Canadian Council of the Blind Newsletter
“A lack of sight is not a lack of vision”
From the President’s Desk
I would like to begin by honouring a wonderful advocate whom we all lost last week, the former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley, a friend and an honourable patron of CCB. I visited the Ontario Legislature on Sunday past to pay my respects as David lay in State. I was fortunate to meet his son Michael, and also to be greeted by the current Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell. I was proud to sign the book of condolences on behalf of our entire Organization.
February bestows upon us time to celebrate, as White Cane Week is from February 5th through 11th, and is a time for all our Members to demonstrate and be proud of their abilities. Many towns and cities have proclamations in place with their relevant CCB Chapters, making us proud. We also encourage our Chapters to share their WCW experiences, and don’t forget to take pictures; sending to our social media team Monika, Becky, and Mike in Ottawa. We want to hear all your stories and experiences, and share across Canada.
The Council continues to work proactively to ensure the efficacy and accessibility of the National CCB website which is currently in the hands of our I.T. department, and great strides have been made to ensure compliance. We thank our I.T. team under the direction of Mohamed for all their efforts in ensuring a fully accessible website is achieved for all to enjoy.
We continue the work of our National Committees, as we welcome additional membership to all committees. We are proud of the fine work they do, which include advocacy, membership, and pharmaceutical, all integral to the success and future of the Council. These groups work tirelessly to ensure we are constantly updated and well represented; lending our voices to many important matters which continue to evolve.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, and sponsors, we wish everyone a very successful White Cane Week, and please make the Council proud from Atlantic to Pacific, as this is our time to demonstrate and educate.
Thank you everyone for your continued support,
White Cane Week 2023
Get ready for a fun and exciting awareness week from February 5 to 11. This year’s events will include countless local activities. Please visit the CCB website to keep yourself updated on the many exciting events that will be taking place this year across the country. And stay tuned for reports on events in upcoming newsletters!
ScripTalk: An Update: Let’s add to this list!
We are pleased to tell you that CCB and AEBC have come together with En-Vision America to re-energize initiatives to bring accessible prescription labeling to pharmacies across Canada. More than ever we know that health equity and health literacy are both tied to having full access to information to make informed health care decisions, including medication decisions.
Presently, essential prescription information is not available in an accessible format to the blind community or otherwise print-disabled individuals in Canada. This vital missing information allows an individual to manage their medical condition safely and independently. This initiative will help expand access to this information to our whole community. This includes those who do not speak English as a first language. ScripTalk is now available in over 26 languages, including French.
We challenge you, our members, to join our efforts to bring ScripTalk audible prescription labels into more Canadian pharmacies. All you have to do is speak with your pharmacy manager; let them know ScripTalk talking prescription labels will allow you to be able to stay safe and independent while managing your medications independently.
If you would like more information about ScripTalk or about how to approach your pharmacist to request accessible prescription labels, please contact the
En-Vision America Patient Care Team at 1-800-890-1180 or at [email protected]
As of the writing of this article in January 2023, En-Vision America is already working with the following Canadian pharmacies, noted below. You can also find a searchable database based on zip code at:
Sobey’s continues to be the go-to pharmacy as they have already installed ScripTalk equipment in all of their locations. They are ready to offer the service same day, no waiting. However, there may be occasions the individual store is not familiar with offering the service. Always ask to speak with the pharmacy manager when it comes to ScripTalk.
Shopper’s is still an option for anywhere outside of Quebec. Shopper’s will continue with their central fill model for all of 2023. The customer must request the service through the pharmacy manager to initiate the conversation.
London Drugs now offers ScripTalk in 9 locations around BC. They are a reliable option if customers are able to get to the stores that already offer ScripTalk. They are not opposed to starting more stores where there is a request.
Rexall is only offering ScripTalk at the Minto Suites location and is using that location as a pilot. They did say they would add more locations based on requests.
Banville Pharmacy – Gatineau – Will mail throughout Ottawa!
Hauser’s Pharmacy – Hamilton
Hauser’s Pharmacy – St. Catharines
Chisholm Pharmacy – Nova Scotia
Preview: Lunchbox’s Life with Dogs Show Gets Personal About Living with Blindness
(Editor’s Note: CCB wishes to congratulate Kim on the success of her show!)
