Canadian Council of the Blind

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Visions – December 2023

From the President’s Desk

While we turn the calendar to December, it is time to celebrate our achievements as members of the Council. Notice our Visions newsletter is highlighting some member experiences (as told by them).  We want to encourage more real life stories from our members, ensuring their contributions are shared with their peers across Canada, while keeping a delicate balance of what is important to them as members of our organization. 

The committee work in all areas is important to the future of the Council, and will continue to be reflected in our newsletter, but we also encourage and welcome articles from our members and chapters from coast to coast to coast.

Some of the wonderful achievements include events within your local areas, such as chapters advocating for accessible pedestrian crossings; Our members self advocating successfully for civic change; as well as the day to day items happening within the Community.

It’s a fantastic way to demonstrate our abilities, and share ideas of community involvement and peer support. If you have something you would like to share, please let us know by contacting

Speaking of advocacy; it gives me great pleasure to announce that National Board Member Leslie Yee has been selected to serve on a Canada Standards sub-committee (CSA S701-2), setting standards for accessible automated banking machines, and self-service devices.  This has always been an important issue for our community, and we are so blessed to have Leslie representing our needs.  We all wish Leslie well in her new endeavor, knowing she will serve our community proudly.

On behalf of our National Board, committees, partners, staff, and many volunteers, we wish everyone a safe, warm, and enjoyable the holiday season with family and friends.  Please be safe, and don’t forget to have your eyes checked regularly!

Happy Holidays!

Jim Tokos

CCB National President


Reminder: the deadline for Membership Dues Rebates is quickly approaching on Friday, December 8!  If your chapter’s dues are received by this deadline, you will get 50% back to help support your chapter.

Please note that ALL membership dues are due and payable by the end of 2023. Thank you!

Member Spotlight:

My name is Terri-Lyn Dietrich and I am a member of the CCB London Chapter in Ontario. I have been volunteering for seven years at the Ark Aid Mission, which is a soup kitchen, and also provides other services to those living on the streets. My duties there include food preparation and packaging food to be handed out to those living in encampments. I have been very thankful to have the opportunity to volunteer there twice a week.

Before I lost my vision I worked in a long-term care home kitchen and due to my declining vision, had to quit that job, so it was really nice to get back into a kitchen atmosphere and it feels very rewarding as well.

I also have been volunteering for the last six years at the London food bank helping to package personal care products. Unfortunately, due to my vision loss they have a hard time finding things for me to do there so I only go once a month, but I’m hoping to find some more opportunities at the food bank to be able to go more often and help out.

Additionally, I have been volunteering on our local CCB social chapter board for the past seven years, five of which I was the president and for the last two years I have been the treasurer for our board. I have really enjoyed working with our local CCB chapter and helping assist those who live with vision loss have opportunities to get out and experience social and recreational activities within our city as well as being able to do a few trips outside of London.

White Cane Week 2024:

Get ready for a fun and exciting awareness week from February 4 to 10. This year’s events will include lots of local activities. Please visit the CCB website to keep yourself updated on the many exciting events that will be taking place this year across the country. And stay tuned for reports on events in upcoming newsletters!

CCB-Get Together with Technology (GTT) Program: CCB’s GTT is very active and has many types of meetings that you are welcome to join each month to learn about new assistive technology. Whether you are a beginner, or an advanced user, there’s always something new to learn!

For more information, or a list of upcoming meetings, please contact us:

David Greene, CCB GTT Accessibility Trainer  OR 1-877-304-0968 Ext 509

Nolan Jenikov  OR 1-877-304-0968

Corry Stuive, CCB National Program Coordinator   OR 1-877-304-0968 Ext 550

World Braille Day (WBD):

Join us for another wonderful World Braille Month in January 2024. This year we are celebrating artists who use braille to create! We are gathering creators and integrators to discuss how braille can be used in their craft and creativity. We will also be offering another year of Braille Boost with new activities and resources for braille learners and those who support them.

More information will be updated on the WBD webpage located here:

Watch this page in the coming weeks and look for social media and newsletter announcements from our partners at Accessible Libraries, AEBC, AERO, BLC, CCB, CELA, CNIB Foundation, NNELS, and PRCVI. Plan to join us!

In the News  

We want to thank Sharon Ruttan from the CCB Hamilton Chapter for bringing this issue regarding the HSR Fair Assist Program to our attention:

People with disabilities will soon have to pay Hamilton bus fare as new program slated for 2024:

A new ‘fare assist’ program will instead provide low-income families a 30% discount.

