Canadian Council of the Blind

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Visions – April

From the President’s Desk

We always welcome in the month of April as it reflects so many different opportunities to our Members.  As many of our indoor activities begin to wrap up across the country, our Members can shift their planning into more outdoor activities. These provide a healthy environment in weather which is conducive to making outdoor events more enticing; especially for our families, friends, peers and also our four legged canine guides.  Inside or outside, we encourage our members to remain active, as it is so important to their wellness.

April also brings a time where committee work is at it’s prime, as advocacy, pharma, and members of CCB are all in full bloom.  To that end, I wish to thank all those involved in important committee work.  We are indebted to all of our committees, and those members who take time to serve and support in many different roles. They play an integral role in the ongoing success of the Council. Listed below is Important news on advisory committees that we participate on so I encourage you to read on.

Organizationally, the CCB also transforms its planning from the success of White Cane Week across Canada to Vision Health Month in May, with many activities planned.  Please stay tuned!

On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, sponsors, partners, and volunteers, I wish everyone and their families a very Happy Easter holiday, and thank everyone for their continued support.

Jim Tokos, National President


Announcement regarding Kim Kilpatrick, CCB GTT Coordinator:

Exciting new changes for Kim Kilpatrick are taking place!

Effective immediately, Kim Kilpatrick will begin working on GTT at a reduced capacity.

This is due to the fact that Kim has been offered some exciting opportunities in disability arts, along with storytelling in palliative and long-term care, a braille project through CELA, and doing live described theatre in Ottawa.  Kim also wants to write a book about guide dogs.

Kim will continue to work on the GTT Mac group and braille display user’s group, as well as continuing to be involved with the GTT Ottawa group.  We are pleased that, even though Kim will be on a reduced schedule, she will still be involved with CCB. 

 We would like to take this opportunity to thank Kim for her many years of work and dedication to the GTT program. Her hard work has allowed so many individuals to connect and learn about important assistive technology to improve their lives.

Moving forward, for any GTT related information, please contact:

Corry Stuive, CCB National Program Coordinator

[email protected]

1-877-304-0968 Ext 550

David Greene, CCB GTT Accessibility Trainer

[email protected]

1-877-304-0968 Ext 509

Gerry Chevalier: [email protected]

Ian White, CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter President: [email protected]

Voicemail Line: 437 882-4323

CCB Women’s Group: Join us for casual conversation, sharing stories and a laugh or two with the wonderful Women of CCB. Each month we have specific topics of discussion that our women ask for and sometimes a guest speaker. 

Our zoom gatherings are every second Tuesday of the Month at 7:00 e.s.t./4:00 pacific. 

To join us, email Leslie at: [email protected] to be added to the zoom invite list. 

Please share this with a friend or family member, as everyone is welcome. 

Your hosts

Leslie and Heidi

CCB National Men’s Group: We’re having another CCB National Men’s Group chat on Zoom, happening on Tuesday, April 25th, 2023. Swing by and join the conversation!

We meet up virtually on the 4th Tuesday of each month to chat about stuff that matters to the men of the CCB. 

We’ve covered everything from Canadian Registered Savings Plans and tax credits to relationships, travel, and even had some fun chats along the way.

Want to jump in? Just shoot an email to Shane Cashin at [email protected] and ask to be added to the list.

April’s chat is all about jobs – we’ll be talking about your experiences finding work, any obstacles you’ve faced, and your successes as a blind or visually impaired person. 

Heads up, if you’ve been invited to previous Men’s Group meetings, you’re already on the list and should get an email by April 22, 2023.

We Want to Welcome

Lawrence Gunther is the producer and host of two podcasts, The Blue Fish Radio Show, and Outdoors with Lawrence Gunther. Having produced close to 500 episodes, new training resources featuring Lawrence’s ten years of experience are now available to those interested in producing their own podcast.

Having been blind since age eight, Lawrence has embraced the ancient art of knowledgekeeper and storyteller. Lawrence is also a committed conservationist, outdoor writer, blogger, film maker and TV personality. His Masters in Environmental Studies drew heavily on traditional and local knowledge, but what truly makes Gunther extraordinary is his capacity to visualise and give voice to the largely silent underwater world. In 2012 Lawrence founded the charity Blue Fish Canada to ensure revenues generated by his award-winning documentary “What Lies Below”, featured on AMI TV and CBC’s Documentary Channel, are used to strengthen nature.

