us!

From all of us at BLC to you, happy brailling!

By Natalie Martiniello, Ph.D., CVRT, President of Braille Literacy Canada

Exciting Scholarship News

The CCB is looking for 9 candidates who have an interest in a career in finance who could benefit from a new scholarship program.

The CFA Institute Investment Foundations® Program (previously called

Claritas) covers the essentials of finance, ethics, and investment roles, providing a clear understanding of the global investment industry.

The Quartic package for the CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program ® includes:

Quartic Online: A series of inspirational videos covering everything students need to know to understand each of the chapters.

Question bank: For testing knowledge and honing exam skills with extensive question bank.

Mock exams: Two full-length online mock exams.

Tutor support

Classroom courses

Certification (on passing the exam): CFA Institute Investment Foundations Certificate.

For more information on this exciting opportunity, please contact the

CCB National Office:

Toll-Free 1-877-304-0968


[email protected]

Follow the Science: If you think you’re seeing things, it may be due to the pandemic.

One of the little-known effects of vision loss is a condition known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) which occurs in about one in five people who have lost vision, regardless of the eye condition that may be causing the vision loss.

People with CBS experience visual hallucinations, which means they may see images of people, inanimate objects, or patterns. Many people experience hallucinations of miniature people or objects. The hallucinations are a result solely of one’s loss of vision and are not an indication that one is “going crazy”.

The experience of visual hallucinations in people with vision loss and no psychological disorder was first described by Charles Bonnet in 1760. It is somewhat surprising therefore that so many years later the level of awareness of this condition is still extremely low.

One of the reasons there is such low awareness of CBS is that people who experience hallucinations often think that they are suffering from a mental disorder and are reluctant to discuss their hallucinations, for fear of being labelled as mentally ill. Many of those that are prepared to discuss it have reported going through personal frustration in trying to discuss their condition with health care practitioners and friends and family, mostly as a result of the general lack of awareness about CBS. Many patients are not told in advance that it is not atypical for people to experience visual hallucinations due to their vision loss, so that they are usually unprepared if indeed this occurs.

CBS hallucinations might seem “real” or “surreal” but are usually not scary to the individual, since they are usually aware that what they’re seeing is not real. The person does not develop delusions or think that the people they see in their hallucinations want to hurt them. The visions can appear at any time and can last from just a few seconds to several minutes. Although the hallucinations generally decrease in frequency over time, studies have shown that a significant number of people with CBS can have the condition for longer than five years.

Although CBS has no effective treatment, such things as blinking, rapid eye scanning and changing a room’s lighting can help. It is also important that people visit their eye doctor regularly, as sometimes correctable conditions like poor eyeglasses or the development of cataracts can cause CBS hallucinations. It is also important that people experiencing hallucinations see their Family Doctor to confirm that the hallucinations are due to their loss of vision and not some other medical condition.

Recent reports out of the U.K. reveals that since the onset of the pandemic there has been a large increase in the number of people experiencing hallucinations as well as the nature of the hallucinations being experienced. One study reported an increase in the frequency and size of CBS hallucinations in people who were already experiencing CBS at the start of the pandemic. Another report by the Royal National Institute of Blind People revealed a 50% spike in calls about CBS to its national helpline. So why the increase in the nature and frequency of CBS? It appears that this is associated with loneliness and the reduction in physical exercise.

The CCB study conducted last year on the impact of the pandemic on people living with vision loss revealed a dramatic increase in pandemic-related loneliness. Loneliness and lack of exercise can have a major impact on so many aspects of one’s health. Reducing CBS gives us one more reason to reduce loneliness and increase physical exercise. So, take the time to connect with others. If you can, get out of your home for a short walk or find some means of exercising within your home. Connect with family or friends by phone or by meeting at a distance outdoors to overcome some of the loneliness that may be associated with the pandemic, and, above all, get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity presents itself for you to do so.

By Keith Gordon CCB Senior Research Officer

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AMI: Save the Date

Mark your calendars for AMI’s first-ever virtual event, AMI Connect!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Join us as we share exciting news and information about your favourite AMI shows, meet AMI hosts and learn more about new programs coming to AMI!

Plus, there will be amazing prizes for both early bird sign ups and during the event!

Stay tuned for more info!

Assistive Technology

iPhones can now automatically recognize and label buttons and UI features for blind users

Apple has always gone out of its way to build features for users with disabilities, and VoiceOver on iOS is an invaluable tool for anyone with a vision impairment — assuming every element of the interface has been manually labeled. But the company just unveiled a brand new feature that uses machine learning to identify and label every button, slider and tab automatically.

From a report: Screen Recognition, available now in iOS 14, is a computer vision system that has been trained on thousands of images of apps in use, learning what a button looks like, what icons mean and so on. Such systems are very flexible — depending on the data you give them, they can become expert at spotting cats, facial expressions or, as in this case, the different parts of a user interface. The result is that in any app now, users can invoke the feature and a fraction of a second later every item on screen will be labelled.

And by “every,” they mean every — after all, screen readers need to be aware of every thing that a sighted user would see and be able to interact with, from images (which iOS has been able to create one sentence summaries of for some time) to common icons (home, back) and context-specific ones like “…” menus that appear just about everywhere. The idea is not to make manual labelling obsolete — developers know best how to label their own apps, but updates, changing standards and challenging situations (in-game interfaces, for instance) can lead to things not being as accessible as they could be.

Hello Friends of Achilles!

Hoping you are all staying healthy and safe.  Here is an opportunity to get fit moving towards Spring and Summer!!!

I am the president of Achilles Canada, a non-profit organization.

The idea of Achilles is a simple one, but the results are profound.  Achilles provides the means and support to persons who are challenged by a variety of disabilities to realize their abilities, build self-esteem and to develop their level of physical fitness and strength thereby elevating their overall wellness, through running or other means of motion. 

Motion is accessible to all, Achilles assists in breaking down barriers between able-bodied people and people with disabilities, thereby contributing to a collective enhancement of life.

Please check out the link below to learn more about this amazing organization!

Achilles Canada’s Annual St Patrick’s Day Race was the first race to be cancelled in the city of Toronto on March 12th, 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Now more than ever, we need your support for Achilles Canada and the athletes we provide support, connection and an experience of being part of a team.

This year, due to an overwhelming response, we have decided to move forward with a Virtual Achilles St Patrick’s Day Race Challenge!!  Choose to participate or to simply provide a donation in memory of someone special.

Our event will take place from March 1st to the 31st.  During this time period, participants will have the opportunity to run, walk, roll or any kind of physical activity chosen to support our cause.  The challenge will be to get active, raise awareness and complete your personal goal for total number of kilometres accumulated during the lucky month of March!

Please register now, commit to your goal and together we will all benefit from this collective experience.  Each dollar you donate is making a difference in the lives of others.  Now may be the most impactful opportunity to contribute.  Please donate now and participate in this year’s Achilles St. Patrick’s Virtual Race Challenge! We all need something to celebrate!! Let’s do it together!

Register here for the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day Virtual Race Challenge:

Please share widely and consider participating as a team, (though socially distanced) with friends, family or colleagues virtually.  Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all March month long!!!

Go on…Get Your Green On!!!!

Thank you and Stay Safe!

Brian McLean, President

Achilles Canada                      1-877-304-0968

 [email protected]