Every time Sharon Ruttan, who is a member of the Canadian Council of the Blind, boards a Hamilton bus, she’s able to flash a card proving she has low vision in place of paying a fare.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) card has guaranteed she can get around the city independently, regardless of her fixed income or low vision, Ruttan told councillors at a public works committee meeting Monday.

But come Jan. 1, changes to the HSR’s subsidized fare programs will mean Ruttan and other residents who are blind, have low vision or use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair or walker, can no longer use the voluntary pay program that’s been in place since 2013.

As cost of living has “skyrocketed,” Ruttan said, she doesn’t have much money left at the end of the month to spend on transit, which she currently takes several times a week to volunteer, run errands or go to social activities.

“I get very emotional about this because it’s not only going to affect me, but a lot of people both financially and emotionally,” she said.

The city already received council’s approval in July to move ahead with a new “fare assist” program that will offer low-income households a 30 per cent discount.

Fare assist will replace both the voluntary pay program and affordable transit passes — monthly passes that could be purchased at a 50 per cent discount for adults on a low or fixed income, says a staff report.

The city estimates about 500,000 bus trips a year are taken by people who don’t pay a fare under the voluntary pay program and only 100 affordable transit passes are purchased a month.

Transit director Maureen Cosyn Heath told councillors Monday that more people will be eligible for fare assist than under the two other programs and it is more flexible, although many people living with disabilities will be losing the benefit of free transit.

“We understood and acknowledged these kinds of adaptations are difficult,” said Cosyn Heath. “We knew it wouldn’t be favourably received by everyone, but it was our best effort.”

Staff estimate over 88,000 people in Hamilton will qualify for fare assist, which will be offered on a pay-as-you-go basis through Presto cards. If the estimated 10 per cent of these people sign up, the city figures it will cost $2.4 million a year, but will be paid for through the provincial gas tax.

Hamilton LRT operations shouldn’t be privatized, say advocates, citing concerns over accessibility, delays

Several delegates who live with disabilities told the public works committee they had learned of changes only this fall — months after an online public survey was conducted and the fare assist was already approved.

CNIB advocacy lead Bernard Akuoko said city staff didn’t directly reach out to people with low vision and blindness to inform them of the survey and provide them with other ways to complete it other than online. As a result, many learned of the changes from bus drivers or the news.

“This is a vulnerable population,” Akuoko said. “It’s so important to get their real stories of what’s going on.”

Cosyn Heath said the city did a “solid job” involving community partners.

Councillors have the ability to open the fare assist program up to changes at the next council meeting.

By Samantha Beattie, CBC News

*The following story features Heather Walkus, who is a CCB member doing GREAT work on behalf of our members and the disabled community in general.

Air Canada CEO apologizes for accessibility barriers, rolls out new measures:

Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau has apologized for the airline’s accessibility shortfalls and announced new measures to improve the travel experience for hundreds of thousands of passengers living with a disability.

Rousseau said the carrier will speed up a three-year accessibility plan after a number of recent reports of passenger mistreatment, including an incident where a man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to drag himself off of an airplane in Las Vegas due to a lack of assistance.

“Air Canada recognizes the challenges customers with disabilities encounter when they fly and accepts its responsibility to provide convenient and consistent service so that flying with us becomes easier. Sometimes we do not meet this commitment, for which we offer a sincere apology,” the chief executive said in a release.

“We are committing to do better and demonstrating that commitment with concrete actions.”

The measures range from establishing a customer accessibility director to consistently boarding passengers who request lift assistance first. Air Canada also aims to implement annual, recurrent training in accessibility — such as how to use an eagle lift — for its 10,000-odd airport employees and include mobility aids in an app that can track baggage.

Heather Walkus, a member of the Canadian Council of the Blind and chairwoman of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said the problems go beyond a single airline, extending to gaps in the law — despite a regulatory overhaul in 2020 brought on by the Accessible Canada Act.

She cited the example of a rule requiring federally regulated companies to be involved in developing policies, programs and services — a “regulation you could drive a truck through.”

“You could send the administrator down to Tim Hortons and talk to someone in a wheelchair and you’ve consulted with the disability community. It’s a checkoff,” she said. The group she heads was not contacted by Air Canada on its new accessibility blueprint, she added.

