Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter
“A lack of sight is not a lack of vision”
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
From the President’s Desk
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) certainly welcomes everyone back from the festive activities, which occurred across this great Country, and welcomes those who in their own tradition continue to celebrate during the coming weeks.
Canada celebrates the many diverse and cultural citizens it populates, and bestows with honour their ethnic opportunities it presents.
During the past year (2022), CCB lost some wonderful leaders, all of whom were great mentors, and who strived to make CCB a stronger and more inclusive Organization into the future. To those we are certainly indebted, and promise to keep their wishes as we move into a bright and ever changing time.
It makes me proud to be involved with so many who continue to push for change, while breaking down barriers, donating time and resources as we continue to face the challenges of everyday life.
We are very blessed with so many wonderful staff, volunteers, and friends who unselfishly take our best interests to heart: to those many, a heartfelt thanks as you may not always realize the difference you make in our lives.
The Council is proud of its vision for the future, and we endeavor to roll up our sleeves and tackle the issues that face our community, and make this country as accessible as possible. This country must be free of barriers, technological, structural or other, so we, persons living the experience can indeed feel the changes that truly enhance our quality of life.
On behalf of the National Board of Directors, staff, sponsors, volunteers, committees and membership it gives me great pride to represent such a wonderful Organization, and I wish to thank everyone for their tireless efforts in making the CCB the outstanding Organization it has become today.
As we celebrate the holiday season, unfortunately, I must share some sad news. The CCB has lost a true long term support, former long term Board member, and truly a mentor and friend of mine, as with very heavy heart we have lost Don Grant. Don is survived by his wonderful Wife Avril and two children.
Donny was a true mentor to me when I first began my journey with the Council. I first met Don in Brantford, Ontario at a Provincial Board meeting, which resulted in a wonderful and trusting friendship being struck between him and me. Don and I alternated as National reps for Ontario, with Don stepping back to allow me the opportunity to gain the experience and knowledge he shared allowing me to serve on the National Board. Don and I spent many long hours discussing our thoughts and feelings regarding the future of the Council, and Don was both instrumental and supportive of my successes along the way.
Don, with heavy heart I thank you so much, you were always such a wonderful human being. May you Rest in Peace, and I am so honoured to have been associated with you and Avril.
Submitted by Jim Tokos
Donald David GRANT– passed away peacefully on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at Heartwood Long Term Care Home at the age of 91 years. Loving husband of 66 years to Avril Anne Grant (née Fleming). Dear father of Graham Grant (Susan) and Heather Grant. Cherished grandfather of Hilary (Troy) and Andrea (Devyn). Don will be sadly missed by many nieces and nephews. Son of the late Neil Grant and the late Katherine Grant (née MacDonald). Predeceased by his brothers Robert Grant, Neil “Bud” Grant, Garry Grant, William “Billy” Grant and Cameron Grant.
Donald was an incredibly hardworking man, having a career of over 35 years at BCL/TCF, all the while being the owner/operator of Safeway Driving School for over 30 years. Donald also has a notable history of volunteer work throughout the city of Cornwall; serving as a Past President of the Cornwall Chapter for the Canadian Council of the Blind, as well as a longtime member of the Cornwall Kinsman Club. His work within the community gained him several awards including the Canadian Council of the Blind’s 2020 Person of the Year Award and the Cornwall Kinsman Club’s Lifetime Member Award.
Throughout his life Donald had a clear love of hockey, whether it be passionately rooting for the Montreal Canadians, playing professionally in the Scottish National League for four seasons with the Dundee Tigers in the early 1950’s or winning tournaments throughout Canada, the U.S and as far as Switzerland, playing for the Cornwall Hubs Old-Timer Team. In 1996, he was inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame for his contribution to Cornwall’s hockey community.
His love of sports did not stop with just hockey; Donald was an avid player of golf for over 40 years.
The Fight Against Vision Loss is at a Crossroads
It Only takes Less Than a Minute to Be a Part of the Change!