Working in collaboration with the River Institute for Environmental Science, a new educational program has been developed to encourage and support people interested in starting their own podcast. To order these free resource materials visit:

For more about Lawrence Gunther and the podcast “Outdoors with Lawrence Gunther” visit: WWW.LawrenceGunther.Com

To listen to Lawrence’s other podcast “The Blue Fish Radio Show” visit: WWW.BlueFishRadio.Com

For more stories and tips about Lawrence’s outdoor adventures and time on the water visit: WWW.BlindFishingBoat.Com or WWW.FeelTheBite.Ca

Lions Club for Vision Impaired: The Lions Club has started a brand new Vision Impaired Lions Cyber Branch Club.  On February 23rd they held their first Organizational meeting. 

They are looking for people who are blind and partially sighted to join the club.

If you have any questions or would like to join, please email Khrisstina Engel at: [email protected]

How do young people with a visual impairment see their future?

Let’s ask them in a survey and let them talk about this subject.

The initiators of this survey believe that all young people with visual impairments worldwide have the right to education and participation in society. Every day parents and concerned adults do as much as possible to ensure success for young people with visual impairments. However, there remain obstacles in education and employment. We would like to know what young people themselves consider these obstacles to be.

Please link to our survey if you are between the ages of 18 and 30 years old and have a visual impairment using one of the following links:



If you know anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 years old who has a visual impairment, please forward this with the links to the individual.

The survey is fully accessible as a Microsoft form and the link to our digital questionnaire will be active from March 8th until April 14th, 2023. If you have any questions, please contact: Judith Wijnen:

[email protected] or Klaske van Zandbergen: [email protected]

In the News

Sony made a $600 point-and-shoot camera for the visually impaired

The DSC-HX99 RNV features a viewfinder that can project images directly onto a person’s retina.

With models like the A7R V and A7S III, Sony is known for pushing camera technology to the leading edge. With its newest release, however, the company isn’t touting the capabilities of its latest sensor or autofocus system. Instead, it’s a device that’s about making photography accessible to those who couldn’t enjoy the hobby before.

The DSC-HX99 RNV is a camera kit designed for those with visual impairments. The system consists of two parts: a Sony point-and-shoot and a viewfinder with a retinal laser projection system. The camera is a Cybershot DSC-HX99. First released in 2018, the HX99 features an 18-megapixel backside illuminated sensor with built-in image stabilization and a 24mm to 720mm zoom lens.

As for the viewfinder, it’s a Retissa Neoviewer from Japan’s QD Laser. It projects a digital image from the camera directly to the retina of a user.

Sony notes the technology won’t work for everyone, but for those who it does, the viewfinder will allow them to use the HX99 to see faces, read signs and capture photos and videos. “The laser retinal projection of Retissa Neoviewer is a completely new technology that has been put to practical use for the first time in the world,” according to Dr. Mitsuru Sugawara, the president and CEO of QD Laser.

The HX99RNV kit will cost $600 when it arrives this summer. That means it won’t cost more than a DSC-HX99 on its own.

In a show of support for the low-vision community, Sony says it will bear “the majority” of the cost to produce the device. That said, the kit will only be available directly through Sony, and the company will limit purchases to one per person. Sony also plans to work with American and Japanese schools to provide the device to low-vision individuals.

The internet doesn’t have to be impossible to navigate for Canadians with disabilities

Being connected to the internet is more important now than it ever has been. Canadians need a reliable, high-speed connection for school, work and just about everything to do with their daily lives. But, as Canadians come to enjoy ever faster upload and download speeds, many still don’t have access to even the most basic internet service. From rural and Indigenous Canadians suffering from a lack of infrastructure and low-income people struggling to afford high prices, to digital illiteracy and people with disabilities unable to navigate an inaccessible internet, Jessica Mundie reports on the Canadians who have been left behind.

Many years ago, when a person began losing their vision, the most common concern they had was no longer being able to drive.

