VISIONS – April Edition

Cover of VISIONS for April featuring a small bird hiding from the rain.

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Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

April 2021

“A lack of sight is not

a lack of vision”

President’s Message

Happy Spring to all. With the longer days and great sun shine we spring forward with hope as we now see the number of people getting their vaccinations for COVID-19 and the hope in the decline of people contracting the disease.

So does the inspiration of the future of CCB as we continue to partner with great organizations that look to improve the quality of life for those living with sight loss and in the prevention of blindness. Development of new treatments is most important and researching the cost of blindness so that all organizations can move forward in a better light and means to our endeavors.

We will continue to promote our CCB GTT (Get Together with Technology) program by developing new special groups where people are able to learn, have peer support and avenues to talk about like needs. This has become more important since the pandemic has shut down the in person meetings in communities where a lot of people had these needs met along with the attending the planned program activity. Look for more information on these ideas.

All our committees continue to meet regularly. In many of the advocacy items that have been identified in the past are continuing as regulations and standards of the Accessible Canada Act are developed and then initiated which may be 2022 -2024. Nonetheless we continue to have our voice in the meetings.

Our 2020 Bylaws have been approved and in the later part of May we will be having our AGM with elections. The nominations are closed and the committee is nearing their final decisions for the slate of directors for election.

We, as an organization have a lot to be proud of and thankful for especially during these trying times over the last year plus with the pandemic. Many nonprofit organizations have not been able to continue while we are still on a very positive path. Thanks to all who have supported our organization and to the people in it who have continued to work hard to improve life and prevent blindness – our mandate.

Let the April showers bring lots of May flowers for us to see, touch and smell to put a smile on our faces.

Louise Gillis, National President


Cooking with Carol and CCB Mississauga VIP Chapter:

There’s a new and exciting segment of the CCB Mississauga VIP chapter that’s turning up the heat in people’s kitchens.

Carol Deason, along with co-hosts Kimberley Martin and Dave MacGregor, run Cooking with Carol, a group that has spawned out of the CCB Mississauga VIP Chapter in Ontario.

This interactive group meets twice a month over Zoom and is focused on kitchen skills for people who are blind and vision impaired.

“Often people who have lost their sight are nervous to prepare meals on their own. I want to empower people to get them back in the kitchen and cooking again.” says Carol, who coordinates the meetings. “We’re all about sharing tricks and tips about cooking safely, creating healthy meals and having fun while we do it!”

So far they’ve had a great response, with over 30 members and over 100 followers through their FaceBook page.  Carole’s enthusiasm for cooking and helping people is hard to miss when she speaks about the group.

“At our last meeting one of our members told me that thanks to this group, she’s cooking independently again.” explained Carol. “That made my day because that’s what we’re all about.”

Typically, Carol sends out a recipe to the members a week before the meeting. Then she walks the members through it, with step by step instructions on how to safely prepare the meal.

There is a big emphasis on safety, with tricks and tips on handling knives, pouring hot liquids and safely manoeuvring around stovetops.

“It’s a great deal of fun and it’s been a wonderful culinary adventure so far!” added Carol.

You can find the group at the following links:




You can subscribe to the CCB Podcast feed by searching for CCB/Canadian Council of the Blind Podcast on the Victor Reader Stream, or your favorite smart device Pod Catcher. You can use this link to the originating distribution source.


CCB sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians. To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:

[email protected]

You will get an email back from the list asking you to confirm your subscription. Simply reply to that email and you are subscribed. You will then receive a second email welcoming you to the list and describing how to use it. You are then ready to post your technology questions and/or answers to the list.

For more information, visit:

Introducing the COVID Vaccine promo from AIRA:

AIRA is a service where you can call with your smart phone and get an agent to assist you while on a video call or through connecting to your computer for some tasks.

As COVID-19 vaccination efforts expand, it has become clear that many websites and processes to register, set appointments, and navigate spaces for the vaccine are not fully accessible to those in the blind

and low-vision community.   While it is the responsibility of

government and healthcare entities to comply with the law and ensure that their platforms and processes are accessible, and while the community will continue its advocacy efforts, we cannot wait to get the vaccine.