It took input from three artists and three dogs to create Lunchbox Theatre’s latest show, Raising Stanley/Life with Tulia which runs in the Calgary based Vertigo Studio Theatre from Feb. 1-19.
Paintings of guide dogs by visual artist Karen Bailey provide the setting and ambiance for the stories and memories of blind storyteller Kim Kilpatrick that Lunchbox Theatre’s artistic director Bronwyn Steinberg has woven into a play that has been touring Canada since 2019.
The main subjects of the show are Stanley, the first guide dog Bailey raised, and Tulia, Kilpatrick’s fourth guide dog and one Bailey painted. Ginger, Kilpatrick’s current companion, will join her onstage at Lunchbox.
Kilpatrick and Bailey met in Ottawa in 2010.
“Karen was thinking about getting her first guide puppy to raise. A friend of mine suggested she come and hear my stories about my life with my guide dogs. I was doing a show in a café at the time. We talked a lot and kept in touch and she eventually painted me and Tulia,” says Kilpatrick.
Bailey recorded her two years with Stanley through a series of paintings before Stanley entered the guide dog training program and, in 2012, Kilpatrick asked if she could use some of the paintings to accompany her storytelling.
“Three years later, Karen and I began to talk seriously about creating a show using more of her paintings for my stories about Tulia and my previous guide dogs. At this time, Bronwyn was working at the Great Canadian Theatre Company and she agreed to help us create the show.”
Raising Stanley/Life With Tulia was a hit in Ottawa and travelled to Toronto, Victoria, Winnipeg and back for more engagements in Ottawa. The show’s momentum came to a halt with the arrival of the pandemic.
In those two years, Tulia retired and Kilpatrick got her new dog, Ginger.
“Tulia loved being on stage. She was a real ham and a real audience charmer. Ginger is far more serious. Being in the show is a job for her but she is starting to loosen up a bit. Tulia was like that kid in school who sits in the front row and always waves her hand wanting to answer a question. Ginger is like the kid sitting at the back who says nothing until she is asked but then could talk endlessly on the subject because she is so well informed.
“Tulia would roll over for a belly rub at the least provocation but it took Ginger a good four months to show that silly side. Every guide dog has a distinct personality, just as we do. I’m much more like Tulia than Ginger.”
Kilpatrick says audiences find her shows fascinating because “most people don’t really understand the dynamic of a blind person and their guide dog. They seem to think the dog knows everything and we just follow around. It’s nothing like that. It is a real team effort. I put as much into our relationship as Ginger does because the dog doesn’t know everything.”
Kilpatrick says people don’t need to be dog lovers to come to the show because what she has to say about blindness is equally fascinating and entertaining but adds “they might just walk out of the show a dog lover. That’s as much Ginger’s job as mine.”
Raising Stanley/Life With Tulia runs Tuesdays through Sundays at noon with an additional 6:30 p.m. show on Fridays and a 4 p.m. show on Saturdays. Because Kilpatrick is immunocompromised, anyone sitting in the front two rows must be masked and there will be fully-masked shows on Feb. 7 and 14 at noon. Tickets range from $21 to $31 and are available in advance at lunchboxtheatre.com or at the door.
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In Memory of the Honourable Lieutenant Governor David Onley
It is with great sadness that we inform the community of the passing of Honourable Lieutenant Governor David Onley. Onley was a close friend of the CCB and was awarded the President’s Award in 2013.
As quoted from past CCB President Louise Gillis, “His appointment and goals while in office inspires all Canadians with disabilities, including the blind and vision impaired, and his office brings the issue of disability more to the forefront of the Canadian social agenda.”
Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.
In Memory of the Honourable David Onley, a Strong Voice for Tearing Down the Many Barriers Still Impeding People with Disabilities
We are deeply saddened at the death of former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. He made history by dedicating his seven years as Lieutenant Governor Of Ontario to the goal of promoting accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
His groundbreaking, no-holds-barred 2019 Independent Review of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) pulled no punches. The Onley Report concluded that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” His report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”
The Ontario Government had hand-picked Mr. Onley to write this report. His report found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” It correctly concluded:
“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”
The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even after two prior Government-appointed
AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:
“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”
The Onley report made concrete, practical top-to-bottom recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak AODA implementation and enforcement. Among other things, Mr. Onley called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.