Now, Kim Kilpatrick, who has been blind since birth, says when she speaks with those new to vision loss, they are most concerned about not being able to use their computer or smartphone.

“This technology is in their life and for better or for worse it is here to stay,” she said. “They are worried they may lose it.”

Kilpatrick started the Get Together with Technology program with the Canadian Council of the Blind. The program runs group meetings for people who are blind or have low vision to discuss their technology needs, troubleshoot any issues, and learn about specific tools, like how to use the calendar app with voiceover on an iPhone.

“Technology is changing so fast,” said Kilpatrick. “And there is a continuous learning curve with every new device, so we are here to support each other.”

According to the Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), in 2017, about one in five Canadians with a disability said they do not use the internet.

With more than six million people in Canada over the age of 15 living with a disability, barriers to internet accessibility are widely felt, no matter one’s location, age, or income status. The cost of some assistive technology, lack of devices and internet connections, and inaccessible web page design are all barriers to digital accessibility and further the digital divide for those with disabilities.

Experts say weak accessibility regulations and lack of enforcement by governments are contributing to the divide, and the solutions to some of these problems are often not complex or expensive.

To use the internet, Kilpatrick relies on several different assistive software, such as screen readers, electronic braille, and voice assistants.

Screen readers read what is on her phone or computer screen. If all the tabs and buttons on a webpage are labelled correctly, she said this technology works well and is something she relies on every day.

Electronic braille is a Bluetooth device that pairs with her computer and translates what appears onscreen into a line of braille. This is an especially important device for anyone who is both deaf and blind, said Kilpatrick, as they would not be able to hear a screen reader.

Voice assistants like Siri or Alexa can also come in handy, she said. Users ask a question, such as if they have any unread emails or text messages, and the voice assistant responds.

While some devices come with assistive technologies, like voice assistant on a cellphone, Kilpatrick said sometimes someone may have to buy other high-end devices to get the accessibility they may need which is not always financially viable for someone with a disability.

According to the CSD, in Canada, one in four people who report having a disability is considered to be low-income, which is defined as those living in a household earning less than half of the median Canadian income.

Of CSD respondents who said they do not use the internet, 18.2 per cent said it was because of an information and communication technology reason, with the most common being they do not have a device that can access the internet. This was followed by no internet service in their area and that they require specialized software to be able to use it.

Of those that said they need specific software to access the internet, 70 per cent said they did not have all the assistive technology they need.

After suffering a spinal cord injury in 2016 that left him a complete quadriplegic, Jim Ryan has had to learn to use many different assistive technologies to operate his devices.

“I don’t feel or move anything below my armpits,” he said. “So, I do everything with my mouth.”

Ryan has an iPad, a Google Pixel phone, and a very powerful PC which each run different assistive software.

For his iPad and phone, he uses sip-and-puff technology which allows him to navigate and make selections by inhaling and exhaling into a straw. His PC runs a voice software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking which uses his voice to run and complete tasks on his computer, these include writing emails, launching

applications, and opening files. Ryan also uses a QuadStick, a hands-free device that uses sip-and-puff technology to control his computer mouse.

“I do all my emails, I do all my finances, and I do a lot of presentations, which I make up all on my own,” he said.

There are many other assistive technologies that someone with a disability may find useful.

For those experiencing limited dexterity or motor control, there are different types of accessible keyboards, including the Maltron Expanded Keyboard which has a large surface area and raised metal frame that is meant to help someone avoid accidental keystrokes.

There are also alternative input devices, like the sip-and-puff, that allow someone to operate a computer without having to use a mouse or a keyboard. Eye-tracking software uses the movement of someone’s eyes to explore webpages and type, and head pointers use a stylus or stick mounted to the head to aid those with limited hand or arm control.

While his assistive technologies allow Ryan to access his work — he does accessibility consulting, motivational speaking, and is an ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation which works to improve the lives of those with physical disabilities — he also uses them for fun.

Before his injury, Ryan was an airline pilot, so he likes to use these technologies for his flight simulator, to play Star Wars games online, and use his VR goggles.

Ryan said his most common issue with technology is when his voice software devices do not hear him properly or he cannot use them for a certain task, like inputting a password or filling out an online form, and he has to use his onscreen keyboard.