It’s a pivotal moment in Canadian vision health. Through our Stop Vision Loss campaign, the Canadian Council of the Blind has a powerful opportunity to fight back against preventable blindness nationwide. Bill C-284 “to establish a national strategy for eye care” is in front of Parliament.
We are asking all vision advocates to take two quick actions.
Then, send a pre-written email to your MP supporting Bill C-284.
With your help, we can make the National Eye Care Strategy into law!
How CCB Member Lynda Todd discovered painting (and where it leads to):
Lynda Todd is an abstract artist from Peterborough, Canada, near The Great Lakes. She was born with very limited sight and is colour blind. Nevertheless, she started painting not so long ago, in 2018. The result was surprising.
Lynda Todd explains: “I never embraced creativity due to my physical disabilities. I was encouraged to take a day painting workshop in 2018. The experience was electrifying and freeing. Having no formal training I was not limited by any constraints such as colour theory or principles of design. My work was intuitive and colour choices were spontaneous. By the end of that day I knew this was what I was meant to do. It was sheer joy. In spite of my disability, after disability, I could create work that people would gravitate to and it would resonate and bring them joy.”
It has become an empowerment for her. “Coming from a place of insecurity and reluctantly taking a course and then ‘finding’ a passion for it. This is something that anyone can embrace and find joy and satisfaction.”
Opening up to everyone with disabilities
Art should be accessible to everyone, is her firm belief. “Having spent most of my adult life believing that I had no artistic ability due to my lack of eyesight, I wanted to open this door to everyone including those with disabilities. If not for them to create art, at least for them to be able to experience it. At a 2019 art exhibition, a totally blind woman by the name of Devon asked me to describe a piece of art to her. It was incredibly difficult to do this and it made me want to make my art tactile so a blind person would be able to experience my work through touch. I began to build interesting layers using a variety of mediums including epoxy resins and sculpting materials to offer a beautiful feel to my pieces. I have begun to title my work in Braille directly on the canvas.”
The desire for accessibility of her work to all people is the result. Viewers of her pieces are invited to touch it, to feel any communication by Braille, to experience the textures, and to finger the movement of the paint on the canvas.
Does Lynda have a Key Work? She has. “It’s my painting entitled, ‘Dancing Angels’. It has numerous intricacies and seems to draw the viewer into the piece letting them use their imagination and giving them an opportunity to travel in their mind and create their own story. This was the first piece that taught me to paint with intention. The viewer can then craft their own opinions and responses to the piece.”
It is obvious, Lynda Todd wants her art accessible and enjoyed by all. She has started creating tactile art so those who are blind or visually impaired can touch the painting and understand the shape, movement and flow of the piece. So that they can feel the story and understand the emotion behind it.
“I have found that even fully sighted art lovers appreciate the freedom to hold the art and get a true grasp of the piece.”
She entered the world of art creation in 2018 by taking a one-day workshop and has been creating and exhibiting since. She is now a full-time professional artist. Lynda: “Every exhibit keeps leading to another level and opportunity.”
She won the Fine Art Award in the Spirit of the Hills Art Association contest. “This affirming win motivated me to make art my career and delve deeper into exploring opportunities to the next level. Creating a website, exhibiting on a regular basis and incorporating a variety of mediums.”
There was a lot of publicity including a front-page feature story for the art exhibit and people were very complimentary. That helped quell her self-doubt and encouraged her to continue on. It boosted her self-esteem and self-confidence.
She has had numerous exhibits including the Migration of Art, Zitacuaro, Mexico Summit and was the sole Canadian artist invited to lead a workshop at the Curious Mondo Art Resin Symposium. Her works have been featured on the cover of Occupational Therapy Now magazine, with feature stories in several magazines, radio shows, print articles, vlogs and documentaries.
She was honoured to receive the Holnbeck Lifetime Achievement Award for her advocacy work in helping others with disabilities. “I work with an organization that helps to end the social isolation of adults living with a disability through integrative and inclusionary activities. It is expected that with recurring exposure to outings and group events people will be more comfortable and willing to become more active in the community.”