Four years earlier, David Onley made an important declaration that he and other disability advocates have quoted innumerable times since then, and which we must emphasize as we mourn his passing. He said that the unemployment rate facing people with disabilities in Canada “is not only a national crisis. It is a national shame.”
“David Onley was a good friend, trusted advisor and comrade in arms in the campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky,
Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for over 2.6 million people with disabilities in Ontario. “As recently as two months ago, he took it on himself to pressure MPs in Ottawa to let the AODA Alliance give testimony at public hearings on the Trudeau Government’s Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act.”
In the News
TransLink Testing New Navigation Tool for the Visually Impaired
TransLink is testing new technology it hopes could help the visually impaired better navigate Metro Vancouver’s transit system.
The pilot project will be the first use of the NaviLens app in Canada.
According to TransLink, the app can be used to scan specialized decals, similar to QR codes, at three trial transit locations.
After the passenger scans a decal, the app gives them audio instructions guiding them to bus stops and transit pickup points. It can also point out nearby amenities like elevators, TransLink said.
The codes can be scanned from a distance of up to 14 metres, in any light conditions and do not require the passenger to focus.
The app can also be used while the passenger is moving.
TransLink says the NaviLens is already in use in cities like New York, Liverpool and Madrid in transit systems along with other public spaces like shopping centres.
As a part of the pilot project, the codes have been installed at 10 bus bays at the New Westminster SkyTrain station, four bus stops near the Canadian National Institute for the Blind building in New Westminster, and two bus stops near the Vancouver Community College campus on East Broadway in Vancouver.
TransLink says it will evaluate the program after six months, and consider it for future expansion in the region.
By Simon Little, Global News
Minister of Transport announces new sound requirements for hybrid and electric vehicles
Protecting all Canadians is a priority for the Government of Canada, and quiet motors can sometimes pose a safety risk when it comes to hybrid and electrical vehicles. That’s why we are taking steps to increase the safety of all road users.
The Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced that the Government of Canada is amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations to mandate minimum levels of noise from hybrid and electric vehicles.
Hybrid and electric vehicles have quiet motors and produce almost no sound at low speeds, which can make their presence on our roads hard to detect. Quiet vehicles pose an increased risk of collision to road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, and Canadians with disabilities.
Under the new requirements, all hybrid and electric vehicles will now be required to have sound emitters that would produce noise at low speeds. Automakers can determine the type of sound the vehicle makes, but the volume and pitch must allow a road user to hear if a vehicle is speeding up or slowing down.
While many automakers have voluntarily added sound emitters to hybrid and electric vehicles, Transport Canada’s new requirement makes it mandatory equipment on all new light-duty passenger vehicles sold in Canada.
The new requirement came into effect on December 21, 2022.
“The safety and security of all road users is crucial. It is important to set sound emitter requirements for hybrid and electric vehicles as they can prevent collisions and improve safety. Requiring sound emitters for these vehicles has been championed by safety and advocacy groups – especially those who advocate for Canadians with disabilities. Your voices were heard by the Government of Canada, and together we’ve made safety improvements for all Canadians.” The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport
Estée Lauder’s New App Helps Visually Impaired Users Apply Makeup
For people with visual impairments, applying makeup can be challenging — often relying on touch or other people for help. Now, Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) has launched an app to try to make that process easier.
“We spoke to individuals within the visual impairment community, and what became very clear was that they didn’t have the independence they wanted when it came to using beauty and makeup products and they had to rely on others,” says Monica Rastogi, executive director, corporate cultural relevancy and inclusion and diversity at ELC UK & Ireland.
Powered by the company’s augmented reality and artificial intelligence capabilities and developed using machine learning, the first-of-its-kind app, called the Voice-enabled Makeup Assistant (VMA), analyses the makeup on a user’s face to assess uniformity, boundaries of application and coverage. Audio feedback will identify if a user’s bronzer is foundation or if their lipstick is uneven, for example, and offer descriptions of the specific areas that could be touched up, waiting for the user to make adjustments before scanning again. The user can customize the speed of the voiceover and change the voice using the accessibility setting on their device. The VMA app is free to download and use, and will detect any makeup — not just ELC brands.
