VISIONS – Summer

VISIONS Summer edition cover featuring a person putting their toes in a pool.

 Advertisement: Discover a variety of phones designed with accessibility in mind on Canada’s best national network.  Plus special savings are available for customers with accessibility needs. Learn more. Bell.


Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter

Summer 2022

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

From the Editor’s Desk

The summer is finally here! CCB has just held another successful AGM, and as the country continues to shift out of the pandemic, I hope all members are getting to spend some relaxing time with family and friends. This is a bonus summer newsletter edition to tie our members over until September, when CCB Chapters really get back into the swing of things!

Enjoy the read, and have a wonderful summer—Mike Potvin, Editor.


CCB Patches

CCB Peterborough Chapter has embroidered CCB patches for sale.

The Peterborough chapter has created a fine embroidered iron on CCB patch.

If interested please contact our chapter at [email protected] and we can arrange payment and shipping details. 

Parks Accessibility Conference – August 2022

I am reaching out to you today to let you know about an upcoming conference we are hosting on national park accessibility in Canada. This free event will be fully virtual and fully accessible, and takes place over 3 half-days in August 2022. We will have captions and ASL translators for all the presentations.

The Conference will be recorded and made available afterwards for those    that cannot attend live.

Join us and learn how we’re making Canada’s National Parks more accessible to people with disabilities.

Join us virtually and hear from researchers, organizations and members of the community. Attendance is free!

For more information and speaker applications, please visit us at:

New Book for iPhone Users

Hello everyone! Two years and literally thousands of changes later, the second edition of Personal Power is now available. It’s an ebook which I wrote and am giving away for free. Basically, the book takes people from setting up their iPhones to thriving in the iOS environment. It teaches how to use Voiceover, the various parts of iOS, and a whole lot of apps.

In fact, one of my major goals with this book was to point newcomers to a large collection of accessible apps. Many people get discouraged when they purchase Apps that don’t turn out to be accessible. I hope that this book helps their initial experience be much better than my own was back when I got my iPhone 4.

The book is available in several formats and I hope people will help me make it available in even more. For now, I recommend the EPUB version. It has an interactive table of contents. That’s helpful when you’re dealing with a book over 310000 words long. I’ve also included the MS Word version, PDF, and a plain text version in Markdown format. This last one has number signs or hashes before each section and subsection. If the EPUB version doesn’t work for you, this would at least let people skip over sections which didn’t interest them. The link to the guide is:

Submitted by Michael Feir, Author of Personal Power; The iOS Edition

CHRC welcomes Canada’s first Accessibility Commissioner

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is pleased to welcome Michael Gottheil, by Order in Council, as Canada’s first Accessibility Commissioner.

The Accessibility Commissioner will be a full-time member of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Commissioner will provide leadership and direction for the administration and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act and its regulations. The Commission and the Accessibility Commissioner operate independently from the government.

Read the full Statement here:

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Advocacy: self-serve kiosks

The CCB National Advocacy Committee has been doing wonderful work lately, and we wanted to highlight an excellent example of one of their initiatives. You can find below a letter to Wal-Mart concerning the accessibility of their self-serve kiosks.

We have been receiving concerns and comments from our community regarding the accessibility of self-serve kiosks. We understand that Wal-Mart’s policies include taking in account the needs of persons with disabilities. As quoted from your website, “Wal-Mart will consider the needs of people with disabilities when procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks. Wal-Mart will identify areas of its business in which kiosks are used and coordinate with its vendors and suppliers to ensure that appropriate accessibility features (technical, structural, access path, etc.) are included in the design of any future purchased kiosks.

“Recently, many of our members brought concerns to our national advocacy committee over their experience using your self-serve checkouts. We are writing to you to express our overall concern and hoping to open up a dialogue. Our members’ concerns, expressed to us are as follows.

The CCB Board of Directors is made up of volunteers, representing the needs of our community, as our Board is made up of persons living the experience on a daily basis, thus our comments forthwith.

The purpose of this letter is to follow up and offer support on how to assist the needs of our community with your self-checkout process.

Many of the concerns expressed by our members is the change to a new software system which seems to be less accessible than the previous self-serve kiosks. With that being a concern, we would be available to discuss this with you, share our experiences and explain the needs of the vision loss community.

