|the Canadian Council of the Blind
|The Voice of the Blind™ in Canada
The Honourable Dr. Asha Seth
2018 Person of the Year
Keith Communications Inc.
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]
Louise Gillis, Michael Baillargeon, Ellwood Shreve – Chatham Daily News, Mike Potvin, Kim Kilpatrick, Albert Ruel, CBC News, Kelyn Soong
- Washington Post, Gregory Strong
- Canadian Press, Ryan Van Praet, Greg David, Rachel Aiello – The Hill Times
Casey Metcalfe, Marion Green
CCB Library, Jennifer Summerton, NHL Calgary Flames, Library of Parliament, Andre Martin
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CCB NATIONAL PRESIDENT
CANADIAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND NATIONAL OFFICE
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Email: [email protected] Website: www.ccbnational.net
|Cover: Photo of Senator Dr. Asha Seth, standing before the historical doors, to Canada’s Senate, on Parliament Hill, in ottawa. © Library of Parliament
TABLE OF CONTENTS
4 PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE 2018
6 TODAY’S CCB
16 BLIND MINISTER PROMISES ACCESSIBILITY LEGISLATION
20 COUNCIL’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS & STAFF
23 CCB LOCAL CHAPTERS
30 APP ATTACK
32 MAKING YOUR VOICE COUNT
34 GTT’S TOP 10 IOS APPS OF 2017
37 IN THE NEWS
45 EXPRESSIONS OF APPRECIATION
FIFTEENTH ANNUAL WHITE CANE WEEK™
Welcome to White Cane Week 2018
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) has had a very busy 2017 beginning with White Cane Week. Thank you to all our sponsors and donors for their continued support. Without your support it would be difficult to maintain our programs.
Welcome to White Cane Week 2018. During our 15th annual White Cane Week celebrations, Chapters across the country will be hosting many activities. A major event will be held in Toronto on Feb 3rd CCB Toronto Visionaries will present “Experience” Expo. Last year over 1000 people viewed and took part in the exhibits.
Our AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Competition will take place from February
5th-9th. Come join for an exciting time and get set to enjoy some great curling. The CCB’s premier event will be hosted at the Ottawa Curling Club, home to Rachel Homan who will be proudly representing Canada, at this year’s Winter Olympics, in Seoul, South Korea.
Although I mentioned large events it does not lessen the importance of the smaller events in each of our communities. This is where we really show our community “Abilities not disabilities”. It is a time to provide information to people who are unaware of CCB, to get involved in our activities, meet others with vision loss, and get some helpful hints plus much more. Awareness is very important for all ages, to discover talents that have been hidden or just not released, and to realize that there is life after blindness.
CCB has made some new connections and worked over the year with many different organizations to work towards the prevention of blindness and to improve the quality of those living with blindness. Both prevention and quality of life are very important aspects of our mandate.
In working with the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) we were able to get a voice in the Ontario Health Ministry regarding the use of “off label” injections for eye diseases. The important part of this is to allow the Ophthalmologists’ and patients a choice in treatment following a fully informed consent. Through the Eye See You Campaign we were able
to get major news items to the general public regarding the importance of regular eye examinations for all and most importantly seniors to prevent blindness. This is not only a Canadian issue but one of global concern.
On behalf of CCB I have made comments through the Eye See You Campaign such as: “being more informed and engaged in eye health, including knowing about the full range of treatments that can potentially treat and even restore vision loss is a “win-win” socially and economically. The CCB was eager to participate in the campaign, since we were aware of
the gaps and wanted to motivate our members and other Canadians to take action.”
Eye health doesn’t always rank among the top five health priorities when you consider how many Canadians put ‘improve vision health’ on their list of New Year’s resolutions, it is probably a very short list. The vision field has changed dramatically over the last decade.
Advancements in new treatments exist that can protect and maintain vision. Medical science can in some cases dramatically reduce or even reverse vision loss brought about by threatening eye conditions.
An important message echoed throughout the Eye See You campaign referred to a patient’s right to informed consent. Meaning that whether you are seeking treatment for conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic macular edema (DME), retinal vein occlusion (RVO), or choroidal neovascularization in pathological myopia (mCNV), patients have the right to be informed about all of the approved therapies, including their side effects, dosage frequency, all options, even cost, before a treatment decision is made.
I cannot emphasize enough that treatment cost should never influence what a patient is prescribed. CCB has worked with other patient groups to enable Canadians to get the best eye care possible. The use of products that are unapproved for use in the eye is not something that the CCB supports. Our goal is to protect the vision of all Canadians, not to put them at risk.
Together with the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) we have submitted letters to the Canadian Agency for Drugs & Therapeutics (CADTH) regarding new therapies for eye diseases and prevention of blindness.
Something that is very important to eye care is a “national strategy on eye Health” so that Canadians get appropriate treatment for disease processes but also in the prevention of blindness. By ensuring that seniors and youth have regular eye exams through the Healthcare system this can provide for a better lifestyle for all. CCB has worked with
organizations of and for the blind as well as the Canadian Association of Ophthalmologists (CAO) in an ongoing process to make this happen to prevent blindness where possible and all the things that go along with it such as poor grades in school, slips and falls, depression and loss of independence. The list goes on.
CCB continues to work with other organizations of and for the blind on a variety of concerns such as equitable library services in all provinces. We are working with several disability groups to achieve an accessible Canada. This was highlighted in Nova Scotia with the passage of their Accessibility Act in the spring of 2017. Work continues in this effort to provide information to the governments on the needs and methods required to assist in this important effort.
Some of the other areas where CCB is very active is the Canadian Braille Authority (CBA), the Consumer Access Group (CAG), The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), Media Access Canada (MAC), World Blind Union (WBU) and Women’s Committee, Canadian
Transportation Agency (CTA), Best Medicines Coalition (BMC), and Drug Pricing policy.
All our chapters and programs of CCB are very busy. The Get Together with Technology (GTT) has helped many people across Canada in person and by telephone in learning how to use the many gadgets and items of necessity so that we can enjoy life more. This has worked for also passing on information for daily living and mentorship.
A new program is “CCB Health and Fitness” where members get physical training geared to the individual needs and ability. It promotes healthy eating and healthy exercise which improves the quality of life.The Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) has helped many seniors and children receive needed eye care right in their retirement homes or schools in the Ottawa area.
Together we can make the lives of persons living with vision loss much better, we can work towards preventable vision loss and healthy living.
I hope you enjoy the articles in this the 12th annual edition of White Cane Magazine. To you and your families, all the best in 2018, and again, thank you, for your continued support.
National President, Canadian Council of the Blind
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) is the largest membership based organization of the blind in the country. With over 84 chapters in Canada, the CCB not only offers advocacy and awareness services, but also provides services that are vital to the blind community. Founded by blind war veterans and schools of the blind in 1944, the CCB is a registered charity.
The CCB is working to help people living with vision loss become active members of the workforce, through the development and promotion of new programs such as a skills training initiative that provides computer training. It has also developed sports and recreational programs, creating an environment of support, promoting active living and healthy lifestyles.
CCB deals with the ongoing effects of vision loss by encouraging active living and rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.
CCB promotes measures to conserve sight, create a close relationship with the sighted community and provide employment opportunities. The CCB recognizes that vision loss has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities or age. The CCB understands in many instances vision loss is preventable and sometimes is symptomatic of other health issues. For the 21st century, the CCB is committed to an integrated proactive health approach for early detection to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.
The main objectives of the CCB are to give people living with vision loss a voice in their own affairs, through the consumer advocacy movement, and to provide rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.
THE OBJECTIVES OF THE CCB FROM ITS ORIGINAL LETTERS OF PATENT ARE THREEFOLD
- To promote the wellbeing of individuals who are blind or vision impaired through higher education, profitable employment and social association, and to create a closer relationship between blind and sighted
- To organize a nation-wide organization of people who are blind and vision impaired and groups of blind persons throughout
- To promote measures for the conservation of sight and the prevention of
There are approximately 4.4 million persons with disabilities in Canada, or 14.3% of the population. This has risen two percentage points since the 2001 census. The increase is attributable to an aging population with the adults aged over 65 climbing faster.
People who are blind and low vision comprise over 1,000,000 of this group. Of all the disabled, the blind and visually impaired have the highest unemployment rate (70%) and the lowest per capita income with other disabled groups not far behind. The negative cost for vision loss is $15.8 billion a year, which is expected to double by 2031.
As the largest membership organization for the blind and partially sighted in Canada the CCB is the “Voice of the Blindª”.
Please visit the CCB website at www.ccbnational.net. q
What the CCB does
- Strives to improve the quality of life for the blind and vision
- Works to promote peer support like the CCB’s national Get Together with Technology
Program, in assisting each other, for those living with vision loss.
- Provides programs and initiatives for the conservation of sight, prevention of vision loss for all, such as Mobile Eye Clinics, public awareness and campaigns for vision health through regular eye
- Provides programs designed to promote active healthy living including, sports and
- Works to promote opportunities, for employment and education, through training, in
- Provides access to information with training in computer literacy skills, communications
and support of library services.
- Continuing efforts by the CCB to strengthen its membership, build on its 84 chapters across Canada and to promote amongst its members a sense of purpose, self-esteem and an enhanced quality of
- Monitors and advocates all levels of government on relevant legislation and services
that affect the needs and interests of the blind and vision restricted community.
- Stands as the Voice of the Blind™ for equal treatment, services and rehabilitation for
the blind and vision impaired without limitation or discrimination.