Therefore, we are introducing the COVID promo to assist the Explorer community in obtaining these crucial vaccines. For up to 30 minutes per day, Explorers may use Aira free for vaccine-related tasks.

To help our advocacy efforts, we would ask that you use the hashtag #CovidBLV in any and all social media postings and share some of the gaps and barriers you encountered.

Our goal is to ensure that entities understand their obligation to make their websites and processes as accessible as possible. As they work to do so, we can assist people in the following ways regarding their COVID vaccinations.

  • Researching if Explorer qualifies and determining places to register and receive vaccinations.
  • Assisting with registering for and scheduling vaccination appointments using TeamViewer on the computer or TeamViewer Quick Support on the smartphone.
  • Navigating locations where vaccines are provided, such as healthcare centers, public health facilities, mass vaccination locations, and drive-up sites.
  • Assisting in scheduling second vaccination appointments.
  • Taking post-vaccination selfies.

This promo does not cover:

  • Non-vaccine-related COVID research
  • Transportation to and from the vaccination site
  • Registering others outside of the immediate family for vaccinations COVID testing

In order to provide this promotion, we will be limiting our Job Seeker promo to one 30-minute call per day through May, 2021.

If you have any questions, please contact our Customer Care Team at

1.800.835.1934 or via email at [email protected]

The staff and agents here at Aira wish you and yours the best of health.

CCB Advocacy:

Last month, without warning or consultation, the Federal Government announced in its 2020 Fall Economic Statement, that it would withdraw the current 4 million dollars which supports accessible reading materials and programs, ending all support by 2024-2025.  This 4 million dollars in funding is split between CELA (The Centre for Equitable Library Access) at 3 million annually and NNELS (National Network for Equitable Library Service) at 1 million annually to provide material to those across Canada with print disabilities.

We knew this decision to cut funding would have a devastating impact on CELA’s and NNELS’s ability to produce new books for their collection and distribute materials including audio CDs and physical Braille to their users.

The Canadian Council of the Blind immediately leaped into action, and joined a letter writing campaign to the Minister’s responsible to ask that the funding for accessible reading materials be fully restored.

Fortunately, Minister Qualtrough released a statement restoring $1 million in funding for accessible reading materials for the upcoming 2021-2022 budget year, meaning there will not be cuts to funding for CELA and NNELS, or their services, for the upcoming year.

 We thank Minister Qualtrough for her assistance and are grateful for the one-year reprieve this funding offers our users who rely on accessible reading materials.

The press release follows:

Government of Canada increases funding for alternate format materials for persons with print disabilities

The Government of Canada continues to take important and decisive action to ensure that all Canadians are supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know Canadians living with disabilities are facing significant challenges during this difficult time and that long-standing barriers to inclusion have been heightened. As we work together to restart the economy, we must continue to protect health and safety, and ensure the right supports are in place for all Canadians.

Four years ago, the Government of Canada established a working group with disability stakeholders and the publishing industry, including the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) and the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA), to work together on the common goal of making publishing accessible to all, by ensuring books are born accessible.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for information, directives and guidelines on health and safety in alternate formats as Canadians have been asked to stay home as much as possible to flatten the curve.

Today, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough announced an additional $1 million under the Social Development Partnership Program – Disability component, to support the activities of the NNELS and the CELA in providing accessible reading materials to persons with print disabilities across Canada. This announcement is in recognition that the pandemic has had a profound effect on the accessible publishing industry, and the significant need for access to print materials, as individuals are more isolated than ever.

This investment, along with the $10 million announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, will enable access to alternate format materials, such as braille, e-books, and audiobooks, while Canada’s independent book publishing industry continues to increase the production and distribution of accessible books. This funding will also support Canadians with print disabilities in developing technological skills and the capacity to use new digital tools in an ever-changing world. 

