Cover of the VISIONS Newsletter featuring an english robin sitting on a snowy tree.

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Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

March 2022

“A lack of sight is

not a lack of vision”

President’s Message

Although serious issues continue to persist both in our country and around the world, I am hopeful you are able to stay positive as Spring draws closer and warmer weather awaits us all.

As several Provinces across Canada are loosening restrictions, this has many of our Chapters planning their customary in person traditional gatherings.  This is wonderful, as for many of us; it will serve to bring families and friends together again, as well as also a great opportunity to rekindle relationships with friends and peers.

I would like to thank the people across the Country who, although virtually, found many diverse and alternative ways to celebrate White Cane Week during February.  From a National scale of education and awareness, to Provincial events, such as the one I was privy to in our BC/Yukon Division, which you will find a link to in this newsletter.

Many local Chapter events were also held, including inclusive games such as bingo, trivia night, and virtual dinners delivered to Members. These were all wonderfully planned by many in an effort to realize the impact of awareness White Cane Week is meant to exemplify.  

To further expand, we will continue to celebrate activities into the month of May which is vision health month across Canada.  All transpiring while continuing the challenging work on advocacy and awareness, especially in the area of pharma-care. Advocacy never sleeps!

On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, committees, volunteers, I would like to personally wish everyone a safe, and active spring, and thank you for your continued support.

Jim Tokos, National President


An Important Message from Your ADP Reform Working Group

Thank you for your participation and support in our efforts to reform Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP).  The ADP Reform Working Group is pleased to provide you with our “Survey Report Reforming Ontario’s Assistive Device Program” authored by Dr. Keith Gordon, CCB’s Senior Research Officer and the study’s Principal Investigator.  We invite you to take the time to review the Report’s findings and recommendations.

As the working group has stated throughout this initiative this Report was commissioned to provide Ontario’s Vision loss community with the opportunity and tools necessary to enhance its efforts to reform the ADP, making it relevant to the community.  To that end, we believe we achieved the survey’s primary goal, as outlined in the report’s introduction, having developed a rigorous and patient-centred evidence base from which we are making recommendations to ADP governing bodies that are informative, substantive, and reflective of the needs of Ontarians living with vision loss.

Your ADP Reform Working Group

The ADP Reform Working Group is led by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) Toronto Chapter and includes the Canadian Council of the Blind’s Toronto Visionaries Chapter, the CNIB Foundation, BALANCE for Blind Adults, Fighting Blindness Canada (FBC), the FBC Young Leaders Program, the CCB’s Get Together with Technology (GTT) Program, and the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) at OCAD University.

You can download the report at this webpage

CCB BC-Yukon Division White Cane Week Webinar:

We are happy to share the link to the Division’s White Cane Week Webinars for February 6th and 11th.

Here are the links to the recordings:

Topic: White Cane Week

Date: February 6, 2022

Meeting Recording:

Date: February 11, 2022

Meeting Recording:


Submitted by Ann McNabb, President

Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) BC-Yukon Division

CCB-GTT Update

It was March of 2020 when we as Canadians were hit with the news and reality of the Covid pandemic. This  necessitated a change to the way we at the CCB needed to deliver our Get Together with Technology (GTT) program.  I’m proud to say that the CCB was one of the first organizations to utilize and implement usage of the Zoom platform as an alternate and viable delivery tool. Several “open tech chats” have continued weekly for the past 24 months.  In addition to the open chats we have enjoyed many  resentations as well as topic specific calls dealing with various accessible hardware, software and other related accessible topic matter. Smart phones, tablets, and smart speakers are only a few of the products that have been subject matter for our hundreds of calls. Together we have taught, learned and supported each other in the ever changing world of technology.  Thus the power of peer support, the strength of the CCB, learning from each other, with each other.

Recently we have shifted the focus of the GTT program slightly to include a “smaller group” learning environment, Based on input and feedback from perspective participants. It was felt that the slightly smaller group format would afford participants an enhanced learning opportunity, via the chance to drill down on one’s specific and unique needs, questions and concerns. This form of instruction has proven EXTREMELY successful and we look forward to enhancing the program in the months to come. Again, based on participant input, there is no shortage of topic matter and of course your ideas are always encouraged and welcome. We look forward to hosting more of these workshops in the months to come.