- Continues to grow and develop White Cane Week, White Cane Magazine and all other
economic interests of the blind and vision impaired. q
FIFTEENTH ANNUAL WHITE CANE WEEK™
“Medical marijuana should be treated in the same way as all other prescription pharmaceuticals”
White Cane Week 2018 is here, and now is a time to reflect on all the great strides we have made in advocating for the best health care for blind and vision-impaired Canadians.
Louise Gillis, CCB’s National President, again needs to be recognized for her relentless effort to educate the public on eye health and access to approved treatments.
The federal government’s proposed plan to include an excise tax on medical marijuana is a concern to the CCB, specifically in our capacity as a patient advocacy group.
By adding the additional tax on medical cannabis, the government is putting patients who are prescribed the drug at an unfair economic disadvantage. CCB and other patient
advocacy groups believe that medical marijuana should be treated in the same way as all other prescription pharmaceuticals.
Decisions such as this affect the blind community, as medical cannabis can be used to treat vision related issues such as Glaucoma and Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
As this editorial has highlighted in the past, a large percentage of the blind community are either unemployed, or underemployed with many on fixed incomes. As a low-income population, the last thing the community needs is an additional cost burden, such as a tax on their medications.
We have always advocated for patient choice, which is essentially the right for patients to choose the best and most appropriate Health Canada approved treatment for their requirements. By imposing this unnecessary cost burden on patient’s medications, the government limits choices, and could effectively drive patients to use other medications that are not approved or more importantly are not the most effective treatment for their needs.
CCB believes patients should be treated by their physicians, and stay within the medical system framework. This means not being marginalized or incentivized to perhaps seek out less effective medications or to feel it necessary to self medicate.
The CCB urges the government to bring medical marijuana in line with other prescription medications in this country, keep it exempt from taxation, thus securing the right to affordable health care for all.
CCB is committed to working with all levels of government to ensure a socially just country in which to live. To do this we need the Government of Canada to continue its support for the best and most appropriate health care for all of us.
I encourage you to be involved in the many activities taking place during White Cane Week. Show your capability and spread the word about what CCB is trying to accomplish. It is only with your help, your advocacy, that the CCB can really change what it means to be blind!
Editor, 2018 White Cane Magazine
CCB 2018 PERSON OF THE YEAR AWARD RECIPIENT
The Honourable Dr. Asha Seth
BY Mike Potvin
The Canadian Council of the Blind is extremely pleased to present its 2018 Person of the Year Award to the Honourable Dr. Asha Seth.
Dr. Asha Seth, the first Indo-Canadian female to be appointed to the Senate of Canada, is an obstetrician and gynecologist within family practice. Born in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh (UP), India Dr. Seth earned her medical degree from King George Medical University in Lucknow, UP.
From very early on Dr. Seth’s parents developed in her, a great respect for people in need, a prerequisite for opening one’s heart to the less fortunate.
In 1976, Dr. Seth started her family practice in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Joseph’s Health Centre. She has dedicated her career and personal life to improving the health and life of others. Her philanthropic work has earned her the respect and recognition of her community inspiring others to follow her example.
Philanthropy has been a mainstay in essence of Dr. Seth’s work. Living up to the mantra: “Give back more than you take”, she has been involved in many charitable endeavors. Highlights include: founder of the Canadian Foundation for Health and Human Welfare; Patron of the Canadian Council of the Blind; National Board of Director for CNIB; Chair of Fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation; a member of the Board of Governors of the Canada-India Foundation; Co-Chairperson fundraising committee for the St. Joseph’s Foundation; Chair of the Police Bravery
Advisory Council and a member of the Advisory Board of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce among others.
The Honourable Dr. Asha Seth has been publicly recognized for her humanitarian work the recipient of many awards, including: a lifetime achievement award from the Dancing Damsels (2016); Times Now – ICICI Bank “NRI of the Year Award” 2015 for Philanthropy; “Peace Dreamer” Award 2014 from the Sri Chinmoy Foundation of Canada; the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012); Council Award by
the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (2011); Recipient of the Canadian Immigrants People’s Choice Award as one of the top 25 Canadian immigrants (2010). The list goes on.
The trust and admiration of her adopted country was crystallized in her appointment to the Senate of Canada, where she became the first Indo-Canadian female to
be a member. In this role, Senator Seth adopted humanitarian causes such as International Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health and the welfare of disabled people. She has succeeded in bringing new attention to these and other causes with her efforts being felt around the world by millions of people.
In the Senate of Canada, Senator Seth also sat on many committees, including: Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Affairs; Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs Science and Technology, Standing Committee of Internal Economy, Standing Committee on Finance and the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. In the Senate, Senator Seth also did much to strengthen diplomatic ties between Canada and India.
She met with Prime Minister Modi to whom she delivered greetings from the Government of Canada and in 2013 when Senator Seth organized and executed the first ever trade mission to take place between Canada and Uttar Pradesh. Dr. Seth continues to engage high-level stakeholders in India working to expand academic, cultural, and commercial exchange.
May 1st, 2014, The Honourable Dr. Asha Seth launched the first-ever National Vision Health Month with the unanimous support of her colleagues. A united Senate joined Senator Seth in her campaign to recognize May as a month to educate Canadians about their vision health and to help eliminate avoidable sight loss across the country.
Senator Seth was instrumental in creating the government-endorsed the “International Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Week” campaign, as an important platform in the effort to decrease maternal and childhood mortality.
She continues working with civil society organizations. In March 2016, Senator Seth established as chairs an advisory group in Parliament entitled “Parliamentary
Nutrition Champions”. This is a continuation of her unanimously supported motion for International Maternal and Newborn Healthcare Week.
Dr. Asha Seth has worked tirelessly to promote the well-being and rights of Canadians with vision loss. As a Senator, Dr. Seth lobbied to officially recognize May as National Vision Health Month and help raise the profile of eye care across the country. She is also a committed philanthropist. She strongly supports the CCB’s service programs such as, the Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) outreach program, for seniors and children. Dr. Seth is passionate in her desire to work in collaboration with CCB towards vision intervention and preventative vision loss through fundraising and personal giving.
The Honourable Dr. Asha Seth is a visionary leader, trail blazing a path for many to emulate. Through it all, it is her commitment to helping others that shines brightest among her accomplishments. q
Benefit from special assistance when choosing VIA Rail
VIA Rail is committed to remaining Canada’s most accessible national and intercity mode of transportation. Their intention is not only to meet the Canadian Transportation Agency’s requirements, but to exceed them. Over the years, they have made improvements to their trains, stations, and frontline services including
the call centers, IT systems and website, to ensure Canadian passenger rail remains at the forefront of accessible transportation for travellers with mobility or other limitations.
ASSISTANCE PROVIDED IN STATIONS AND ONBOARD
Specialized equipment and assistance are available to make it easier to enter and move around the facilities. In most of their stations, an attendant is available to escort passengers to the platform, help them get on and off the train, and assist them with their baggage. Services will vary from one facility to the next.
In addition to the 26 fully accessible LRC cars used in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor services, VIA Rail also improved accessibility on the Western (Toronto to Vancouver) and Eastern (Montreal to Halifax) Transcontinental services as well as on the remote services (in northern Canada). All of the trains are wheelchair- accessible and equipped with tie-downs, grab bars in washrooms and narrow wheelchairs to make it easier to move around on board.
NEW ACCESIBLE CABIN
On Western and Eastern Transcontinental services, an accessible cabin for two is equipped with amenities to accommodate a person with reduced mobility along with their companion.
TRAVELLING WITH A COMPANION FREE OF CHARGE
The companion of a passenger with reduced mobility travels free of charge for the duration of the trip.
A FULLY ACCESSIBLE RESERVATION PROCESS
VIA Rail’s reservation tools are accessible, and anyone can use them. Individuals who have a speech or hearing impairment can communicate with them using a telecommunications device for the deaf (TTY).
To find out more about services available, visit VIA Rail’s website at www.viarail.ca/ en/accessibility or call toll-free at 1 888 VIA RAIL (1 888 842-7245) or 1 800 268 9503 (TTY for the hearing impaired).
A PASSENGER’S TESTIMONIAL
A passenger from Toronto who is visually impaired travels by train to visit her brother in Brantford, ON. Her brother told VIA Rail about her story: “I can only tell you how impressed we both are with all the assistance that is provided for a visually impaired female to travel alone and do so with complete confidence and without stress. My sister is always greeted by a customer service agent and is well looked after at Union Station. She is escorted to the train with true professionalism and courtesy. I am equally impressed with the customer service agent here in Brantford, who takes the time to go and meet my sister on the train platform and assist her to walk from the train without causing her any stress. So thank
you all, for making it possible for my sister and me to meet on a regular basis without any worries or concerns for the travel arrangements”. q
CCB 2018 PRESIDENT’S AWARD
THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION ON AGEING
BY Louise Gillis, National President, Canadian Council of the Blind
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) President’s Award is to be given annually to an individual or organization that, in their work or service with or for the blind and partially sighted, have made a real difference in improving the quality of life of our community in Canada.
The Award recognizes important contributions made, the advancement of opportunities and the leadership qualities. These attributes serve to showcase acceptance and understanding recognizing that those persons who are blind and partially sighted are contributing members of the Canadian community.
This year’s recipient is the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) for its hard-work
regarding patient advocacy.
The IFA is an international non-governmental organization with a membership base comprising government, NGOs, academics, industry, and individuals in 70 countries. The IFA began operations in 1973, at a time when the social and economic impact of population ageing was only beginning to be understood by governments around the world.
IFA have worked closely with CCB on the use of “off label “ drugs as a first line of care for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Instead of Health Canada approved medications as recommended by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) to the provinces as a cost savings measure.