The first iteration of the app is available in the UK via the Apple App Store and on esteelauder.co.uk, with plans to roll it out to the Google Play store and other markets such as North America in the first half of 2023. As the technology matures, ELC is hoping to expand the services and features including specific looks to choose from, tutorials using ELC brand products, and in-app purchases. Estée Lauder is the first brand to roll out the app, with others to follow — each using the same technology but with different branding. Brand specific features are planned for future editions. The app does not include any brand promotions or advertisements.
“Since this is a mobile app, the user can check their makeup on the go, whether they are just starting their routine or want to touch up throughout the day,” says ELC chief information officer Michael Smith, who was involved in the tech development process. The concept for the app was ideated and tested in partnership with Accenture’s design studio. “Our focus has been on useability, and as such we have tried to make the app as intuitive as possible so there is little to no learning curve,” says Smith. “This is the first version of the app, so we are excited to start gathering and incorporating the community’s feedback and to deliver additional capabilities in the near future.”
ELC’s IT team researched a range of variables when developing the app, from its name to the speed of the voice command and tone of voice. Prior to the release of the app, it was tested by users of a variety of ethnicities and with different types of visual impairment. “When we thought about voice selection, we thought the best would be a humanistic voice — something that sounds really realistic. When we actually did the research, what was most important was familiarity with a voice they were already using for a screen reader or Siri or an accessibility setting they had,” Rastogi says. That’s why speaking to members within the community was essential when developing the app, she says: to validate assumptions being made and correct them according to people’s experiences and preferences.
The beauty industry has been slow to adapt to include consumers with visual impairment or other disabilities, from advertising representation to product design to retail experience and attitudinal barriers. In the UK, more than 2 million people are living with sight loss, and of these 340,000 people are registered as blind or partially sighted, according to the National Health Service.
Globally, there are 43 million people living with blindness and 295 million living with moderate-to-severe visual impairment, according to the
International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s Vision
Over the past few years, brands have been introducing initiatives and adjusting products to help people with disabilities. In April 2021, Unilever unveiled a deodorant for people with visual impairment and upper limb disabilities, with easily graspable features for one handed use, a larger roll-on applicator to reach more surface area and easy-to-open packaging. In October 2021, Procter & Gamble announced a new technology, Navilens, which uses QR codes that can be scanned from a distance with a smartphone app to read out key product and shelf location information. Last week, L’Oréal launched a handheld motorized device to help people with disabilities apply lipstick.
“As an industry, we’re in the early stages [with disability inclusion]. I think there is beginning to be this understanding that this is a very big untapped opportunity,” says Rastogi. “The biggest crux is education. Education is where you dispel the myth that this consumer doesn’t shop beauty, because that is not the case.” With that comes the opportunity to educate yourself on the nuances of disability — for instance, vision loss includes the ageing population, she says, so increasing the font on websites or in store can vastly improve the experience for a lot of people.
To research disability inclusion more broadly, ELC has worked with third party agencies including Interbrand, the Research Institute for Disabled Customers, as well as agencies that look at accessible store design. The company has also trained store staff and evaluated how to make its websites more accessible.
“The VMA launch is really one step in this bigger journey about disability inclusion. VMA is a fantastic app, but it speaks to one segment of the community,” says Rastogi. “[Disability inclusion] needs to be holistic and think about all the different touchpoints that an employee or customer might experience within their journey at work or in a store.”
Applying for the One-Time Top-Up to the Canada Housing Benefit
For many Canadians, the rise of inflation and high cost of living has made it even more challenging to find a safe and affordable place to call home.
That is why the Government of Canada is taking action to help vulnerable Canadian renters facing housing affordability challenges.
On December 12, 2022, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is accepting applications for the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit and you may be eligible to apply! This benefit provides a one-time payment of $500 to eligible applicants.
To be eligible for the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit, you must:
To get ready to apply, make sure: – you are registered for CRA My Account and are able to sign in. When signing in, you may notice enhanced security measures such as multi-factor authentication, and that you are required to have an email address on file;
How to apply:
If you are unable to apply for this new benefit online, you can call 1-800-282-8079 to complete your application.
For more information on the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit, including eligibility and how to apply, visit: Canada.ca/housing-top-up.