For the most part, it has been decided that we will be continuing with the virtual zoom call meetings until at least September of this year. As we move forward, and it does appear that some of the pressures of Covid may soon be behind us, we would appreciate your input on how you feel the GTT program should move forward in the fall. Are you wanting to go back to “face to face” meetings in various communities that may have had them before? Are you wanting a more Locally focused group in regions where there is not currently a group? Would you like to see a hybrid situation, some zoom and some in person? Write us and tell us what you think at [email protected]. Any and all feedback welcome.

In closing, we wish to thank all of you for supporting the program over the years. The CCB GTT is now into its tenth year of operation and its success is directly attributable to you the program participants. Thanks for your feedback, knowledge, support and overall program involvement. We look forward to the next 10 years.
-The CCB GTT Team

Introducing the CCB men’s group:

A new CCB group will be running every 2 months starting in March, hosted on the last Tuesday of the month at 4 PM Pacific time and 7 PM Eastern time.

Our 1st meeting will be March 22.

Come join us for a cup of coffee or beverage and talk about some of the topics impacting men with visual impairments or blindness. Our 1st meeting will be on March 22 and will be focusing on moving forward with loss of sight and overcoming the emotional barriers. This will be an open session and will allow everybody to speak freely and open up about how they have dealt with it and have been able to move forward with success.

This will be a zoom meeting if you would like to join please email Shane Cashin at [email protected] so that he can email you the zoom link and put you on our mailing list.

Our 2nd meeting will be May 24 and the subject is going to be focused on the disability tax credit. Do you have it? How to apply for it? The benefits of applying for it. The registered disability savings plan, do you qualify for it? How to apply for it? The benefits of having it?

Come join us!

911 Focus Group Opportunities

The way we talk to each other is changing every day. We used to rely only on the telephone, but today we can reach out to people using text messaging. We can even make video calls with many people on at the same time. Because of these changes, the way we reach out to people in emergencies is also changing.

Not all the new methods of communication work for all people. This is especially true to people from the disability community. The Neil Squire Society is trying to understand how new methods of communications affect your ability to communicate with 911.

If you are interested in participating in focus group, please follow this link to find out if you are a match for our study. Participants will be paid $150 to participate in our focus groups. If you take care of someone with a disability, we also want to hear from you.

Follow the link to find out more:

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Accessible COVID Testing:

Testing is serious business. Whether you’re fulfilling a negative-test requirement or experiencing symptoms, it’s important to work with a trained professional. Aira Agents understand how to direct people through complex tasks. Their skills are developed through hours and hours of experience working with a wide variety of people, on an equally wide variety of tasks. Like a pilot, you want to fly with someone who has accumulated many hours of experience in the cockpit.

 Aira’s Covid-19 promotion began in March of 2021. Tasks have shifted from scheduling vaccine appointments to assisting with home testing.  Using the AIRA APP and our professional visual interpreters, customers have 30 minutes per day to take a rapid antigen or PCR home test.

 Details about this promotion can be found by tapping the “Apply a Free Access Offer” button on the Home Screen. Then tap on Promotions.

 The Aira Covid promotion will appear first in the list. Tap on it to see what’s covered or activate the offer. You can also ask your agent during a call about this promotion.

 For more, see our web page at

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In The News

Full-time volunteer had to give up her wheels, but not her voice:

A change in her eyesight may have taken Leslie Yee out of the driver’s seat of her car. However, it moved her into a new one as an advocate for people underestimated due to their disabilities.

“I needed to take action for myself and I did,” Leslie says. “I am a person with low vision. It is what I have, not who I am. There are so many people in the same situation but I found that not everyone could be a self-advocate.”

Leslie was born with optic nerve damage in her left eye, relying on vision in the other eye as she worked as a kitchen designer. Despite the onset of macular degeneration in her 30s, she fought back with vitamins and regular eye checkups.

Yet, at age 48, she struggled to see clearly. A visit to her doctor confirmed she was legally blind in both eyes so she was not permitted to even drive away from his office. At first, she continued to work at a business 40 minutes from her home, thanks to rides from her husband Mario.

Leslie reached out to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (now known as Vision Loss Rehabilitation or VLR) for technology that helped her keep her job for two more years. Eventually, she took an early retirement.

“One of the biggest hurdles at the time for me was to continue believing in myself,” Leslie says. “I also had to remind myself that I was the same person. I could not expect others to believe that if I did not believe in myself.”

Thus began a new phase of her life as an advocate. At first, she volunteered as a CNIB ambassador and a peer support facilitator.

