VISIONS – May Edition


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Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

May 2021

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

President’s Message

As we move into May let’s hope that we see a reduction in our lockdowns across the country due to the pandemic. At least now the weather is getting much better to be able to at least walk about a bit in our neighborhood. Although we are not able to do our activities as usual we continue to meet via telephone and Zoom.

Our government and other organizational meetings continue. Our research team working on “The Cost of Blindness” will be releasing the report this month which is quite lengthy so there will be a summary report with all the highlights available to you. This is a very thorough insight that will be a great asset as we move forward. Thank you to the group for a job well done. They have spent many hours working to get this completed on time.

Significant studies such as this one are a major asset not only to our organization but to others as well. “The Cost of Vision Loss” provides reliable numbers to government and our sponsors which in turn can help our current programs and any projects into the future. We as Canadians living with sight loss are part of these numbers and know the cost on our lives. With this study we will be able to impress on the government the need for better eye care and the importance of prevention and research into new therapies.

In the past we did not have the capacity for undertaking a large project like this but by building partnerships with other like-minded organization such as Fighting Blindness Canada, ophthalmology/optometry associations and pharma we are more capable to do so. Thanks to Dr. Keith Gordon, Dr. Larissa Moniz, Dr. Chad Andrews, Michael Baillargeon, and Doug Earl for all their work over the past several months on this project. I have worked with all of these people over the last several years on submissions to the drug review agency for approvals of new treatments in eye diseases became available. Now through their work on this project they have raised the regard in the public eye of the Council.

Our CCB committees continue to meet each month. The Advocacy committee has been busy with providing feedback for our representative on Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) as they work through standards and regulations. The membership committee is talking about ways to attract new members into the fall which is quite difficult currently due to our restrictions in the community.

Later this month, May 25th, we will be holding our AGM with election of a slate of directors and President. All the necessary information will be coming your way very soon, if you don’t have it already.

Take care and stay safe.

Louise Gillis, President


Canadian Accessible Election TeleTownHall 2021:  Accessibility and Inclusion 2021
Getting Ready for a Canadian Federal Election During a Pandemic

Sterling Creations and the Canadian Council of the Blind in collaboration with Elections Canada are pleased to invite you to join a country wide Town Hall Webinar on Saturday, May 29, 2021 via Zoom Webinar.

 Register in advance for this webinar


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

For any questions please email the Canadian Accessible Elections Town Hall 2021 organizing committee at [email protected]

A Senior representative from Elections Canada will be present.  They will provide an outline of the multi-disability accessibility features Canadians can expect to experience when the next federal election is called.

Through this webinar Elections Canada will also be open to your questions about how the services that will be offered for the election can meet your accessibility and information needs.

 Date: Saturday, May 29, 2021

Times: 10:00 am Pacific

11:00 am Mountain

12:00 pm Central

1:00 pm Eastern

2:00 pm Atlantic

2:30 pm in Newfoundland

This meeting will last no longer than two hours.

We believe that our tele town hall will assist greatly to help you prepare for a possible Federal Election should one be called in the near future.

We look forward to welcoming you on May 29, 2021.

The Canadian Accessible Elections Town Hall 2021 organizing committee

Your chance to attend the World Blind Union

The World Blind Union’ World Blindness Summit that was originally to take place in Madrid, last summer has been moved online.  This opens it up for wider attendance.

The largest World Blindness Summit, from June 28 to 30, 2021, with more than 100 speakers and 190 participating countries.

The registration period for the World Blindness Summit Madrid 2021 is now open. The largest international gathering of people who are blind or have low vision, working to build together a better future.

Registration to WBS Madrid 2021 will allow you to attend up to nearly 50 interesting online conference and webinars. Registration is free.

To fully enjoy the conference, you will need a high speed internet connection and access to Zoom / Teams platforms.

Members of the CCB may register as a participant (observer) and attend the online conference this year for free.

It will ask for you ‘Modality’, please just put Participate beside both ICEBI and WBU to ensure your access to the largest amount of events.

Register to Attend the WBU Here!

AMI Connect!

Register now for AMI’s first-ever virtual event, AMI Connect!

On Thursday, June 3, 2021, AMI Connect will introduce attendees to the stars of AMI’s programs, including NOW with Dave Brown, Kelly and Company, AMI This Week, Level Playing Field, Eyes for the Job, Kitchen Confession with Mary Mammoliti and more.

Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with AMI hosts and get tips and advice on everything from employment to assistive technology, to making your kitchen a safe cooking space! And, learn more about AMI’s original podcasts, how to access AMI in your area and how AMI is serving members of the blind and partially sighted community in Canada.

AMI is a Canadian television broadcaster that puts a spotlight on the stories from the disability community across Canada.

Register NOW!

These are amazing times … a gene therapy can restore sight.

And now you can help to restore sight for someone going blind. Here is how…

42 Canadians are counting on you. Their blindness is caused because their RPE65 gene is not functioning, and they are losing approximately 10,000 precious light sensing eye cells a day.

And time is growing short for these Canadians. It is taking 18 to 24 months for the drug approval process to slowly figure out if they will public fund Luxturna in your province. Some of these Canadians may not have enough light sensing eye cells left by the time a decision is made.

Please add your voice by sending an email to your Premier. We must accelerate the negotiations for public health care to fund Luxturna.

We must set the precedent for future vision treatments that they will be funded too.

Health Canada approved Luxturna as a treatment in Canada in October 2020. A few weeks later, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) and in Quebec, l’Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) recommended Luxturna for public health care funding.

The next step is the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) to negotiate a deal on Luxturna. pCPA is an alliance of the provincial, territorial and federal governments that negotiates these deals that lead the way to public health care funding of a treatment.

BUT pCPA has not started the Luxturna negotiations for over 5 months.

Time = Sight!

We just can’t let a bureaucratic process mean someone goes blind when a treatment is available. We’ve waited too long for this first treatment. We need to encourage more treatments to reach Canadians by setting the precedent with Luxturna that all treatments can be funded by public health care.

That’s why we launched our latest “Approve Luxturna” Advocacy Campaign.

We are asking all of our supporters to send an email to the Premier, local representatives and the pCPA and demand action now.

Please take one minute and add your name here:

Newsletter Correction

In our recent newsletter editions, we included stories about how chapters are staying connected during the pandemic. We accidentally spelled someone’s name wrong when writing about the E.A. Baker chapter.  We had written Shannon Caravan, when we should have written Sharon Caravan. We apologize for the error.

Assistive Technology

Windows Screen Reader Experience, An Overview

The recent CCB presentation on Windows Screen Reader Experience has been posted to the CCB podcast feed. Following are the show notes and a link to download the podcast recording.

Show Notes:

Date: April 7, 2021

Presenter: Gerry Chevalier

Theme: Windows Screen Reader Experience (

Use the above link to download the podcast.

In this 43-minute podcast, Gerry will demonstrate the experience of using Windows from the keyboard with a screen reader and no mouse. The presentation is not intended to teach screen readers but rather provide an experience of what it is like to use a screen reader when you cannot see the screen or use the mouse. It is intended for low vision people who are struggling to use Windows with a mouse as their vision loss progresses and they might wonder what the screen reader experience is like. For his presentation Gerry will use the Narrator screen reader since it is part of Windows 10. He will demonstrate:

– Desktop navigation

– Document’s folder navigation

– Editing and saving a document in Notepad

– Using Outlook email

– Using a web browser

Accessible Games

The following is a new game that can be added to your apple device through the app store:

Blind Drive (iOS/iPadOS, US$3.99)

This game is like nothing you’ve played before.

Did you ever drive blindfolded? Now’s your chance!

Blind Drive is a unique one-of a kind experience: an audio-based, black comedy arcade action game.

The entire game is experienced through your ears. You’re blindfolded and going against traffic. Cars rushing past, angry drivers yelling at you. Cops on your tail. And you can’t see a thing. Listen carefully now – do your ears have what it takes?

Useful YouTube Short Cut Keys

Below are some keyboard tips while using Youtube and you can use these Shortcuts to Save Time While Watching YouTube Videos

While watching YouTube videos, you can press the Spacebar to play and pause the video. But there are even more keyboard shortcuts YouTube supports. Some YouTube keyboard shortcuts let you do things that you otherwise won’t be able to do at all.

If you’re the kind of YouTube user who spends a large part of their days jumping from one video to another, knowing some of these YouTube keyboard shortcut keys would be very useful.


1.     Pause and Resume Video

2.     Skip Forward or Backward

3.     Skip to a Different Point or Repeat

4.     Speed Up or Slow Down YouTube Video

5.     Navigate YouTube Video Frame by Frame

6.     Raise or Lower Volume

7.     Mute YouTube Video

8.     Play the Next Video or Previous Video

9.     Select Search Box

10.   Switch to Fullscreen

Pause and Resume Video

Let’s start with the most common and useful YouTube keyboard shortcuts. You can press the Spacebar while watching a video to pause it. You can also press the Spacebar to resume a paused video. What many people don’t know, however, is that you can get the same results using the K key.