“It’s a lot slower for me and frustrating,” he said. “It’s like single-finger typing.”

When he encounters an inaccessible website, Ryan said he takes his business to another webpage or another company.

“I just don’t want to fight with it, my life is a fight enough as it is,” he said.

Websites are not always created to be accessed by assistive technologies. More than 90 per cent of websites do not meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), an internationally recognized set of standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that are meant to help web developers and designers make

websites that are accessible for people with disabilities.

The WCAG is built on four principles: that information is perceivable, that the webpage interface is operable, that the information and navigation are easy to understand, and that content is robust enough to be interpreted by assistive technologies.

If any of these principles are not met, the W3C says users with disabilities will not be able to use a webpage.

When it comes to regulations governing digital accessibility, employers and businesses must first conform to federal and provincial human rights codes, which ban discrimination because of disability, said David Lepofsky, a lawyer and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“If a sighted person can shop at a store online, then the website needs to be accessible so I can as well,” said Lepofsky, who is blind.

Other regulations, like the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), do not reduce these obligations to human rights codes, they only expand on them, he said.

Under the ACA, the federal accessibility legislation enacted in 2019, there are no enforceable regulations on information and communication, said Lepofsky. The 2011 Canadian Standard on Web Accessibility requires all federal government websites and applications to conform to WCAG level AA, but this does not

apply to businesses outside of the government.

In Ontario, since Jan. 1, 2021, under the information and communications standard of the AODA, all public-sector businesses and private-sector organizations with 50 or more workers must make their websites and web-based apps accessible and be WCAG compliant at level AA.

Lepofsky said there are several problems with the AODA and its regulations for digital accessibility. These include long timelines to conform, “embarrassingly poor” enforcement by the government, and that smaller private businesses are exempt.

Often it is easier for a small organization to fix its web presence than a larger company or government organization with multiple web pages, said Lepofsky.

Aislin O’Hara, the co-founder of ProHara, which provides accessible customer service training for businesses, said if the Ontario government had a statement of encouragement incentivizing organizations to make their web pages more accessible it could make a difference, for both persons with disabilities and businesses.

In her work, O’Hara said she often finds organizations think of accessibility as a costly investment or a legal requirement. This is unfortunate for them, she said, because Canadians with disabilities represent a huge untapped market.

“In Canada, people with disabilities represent over $55 billion of purchasing power per year,” she said. “It’s a huge market, but businesses aren’t necessarily tapping into it because of inaccessibility.”

Not only does this apply to businesses selling goods and services online, but it is also beneficial for those that rely on in-person customers to use their web presence to highlight if their brick-and-mortar locations are accessible.

Where Lepofsky said he often finds accessibility problems online is when government organizations post important information on their sites only in PDF versions, which are not accessible for assistive technologies.

“There’s no cost when you post something in PDF to also post it in an accessible document like HTML or Microsoft Word,” he said.

O’Hara said one of the most common barriers she encounters in her work is the lack of alternative text, an assistive tool that uses text to describe an image or graphic. This happens on web pages as well as on social media.

She said digital way-finding is also extremely important when using assistive technology. This involves making it easier to navigate information by grouping important text together.

The solutions to these problems do not have to be expensive or time-consuming, said O’Hara. It all depends on if an organization is willing to put in the work.

Kilpatrick said one of the most important ways organizations can do this is to hire people with disabilities, not only as consultants but also in management, to provide their input on accessibility matters.

While a website may technically be accessible, Kilpatrick said it often takes her double the time to navigate it.

“Is that fair, that something that should take five minutes takes me 20?” she said. “My time is as valuable as any other person’s time.”

By Jessica Mundie, The National Post

Notice: Legislative amendments to the Food and Drugs Act to strengthen oversight for natural health products

CCB is pleased to receive the following news, as we worked closely with Best Medicines Coalition (BMC) on this consultation. 

We wanted to draw your attention to Budget 2023, where the government proposes to amend the Food and Drugs Act to extend powers conferred by the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa’s Law) to natural health products. These changes would protect the health of Canadians by enabling regulators to take stronger action when serious health or safety issues are identified with natural health products on the market. 