“I found it therapeutic for myself as well as knowing I could help others going through the transition of losing their vision,” Leslie says. “This all lead me to understand more about what options there are for persons with vision loss.”

She also learned about the need for funding and research around blindness and a lack of job opportunities, accessible housing and income for all persons with disabilities.

“I soon found myself becoming a voice and a representative for persons with a disability,” she says.

Leslie leads the Peterborough chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind and serves on its national board of directors and national advocacy committee, including several subcommittees. She is vice chair of the Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities, serving on its fundraising and special event committee.

She also offers her expertise to the City of Peterborough’s Built Environment Committee, a subcommittee of the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

“My biggest impact has been to help make many small changes by being a voice, sharing my ideas and experiences,” Leslie says. “Each step towards universal acceptance of persons with a disability is a step in the right direction to empower and strengthen communities.”

For those living with a disability, she advises them to be kind and patient with themselves as they adjust. Then ask for help and tap into technology designed for you.

“So often, we become frustrated with ourselves. Doing something we have done all of our lives suddenly becomes a challenge,” Leslie says. “Keep positive and get the help you need to rebuild your life.”

By John McNutt

The Peterborough Examiner

Ford Government Capitulates at the Court House Door

 [Ford Government] Belatedly agrees in the face of a disability discrimination court application to extend to September 1st the time to renew an expired health card and to enable online health card renewal using Ontario photo ID card in lieu of driver’s license.

On the eve of a court battle that it was destined to lose, the Ford Government just extended the deadline for Ontarians to renew an expired Ontario Health Card from February 28 to September 1, 2022. It also publicly committed to put in place a process that lets people renew their expired Health Card online using an Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license. (Ford Government’s February 9, 2022, news release set out below)

Blind lawyer, law professor, and disability rights advocate David Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford Government two weeks ago. It demonstrates that the Ford Government unlawfully discriminated against people like him because of their disability by requiring online Health Card renewal only with a driver’s license.

Because blind people and some other people with disabilities cannot get a driver’s license, they’d be forced to go in person to ServiceOntario to renew their Health Card, risking exposure to the Omicron variant.

“This is a big victory for people with disabilities, after a battle we should never have had to fight” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. The Ford Government finally relented and issued this news release just moments before its lawyers were scheduled to appear in Superior Court to respond to Lepofsky’s request to get his case urgently scheduled for a hearing within the next few days. It was also moments before Ontario’s Health Minister, named in this court case, was to face the media at a news conference on COVID.

It is inexcusable that the Ford Government made it necessary to resort to a court application, and only announced needed corrective action after Lepofsky and his legal team had to spend hours and hours assembling the case. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind put the Ontario Government on notice about this disability discrimination over two years ago, echoed since then by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, opposition MPPs, and the AODA Alliance.

“The Government is now finally announcing measures that it would not agree to just two weeks ago at a January 25, 2022 virtual meeting with me,” said Lepofsky. “They should have made this announcement back then, rather than leaving me no option but to file this court application.”

It is unfair to many Ontarians who have no driver’s license that the Ford Government subjected them to the health risk of going to ServiceOntario to renew their expired Health Card before the artificial Government-made deadline of February 28, 2022. We cannot know how many people unnecessarily got sick because of the Ford Government’s improper foot-dragging on this issue.

“The Ford Government owes the public a complete and candid explanation of why it so seriously mishandled this issue. Why did it not agree much sooner to accept the Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license, when The Government itself created the Photo ID Card to be equivalent to a driver’s license,” questioned Lepofsky. “It’s just one of the many disability barriers that have been created or perpetuated against people with disabilities during the pandemic, at a time when people need access to health care more than ever.

Lepofsky is studying the Government’s news release and has adjourned his request to schedule his case for a hearing, pending further discussions with the Ontario Government’s lawyers.

For background, see the AODA Alliance’s January 26, 2022 news release <> , announcing this court application and he AODA Alliance website’s health care page

Ontario Extending Health Card Renewal Requirement. Individuals Have Until September 30, 2022 to Renew.

The Ontario government is extending the requirement to renew health cards until September 30, 2022.

“In response to the pandemic our government extended the renewal requirements for Ontario health cards,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “While the majority of Ontarians have continued to renew their documents throughout the pandemic, we are committed to ensuring all Ontarians have the opportunity to renew while continuing to access the care they need, when they need it.”

Ontarians will continue to be able to use their expired health card, including a red and white health card, to access insured health care services. Health care providers can continue to accept expired health cards following the previous February 28, 2022 deadline.