On Thursday morning, Air Canada executives sat down with Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Kamal Khera, minister of diversity, inclusion and persons with disabilities, after a summons from Rodriguez last week prompted by several high-profile events involving passengers with disabilities.

These included the Las Vegas incident with 50-year-old Rodney Hodgins, which triggered an investigation by the Canadian Transportation Agency. That event also prompted B.C. comedian Ryan Lachance, who has spastic quad cerebral palsy, to go public with his story of being dropped and injured by Air Canada staff while trying to exit a plane in Vancouver in May. He said crew had declined to use the lift he needs to leave his seat.

Rodriguez called the incidents “unacceptable.”

“We will be following up on the outcomes of this meeting, including before the busy holiday season, to ensure that all Canadians are treated with respect and dignity when they travel,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Craig Landry, Air Canada’s chief operating officer, said the airline receives more than 700,000 requests for assistance from travelers with disabilities each year, or nearly 2,000 customers a day, underscoring the need for more reliable accessibility services.

“When customers are travelling with accessible needs, the expectation is that we’re able to comply 100 per cent of the time,” Landry said in a phone interview. “Any service failure is unacceptable.”

The revamped accessibility plan, initially announced as a three-year process in June, will cost “in the millions of dollars,” he said.

David Lepofsky, visiting research professor of disability rights at Western University’s law faculty, said that as a blind person he “dreads” flying in Canada because of unreliable service.

“The inconsistency with the quality of the ground assistance you get is appalling,” he said.

“The problem is that we’ve got airlines that systemically are not ensuring that they respect that law and obey it, and a law enforcement regime that’s fatally flawed.”

Statistics Canada found that 63 per cent of the 2.2 million people with disabilities who used federally regulated transportation in 2019 and 2020 faced a barrier.

Air Canada’s new accessibility director, Kerianne Wilson, stressed that the airline will take greater pains to protect and track electric wheelchairs and other mobility aids when they’re stored in the cargo hold.

“Their mobility aid, which we know is not luggage — it’s an extension of their body, it’s an essential part of their ability to travel and their independence — we know that providing that comfort will be so critical,” she said in an interview.

By John Vennavally-Rao reports, CTV National News

Smart cities must be accessible and inclusive:

With urban evolution, the concept of smart cities holds immense promise. However, the journey towards innovation must be shared by all, ensuring that the benefits extend to every individual, including those with disabilities.

World Blind Union (WBU) were present at the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), one of the most important UN-level discussions on the rights of persons with disabilities globally, in our efforts to ensure smart cities are accessible and inclusive.  

Smart cities aim to simplify urban living, but they can inadvertently exclude individuals with disabilities, leaving them frustrated or, even worse, unsafe. “Accessibility matters. Solutions exist, but they must be implemented widely,” Marc Workman, CEO of the World Blind Union stated.

In this event we discussed why localisation is such a powerful tool for breaking down accessibility barriers and creating more inclusive societies. It will highlight the critical role of local and regional governments and OPDs in ensuring that accessibility is a priority and that the rights of persons with disabilities are respected, promoted, and realized.

By Fridah Mlemwa

Mobile Passport Control:

Are you going to be travelling to the United States soon? Get ready travelers, streamline your US departures with Mobile Passport Control (MPC)

US Customs and Border Protection has introduced this free app, available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Submit your passport info, self-photo, and CBP inspection questions digitally for a smoother experience.  

Say goodbye to long lines and hello to a smoother US departure experience with Mobile Passport Control!

Here’s how: 

• Download the free app from the Google Play Store

 Or Apple App Store 

• Create a profile with your passport information and answer CBP inspection questions 

• Select the airport and take a selfie photo 

• Submit your transaction and receive an electronic receipt with an encrypted QR code 

• Show your physical passport and digital receipt to a CBP officer  

Perfect for families – one transaction for all! Say goodbye to declaration forms and long wait times. To learn more, visit

Woman with service dog denied Uber, Lyft, cab rides: Marketplace investigation also found public transit issues for people with disabilities:

Michelle Weger relies on her service dog, Quinn, to get her through the day.

The Ottawa resident has narcolepsy, and the Great Dane can sense when Weger is tired, bracing against her or warning her when she’s about to experience cataplexy, a temporary muscle paralysis that can cause her to fall. That early warning gives Weger the time to get to a safe space.

For Weger, Quinn is an absolute necessity, but can become an issue when she tries to get an Uber, Lyft or taxi. She says there’s been “friction” with drivers and cancelled rides with ride shares.