IFA are also very supportive of CCB’s Mobile Eye Clinic, especially regarding the positive results found for seniors.
Of particular significance to the CCB, is the IFA’s eye see You campaign, which educates patients on their choice of the best Health Canada approved medication for their eye conditions.
The CCB commends the IFA, particularly Dr. Jane Barratt and her associates, for their precedent-setting leadership.
Recently Mike Potvin, editor of White Cane Magazine (WCM), had a chance to speak with Dr. Jane Barratt, from the International Federation on Ageing.
WCM: The Eye See You campaign is very important, especially in terms of educating patients on their choice of the best and most appropriate Health Canada approved medication for their eye conditions. Would you please explain the program in further detail?
Barratt: The eye see You campaign discusses many issues related to the eye health of Canadians including how:
A trusted partnership between the patient and physician sets the foundation for the best possible outcome.
The prevalence of vision loss in Canada is expected to increase nearly 30 per cent in the next decade, largely due to the number of Canadians reaching the age of 65 years and beyond. Ageing, however, does not equal vision loss.
We cannot simply accept deterioration in our eyesight and functional ability as an inevitable by-product of aging, because it is not. We need to have a new narrative about growing older that places focus on enabling older people to maximize their potential contributions rather than them being seen as a burden on younger generations.
Protecting our autonomy means being practical about protecting our vision. Canadians must be informed and advocate for their own eye health which includes learning about potential threats to our vision and supporting approaches and policies that provide access to appropriate treatments delivered in a timely manner.
WCM: How important do you feel patient education is in order for patients to know their options, and be self-advocates?
Barratt: The eye see You campaign is not only a call to action for individuals to have annual eye checks. It has been created to ensure that Canadians are informed to have a meaningful conversation with their doctor about treatments options for their particular condition, as well as the safety, effectiveness and outcomes. Self- advocacy for the most appropriate, safe and effective treatments requires education. Canadians need to have access to accurate and timely information about their condition and relevant treatment options that may be available.
WCM: The CCB is a partner in the Eye See You campaign. Could you tell me what are some of the highlights for you working with organizations who support the blind such as CCB?
Barratt: Working with organizations such as CCB who represent, advocate and support people with visual impairment and those who may be blind is crucial to the success of The Eye See You campaign. The expertise, both academic and personal, that members of these organizations have, helps inform those who may be at-risk now or in the future. Organizations, like the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), have a mandate and responsibility to work closely with experts in the field such as CCB to improve the vision health of people across the life course and in doing so create mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships.
WCM: With vision loss on the rise in Canada, what do you see as some important strategies for prevention, in order to save as much of Canadians sight as possible?
Barratt: Every year more than 50,000 Canadians will lose their sight and more than
5.5 million Canadians live today with a significant eye disease that could cause vision loss, and negatively impact function. One of the most important prevention strategies is regular and timely screening coupled with education about eye conditions which includes treatment. Many retinal diseases, such as AMD, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, are treatable, but only if treatments are available, accessible and given at the right time. q
Blind cabinet minister promises Canada’s first national accessibility legislation will have teeth
BY Rachel Aiello, The Hill Times
PARLIAMENT HILL – ”It’s been a very personal experience for me,” says Canada’s Minister of Sport and Disability Carla Qualtrough, taking a seat on the couch in her Hill office with her back facing the window so the sun isn’t in her eyes.
Ms. Qualtrough, a former Paralympian and human rights lawyer who is blind and light sensitive, is now embarking on an unprecedented journey: drafting Canada’s first national accessibility law which will set federal standards of accessibility for people with disabilities.
She said it will be a game-changer for big Canadian employers and could include retroac- tive compliance measures.
Ms. Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.) was born with five per cent of her vision, and has 10 per cent with her glasses on, has lived all her 45 years having to be the one speaking up for herself about the accommodations she needs. She said she hopes this new law will flip the script for people with disabilities.
“It’s been quite a journey; it’s been quite emotional,” she told The Hill Times in an interview last week in her Centre Block office on Parliament Hill, which is decorated with Canadian sports memorabilia and photographs of her and cabinet colleagues.
Currently, addressing accessibility issues is done reactively. People with disabilities can only defend their rights after experiencing inaccessibility, by filing a complaint with either their provincial or federal Human Rights Commission.
More than half of all the discrimination complaints received by the Canadian Human Rights Commission between 2011 and 2015 were disability-related. When she was appointed to cabinet in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) mandated her to pass a Canadians with Disabilities Act.
The legislation will apply to all companies that operate under federal jurisdiction, including banks like the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal; interprovincial travel services like Air Canada and Via Rail; national telecommunications companies like Rogers and Bell; and all federal government employers.
The intent of the bill will be proactive about addressing the common barriers faced, including those in the built environment, like ramps and the height of service counters. Ms. Qualtrough is considering whether to set expectations of compliance within the National Building Code.
Then there’s also the potentially tough sell to businesses that hiring people with disabilities, or setting up space to be accessible, is an investment and not an expense that will bring in the 14 per cent of Canadians, as customers or employees, who have reported they have a disability that limits their daily activities.
“We need to strike a balance between something that will have some teeth, so something that might have some standards that are enforceable, that create these expectations, but also something that promotes the innovation and the culture change,” she said. “It’s got to have teeth, that’s the point of it.”
Right now, Ms. Qualtrough is working with her colleagues on nailing down the basic principles of the bill, like whether it will include the creation of an ombudsman, how it will be enforced, and how to open up the definition of disability so the largest number of Canadians can see themselves and their situations reflected in the law. She says they
haven’t settled on a model but are pulling from what has worked and what hasn’t in similar laws internationally and closer to home.
“How prescriptive do we want to be? How aspirational do we want to be? What kinds of enforcement mechanisms exist? Do we want to build our own internal shop within government? Do we want to task an existing external body like the Human Rights Commission? There’s a whole bunch of fundamental decisions that have to be made, which will then lead to the actual wording of the act,” she said.
“There are models out there. It’s just trying to figure out the Canadian solution, and that’s the next phase, that’s what’s keeping me awake at night, trying to get it right,” she said.
It will also have to set up some consistency across Canada between the federal and provincial realms; something the minister said there’s been buy-in for from her regional counterparts, with some provinces having already implemented their own laws, including the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Others are waiting for the federal model to come in before adopting a provincial or territorial model.
“We’ve got to steer this ship in the same direction or it’s just going to be a huge missed opportunity,” said Ms. Qualtrough. “If you have a credit union next to a bank, one is provincial, one is federal, and they don’t want to have a different accessibility experience.”
There’s also consideration being made as to whether the new law will include retroactive measures, meaning numerous federal buildings would have to think about retrofitting its space to meet the new accessibility standards. The minister said this is likely because “if we don’t do something retroactive, we won’t be cracking this nut.”
One unanswered question is who will pay for it. A detail Mr. Qualtrough said is still to be decided.
The Justice Department is taking the lead in drafting the text of the bill, and Ms. Qualtrough is aiming to go to cabinet with the legislative portfolio in the early fall of 2017 and to have a bill ready to table in Parliament by the spring of 2018.
This drafting process comes after months of consultations, which are scheduled to formally end on Tuesday, Feb. 28, and included an online survey, the minister travelling to 18 cities across Canada to hold town halls and consultation meetings, as well as a youth forum
in Ottawa in November, in total reaching or hearing from about 5,700 people. The report on what was heard will be released in late May or early June after it’s translated into both official languages, as well as in braille and on video.
At all the stops on the tour Ms. Qualtrough and her staff used accessibility forms, as well as having American Sign Language and other technical supports. She said it was probably the most inclusive consultations ever done in Canada.
“For me it was obvious. It was, a no brainer, I don’t think anybody even dared question my desire to make it otherwise, because we had to walk the talk. Embarking on this journey would have been window-dressing if we didn’t provide the people we’re trying to serve every opportunity to be involved,” she said.
She said on many federal files, she’s made sure to be a bit of the stick in the mud, making sure other decisions have a disability lens, much like what the federal Liberals have embraced with gender-based analysis.
“It’s time for it to happen on the disability file,” she said. “What I heard consistently across the country is that there really has been a lack of federal leadership on disability issues writ-large.”
While the opposition parties are signaling support for the new law, NDP disability critic Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.) has been calling for the government to fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities before passing legislation, otherwise it’ll just be a “paper tiger.”
“If you’re serious about legislation, you want it to be monitored and to be held-up. You want someone to be able to appeal. You want it to be able to be enforced, in some way, shape, or form, and that’s what this does,” Ms. Hardcastle told The Hill Times.
Ms. Qualtrough said the responsibility to get this right weighs heavy, mentioning that in the consultation process she’s heard from parents who are worried about their children’s futures, something she takes to heart as a mother of four.
She said she hopes that, in some way, she and Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, Ont.), who is quadriplegic, are setting an example.
“It’s exciting. When you look on the floor of the House of Commons now, there are two people with visible disabilities. You can tell when I stand up and my Question Period notes are in a 55 size font that I can’t see very well,” she said, noting that while Parliament is fairly accessible, there are certain things about her day that most don’t have to think about.
For example: the House speaker will speak to her instead of nodding; at speaking engagements her staff make sure the spotlight and backlight are lowered so the glare doesn’t prevent her from reading her notes; documents and electronic devices are formatted to a larger font; and she’s found new ways to relate to people because it’s rare she can read a name tag or remember the details of faces.
Prior to entering politics in 2015, being elected with 49.1 per cent of the vote in her riding, Ms. Qualtrough worked as a human rights lawyer. She was also a Paralympic swimmer that competed in the Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games, winning three bronze medals.