 “Everyone should be able to access information and reading material. This is why our government has developed and been implementing a comprehensive long-term strategy for the production of alternate format materials that includes support to the publishing sector, advancements in technology, and non-profits.

In recognizing that the pandemic has affected the timeline in the realization of this transition, and the ongoing need for alternate format materials, we will be funding CELA and NNELS with an additional $1 million for this coming year. This will keep us on the path to accessible publishing, and ensure that persons with print disabilities continue to have access, particularly during this unprecedented time.”

– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

Quick facts

  • In 2016, the Government of Canada joined the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. This helped bring the treaty into force and to open up the exchange of print material around the world, and was a historic step towards disability inclusion.
  • In 2017, a working group on alternate format materials was established to develop a strategy to address the limited availability of materials published in multiple, accessible formats for Canadians with print disabilities.
  • In 2019, the Government of Canada provided funding of $3 million for CELA and $1 million for NNELS.
  • Budget 2019 announced a five-year Transition Strategy to emphasize the production of alternate format books in Canada. The Strategy included:
    • an investment of $22.8M over five years for the Canada Book Fund (CBF), to assist Canada’s independent book publishing industry in increasing the production of accessible books. The CBF supports the Canadian publishing industry in its effort to integrate accessible features into the production and distribution of digital books (ebooks and audiobooks), and to improve access to digital titles by Canadian authors.
    • Support for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises, to create more efficient and cost effective technologies for producing accessible books and facilitating their access through the Alternate Format Business Technology Challenge, administered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Innovative Solutions Canada program.  
  • In the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the government announced an additional investment of $10 million over four years, starting in 2020-2021, for CELA and NNELS to support the transition towards industry-based production and the distribution of accessible reading materials for Canadians with print disabilities.

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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 past year has 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 two chapters have made the best of a very difficult time.


During the pandemic this chapter has been meeting monthly via zoom.  They enjoyed an in-person lunch meeting in the fall during the brief span of time when people were allowed to meet in person. This is a close knit group that check in on each other, get together for social activities, (when possible) support and sponsor each other’s outside interests.

This chapter has a close working relationship with the local CNIB office. Prior to the pandemic they held their monthly meetings at the CNIB office and have combined the CNIB Beyond Vision Loss group into the CCB group. As part of the CNIB intake process for new clients, information is given about the CCB chapter and its activities. The CCB Thunder Bay Chapter tends to focus on technology, advocacy, staying informed about all issues that affect those who are blind/partially-sighted and participating in fun activities together. Several group members are on the Thunder Bay accessibility committee, chaired by our chapter’s president. Members also provide consultation services to the city of Thunder Bay on such important matters as audible traffic signals, pedestrian crossings and curb designs, thus making the city more accessible and safe for all.

Optometrists and ophthalmologists complete CNIB patient referral forms. This CCB group is advocating that a second form be signed that will allow both the CNIB Foundation and CCB to contact these individuals to give them much-needed, immediate support, information and hope at what can be a very challenging time.

The Thunder Bay and District CCB group is looking forward to participating once again in local health fairs, community presentations.  They are especially looking forward to getting together face- to –face once more.


 Even though the pandemic led to the cancellation of the annual sports weekend and holiday camp, members have stayed connected by using the CCB’s Tag Line. In true East Coast fashion, they used it to host a kitchen party, complete with an Emcee, (Shannon Caravan) singing, playing of instruments, poetry and stories.  The Kitchen Party took place in the summer and in December.  Instead of their usual Christmas Social, members enjoyed another evening of fun and virtual games which included prizes.

Many members have been taking advantage of the online offerings from CNIB, some receiving specialized equipment to assist them to stay connected.

This chapter is connected to other CCB chapters in Newfoundland.  Members’ spiritual needs are met, as one of their members is a minister and leads a monthly service through CCBs Tag Line.  As many religious services have been forbidden due to public health restrictions, this virtual gathering includes music, discussion and a message.

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 two vignettes presented here.  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.

Do You Know Where To Call…..?

Ever wonder who to call when you want information or need help within your community and beyond? 