To make it easier and more convenient for Ontarians to renew health cards online, ServiceOntario is taking steps to enable online health card renewal using Ontario Photo Cards in the coming months.

An individual who faces difficulties renewing their health card, for whatever reason, should contact ServiceOntario at 1-866-532-3161 (TTY:

1-800-387-5559) to inquire about options for their specific situation.

Hidden markups, missed sales on Instacart leave customers feeling ‘ripped off

Biggest price difference: $4 butter in store sold for $8 on Instacart

While many Canadian consumers likely know to expect delivery and service fees when ordering groceries on Instacart, what they may not know is they could be paying as much as $2.50 more per item in hidden markups — and some retailers say that Instacart is keeping all of it.

A Marketplace investigation into groceries being sold on Instacart from Loblaws, Costco and Walmart found that shoppers at Loblaws and Costco are paying about 10 per cent more per grocery item beyond the itemized delivery and service fees, as well as missing out on advertised in-store specials and sales.

With a valuation of $39 billion, the third-party delivery app — which allows users to hire a “shopper” to pick up their groceries at a variety of stores — has seen delivery sales grow over the pandemic.

But what’s less clear is just how much consumers — some of whom live with disabilities and depend on Instacart for access to food — are paying for that convenience.

To find out, Marketplace compared the costs of purchasing identical grocery orders at each store on both the Instacart app and in-store. While the prices at Walmart were the same in store as they were on the Instacart app, Marketplace producers discovered substantial hidden markups at Costco and Loblaws.

While every Costco grocery item the team looked at was marked up, the only grocery item that didn’t have a hidden markup at Loblaws were the cucumbers.

In one example, Marketplace paid $12.99 in store at Loblaws for President’s Choice Blue Menu lean Italian beef meatballs; on Instacart, the price was $15.35 — a markup of $2.36.

“I’m thinking that that’s ‘tief.’ That’s the Caribbean word for being ripped off, so I’m very surprised and I feel misled,” said Joanne Dominico, a mother and small-business owner who helped Marketplace with the test.

In total, Marketplace paid $74.16 more for the same order of 20 items through Instacart than when purchasing inside Loblaws; the in-store total was $ 242.49, while on Instacart the receipt for the identical items totalled $316.65.

But while $46.17 of those fees can be attributed to the company’s itemized service and delivery fees, taxes and a default five per cent tip, the markups on grocery and sale items — which totalled an additional $27.40 — were not disclosed on Instacart’s receipt.

In one instance, Marketplace paid $4.01 more for a block of butter that was promoted as an in-store sale at Loblaws, but cost $8 on the app.

“I could have bought a whole new chunk of butter for $4,” said Dominico.

While it’s no secret that online grocery delivery service Instacart charges delivery and service fees on each order, many Canadians might not know they could be paying more per item in hidden markups at some retailers and be missing out on in-store sales not included on the app. Both Loblaws and Costco do not offer in-store sales and promotions on Instacart.

While shopping at Costco on Instacart, Marketplace found similar hidden markups. In one example, the team paid $2.50 more on Instacart for Kirkland Signature Organic lean ground beef, which was priced at $25.99 in store but $28.49 on Instacart.

Instacart says it notifies customers ‘prices vary relative to store prices’

In emails, Costco and Loblaws told Marketplace that while they set the prices, Instacart keeps all of the profit from pricing differences, in addition to the delivery and service fees.

While Instacart confirmed that the retailers are responsible for setting the prices, it did not respond to questions about who receives the money from the markups.

In an email, the company said that “where there are item markups by a particular retailer, we notify customers that prices vary relative to store prices, so they can make clear and informed purchasing decisions.”

But not everyone finds that notification to be clear enough.

The extra fees are acknowledged in the Instacart app through a small pricing disclaimer, but customers have told Marketplace it can be easy to miss, and they don’t know how much more they are paying for each item.

‘I didn’t see any mention of the higher prices’

Erin Matthews reached out to Marketplace after ordering groceries through Real Canadian Superstore (a Loblaws company) on Instacart. Matthews had broken her ankle and needed groceries delivered to her Calgary home.

Her Instacart shopper accidentally left the in-store receipt with the shopping; the in-store bill was for $177, but Matthews had paid $226 on Instacart. After determining service and delivery fees, tax and tip, Matthews was surprised to find almost $30 unaccounted for.