After her athletic competition days were over, she worked on Parliament Hill as a staffer between 1999 and 2005 for Liberal MPs Dennis Mills and Paul DeVillers.
Minister Qualtriough was inducted into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in April, of 2017, a celebration her whole family was able to attend. q
Editor’s Note: On October 4, 2017 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a show of confidence moved Ms. Qualtrough from the Sport and Disability portfolio, to a much larger role, as Minister of Public Service and Procurement for the Government of Canada. Scheduled for introduction in the spring of 2018, the legislation is expected to be ambitious and to lead
to a more consistent experience of accessibility across Canada. Minister Carla Qualtrough continues to be a strong voice for inclusion and accessibility in her new portfolio.
In terms of an update, here’s a couple of recent pieces from the Toronto Star:
CCB BOARD OF DIRECTORS
LOUISE GILLIS, National President
Louise has been serving as the President of the Canadian Council of the Blind for several years. She has represented the CCB on the national and international stage, raising the profile of the Council. Her past medical knowledge has helped change eye health for many people. Louise continues to represent the organization in advocacy and is on the World Blind Union Women’s Committee, working towards empowering women in leadership roles. She believes in the CCB’s Mandate of improving the lives of persons with sight loss and in the prevention of blindness.
JIM TOKOS, 1st Vice President
Jim is a well-known member of the Canadian Council of the Blind Board of Directors. He brings a passion for raising the profile of the Canadian Council of the Blind as well as being our current Board auditor. Jim continues to serve on several committees locally as well as internationally with the World Blind Union.
HEATHER HANNETT, 2nd Vice President
Heather has been working at all levels of the Canadian Council of the Blind for many years. She has been treasurer, helped with strategic planning, advocacy and membership. Heather Co-chairs the Membership Committee to continually increase our growth.
CHRISTINA LEWIS, 3rd Vice President
Chris a former nurse has worked in many different fields during her career. She is involved in many different groups such as Girl Guides of Canada, The Home and School Associations, Ladies Auxiliary Royal Canadian Legion and more. Chris has held and continues to hold a variety of positions on the National Board as well as in her local area.
Shane has been an integral member of the CCB in Newfoundland and was recently instrumental in starting the CCB Lewisporte Chapter. He prides himself on his professional bearing, even when it is an issue he feels strongly about. Shane works with the Board on committees and brings grassroots experiences which helps everyone in understanding what is important.
Sandra has worked hard for the Canadian Council of the Blind during her time, on the divisional and national levels. She is firm believer in her community. Sandra is on the
Advocacy committee and has been working with several accessibility.
Leo brings a vast amount of board experience with many different organizations. Until his retirement Leo worked as the Manager of the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities at Concordia University. Leo is active on Board committees and has a great rapport with people.
Mike brings with him many years of experience as a teacher in the public system. He also has experience with governance and ethics, strategic planning and leadership. Mike is
an active member on the Board and committees with his vast knowledge in the field of education.
Sara is an active member of CCB Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired Chapter who enjoys arranging travel and working with logistics. Sara is an active member of the National Board of Directors and is on the Advocacy Committee.
Jerome has a wide variety of experience, from the CNIB to factory work, to music, to self- employment, which has made him a great member of the Board of Directors in these past years.
Surander comes with a great deal of experience from his time as a self-employed certified financial planner. Surander is a great contributor to the Board in a variety of ways. He has new and great ideas to continue moving CCB forward.
JIM PROWSE – Executive Director
As Executive Director at the CCB, Jim works closely with members to affect positive changes to the CCB. Jim’s role is to continue to strengthen the organization’s capacity while enhancing the CCB’s ability to support the growing numbers of blind and visually impaired individuals into the future.
BECKY GOODWIN – Office Administrator
As administrator she runs the membership drive in the fall and has taken over the reins of the AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship. She is looking forward to a bright future with the CCB and supporting all the amazing programs and members.
CASEY METCALFE – Receptionist
As Receptionist, Casey does more than expected from greeting people in the office to handling chapters’ insurance requests. She is the voice on the phone and treats everyone with respect. She has just finished her second year with CCB and is passionate about helping and learning as she grows within the CCB.
MIKE POTVIN – Programs and Communications Manager
Mike manages communications of the annual White Cane Week Magazine, the monthly national newsletter, the Accessible Sports and Recreation program, and the Peer Mentor program. Mike enjoys working closely with members of the community, advocating for improving the quality of life for the blind and vision impaired while working to increase accessibility in all areas. Mike looks forward to working with the members to increase communications throughout the organization.
MARY ELLEN DURKEE – Controller
As the Controller at the CCB, Mary Ellen is responsible for all accounting functions. Mary Ellen enjoys the breadth of work and all the individuals that she gets to work with at the CCB. This is Mary Ellen’s first experience working with a not-for-profit and she is enjoying it immensely.
KIM KILPATRICK – GTT Program Coordinator
Kim Kilpatrick is delighted to be working for CCB to expand the Get Together with Technology Program (GTT). She has worked as a Music Therapist, manager of volunteers, a professional storyteller, and as a teacher of braille and access technology. In her spare time Kim loves reading, writing, staying active, and having adventures with her guide dog, Tulia.
ALBERT A. RUEL – GTT Program Coordinator, Western Canada
Albert has found his passion in the field of access technology for people who are blind or partially sighted. He has enjoyed a 22 year career in the not-for-profit- rehabilitation, technology training, and advocacy sectors for people with vision impairments. He is passionate about helping people connect with their needs, most importantly, Albert is solution-focused, flexible, has a positive attitude, and brings a great sense of humour to CCB.
MONICA REATEGUI – Mobile Eye Clinic Manager
Monica coordinates with senior homes and schools to bring our Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) program to their facilities. From scheduling onsite appointments with the optometrist, to follow up and corrective measures when needed, the impact MEC makes in the community makes Monica very happy. She loves to spend time doing fun activities with her husband and two kids.
For more information or to reach a National Board member, please contact the Canadian Council of the Blind at our national office:
toll-free; 1-877-304-0968 • email; [email protected]
CCB Calgary Chapter
CCB Edmonton Chapter
CCB GTT Edmonton Chapter
CCB 100 Mile House & District Chapter CCB Abbotsford Chapter
CCB Alberni Valley Chapter
CCB Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired Chapter
CCB Campbell River White Cane Chapter CCB Cariboo White Cane Chapter
CCB Chilliwack & District Chapter CCB Comox Valley Chapter
CCB Dogwood Chapter
CCB Festival of Friends Chapter CCB GTT Nanaimo Chapter CCB GTT Vancouver Chapter CCB GTT Victoria Chapter
CCB Kamloops White Cane Chapter CCB Kelowna Blind Curlers Chapter CCB Langley Chapter
CCB Lower Mainland Chapter
CCB North Shore White Cane Chapter
CCB Parksville and District 69 Chapter CCB Penticton Chapter
CCB PoCo VIP Chapter
CCB Powell River White Cane Chapter CCB Prince George Blind Curling Chapter CCB Prince George White Cane Chapter CCB Provincial Book Club Chapter
CCB Sunshine Coast White Cane Chapter CCB Vancouver Arts & Culture Lovers Chapter CCB VIBE Creston Chapter
CCB West Kootenay Chapter
New Brunswick Division
CCB Bathurst Club CCB Fredricton Club CCB Miramichi Chapter CCB Moncton Club
CCB Saint John Chapter
CCB Shippagan Caraquet Chapter
Newfoundland and Labrador Division
CCB E. A. Baker Club CCB Helen Keller Club
CCB Humber Valley – Bay of Islands Chapter CCB Lewisport & Area Chapter
Nova Scotia Division
CCB Access & Awareness Chapter CCB Blind Sports Nova Scotia Chapter CCB Crafts & Hobbies Chapter
CCB Sydney Chapter
CCB Sydney Curling Chapter
CCB Carleton University Chapter CCB Chatham-Kent Chapter CCB Club “60” Barrie Chapter CCB Cornwall Chapter
CCB Dragon Boat Toronto Chapter CCB GTT North Bay Chapter
CCB Hamilton Blind Curlers CCB Hamilton Chapter
CCB Hamilton Chapter for the Arts CCB Hamilton Junior Chapter CCB Hands of Fire Chapter
CCB Health & Fitness Chapter
CCB Kawartha White Cane Chapter CCB Kingston Friendship Chapter CCB Listeners Book Club Chapter CCB London Chapter
CCB London Vision Impaired Curling Chapter CCB McMaster University Chapter
CCB Mysteries Chapter
CCB Niagara and Region Chapter
CCB Ontario Visually Impaired Golfers Chapter (OVIG)
CCB Ottawa Blind Curling Club CCB Ottawa Chapter
CCB Ottawa University Chapter CCB Peel Chapter
CCB Pembroke White Cane Chapter CCB Peterborough Chapter
CCB SSM White Cane Matinee Chapter CCB The Glenvale Players Theatre Group CCB Thunder Bay & District Chapter
CCB Toronto Blind Curling Club CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter CCB Trust Your Buddy Chapter CCB Waterloo Region Club
CCB Windsor/Essex Low Vision Social & Support Group
CCB York Region Lighthouse Chapter
Prince Edward Island Division
CCB Prince County Chapter CCB Queensland Chapter
CCB Moose Jaw White Cane Club CCB Regina Chapter
CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER: IT’S AWARDS SEASON
CCB MEMBER RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS MAGILL AWARD
BY Mike Potvin, Editor
One of our very own has received a prestigious award! On Saturday, October 21, Dorothy Macnaughton, an accessibility advocate and volunteer for 30 years, was presented with the Arthur Napier Magill Distinguished Service Award. As a person with low vision, Dorothy understands how living with a disability impacts daily life and she has worked tirelessly to ensure others with sight loss have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. Jim Tokos, CCB National 1st Vice-President, personally called Dorothy to congratulate her on this achievement.