Skip Forward or Backward

Another set of well known YouTube keyboard shortcut keys are the forward arrow and backward arrow keys. The video skips 5 seconds ahead or behind depending on the arrow key. And once again, here’s something not many people know.

You can also forward or rewind a YouTube video in 10 second increments by pressing the J and L keys.

That’s not all that YouTube offers in the way of keyboard navigation. You can actually jump to a specific part of the video. A YouTube video, no matter how long, is divided into ten parts. From the number row on your keyboard, you can press any key from 0 to 9 to jump to the specific parts.

•      For instance, pressing 0 will bring you to the start of the video, i.e. repeat the video.

•      Pressing 5 will bring you to the exact middle of the video.

•      Press 9 and you will jump to the last 10th of the video.

Speed Up or Slow Down YouTube Video

YouTube has a lot of videos of just people talking. Sometimes they talk really fast while sometimes they talk really slow. Luckily, you can speed up or slow down YouTube videos rather easily. This functionality isn’t made obvious. But you can get to these controls by clicking on the gear icon and selecting Playback speed. That requires at least 3 clicks. A much easier way to speed up or slow down YouTube videos is to use YouTube keyboard shortcut keys.

YouTube offers 8 playback speed options: 0.25x, 0.50x, 0.75x, Normal, 1.25x, 1.5x, 1.75x, 2.0x. You can switch between these using the following shortcut keys.

•      Shift + . or >

•      Shift + , or <

Navigate YouTube Video Frame by Frame

If you thought the ability to speed up or slow down a YouTube video was impressive, prepare to be surprised. YouTube also lets you go through a video frame by frame.

•      First, you have to pause the video, which you can do using Spacebar or K.

•      Next, press the . (Period) to go forward a frame or press the , (comma) to go back a frame.

You can also hold down either of these keys to watch the video is super slow motion in either direction.

Raise or Lower Volume

Most keyboards have some media controls keys to control things such as volume. These are almost always smaller than the other keys and fixated on the top row where you have to look down and find them.

Luckily, the online YouTube video player has its own volume control with YouTube keyboard shortcuts. You can control it using the up arrow key to raise the volume or down arrow key to lower the volume.

Mute YouTube Video

This is another useful YouTube keyboard shortcut but not many know about it. You can actually mute or unmute a YouTube video by pressing the M key.

Play the Next Video or Previous Video

YouTube always has a list of suggestions whether Autoplay is on or not. If the video you’re currently watching fails to hold your attention, you can completely skip it and move to the next one on the list. To do this you just have to use the Shift + N YouTube keyboard shortcut keys. This also works if you’re watching a playlist. In a playlist, you can even go back to the previous video by pressing Shift + P.

Select Search Box

While watching a video on YouTube you can simply press “/” and start typing your search query. Pressing the “/” key brings the search bar into focus. You can also select search suggestions using the arrow keys and hit Enter to run the selected search. This is mighty convenient because you never have to use your mouse or slide on the trackpad to click on the search bar.

Switch to Fullscreen

While playing a YouTube video you can simply press the F key to switch to full screen. If the video is already in full screen, pressing F will switch it back to the normal view.

You can also press the F11 on the keyboard to toggle between Fullscreen modes in Windows PCs.

So, there they are, some of the most useful YouTube keyboard shortcut keys that we found. Whether you are a power user, a nerd, or a regular Joe who is used to clicking things, these YouTube shortcut keys above should prove very useful.

By David Goldfield, Assistive Technology Specialist


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In the News

Here’s how a Blind Surfer Is Taking YouTube by Storm

Pete Gustin is an interesting guy for a lot of reasons. First, he has a job that all but guarantees you’ve heard his voice. It’s very likely that his smooth baritone has filtered from your television screen and into your living room, bounced off the walls a few times, and hit your ear drums. In fact, it’s very likely you’ve even imitated his voice without actually knowing it was his voice you were imitating. He’s been on television, radio, and movie trailers.

He’s the voice of Fox News, has spoken for CBS, ABC, FXX, ESPN, The Cartoon Network, and Comedy Central. The Walking Dead, Archer, Family Guy, and SpongeBob have all played after he talks. In a world where one man’s voice rules them all, Pete Gustin’s voice is king. Oh, and Pete Gustin is also The Blind Surfer.