Self-checkout kiosks are a relatively new way to make purchases and we are coming, ourselves, to understand that accessibility and usability of these kiosks is a developing area. Walmart as a corporate entity and we as potential users/consumers are all struggling with new emerging technology. What works one day might not work another. The challenge is for you, a corporate entity, to move forward building in accessibility to the self-serve kiosks software, regardless of it being a first, second- or third-party software program, so that accessibility for all of Wal-Mart customers is maintained when there are changes and updates.  

With that said we would welcome an opportunity to have a conversation with you and share our member’s experiences. Our goal is to support the experiences of the low vision customers of Wal-Mart are understood, so that there is an effort to enhance the shopping experience and in doing so, allowing our members, your customers, the independence and dignity they deserve.

We look forward to the opportunity of constructive dialogue with your team.

Submitted by Leslie Yee and Leo Bissonnette

CCB National Board Chair Advocacy committee

Advertisement: Discover a variety of phones designed with accessibility in mind on Canada’s best national network.  Plus special savings are available for customers with accessibility needs. Learn more. Bell.

The Joys of a Guide Dog

We would like to thank Leslie Yee for sharing her story about her experience as a guide dog user. Read on below!

A young boy around the age of eight once asked me, “If I could have all my sight back, would I want it.” 

At first, I was a little taken back. What a question and it made me really think.

I am really comfortable with my vision. I feel I do not miss anything and most importantly I would not have the company and companionship of my Guide Dog, Akira.

Akira is my first guide and it has so far been quite an adventure. He is strong, an 85-pound yellow male, intelligent and often looks at me as if to say, “The door is right here”

He is patient, very playful and is better than an alarm clock. Especially when it is dinner time!

He is now five and a half years old, and still, he will practically stand on his head just to get a kibble treat! This does make him very playful and willing to learn new and fun tricks for playtime.

Have we made mistakes? You bet.  As a new handler I am constantly learning from Akira himself, and by asking other Handlers how they might react to certain situations. So together we then tackle our problems, our difficult situations and try again, accompanied by a lot of kibble treats.

 Akira is from Guide dogs for the Blind in the United States. It was a wonderful experience going there and getting the training I needed, meeting Akira and then learning to bond and work with him.

The school did tell us all that once you have a Guide dog, you are now ambassadors for all guide dogs and handlers.

They were right. Both of us receive a lot of attention. We are asked many questions, and I am given general comments on how lovely Akira is.

We don’t mind though; Akira is amazing and I am happy and proud to talk about him. Not only do I feel stronger with him, he is a part of me. I am very proud and confident of him when we are out and I have confidence in the training he has received from his school.

So, if I could get all of my vision back, would I want it? I don’t think so, at least not right now. I love my Guide Dog partner and together we make a great team!

In the News

Canada family tour world to store rich memories before children go blind

Last week, as the sun set over the craggy hills of Spitzkoppe, Namibia, Edith Lemay and her husband, Sébastien Pelletier, stared out over the vast landscape.

The Canadian couple and their four children had spent the day scaling boulders, then cooled off from the desert heat in a nearby rock pool.

“There was a sweetness hanging in the air and as the sun disappeared, it gave way to more stars than we’ve ever seen in our lives,” said Lemay. “It was just … magic.”

Their children, Mia, Leo, Colin and Laurent also gazed at the deep, inky darkness of the sky, awestruck.

Three of those children will lose their eyesight in the coming years, making the experience all the more important for Lemay and Pelletier, who plan to travel for the next year to give the kids as many visually rich experiences as they can.

“I want their heads to be full of beautiful landscapes that they can remember years from now,” she said.

Mia, 11, Colin, six, and Laurent, four, were recently diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare degenerative disorder whereby the cells of the retina gradually break down.

The loss of vision is expected to accelerate in the coming years, probably leaving them only a narrow sliver of sight by their 30s or 40s.

“There’s no cure,” said Lemay. “So it’s a waiting game and there’s nothing we can do.”

Even though neither parent has blindness in their immediate family, both are carriers of recessive genetic mutation responsible for retinitis pigmentosa.

Lemay and Pelletier’s firstborn, Mia, was diagnosed with the disorder after she had difficulty seeing objects at night, a hallmark sign.

Colin and Laurent also had trouble seeing objects at night as infants, but Leo hasn’t been tested because he shows no problems with his vision.

As they digested the news that three of their children would become blind, the family initially tried to get Mia to learn braille. But in a cruel irony, her eyesight at the time was too strong.