Dorothy also received letters of congratulations from Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Honorary Patron of CNIB, and Ron Kruzeniski, Chair, CNIB National Board of Directors.
The CNIB established the Arthur Napier Magill Distinguished Service Award in 1976 as a tribute for his long and distinguished career improving the lives of Canadians who are deafblind or living with vision loss.
I spoke with Dorothy. “It feels amazing and quite an honour to receive such a prestigious award!” She then displayed her class telling me, “I always felt like I was just doing the work that needed to be done. Dorothy’s work with the blind community began in Sault Ste. Marie, over 30 years ago, when she advocated for library services for people with print disabilities. “That’s the work I’m most proud of,” she explained. “
Dorothy has been involved with CCB for over 20 years in Sault Ste. Marie, where there is a small, but active, chapter. “I’m a big champion of the CCB’s GTT program,” explained Dorothy. “Technology is a great way to connect people.” Dorothy came up with the idea for
the Northern Ontario conference call. The GTT Northern Ontario group has generated great interest and has managed to form new CCB groups, such as the one in North Bay, ON. Dorothy says that she enjoys the grassroots aspect of CCB, and would love to see more blind folks involved with technology and training in the future. q
RYAN VAN PRAET RECEIVES CHATHAM-kENT ACCESSIBILITY AWARD
EDITED FROM A STORY BY Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News
The CCB’s Ryan Van Praet has been recognized for his efforts in accessibility. Ryan’s “Health & Fitness” program, formally known as the “Trust Your Buddy” program has
been a real success in the local area thanks to Ryan’s hard work and determination. The Chatham-Kent Accessibility Advisory Committee, last October, presented Van Praet, with their Sheila Lindsey-Powers Accessibility Advocate Award.
An example of Pratts work is Dave Maxwell. After suffering a back injury combined with the toll glaucoma was having on his sight, thought his days of playing his favourite sport, curling, were over. But that changed a few years ago for the Ridgetown man when he got involved with Ryan Van Pratt and his ‘Trust Your Buddy’ Accessible Recreation Program. The program finds ways to adapt sports so people who are blind or have low vision can participate.
Now instead of Maxwell looking to the skip at the far end of the ice to get instructions on where to throw the rock, someone stands closer so he can see. While he’s accepted he can’t play to the level he once did, Maxwell said the thrill of the game, which he describes as “chess on ice,” is still there. “I especially love the social aspect of the game, that was always important to me,” he added.
Van Praet, 37, said the mission of the program “is to provide opportunities for blind and visually impaired individuals to participate in mainstream sports alongside their family and friends. He added the program involves taking a sport someone likes to do and learning to adapt it “so they can integrate fully into society.” Van Praet said Maxwell initially expressed doubts that he could curl again. “Over the last two years, we’ve proven to him we can adapt the sport and he can play,” he said.
Van Praet, who also received a letter of recognition from the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Eleanor McMahon for the program’s success, credits the whole group for the award.
“I didn’t win it,” he said. “They won it by coming out and challenging and pushing themselves. I was just there to give them a boost.” q
CCB RECEIVES HELLEN kELLER FELLOWSHIP AWARD
BY Mike Potvin, Editor
The CCB is humbled to have received the Helen Keller Fellowship Award, presented by the Lions Clubs District A4, for the hard work, dedication and progress CCB has made in improving the quality of life and vision care for Canadians. The award states that “the CCB, who through untiring service, have given light in the darkness, warmth in the cold, compassion in the hurt, and humanity in the suffering to their fellow beings. They live their creed “service to others”. q
CCB’S NEW HEALTH AND FITNESS INITIATIVE
A PROGRAM DESIGNED TO ENGAGE, EDUCATE AND EMPOWER
SPECIAL TO WHITE CANE MAGAZINE
The CCB is proud to announce its newest National programs, the CCB Health and Fitness Program. This completely free, very unique, and potentially life-changing program is offered nationwide to any blind or visually impaired person who is looking to improve their overall health, fitness and wellbeing.
The Health and Fitness program is a product of the highly successful “Trust Your Buddy” program that was run locally in Chatham Ontario. Upon the completion of that program in July 2017, program manager and Registered Kinesiologist, Ryan Van Praet decided to take his show on the road!
The program looks to ENGAGE, EDUCATE and EMPOWER those who are blind and low vision to participate in an active and healthy lifestyle in hopes of preventing chronic disease and improving overall health and fitness.
ENGAGE: Through YouTube fitness instruction videos, Facebook, Twitter, Group chat list, a WordPress blog, a growing following for it’s podcast and most of all it’s one on one coaching phone calls, there is no shortage of ways to learn and stay involved.
EDUCATE: Knowledge is power and motivation and finding the resources and information one needs to break down barriers to exercise is exactly what we do. This unique CCB program is unmatched anywhere in the blind community due to its “coach” and manager. Ryan Van Praet brings a broad perspective from three different areas.
- He is legally blind and understands the challenges we all
- He is a lifetime athlete, having competed on the highest levels but also coached and guided beginners on their journey into a brand new healthy
- As a registered Kinesiologist Van Praet is a licensed health-care professional, specializing in health and fitness, with over 12 years of experience in chronic disease management. Ryan is dedicated to help everyone find a way to get active, stay healthy and most of all, be
EMPOWER: All the information and motivation in the world means nothing unless you believe in your own abilities. This program is successful only when you gain the knowledge and confidence to embark on your fitness journey for life. Only YOU can take the steps necessary to affect a lifestyle change and Ryan’s job is to help empower you to do so.
Being physically active on a regular basis, leading a generally healthy lifestyle and being confident and happy are key to a long life. The CCB Health and Fitness program believes that blindness is not a barrier to achieving this and will work to find a way to help every individual it encounters.
The success of the program relies each individual and being able to work with you and your unique situation, so take the first step and reach out to Ryan. You’ll find him excited to help you along your journey. q
Several ways to find us:
Email: [email protected] Blog: ccbhealthandfitness.wordpress.com
Facebook and YouTube: Search “CCB Health and Fitness” Group chat: [email protected]
Podcast:search “Canadian Council of the Blind” in your various podcast apps.
AMI Year in Review: highlights from 2017 and a preview of what’s to come
It was another banner year for Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) as we remained focused on our mission to entertain, inform and empower Canadians who are blind and partially sighted.
Most notably in 2017, AMI submitted license renewal applications to the CRTC for our three broadcast channels: AMI-audio, AMI-tv and AMI-télé. As part of the process we reached out to audience members and organizations representing the blind and partially sighted community for letters of support. We were overwhelmed by the positive response and are eternally grateful to all who took the time to voice their support, including the Canadian Council of the Blind and individual members of the CCB. The outpouring of encouragement solidifies the ongoing need for AMI’s services and inspires us to continue to establish and support a voice for Canadians with disabilities through accessible media, reflection and portrayal. We will continue to share updates regarding the renewals and look forward to serving our community in 2018 and beyond.
As people are increasingly on the go the desire for fluidity and flexibility in content continues to rise. Members of AMI’s Research Panel have consistently indicated that they incorporate podcasts in their media consumption. AMI-audio’s entertaining and thought-provoking programs are a natural fit for podcasting and we are delighted to now have many of these shows easily accessible across multiple platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Downcast, and iCatcher.
AMI-audio also introduced another daily live program called the Pulse, capitalizing on the success of our existing live shows, live from studio 5 and Kelly and Company. Hosted by longstanding AMI personality Dave Brown, alongside a diverse panel of guest contributors, the Pulse explores current issues affecting Canadians of all abilities.
AMI-audio is committed to connecting with listeners from coast to coast and ensuring that content is reflective of the unique communities, events and initiatives from across the
country. Via AMi-audio live we were able to broadcast live from across Canada at events including Aboriginal Day Live in Winnipeg and Vancouver’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities Celebration, with more events planned for 2018.
When it comes to television there is a common saying that ‘content is king’ and AMI-tv is no exception. It’s the content on AMI-tv that makes the channel so unique – serving as an integral part of AMI’s identity and providing a platform for many individuals who are under- represented in mainstream media.
In 2017 AMI-tv expanded its roster of original programs to include the award-winning series employable Me, following job seekers living with disabilities including sight loss, eyes for the Job starring Chris Judge, a talented handyman and do-it-yourself enthusiast who is blind, and Menu Match-Up, a cooking competition show pairing home cooks with sight loss and professional chefs in a race against the clock using mystery ingredients. In 2018 AMI-tv will introduce new original programs about gardening, health and fitness, and more.
AMI-télé continues to serve and engage the French-speaking blind and partially sighted community across the country, with an impressive schedule of programs never before available with described video alongside original programs that inspire, educate and entertain.
The team regularly works alongside blind and partially sighted organizations in Quebec and other francophone communities in Canada to promote accessibility and inclusion for individuals living with sight loss.
Knowing that there’s a strong appetite to access AMI original content across multiple platforms, we’re introducing two apps in February 2018 – one for iOS and one for Apple TV, in both English and French. For more information about the AMI apps check out the feature article on the next page.
As always, AMI looks forward to meeting many audience members, partner organizations, and representatives of the blind and partially sighted community at a number of events and conferences this year. All three AMI channels are included as part of the basic digital cable package at no additional cost with most cable providers in Canada.