“I was so angry,” Matthews said. “I didn’t see any mention of the higher prices online. When I called Instacart, they told me that the shopper shouldn’t have left the receipt in the bag.”

Joanne Dominico, a mother and small-business owner living in Newcastle, Ont., says the convenience of Instacart’s grocery delivery service gave her hours of her life back. But now that she knows about the hidden markups at some stores, she wants to see more transparency from the company. (Anu Singh/CBC)

Dominco, who helped with Marketplace’s test, wants to see Instacart be more transparent with its pricing.

“Just let me know and then I can make the choice. But when I don’t know, that’s when I feel disappointed,” she said.

‘We call it the disability tax’

The extra fees may be surprising for some of those who rely on Instacart for their regular grocery deliveries, but even more so for people with disabilities, who frequently rely on the service to meet their essential day-to-day needs.

“I mean for us … it’s an essential service and, you know … we have to pay through the nose to use it. So it’s not really fair,” said Martin Courcelles, a frequent Instacart user who is blind.

Courcelles and his wife, Erin, who uses a wheelchair, appreciate the convenience of the service, but are frustrated by Instacart’s fees and markups.

“We call it the disability tax,” he said.

Higher prices might also place the service out of reach for more vulnerable clients, Courcelles worries, especially in light of a harsh economic climate amid COVID-19.

“A lot of people with disabilities aren’t working these days. And this might be the only way that they can get food in the house,” he said. “And for them, you know, all these extra costs, it builds up after a while, right, and some might not be able to afford it.”

We’ll all be paying a lot more for food next year, says Canada’s Food Price Report.  It’s a sentiment shared by officials at the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT), who also note that many people with disabilities are living in poverty and at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

“For some folks, their only option is grocery delivery through an app, but the high fees can reduce their food budget, and this means less food on their table,” said the CILT in a statement.

“With food prices set to rise in 2022, yet more disabled Canadians will become more food insecure if there’s no reduction in delivery app prices or a discounted option of some kind.”

Sylvain Charlebois, the senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University and a professor studying food security, says that as the food delivery market continues to grow, companies like Instacart will have to look at making their services more accessible to those who have no choice but to order their food online.

Charlebois says for those living with physical or intellectual disabilities, or people who need to quarantine, “service charges are simply a regressive tax.”

“As we learn to live with viruses and other unfortunate public health challenges, access to online food delivery services can be an asset only if they don’t penalize those who have no other option, temporarily or permanently.”

No price break for those with disabilities

Currently, Instacart does not offer reduced delivery prices for those living with disabilities, but the company says it does offer a dedicated phone line for clients who have disabilities and need more assistance.

Charlebois thinks a reduction in fees for people with disabilities or mobility issues is long overdue.

“Just on the basis of compassion, absolutely. I think it should have been done by now,” he said.

With the food delivery market poised to reach $20 billion in Canada by 2025, the time to act is now, says Charlebois.

“I think it’s the right time to have that conversation as the market grows,” he said. “If you don’t figure this one out, a lot of people will be in big trouble.”

Walmart, on the other hand, charges only in-store prices on the Instacart app and allows consumers on the app to take advantage of in-store sales for about the same fees as ordering through Walmart directly. Customers can look for stores that display “in-store pricing” or “everyday store prices” on Instacart to shop for groceries without hidden markups. But they should check the fine print, as not every retailer offers advertised in-store sales or promotional prices on Instacart.

Instacart says that “when possible” it works with companies to ensure the prices on the app are the same as in the store and that customers can review their pricing policy for more details, adding that in North America more than half of Instacart retailers offer same as in-store pricing through Instacart.

Costco and Loblaws say that customers who order directly from them will get a better deal.

Costco’s SameDay Service, powered by Instacart, has no added delivery or service fees. However, there are markups on grocery items.

Loblaws customers can use PC Express where available and receive in-store pricing and sales, and orders can be picked up for a small fee or delivered for $9.95.

As for hidden fees, Instacart maintains that it’s clear about the possibility of price differences in the app, and says it’s working to add more features to make grocery shopping more affordable for everyone by implementing features like reduced fees and free delivery on orders placed 24 hours in advance.

In the meantime, shoppers like Courcelles who depend on Instacart will have no choice but to pay a premium.

“During winter, it’s pretty much the only service that we can use to get food into the house,” he said. “It’s the only option we have at this point.”

By Tyana Grundig, Anu Singh, Andrew Sampson, Asha Tomlinson 

CBC News                     1-877-304-0968

 [email protected]

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