Still, knowing that her vision would deteriorate, a specialist at the school suggested immersing the children in rich, detailed scenes.

“She said to show them giraffes and elephants. She meant books, but we figured why not just see the real thing?” said Lemay. “We’ve travelled with them before and they’re great on the road.”

Lemay, who works as a project manager, and Pelletier, who works in finance, had once dreamed of such a trip and had been saving for years to make it happen.

The family flew from Montreal, Quebec, nearly two weeks ago after their initial plans for a globe-spanning trip were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Already, they have camped in the desert, sand-boarded and spotted Cape fur seals basking on the Atlantic coast.

After Namibia, they plan to travel the 1,100-mile Tazara railway from Zambia to Tanzania, where they will finally get the chance to see the big game animals most North American children only see in books.

If geopolitical tensions ease, they could be in Turkey and then Mongolia by late summer.

Lemay says she’s taken as many pictures as possible to ensure even when her children have lost most of their sight, they still have something to look back on.

“Maybe they’ll be able to look at the photographs and the pictures will bring back those stories, those memories, of the family together.”

The trip, like any foray into a new place, has also proven exhausting, as the parents juggle logistics, planning with the realities of homeschooling four children on the road. Lemay and Pelletier are documenting their travels, and occasional frustrations, on their page Le monde plein leurs yeux.

Despite moments of friction, brought on by hunger, tiredness or the realities of corralling four energetic youth, Lemay says the trip has already left her with the memories she had hoped for.

Earlier in the day, as they drove along the western coastline of the sub-Saharan nation, the family stopped to visit a famous shipwreck.

“They just asked to dip their toes in the ocean,” said Lemay. “But with kids, it’s never just the toes. Five minutes later they’re soaking wet and soon there’s sand and water in the car. But they’re just so excited.”

By Leyland Cecco 

Dan Parker, a Blind Man, Breaks Driving Speed Record

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (April 5, 2022): Dan Parker, a blind racecar driver, achieved the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® title for the “Fastest Speed for a Car Driven Blindfolded” on Thursday, March 31. Parker set a new speed record of 211.043 miles per hour on the runway at Spaceport America in his custom-built Corvette, which included an innovative audio guidance system designed to his specifications. The previous record was held by Mike Newman of the United Kingdom, who achieved a speed of 200.51 miles per hour in 2014. Parker went blind as the result of a racing accident that took place ten years before, on March 31, 2012, and graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind seven years ago on March 31 as well. The record attempt was made as part of the acceleration of the National Federation of the Blind’s Blind Driver Challenge™ — an initiative that aims to call attention to the importance of breaking barriers in mobility and to demonstrate the incredible achievements of blind people. It was sponsored by San Francisco-based zero emission self-driving company Cruise and certified by Guinness World Records official Michael Empric.

The effort built on the inaugural Blind Driver Challenge event that took place on January 29, 2011, when Mark Riccobono, now President of the National Federation of the Blind, independently operated a modified Ford Escape hybrid on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. Mr.

Riccobono navigated the course’s turns and steered the car around dynamic obstacles by following haptic prompts generated by input from the vehicle’s GPS, cameras, and LIDAR sensors.

“Our Daytona Blind Driver Challenge demonstration changed the perceptions of blindness held by society, including the perceptions that we ourselves held as blind people,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “It further demonstrated to the world that the expertise of the blind is critical to the development of nonvisual vehicle interfaces. NFB member Dan Parker has now raised the expectations of blind people even higher by independently driving a vehicle faster than any blind person has done before, proving that the combination of accessible technology and our own capacity allows blind people to safely operate motor vehicles even at high speed. This demonstration reinforces our determination to work with Cruise and other partners to make cars that can be operated independently by blind people on America’s roadways a reality.

Transportation is a critical barrier faced by blind people across the nation and we seek the increased availability of all transportation options in order to successfully live the lives we want.”

“With the help of my Federation family, my outstanding pit crew, and our partners at Cruise, I am proud to bring the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for fastest speed for a car driven blindfolded to America,” said Dan Parker. “We have not only demonstrated that a blind person can operate a vehicle safely, but that we can do it at over two hundred miles per hour.

We hope this success inspires blind people and shows the world the potential of modern technology like self-driving cars to help the blind break barriers in everyday mobility and beyond.”                      1-877-304-0968

 [email protected]

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