Visit www.AMI.ca or www.AMItele.ca to learn more. q
AMI is proud to support the Canadian Council of the Blind and White Cane Week activities and initiatives.
iOS and tvOS apps bring unprecedented mobile access to Accessible Media Inc.’s content for blind and partially sighted users
BY Greg David
To be successful, expand and grow, a company must listen to its customers’ needs.
So, when Accessible Media Inc.’s (AMI) audience asked for apps to access content on the go, they listened. The national broadcaster that brings television programming to blind and partially sighted Canadians via series like the home renovation project eyes for the Job, culinary competition Menu Match-Up or feel-good, inspirational documentary do the Grind Blind is set to debut two new free apps to put that content into pockets, backpacks and handbags.
Launching in February, the iOS (mobile) and tvOS (Apple TV) apps offer original AMI content to users in a new way: by putting their needs first.
“We are constantly talking to our research panel about their use of technology and their understanding of social and mobile streaming platforms,” says Virginia Vuleta, director of digital strategy at AMI. “We’ve been keeping an ear to the ground on the platforms that they gravitate towards. We’ve heard, for at least a couple of years, that they’re avid technology users.” Fifty-seven percent of their users, Virginia explains, are on mobile platforms because they’re easy to use, are accessible and can be taken with them.
Of that, 60 percent of the devices used are Apple, so the company developed apps for iPhones, iPads and Apple TV first. An Android app will be developed sometime in the future.
So, how do you build a mobile platform where accessibility is the main focus rather than an option buried in a sub-menu? First, you use Apple’s foundation of accessibility features to build on top of. Apple’s friction-free (“Why try to re-invent something much brighter minds have done?” Virginia says with a laugh.) native accessibility features-such as voiceover, speech, magnifier and zoom-were a great base. Next up? Partnering with a company to
do the build. Enter TWG, the Toronto-based software developer behind the red-hot Carrot fitness app. Virginia says that, though TWG hadn’t worked extensively in the accessibility space but were motivated and demonstrated strong empathy with AMI’s cause
“That resonated with us,” she says. “It’s a relationship.” As with any new project, there were growing pains at first including going into the first app build with assumptions on how users would utilize them.
“There were a lot of things we didn’t know that we didn’t know,” says Brian Gilham, engineering manager at TWG who has worked on the apps from research to user testing to the actual development. “It’s not often you’re presented with an audience that is so
broad in terms of how they want to approach using an app. Even within vision impairment there is a broad spectrum of different abilities you need to take into account to work with those users.” Seemingly little details like colour scheme, font size and not placing text over an image have big ramifications for partially sighted users. It was a whole new way of thinking for Brian and TWG.
Armed with feedback from the research group, the app builds began. What can users expect when the apps launch? Access to AMI’s stable of original television series (
Four senses, Blind sighted with Kelly Macdonald, AMi this Week) and documentaries (the Halifax explosion, last of the Fur traders) as well as a catalog of digital shorts and how-to content, or what Virginia refers to as “life hacks”: content created-or curated with a partner-that helps their audience improve their quality of life. That could be instructions on using a television cable box, cooking something on a stove or how to use the Google app on your phone; the tips can be tied to an existing TV program or original content.
“This is work that feels like it’s genuinely helpful,” Brian says. “One of the big goals of this app is to get people viewing AMI’s content, but the primary goal is to make it easy to use for those with a viewing impairment. It’s not often we’re presented with the opportunity to have something so positive as a goal.”
The apps take full advantage of Voiceover, ensuring they are easily navigated by those who are blind or partially-sighted. The newest episode of an AMI program or timely discussion point will be part of the app’s featured contents and a saved history will contain a user’s most recently viewed items. There are options to share, via social media or text, content that has been enjoyed, as well as the option to download content to a device for offline viewing later … so crucial to long commutes. There are two levels of help within the apps: frequently asked questions plus contextual help that pays attention to where you are in the app and gives guidance from there. All of Apple’s pre-existing accessibility features are available in the iOS and tvOS apps and an enhanced introduction walks users through the navigation of the app.
“At the end of the day we really want to give our audience great content, but we want to give them the same experience everyone else does when they encounter content,” Virginia says. “We want them to be able to consume and share and talk about content the way others in the general population could.”
“There is one quote that has stood out, certainly for me and I’m sure the rest of the team,” Brian recalls. “There was a woman in one of the test groups who said, ‘Apps are nice to have for a lot of people. But for me, this is how I survive.’”
Visit the App. store on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, on your Mac, or on your Apple TV to download the new AMI apps today. q
For further information visit www.AMI.ca/podcasting
MAKING YOUR VOICE COUNT! EYE SEE YOU CAMPAIGN BLENDS AWARENESS AND ADVOCACY TO DRIVE CHANGE
WHAT IS ADVOCACY AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
In its simplest definition, advocacy is defined as “public support of a particular cause or policy”. So, does that answer all of your questions about advocacy? Probably not. The role of advocacy is incredibly complex and typically involves a number of different areas and depending on the specific issue, it can be challenging to navigate. At the heart of it, when an issue has the potential to negatively affect an individual or group, it is the responsibility of those who are aware and have the facts, to speak out and attempt to change the situation.
“Nobody ever said ‘making change happen’ was easy, but just imagine what could be accomplished if we only worked together,” says Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing. “If you take a look back, most major milestones in history were the result of collaboration and just plain ‘stickability’ (perseverance), in pursuit of the greater good – this is at the core of advocacy initiatives, like Eye see You.”
You may not know all of the details, but there is an issue that threatens the vision health of all Canadians. This is not a new threat. In fact, representatives from the vision health community, including the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) have been involved in an advocacy initiative for the last two years and efforts continue to mitigate the issue.
Two years ago an awareness, education and advocacy campaign was launched, Eye see You, which aims to inform and engage Canadians about the importance of vision health as part of functional aging, and to build support to question recent government inquiries related to the treatment of retinal disease that has the potential to restrict a patient’s right to receive safe, appropriate and effective ophthalmologic treatments.
WHAT IS THE THREAT EXACTLY?
Essentially, there are two Health Canada approved treatments (aflibercept and ranibizumab) that have dramatically changed the lives of those Canadians living with retinal diseases. These treatments have been scientifically studied and proven to be safe and effective. There is another treatment called bevacizumab (or Avastin), which is approved for different types of cancers – this treatment has a similar chemistry to the approved therapies, but has not been through the rigorous clinical studies for safety and efficacy. It remains unapproved by Health Canada for use in the eye. Bevacizumab is however used for retinal conditions, despite black box warnings1 on the label from Health Canada as not for ophthalmological use. The reason it is being used appears simple, it is much lower in price compared to the approved options, and governments are evaluating its use in the eye, despite the warnings and lack of evidence.
“CCB has been actively involved in current discussions with government about the use of unapproved treatments to highlight this as a major risk to Canadian’s vision health – if we don’t protect the rights of the vision community, who will?” says Louise Gillis, President of the Canadian Council for the Blind. “We have the facts and the voice of our community must advocate to ensure no restrictions are imposed, and our rights are respected.”
HOW CAN YOUR VOICE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Strength in numbers is very true! The collective voice from the vision community is making an impact and the Eye see You advocacy campaign hopes to build support and increase attention on this important issue.
Dr. Barratt remarks, “Eye see You is a perfect example of advocacy in action. Not only do we have the country’s leading retina specialists involved, but over 40 stakeholder groups who believe that restrictions on approved treatments in favour of options that are not proven safe or effective are wrong.”
As the initiative continues to protect the rights of Canadians with vision loss, increasing support from individuals is key. The Eye see You website is an evolving platform and everyone is encouraged to sign-up for the newsletter to keep up-to-date on this issue and become part of a campaign that is standing up for the rights of all Canadians.
“We may need your help and each individual voice matters when so much is at stake,” says Louise Gillis. “Please take the time to understand the facts and empower yourself.”
The Eye see You campaign is ongoing and everyone is encouraged to become part of the advocacy effort. Please visit www.eyeseeyou.care for more information and learn how you can help make change happen, for the better. q
1) A black box warning is the strictest warning put in the labeling of prescription drugs or drug products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when there is reasonable evidence of an association of a serious hazard with the drug
GTT – Get Together with Technology
A Canadian Council of the Blind Program
SPECIAL REPORT To WHITE CANE MAGAZINE – TOP 10 IOS APPs OF 2017
Here are the Top Ten iOS Apps of 2017 as surveyed late in the year through the Get Together With Technology (GTT) Program Blog, GTT Support Email List and GTTProgram Facebook Group participants. This was not a scientific survey. Your friendly GTT Group has likely had a hand in the results, and all of you are encouraged to submit your favourites for the 2018 list as we roll into 2019. In order to do so, please stay in touch and participate with GTT groups wherever they gather throughout 2018 by following us at www.GTTProgram.WordPress.com.
LISTED IN ORDER OF VOTES SUBMITTED:
- Seeing AI a free app By Microsoft Corporation. https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/seeing-ai/id999062298?mt=8
Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the blind and low vision community, this ongoing research project harnesses the power of AI to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text and objects.
- Native ioS Mail, a free email client built into every Apple
- voice Dream reader, a paid app By Voice Dream LLC. https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/voice-dream-reader/id496177674?mt=8
Featured as Best New App in 81 countries including the United States and Apple App Store Permanent Collections in Education.
SUPPORTED DOCUMENT FORMATS:
- PDF, Plain text, MS Word, MS PowerPoint, RTF, and Google
- EPUB (DRM-free books only. Kindle and iBooks are not supported.)