211 is your gateway to government and community-based programs and social services. This free, confidential service is now available nationwide by phone in 150+ languages, 24/7, 365. 211 is available by phone, chat and online search.  When you dial 2-1-1, a 211 Navigator will listen to your unique needs and connect you with the right services and supports near you. This past February 11 marked the first celebration of National 211 Day in Canada.

All that’s needed is your postal code. As of 2020, 211 is entirely national, which means you can call 211 from anywhere in Canada and be connected with a Community Navigator. 211 services are not limited to any one location, as data is collected from the entire country, meaning that you can get specific information about your own hometown and beyond. This may be very useful if you are thinking of re-locating to another community, or you are trying to find information for yourself or for someone else.

According to, “It’s no coincidence that this major initiative was launched amidst the challenges Canadians are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 15, 2020 the Government of Canada, in partnership with United Way Centraide Canada, announced funding to activate the nationwide expansion of 211. The government also announced funding to support existing 211 services experiencing surging demand. 

211 Service Navigators across Canada responded to a 30% increase in call volume through 2020.

The needs people expressed in calls with 211 revealed some of the acute symptoms of the COVID-19 lockdown measures on the lives of Canadians. In April of 2020, 211 received more than nine times as many requests for food-related needs, and more than three times as many requests related to financial assistance relative to baseline call volumes in January and February of 2020. As Canadians grappled with the effects of COVID-19 on their lives, the national 211 network experienced a 30 per cent increase in total call volume over the previous year (March – December) and as the pandemic wore on, the needs expressed by callers shifted. In the second half of 2020, calls related to housing support and mental health and addictions rose sharply. By December, the number of requests related to housing had risen by one third relative to December 2019 call volumes, and requests for information and referrals for mental health and addiction services had doubled.

Throughout the pandemic, 211 has and will continue to provide Canadians with help navigating the support services available during this challenging time.

For decades, United Way Centraide Canada has championed the creation and expansion of 2‑1‑1 services. Knowing where to turn when you are faced with challenges in your life is not often simple.  211 helps people to navigate the system and find support quickly and easily, which takes the strain off agencies and other services like 911 who would otherwise be handling these calls.

 With a national 211 system and growing awareness of the service, we can also begin to analyze data about the types of services people are looking for by region, or even neighbourhood, which will help us, community service agencies, government, and others to better serve the specific needs of people in those communities and across the country.

Prior to the expansion, 211 was only available in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and most of Quebec. The first 211 was opened in 2002 in Toronto and expanded steadily to other provinces through funding support from local United Way Centraides and provincial and municipal governments.”

What is the difference between 211, 311, 411, 811, and 911?

 These special numbers are assigned by the CRTC to make it easier for Canadian residents to find help when they need it, but it can be confusing if you aren’t sure which one to call.

By now, most of us are aware that 911 is the number to call for life-threatening emergencies; however, many Canadians are calling 911 for other reasons that are better handled by the following:

211 is the number to call for information on community-based health, social and government services.  It is the number to call when you need help but aren’t sure where to turn.

In large cities, 311 is the number established to access information about municipal services (such as by-law enforcement, road repairs, garbage collection, municipal recreation programs, property taxes, etc).

411 is the number that residents call for business or residential listings (phone book/yellow pages).

In some provinces, 811 is the number that residents call for help finding health information and services.

A note to our chapters:

On occasion, 211 will contact your chapter via an email message to add or update your chapter’s information.  Please take the time to do so.  This will make your chapter easier to find by those who are looking for help.

You may wish to keep this article handy so that you will know who to call. 

Attention to all persons who are #blind, #deafblind or who have #LowVision!

We are seeking individuals 18 years or older to complete an online survey about your experience with face masks or facial protection and with independent travel during COVID-19. This research has been approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Montreal. Results from this survey will inform important recommendations to address identified barriers related to orientation and mobility during COVID-19. 

Visit  to learn more or to participate! If you encounter difficulties, you may also call (514) 343-7962 to request assistance by phone.                     1-877-304-0968

 [email protected]

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