People becoming collectors
Art opened up many opportunities for her. “It is a gracious gift when people buy it. It was self-affirming. People became collectors. It is amazing that people came back and purchased multiple pieces and their homes became the forever place for my art. When someone feels passionate about a piece that I create and it elicits such emotion in them that they want to admire it daily, it is so satisfying.”
Finally, what is her philosophy? Lynda Todd: “The most important thing to me is what effect my artwork has on others. My artwork and methods appear to encourage people of all exceptionalities to delve into their own hopes and dreams and most particularly, into the world of perhaps even creating their own art or finding their own passion.”
By Walter van Teeffelen
Kevin Frost, deafblind multi-sport athlete, TEDx motivational talks and philanthropy mentor authored his first book.
I just finished a book called “Deaf Blind Champion”. It is a true story of hope, inspiration, and excellence in sport and life. It’s a book of my journey with over 50 years of experiences. In this book, I will be talking about my life as a child and my younger years of how my deafness played a tough role in my early years, how I had many dreams to accomplish in my lifetime. At 30 years old, I lost everything being diagnosed with Usher Syndrome (Deafblind).
I will share with everyone how I became a 3 Time World Champion in Speed Skating 25 years later. I will share with everyone how I made it all happen.
It will be very emotional at times, inspirational and many stories on how you can accomplish anything you want in life with all my tools of success.
“Deaf, Blind Champion” can be purchased on Amazon as either paperback, or an eBook/Kindle. Here is the link to Amazon:
WBU calls for increased access to braille on World Braille Day:
Each year on January 4, the global blindness community comes together to celebrate Louis Braille, the inventor of the braille writing system, along with the system he invented, which would eventually go on to change the lives of blind people throughout the world.
This simple system of combining six raised dots into different patterns enables braille users to read not only books, but music notation and mathematical formulas as well. Its flexibility has also allowed it to be adapted into many languages used around the world.
“I always look forward to beginning each year with a celebration of braille and all that it has contributed to the lives of blind people”, Said Martine
Abel-Williamson, President of the World Blind Union. “Not only is this an opportunity to celebrate, though, World Braille Day is also a day to take stock of what further actions need to be taken to improve access to braille”, added Abel-Williamson.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is the key guiding document for the global disability movement. The CRPD outlines obligations for those countries who have ratified the Convention, including obligations regarding access to braille. Article 21 of the CRPD requires member states to ensure that information intended for the general public is in accessible formats such as braille, and article 24 requires that in the education system, students who are blind receive their education in the modes that are most appropriate to their needs, such as braille from educators who are fluent in braille.
“Despite obligations arising from international and national law, we know many blind people lack access to braille itself, to appropriate training in braille, and to technologies that facilitate the use of braille”, said Marc Workman, WBU CEO. “We take this opportunity on January 4 to call on governments around the world to commit to improving access to braille for their blind citizens both within the education system and beyond”, added Workman.
“One concrete step countries can take to improve access to braille is to ratify and fully implement the Marrakesh Treaty. Among other things, this Treaty facilitates the cross-border sharing of braille materials, which means blind people in countries with limited access to braille can gain the ability to read braille materials produced in countries with larger braille libraries”, said Kim Charlson, newly appointed chair of the WBU World Braille Council and Executive Director of the Braille & Talking Book Library at the world-renowned Perkins School for the Blind. “Although many countries have ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, full legal and technical implementation has not occurred in far too many countries throughout the world, leaving the tremendous promise of this Treaty largely unfulfilled.”
While World Braille Day will always be a day for celebration, it must also remain a call to action until blind people across the world have full access to this life-changing tool. Even after January 4, we ask you to join us in both celebrating braille and calling on governments to ensure access to braille is a priority around the world.