He runs a YouTube channel of the same name, and it’s about so much more than a blind man who surfs. It’s about a blind man who is inspiring anyone with a disability, challenge, or struggle of their own to find another way of doing what they want to do. And he’s leading by example.

Now, I understand if the words “blind” and “surfer” might not exactly pair well in your brain. Surfing is generally something reserved for those who can see, but Pete’s not someone who listens when someone tells him he can’t do something. Pete wasn’t born blind — his sight, in fact, was regular in every way the day he was born — but he was diagnosed with something called macular degeneration in the mid-80s, when he was 8 years old. His eyesight had been slowly getting worse up until his diagnosis, but everyone just assumed it would require a run-of-the-mill solution, like so many other children who end up wearing glasses. He wore them for a while, but his eyesight continued to worsen.

His parents took him to Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a world-renowned hospital with specialists who might be able to shed light on what, exactly was going on with Gustin’s eyes. Doctors’ famously callous bedside manner, it appears, is a cliche for a reason. “After a whole day of testing,” Gustin told me last year, “the doctor comes out and says, ‘you have macular degeneration. Your central vision will continue to deteriorate.’ He was a researcher with no bedside manner at all — like, at all. He walked in and said… that. Then he just walked out of the room.”

That was the first startling glimpse of what Gustin’s life might look like, and now, Pete is almost completely blind. He sees shapes and shadows up to about three feet away.

Recently, I caught up with Gustin to talk about his web series, The Blind Surfer. As I said, it’s about a lot more than a blind man who surfs.

When we first spoke, his YouTube channel was relatively new. He only had a handful of subscribers, and in a time when surf-related YouTube channels are prolific, I wondered how things might be going. As it turns out, a year later, it’s well and truly booming. People are tuning in. Subscribers are skyrocketing.

Casey Neistat, a guy who has over a billion views and 12-some-odd million subscribers to his channel, reached out to see about a collaboration. People on the street are recognizing him. And it’s not so much for the surfing as it is for Pete’s astoundingly inspirational outlook on life. Although he might not yet be in the subscriber realm of people like Jamie O’Brien or Neistat, he’s more focused on what he can actually offer people beyond a surf clip, and that might just be how he gets into the realm of those other vloggers.

“It’s such a wacky numbers game these days,” he told me. “But I genuinely feel as though we’ve got 10,000 people people who are actively engaged. You look at someone like Casey Willax, the pro snowboarder. He had tons of people who already knew who he was and were aware of the amazing things he could do, so he could literally put a camera on himself doing yoga for five minutes and get 100,000 views. The fact that I started as a blind guy who’s not really a good surfer in the first place…I feel like it’s a good grassroots thing. But it would, at some point, be nice to get those huge numbers going, but I don’t know if my channel is designed that way. I get a few people a week saying ‘your channel helped me do this or your channel inspired me to do that.’

I talked to one lady with MS who said she’d been using her MS as an excuse to skip out on doing stuff with her daughter. She was like, ‘I need to stop making excuses. If you can fight through it, I can fight through it.’ With people like Jamie (O’Brien) giving him a thumbs up and a shaka every minute…I don’t know that that would be more exciting for me as the fact that I’ve touched someone’s life.”

Running a YouTube channel that revolves around surfing, however, isn’t the easiest of endeavors when one isn’t a professional level surfer, and Gustin is aware that people like Jamie O’Brien can touch someone’s life in a different way.

“Those guys are used to being out there and having interactions and touching people’s lives,” he explained. “Jamie’s just being Jamie, you know? He can go out there and shake a kid’s hand, and that kid’s going to be psyched for life. I just never had that opportunity, so this has been really exciting for me.”

Over the course of the last few months, Gustin’s become something of a minor celebrity on the beach. As his channel gains popularity, he’s finding himself in a strange situation. “It’s funny that people recognize me and I have no shot of understanding what’s going on. I can’t see them. I’m standing there with my surfboard, ready to get in the water and you’ll hear whistles and people calling my name. I’m like, ‘who’s whistling? What’s going on?’ And a few minutes later, Josh (a friend who helps Gustin surf) is like, ‘hey, you got some fans up on the boardwalk.’”