- DAISY text-based books and
- Audiobooks in MP3, MP4 or zipped MP3
- Experimental rich text and image support for all
- Nearby explorer, a paid app By American Printing House for the Blind (APH). https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/nearby-explorer/id1095698497?mt=8
Nearby Explorer is a full featured GPS app designed for use by people who are blind. Instead of just providing directions, it describes the environment in ways comparable to reading signage or observing road characteristics.
- Tunein radio, a free app By https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/tunein-radio/id418987775?mt=8
Listen to your favorite radio stations for free with TuneIn Radio. With over 100,000 radio stations, TuneIn has the largest selection of sports, news, music, and talk radio from around the world.
- Native ioS reminder, a free app built into every Apple
- Transit, a free app By Transit App, Inc. https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/transit-bus-train-times/id498151501?mt=8
“You won’t realize how much time you can save planning until you use this app” – LA Times
“MBtA has a favorite transit app — and it’s called “transit” – Boston Globe
Transit is your real-time urban travel companion. Navigate your city’s public transit system with accurate real-time predictions, simple trip planning, step-by-step navigation, service disruption notifications, and departure and stop reminders… all presented in a clear, bold interface. Your public transportation not co-operating! Easily request an Uber, reserve a car2go, or grab the closest bike share.
- vo Calendar, a paid app by Devista V. https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/vo-calendar/id508386832?mt=8
NOTE: Can only be used together with VoiceOver (for blind and partially sighted people).
VO Calendar is a weekly calendar specifically designed to be used with VoiceOver. The result of this VoiceOver-only design is not only a smoother navigation through the app. It also makes it possible for the VoiceOver speech to give smart summaries depending on the context. This prevents you from having to go through each event Individually. Can only be used together with VoiceOver for blind and partially sighted people.
- Bank, free apps by a variety of Canadian Banks such as TD Canada by https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/td-canada/id358790776?mt=8
The TD app for iOS provides quick, easy, secure access to your TD chequing, savings, credit, and investment accounts. By clicking “Get”, you consent to the installation of the TD app provided by the TD Bank Group* and to any future updates/upgrades. You are also acknowledging that you understand that the TD app and any future updates/upgrades will/may perform the function described below. You may withdraw your consent at any time by deleting or uninstalling this app.
- Get fast access to our most-used banking functions with Quick Links, and check account and
Rewards balances without logging in by using Quick Access.
- Make TD Credit Card Account payments in fewer steps and use your Rewards to help pay
down your balance.
- Send, request and receive money with INTERAC e-Transfer®.
- Make Canadian and submit U.S. bill payments. Subject to eligibility requirements and
applicable fees. Foreign exchange costs may also apply.
- Access your personal banking and investing information from your Apple
- Keep track of your spending and receive real time notifications with the TD MySpend
- With TD for Me you can receive branch information, local events, offers, tips and
- CBC radio/News, free apps by the Canadian Broadcasting https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/cbc-radio/id325946767?mt=8
Listen to your favourite CBC Radio programs and podcasts on your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Enjoy Radio One and Radio 2 live streams, as well as more than 80 of CBC Radio’s most popular programs and podcasts on demand. Listen to our featured stories, curated for you every day. Browse through 12 categories, including News, Politics and Comedy. Check out archived episodes, save and download your audio for later listening. Build a playlist of your favourite clips and play them beginning to end. Sort by episode or segment. Find the local frequency for your favourite CBC Radio broadcast channel, and see what’s playing on any CBC Radio network. The CBC Radio app allows for in-app search, which allows you to search for any CBC Radio One audio from 2013 to the present. You can also continue switching to a different device and pick up your listening where you left off.
For more information contact your GTT Coordinators:
1-877-304-0968 Exit. 550
[email protected] or
1-877-304-0968 Ext. 513
IN THE NEWS
Legally Blind Hockey Fan sees Game for First Time:
– ‘It Was All So Amazing’
BY KELYN SOONG, The Washington Post
Olivia Lettich could not stop giggling. Whenever someone in her family brought up the Calgary Flames, the 11-year-old Lettich would light up with excitement at the mention of her favorite hockey team.
Five years had passed since Lettich visited Scotiabank Saddledome for a Flames game, jumping and cheering at every blast of the horn along with the rest of the red-clad fans, but this game against the New York Islanders provided something different.
This time, Lettich, who is legally blind, saw her favorite players and watched the action unfold in front of her as the Flames’ special guest after eSight, a company that sells hands-free devices that allow legally blind individuals to see, reached out to the Calgary Flames Foundation to set up the event.
It was a packed day for Lettich, who sang along to the Canadian national anthem on center ice, observed the players warm up from the players’ bench, watched the game with her family from seats 19 rows behind the net and met Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano in the locker room after Calgary’s 5-2 victory over the Islanders, March 5, 2017, all while wearing her eSight glasses that help improve her vision from 20/400 to 20/40 – glasses she didn’t have at her last Flames game.
“I was able to see all the colors, all the shots, all the names on the jerseys, all the blocks and how fast they were moving,” Lettich said in a phone interview Monday. “It was all so amazing.”
When Lettich was 4 months old, she had a bilateral retinoblastoma, a rare pediatric eye cancer, diagnosed. She would go through nine rounds of chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and 50 radiation treatments before doctors removed her right eye to prevent the tumors from spreading.
Lettich’s cancer is in remission but she is legally blind in her left eye.
She has worn eSight glasses, which uses high-definition camera technology, for the past 18 months in school, at movie theaters, sporting events and concerts, but does not wear them throughout the day.
All that, however, hasn’t stopped the energetic preteen from swimming, equestrian
jumping and skiing. In addition to her love of hockey, Lettich is a big Baltimore Ravens fan. She rarely misses watching the Ravens on Sundays and the Flames whenever the family is home.
“We watch the Flames at home as much as we can,” said Lettich’s mother, Meredith. “We have an ottoman and she’ll sit right on it, within a foot of the TV.”
Several months ago, Meredith received what she called a “very cryptic phone call” from eSight asking questions about Lettich’s favorite hockey players.
Once she found out the plan that was initiated by eSight and put together by the Calgary Flames Foundation, Meredith kept much of it as a surprise for her daughter.
It wasn’t until last minute that Lettich found out that she was going to the game, and she didn’t know until the day of that she would meet the players.
“They were so amazing, not just to Liv but all four of our kids,” Meredith said. “They fawned over all the kids, and made them feel special. I can’t say enough about their experience.”
As for Lettich, she left with a story of a lifetime, and the ability to recall not just the raucous atmosphere of a Flames game she experienced years ago, but also the incredible athleticism of professional hockey players that she was able to see for herself.
“It was so much more exciting,” Lettich said. “I didn’t have to ask anyone what was going on and I could physically see it with my own eyes. It was so much more fun because
you could see the amazing blocks and you could see [painful] looking smashing in the boards. I hope to go again soon.” q
The Federal Role in Eye Health and Vision Care
BY MICHAEL BAILLARGEON
The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) held a reception on Parliament Hill during May 2017 for National Vision Month. The CAO called on the Federal the
Government to exercise leadership and to respond to what has become an emerging crisis in eye health. Standing along with the CAO and its initiatives and to stress the month’s importance, were the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) the CNIB and the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) for its Mobile Eye Clinics (MEC) for seniors and school children and endorsed by the CAO. The group delivered their paper, “The Federal
Role in Eye Health and Vision Care”, which contained recommendations on how the Federal Government can enhance health and vision care for all Canadians.
During the event, the CCB was able to introduce 8 year old student Liam Daigen to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Liam is one of the many students who have benefited from the CCB’s Mobile Eye Clinic. Young Liam, along with MEC Manager Monica Reatequi, was immediately introduced to the Prime Ministers skill at snapping his traditional selfie.
Seeing the Benefits of Teaching Yoga to the Blind
BY CBC NEWS
Sarah Perritt places her left foot and palm squarely on the mat, lifts her right leg towards the ceiling and extends her other arm into the air.
Behind her, in the studio, a dozen students twist their bodies into the same yoga stance; the half-moon pose.
But despite all appearances, this isn’t your typical yoga class.
All of the students in this weekly workshop at NorQuest College are blind or visually impaired.
Perritt has been leading the program – run through the Alberta Sports and Recreation Association for the Blind – since last fall, when she inherited it from a friend.
To help her students master the movements, Perritt explains each one in detail, and often tracks back and forth across the studio floor, adjusting wayward feet and fingers.
Students line up along the edge of the gymnasium wall in orderly rows so they can use the wall for added balance.
“Probably the most significant difference is the amount of descriptive cueing that I give the students, down to really small details that when you have sight you really take for granted, because you’re looking at the teacher,” Perritt said during an interview on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“There is no feeling of judgment. They know I’m just trying to help them get their bodies to develop that muscle memory of how to execute those poses.”
Perritt, who began practicing yoga when she was 19, said the benefits of yoga are more pronounced for the visually impaired, and students who stick with it make major gains.
“When you don’t have sight, balance can be a significant challenge,” she said.
“So we really work on core strength, and these minute details in how to gain that balance when you don’t have the sight.”
“We’ve built that up, and now many of them are gaining that confidence, stepping away from the wall and relying on their own bodies. And when they hit those milestones, they celebrate them. We all do.”
Perritt said her students have taught her a lesson in resilience, and she continues to be inspired by their dedication to the class, one she hopes to keep teaching for many years.
“I’ve learned so much since I met this group of individuals,” said Perritt.