Over the next several months, the proposed legislative amendments will be going through the legislative process. We will keep you informed as this process unfolds, and will share more information as soon as we can.

Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities Update

We are doing great work to reduce barriers to electoral participation

for people with disabilities.

Our Advisory Group for Disability Issues (AGDI) is made up of members from across Canada who represent diverse perspectives and lived experiences of people with disabilities. AGDI meets regularly with Elections Canada’s senior leadership to provide expertise and advice on our accessibility initiatives and service improvements.

The most recent AGDI meeting was held on September 28 and 29, 2022, and the meeting summary is now available on the Elections Canada website.

The summary outlines the discussion with and the feedback given by members on the following topics:

-The Chief Electoral Officer’s Recommendations Report to Parliament as it relates to AGDI

– Updates on Elections Canada’s current and upcoming priorities

– Elections Canada’s Accessibility Plan

-The Assistive Voting Technology Development Project Civic              Education resources

– Planning for the Future of Work and Workplace Transformation

You can find more information about the Advisory Group for Disability Issues on the Elections Canada website.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

[email protected]

News on Accessible Design

An amended version of the Canadian Standard Association’s B651-18 standard, now called the CSA/ASC B651:23 – Accessible Design for the Built Environment,

was published on January 27, 2023. Under the ATPDR, transportation service providers must meet the requirements of CSA/ASC B651:23 with respect to new purchases and leases, as well as any modifications or renovations to existing equipment or amenities. 

Please note that the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have also been updated. Transportation service provider websites and apps must be accessible to, at minimum, Level AA of the latest version of WCAG.

It is the responsibility of the transportation service providers to conform to the most recent version. 

Submitted by The Accessibility Team

Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation, Canadian Transportation Agency    

Quality of Life Index for Persons with Disabilities

The Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO) is pleased to announce it has received multiple year funding from the Department of Justice, Nova Scotia Accessibility Directorate, to develop an independent Quality-of-Life Index (QoLI) for persons with disabilities.

“This investment is a great opportunity to build partnerships with the disability community,” said Justice Minister Brad Johns.  “The Index will also be a tool that government, municipalities, and other organizations can use to measure improved accessibility, target accessibility policies, and raise awareness about disability and accessibility.”

A Quality-of-Life Index is a set of social and economic indicators that are used to measure overall wellbeing of a population. NSLEO will lead the development of an Index focused on monitoring the wellbeing of people with disabilities in Nova Scotia.  The Index will be human rights based to align with the United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of People with Disabilities and the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act.

The Index will be developed through research and consultation. A Project Advisory Committee will guide its development. This Committee will be made up of organizations representing people with different types of disabilities and people with disabilities – or First Voice, including human rights experts. The Index will reflect the intersection of disability with race, gender, age, education, income, living in rural/urban communities, and other socio-economic factors.

NSLEO Executive Director, Sherry Costa-Lorenz, said the Index will cover many different areas of a person’s life. “Accessibility goes beyond the physical environment such as being able to access a park, for example, or creating communications in multiple formats. It’s rooted in an overall experience of feeling valued and included in one’s community and society. It’s about enjoying one’s human rights as a person with a disability in a holistic way,” said Costa-Lorenz.

The Index will include information that comes from national and provincial surveys. Engage Nova Scotia is a project partner and some of the information will come from its Quality-of-Life survey. 

“We continue to be grateful for our partnership with the Nova Scotia Accessibility Directorate and NSLEO. 3,380 of the 12,827 Nova Scotians who responded to our 2019 Quality of Life Survey reported having a disability. By developing a Quality-of-Life Index for persons with disabilities, using the data from the survey, this initiative will ensure the stories of ‘first voices’ will be considered in making Nova Scotia a place that is more inclusive, accepting, and accessible for persons with disabilities”, said Danny Graham, Chief Engagement Officer of Engage Nova Scotia.   

It is believed that this Index will be the first of its kind in North America.

Nova Scotia has taken a leadership role in demonstrating what can be achieved when community and government work together towards a common goal. The Access by Design 2030 document outlining the work to be done can be found on the Government of Nova Scotia website in multiple formats.                                  1-877-304-0968

 [email protected]

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