All that attention, however, started out as a bit of a double-edged sword. Spectators can cause undue pressure, but a successful YouTube channel requires them. In the beginning, Gustin felt that pressure, but now it’s faded slightly. “The first day we went out with a lot of cameras, we had Josh out there with his GoPro, Brooks, who’s flying a drone, and Maggie, my wife, who’s on shore with a camera. I literally fell on four waves in a row. I was all nervous because it felt like everyone’s watching me now. “It totally freaked me out. But now — like we went out with Taylor Knox recently, we had two drones, three GoPros, Maggie was on shore… and Taylor Knox was there — and I realized that I literally haven’t surfed in over a year without cameras pointing at me.”

The story behind how Gustin got involved with Knox is an interesting one. A few years ago, in October of 2019, the Carlsbad Boardrider’s Club was having a competition. Gustin, with his typical can-do-anything attitude, decided it would be fun to enter. “I was like, a very, very, very bad surfer at the time.

I was lucky if I even caught a wave. But I heard about this club and the contest — the Carlsbad Boardriders Club; just a bunch of people who ride boards in Carlsbad, like me — and I thought it would be fun. Maybe I’ll catch a wave, but that was about it. I didn’t know anything about it. I showed up and it was the biggest day Carlsbad had seen in three years. Maggie, my girlfriend, told me that it was really big. Like, really big. Then, we were looking at the list of people competing, and there were a lot of big names there. Really good local guys. Taylor Knox was in the heat before me. I thought it was just going to be a bunch of 40-year-old dudes on longboards. Before I paddled out, Taylor walked by me and mentioned a piece Fox had done about me. He said, ‘Hey, I saw that piece on Fox. You make me want to be a better person!’ It was before I started the channel, but I thought that if Taylor Knox was inspired by watching me try to surf, imagine what it would be like for people who aren’t amazing at surfing.”

Gustin paddled out for his heat. The waves, as mentioned, were huge, and there was a solid rip running south. Gustin was getting pounded, unable to see waves until the very last second. “It was just wave after wave after wave,” he remembered, “so eventually I just decided to stand up and ride the wash in.”

That’s when he heard screaming from the beach. Maggie came wading out into the water in all of her clothes. She informed him that the police were concerned about him, because he was getting dragged alarmingly close to the rocks. “I was so embarrassed,” he said. “I felt like such an idiot. Out there trying to compete with guys like Taylor Knox and I can’t even get out.”

When he got to shore, he felt a hand on his arm. “Someone said, ‘hey, you still have like four minutes left in your heat,” Gustin recalled. “‘Let’s go get you a wave.’ I can’t recognize him; he’s just a blob of a person, and he goes, ‘Hey listen, I’ve been a pro surfer for twenty years and even I had a hard time getting out.’”

That hand on his arm, as you’ve guessed by now, belonged to Taylor Knox. “Sure enough, the guy takes me by the hand and runs me the length of the beach over to a jetty,” Gustin said. “He got me out there, pushed me out, and I ended up getting a wave.” They kept in touch here and there over the next few years, and Taylor was recently featured on an episode of The Blind Surfer.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t necessarily watch a surf show on YouTube for anything other than the surfing. I’ll skip ahead through the talking parts and get straight to the bomb drops or the big barrels. It’s a little vicarious, but with Gustin’s show, it’s the opposite. I watch it for the talking parts. Gustin’s show isn’t about the surfing so much as it is about what it takes for him to surf. Sure, it’s about a blind guy who surfs (and Onewheels And tow skates And wakeboards) but underneath that shiny, clickbaity top coat, it’s about a man who is overcoming obstacles — big ones.

 “I had Jamie and Ben (Gravy) in mind when I started this thing,” Gustin told me. “I wanted it to be a surf channel. But the more we went on, I realized it was the opposite. They’ve become completely opposite channels. It took me a hot minute to realize that. There’s a recent episode called Is My Beard on Straight, and it’s just me doing day-to-day things, like trying to navigate down a new set of stairs. I think people are getting into it more now because the more they watch, the more they realize that ‘Wow, everything is kind of difficult for this guy, but he’s still out there trying to do new stuff.’”

And that, of course, is the draw. That’s what The Blind Surfer is all about. Everyone’s got struggles — some are harder than others — and everyone needs to find a way to overcome them. Gustin hopes that in showing that obstacles are meant to be overcome, he’ll inspire people to get out there and find a way to do what they’ve always wanted to do, no matter what’s in their way.

By Alexander Haro                      1-877-304-0968

 [email protected]

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