“In learning through them, and learning how they experience the world, how they feel it, and sense it, it amazes me what our bodies are capable of when we give them the chance.” q
Toronto Blind Jays Hit the Road for Beep Baseball World Series
BY GREGORY STRONG, The Canadian Press
With the crack of the bat, an umpire’s call and the hustle and bustle on the base paths, baseball boasts a soundtrack all its own.
At a Toronto Blind Jays practice, the collection of sounds also includes a beeping ball and buzzing bases.
In preparation to represent Canada at the NBBA Beep Baseball World Series in Florida, the Jays went to work at Maryvale Park in Toronto’s east end. Most of the squad is made up of players who are completely blind or have less than 10 per cent vision.
“We’re all just passionate about the sport,” said Canadian general manager Arthur Pressick. “A lot of these people never even tried baseball until beep baseball and they just love it.
“To be able to hit a ball and crank it out into the field, it’s a fantastic thing.”
Beep baseball is similar to the traditional pastime in some ways. The goal is to hit the ball and score runs but the general setup is quite different.
Eye shades are worn to negate any potential vision advantage. Players use their hearing to track the ball, which starts beeping once its pin is pulled as play begins.
Players also rely on audio to determine the location of the bases, represented by two padded four-foot cylinders on opposite sides of the field that start to buzz when a ball is in play.
The pitcher, catcher and spotters are sighted and work with batters — they’re all on the same team — to co-ordinate pitch timing and help guide players in the outfield.
If a ball is hit into fair territory, the race is on as the batter tries to reach base before the fielder locates and picks up the ball. A spotter calls out a number — for example, a two for a shallow ball or a three if it’s deep — to give the fielder an idea of where the beeping ball might be.
“Sometimes it’s really scary because the ball is not always on the ground,” said Cassie Orgeles of Fort Erie, Ont. “It could be going over your shoulder.”
If the batter reaches base before the ball is secured, a run is scored. If the fielder gets to the ball first, it’s an out.
Pressick, a videographer from Meaford, ON, became interested in the sport after shooting documentaries on beep baseball. He helped put a Canadian squad together for the 2015 tournament in Rochester, N.Y., and while that team later dissolved, a core group of players got together last fall and the 2017 Blind Jays’ roster, which is co-ed, was filled out in the spring.
Most of the players have other athletic pursuits. Orgeles, 27, who competed at the Paralympics in goalball, found the transition to beep baseball was a smooth one.
Beep baseball bases are in foul territory to avoid player collisions and the ball must clear a line behind the pitcher to be deemed in play. In addition, there are four strikes instead of three, a game lasts six innings, and fielders use their hands instead of baseball gloves.
Even though the Canadian team is in its infancy, camaraderie and team spirit were evident on a sunny afternoon in the city’s east end. A 90-minute practice was the second session for the full squad and the first with new blue and white Toronto uniforms and red Canada hats — a welcome donation from Baseball Canada.
The players already have their celebratory handshake routines down pat. There was even some good-natured chirping among the teammates.
“Keep your eye on the ball, Wayner!” one outfielder shouted in the direction of home plate to chuckles all around.
Orgeles said it can take a little while to get the hang of things on the beep baseball field. Finding a rhythm at the plate is one of the biggest challenges.
Standing about 20 feet away, the pitcher uses a four-beat sequence with a ‘Set, ready, pitch,’ declaration before the batter swings.
“When you click with your pitcher, it’s the greatest feeling to hit (the) ball,” Orgeles said.
Effective communication is critical. And when the team has great spirit and energy, it’s a nice bonus.
“It’s a stronger bond I think with this group than traditional baseball,” Pressick said. “They’ve all gone through stuff in life that have brought them together to this point so right there, they have a lot of things in common just off the beginning.”q
The CCB Works with Dodgeball Canada to Expand the Sport
The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) introduced the CCB Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) at the Western Canadian Dodgeball Championships held, at the Saville Community Sports Centre, in Edmonton, Alberta on August 5, 2017. Seventeen teams competed from Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. The Manitoba Menace won the men’s division while the Victoria Tsunami won first place in the women’s division.
Dodgeball is a rapidly expanding sport in Canada with a growing number of students participating. By becoming involved with Dodgeball Canada, the CCB has found a way to introduce the importance of eye care and vision loss prevention to educators and to the young while stressing the need for regular eye examinations. At the same time for those who do not have a family optometrist or who haven’t had a recent eye examination (within the last 12 months) the MEC is a convenient method to identify unknown vision problems and in the long run, restrict and prevent vision loss. Dodgeball Canada is implementing “Dodge In School” that caters to, elementary and secondary school students, of all ages and genders.
Participants were provided information on the nature and background of the Council’s programs, the Mobile Eye Clinic and White Cane Magazine. The CCB is looking forward to working with Dodgeball Canada to launch programs in schools across Canada. q
The Blind Can Experience Eclipses with This Cool Sensory App and Braille Book
BY SAMANTHA MATHEWSON
A new multisensory app and tactile guide helped blind and visually impaired communities experience the total solar eclipse last summer on Aug. 21.
The Eclipse Soundscapes Project used sound to create a multisensory eclipse experience. The app included audio descriptions of the eclipse in real time, as well as recordings of environmental sounds that tend to change during an eclipse. Users could also visualize the eclipse through touch, using the app’s interactive “rumble map.”
“For individuals who cannot see, hearing is an ideal way to experience the eclipse, since soundscapes change dramatically as the moon passes between the Earth and sun,” Eclipse Soundscapes representatives wrote on the project’s website. “Due to the change in light, nocturnal animals stir into action, while diurnal animals settle. As the sun’s light re-emerges, it often triggers a ‘false dawn chorus.’”
NASA created a tactile guide, called the rumble map, for visually impaired people. Using the rumble map, people could hear and feel the physical qualities of the eclipse. Images of the eclipse were displayed at various stages, allowing users to touch the image
and feel a level of vibration relative to the brightness of the section of the photo. Dark areas of the photo represent phases of the eclipse when the moon covers more of the sun’s bright disk. When these areas are selected, users will experience less vibration, according to the statement.
During the eclipse, the Eclipse Soundscapes app used a Geo-location IP to identify where the user is and align them with a narration of the eclipse’s progression in real time.
NASA, too, helped blind people experience the eclipse: The agency created a Braille book called “Getting a Feel for Eclipses,” which features graphics that help users learn more about the total solar eclipse and the science behind the celestial event. More than 5,000 copies of the book have been distributed to schools and libraries for the blind, as well as other educational institutions, NASA officials said in a statement.
“NASA is privileged to help bring this historic eclipse to a segment of our population who have previously not had an opportunity to enjoy these celestial phenomena,” Greg Schmidt, deputy director of NASA’s solar system exploration research virtual institute, said in the statement. “We feel strongly that everyone should have a part to play in exploring our universe.” q
Microsoft Launches AI-Based Talking Camera for the Visually Impaired
BY JULI CLOVER
Microsoft launched a new app this year called Seeing AI, which the company describes as a talking camera for people who are visually impaired. The app uses artificial intelligence and the camera of an iPhone or iPad to describe the world around it. It’s able to recognize text, objects, and people.
The app turns the visual world into an audible experience and using it is as simple as pointing the camera at various objects and people. The app can recognize saved friends, or describe people based on their approximate age and demeanor, and it can read text that it detects aloud.
Seeing AI can scan and read documents like books and letters, helping with formatting, and it can see objects like money to identify specific denominations. Within stores, it can scan barcodes to help users shop, and it’s also able to be used within other apps like Twitter for evaluating images.
An experimental “Scenes” feature is available, allowing the app to analyze what’s going on in a photograph. It isn’t perfect, and Seeing AI is an ongoing research product, so it may not accurately describe every image.
Microsofts Seeing Al is currently available in the U.S., Canada, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore, with Microsoft planning to expand it to additional countries in the future. Seeing AI can be downloaded from the App Store for free.
Seeing Al was ranked, the number one IOS App of 2017, in a vote by participants in the Canadian Council of the Blind’s, Get Together With Technology (GTT) program.
See GTT’s complete top ten standings on page 34 to 36 in this issue of White Cane Magazine. q
AN EXPRESSION OF APPRECIATION FOR ONGOING SUPPORT…
In celebrating White Cane Week 2018 the Canadian Council of the Blind wishes to express its most sincere appreciation and gratitude to all our sponsors, partners and friends for their important contributions and ongoing support.
The CCB is predisposed and fully committed to building strong relationships with all those who join with us in guaranteeing that our members are receiving the very best eye care possible, both medical service and treatment. These companies along with others have shown how each, in its own way, is committed to our community’s long-term vision health and protection, each fully dedicated, to improving the quality of life of all Canadians, who are blind or have low vision.
To be clear, this is the role that the CCB is prepared to play over and over again to achieve its stated goal “that people who are blind or have low vision, along with all sighted Canadians, receive, as rightfully deserved, the very best vision care available”.
Special thanks to Accessible Media Inc., title sponsor of our annual national curling championship as well as to our other Gold Sponsors VIA Rail Canada, Bayer, Novartis, Bell, Alcon and Lions Club District A4.
To our friends at CNIB, we wish to extend our gratitude for your ongoing support of CCB endeavor’s to improve the lives of Canadians living with vision loss. The CNIB has always been a strong partner of the Council, providing financial support as well as assistance with advocacy, research, personnel and membership growth.
Your continued presence along with that of our Silver and Bronze Sponsors is necessary if this celebration of White Cane Week is to continue to grow and develop. Therefore, it is important, that you as a group, both at the corporate and individual levels, understand our gratitude and appreciation for your confidence in, and support of, the CCB not only this week but year round. We couldn’t do it without you. Together we are working to “change what it means to be blind” and that’s important!