Elections Canada is Looking for Feedback on How to Improve the Voter Information Card (VIC) for Electors:
Around three weeks before a federal election, Elections Canada mails a printed VIC to all registered electors. This card tells them when, where and the ways to vote. Elections Canada is exploring the possibility of developing an Electronic Voter Information Card (E-VIC), and we would love to hear your opinion about this.
By completing this quick survey on the E-VIC and sharing it with your network, you will help us reduce barriers to electoral participation!
We appreciate your time and feedback.
The deadline to complete the survey is January 20, 2023.
The survey can be found here:
In the News
Teen creates connections for youth with visual impairments:
In a time of widespread isolation, a Manitoba teen decided to find a way to help other kids feel less alone.
Fourteen-year-old Taliah Braun set up her own online social network -a website called Vision Village – for youth with visual impairments.
Braun was born with pediatric congenital microphthalmia, a birth defect that meant her left eye didn’t fully develop. She is blind in that eye and wears an artificial one, but she’d never met anyone else who could pop out their prosthetic – a special ability she soon learned some kids would interpret as creepy. Most would never know what it was like, for example, to take out their glass eye at the park and accidentally drop it.
Taliah Braun set up her own online social network — a website called Vision Village — for youth with visual impairments. The Niverville teen wanted to talk to someone who knew exactly what it was like, as Taliah puts it, to have a “visual difference.”
“For me, I would say, it just was a deep loneliness, and I think it was a struggle for years,” she said.
Her parents and friends were supportive, but they hadn’t experienced blindness and could only imagine what she was going through.
During the pandemic, Taliah realized the kind of platform she was searching for, one that would connect her to others with her condition, didn’t exist.
“And then this idea kind of popped into my head: ‘Why don’t I make it myself?’”
So, after a couple of months of practicing web design, Vision Village was born. The site has been up and running since late May 2021. The Grade 9 student included a pen-pal-finder for like-minded kids, bios of herself and the team of ocularists who’ve cared for her, and her favourite section: the Inspiration Corner. In it, she shares a short video of her own story along with photos of her prosthetic eyes, and encourages other kids to get involved.
(Kids aged six to 16 who have visual disabilities can become members of the site with their parents’ permission and can email to request a pen pal).
“It’s supposed to be a safe place, so we try to keep it pretty kid-friendly and through the parents, mostly, so it’s safe for everyone to use,” Taliah said.
Eight kids are members of the site now, with more in the process of joining, and Taliah has connected a couple dozen pen pals, most in Canada, and a few in the U.S.
Since she started the site, she’s felt less lonely.
“It has been a huge encouragement to me,” Taliah said. “I’ve definitely felt much less alone and connected to see that there are so many other kids, even around our area and Winnipeg area and Steinbach. There are so many kids living with different visual disabilities, and yeah, it has definitely encouraged me.”
She’s been able to meet up with a few other kids in Manitoba since launching the website.
Although her family and other friends tried their best to understand her experience, it’s not the same as talking to people who’ve been through it. “There’s just something surreal about connecting over the same thing. You really do feel seen and understood.”
Taliah said she’s happy to answer common questions about her condition – she’s used to doing that — but she wanted to create a space where kids with disabilities could get to know each other, not for an outside audience.
“I wanted to take something that was hard for me and help it not to be hard for others,” Taliah said.
Her parents, Svea and David Braun, said their daughter’s project is just one example of the confidence and motivation to bring people together that she’s shown since she was very young.
“Taliah’s just a go-getter. She has more initiative than probably our entire family put together,” Svea Braun said with a laugh. They agreed the project has been an antidote to the loneliness that seems so universal right now.
“It really is about focusing on other people, not focusing on myself, and I think whenever you do that, loneliness has less of an opportunity,” David Braun said.
Taliah said she has big dreams for what Vision Village can become.
“It’s been such a cool project to watch unfold,” she said. “I have lots of work that I put into it, but I still have lots of dreams of what I want it to become. Eventually, it’d be cool if there were (kids) all over the world who are able to connect there.”
Vision Village is at:
By Katie May
Advertisement: VIA Rail Canada, Ready for your comeback?
What Is the Libby App and How to Use It:
Libby is the perfect option for you if you’re looking for free books and audiobooks and have a library card.
Libby is an app used by public libraries to grant access to digital content to their members. As it allows members to check out and enjoy eBooks and audiobooks from their devices, it is an excellent choice for avid readers and audiobook fans.
What Is Libby?
Libby is a free application utilized by many public libraries to access online content such as eBooks and audiobooks easily. Owned by Overdrive, Libby offers an updated digital content portal with more tools for a customized reading experience.
Libby allows library members to check out, place holds, and return eBooks and audiobooks from their smart devices. It features customizable settings for readers, such as the following:
- For audiobooks, Libby offers various playback speeds and multiple sleep timer settings.
- For eBooks, Libby offers customizable font sizes, lighting options, and layout choices. It also allows for customizable bookmarks, annotations, and highlighting.
- Libby offers a dictionary to define unknown words for readers.
How to Get Access to Libby
You can access Libby with your library cards which are obtained through your local library. With Libby available in 78 countries, and 90% of North American public libraries, it is easy to start using Libby.
Libby supports many devices for eBook reading and audiobook listening. The app is available for download on the following devices:
- Android devices running a minimum of 5.0.
- Apple devices running a minimum of iOS 10.
- Amazon devices running a minimum of OS 5.
- Computers utilizing Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge web browsers.
Once you have a library card from your local public library, download the Libby app on your device. Next, select the name of your library and enter your personal library card number. Once submitted, you will have access to thousands of digital titles.
Libby will not only allow you to enjoy digital content on your download device, but it is also compatible with popular eReaders, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
If your library doesn’t offer Libby, ask if they use Cloud Library, as you may be able to access online content through that alternative.
What Content Does Libby Offer?
Libby offers both eBooks and audiobooks to borrow through the platform. Titles range from classics to new releases. Libby also hosts digital children’s content, making the app an excellent site for reading free children’s books.
Libby hosts a wide range of entertainment across most genres, including:
- New Adult
- Young Adult
- New Releases
- Children’s Books
- Self-help Books
- Travel Guides
The check-out and hold limit will vary depending on the regulations put into place by your local library. Typically, library members are allowed three holds and five loans at a time.
It is important to note that each library has access to a finite number of titles they offer. Similarly to physical texts, the library purchases multiple copies of a title, yet even though they are digital resources, they are limited in number.
For this reason, you may experience wait times for popular titles. In this instance, you can place a hold on the title through Libby, and you will be able to check out the eBook or audiobook once someone has returned a copy.
If you can’t find the book you are looking for in Libby, check out other free online digital libraries.
How to Use Libby
Once you have downloaded and logged into Libby with your library card, you are ready to start enjoying digital content. To borrow an eBook or audiobook, select the title you desire and click the pink borrow button.
If other library patrons are currently reading the title you are interested in, you will have the option to place a hold on the title instead. Selecting the place hold button will place you in the queue to borrow the title once it becomes available again.
To view the eBooks or audiobooks, you have checked out, placed on hold, or returned, navigate to the shelf icon on the Libby app.
You may also return eBooks or audiobooks from this shelf tab by selecting the manage loan button to the right of the book’s cover. Next, select the pink return button.
To search for a specific title on Libby, select the magnifying glass icon. You can search by title, interest tags, series, or author through this tab.
You may also browse for new books by genre, new releases, popular titles, and recommended curated subjects through the library icon tab.
Explore New Entertainment With Libby
Libraries are excellent resources for free entertainment, and Libby makes digital entertainment easily accessible. Libby offers library patrons an opportunity to experience digital content in a new customizable way.
Not only does it allow for the convenience of checking out new books and audiobooks from home, but it also allows readers to customize their reading experience.
If you are looking for new free entertainment, use your library card to access Libby!
By David Goldfield, Assistive Technology Specialist
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