You can watch the full investigation, Access Denied, on YouTube or CBC Gem.

With hidden cameras rolling, CBC’s Marketplace followed Weger as she attempted to hire Uber and Lyft rides in Toronto, as well as local taxis.

Half of the Uber and Lyft drivers were informed in advance that there was a service dog. The rest found out when they arrived.

Three out of six Uber drivers denied service to Weger and Quinn. One driver acknowledged receipt of the message saying Weger was travelling with a service dog, then cancelled about two minutes later. Another arrived for the pick-up and said Weger must request a ride through

Uber Pet, a service that costs more than a standard ride.

Uber told Marketplace it believes in equal transportation for all Canadians, and that it reminds drivers of their legal obligations and policy “at several points throughout the year.” It also says its pet service is not required for service dogs.

When one Lyft driver was warned about Weger’s service dog through the app, the driver cancelled shortly after the message was sent.

Lyft told Marketplace they have a strict policy that drivers must accept service dogs, and say they take the issue “very seriously.”

Weger said that while she’s not a heavy ride share user, the experience “makes me feel very sad for people who need to use ride share services to be able to get to work or have a social life.”

Marketplace’s test results are indicative of the wider problem of transportation accessibility in Canada for people with disabilities, says Jeff Preston, a professor of disability studies at King’s University College in London, ON. 

While the federal government has set a goal of being “barrier-free” by 2040, Preston says Canadian jurisdictions need to do more to reduce barriers for people with disabilities.

“I think we’re being a little bit too polite, and I think we’re also being a bit too naive in assuming that we’re already doing enough, which quite frankly we’re not,” Preston said.

Marketplace heard from dozens of people with service dogs who say they have had issues with Uber, Lyft and local taxi companies denying rides.

It’s against the law in Ontario to deny service to someone with a service dog, and there are few circumstances where a driver is allowed to deny a rider, such as a religious exemption or a severe allergy.

Weger understands that not all drivers are comfortable with dogs, and takes steps to soothe concerns from drivers she encounters.

“I always want them to know this is a service dog, so that they know this dog is trained and this dog is safe,” she said.

During the Marketplace test, three Beck cabs were hailed with the dog in plain sight and three Co-op Cabs were called with no warning about Quinn. Out of six attempts, one driver from Beck and one driver from Co-op denied Weger a ride. The driver for Co-op said they had allergies.

Preston says if a driver has an allergy to dogs, a new driver should be sent.

Two other Beck drivers and two other Co-op drivers drove Weger and Quinn without incident. Spokespeople for both companies said they’re “disappointed” by the test results, and have zero tolerance for refusals. Beck added it is “sincerely sorry.”

Transit Accessibility

Peter Quaiattini is an avid adventurer who loves skiing and has even dabbled in ice climbing. The Calgary resident is used to navigating the world with progressive vision loss, but in the last few years, Quaiattini has lost all functional vision.

Inside his home, he ensures his appliances have tactile knobs, his thermometers have audible measurements and his recipes are read aloud through his phone.

Outside his home, he has less control.

“The sidewalks are not predictable, finding bus stops … is tricky, getting on the LRT is anxiety-provoking, losing my way and finding my way again takes a lot of mental effort,” said Quaiattini, who uses a white cane.

Quaiattini volunteers with the City of Calgary on a committee focused on “universal design for people with disabilities,” but when he teamed up with Marketplace to document how he navigates public transit in Calgary, he made it clear it was solely to illustrate his own experience.

One of the issues Quaiattini flagged is that buses lack audible external route announcements. While some major Canadian cities use them, buses in Calgary have no external audible indication of which bus is arriving or where it’s going. Quaiattini says he has to rely on the sound of the brakes to know when the bus is arriving.

Calgary buses have internal stop announcements, but Quaiattini’s journey revealed they’re not always made available. On one bus, Marketplace captured Quaiattini asking the bus driver to turn on the announcements — but the driver couldn’t get them to work.

Preston says it’s “not uncommon” for accessibility features to be turned off.

“It’s presuming that the disabled person is the one with the obligation to request access, as opposed to the service being obligated to provide access whether or not a request has been made,” he said.

For Quaiattini, the most stressful part of public transit is the train. Only two of the 45 CTrain stations in Calgary have tactile strips he can follow with his cane at a safe distance from the edge of the platform. (The city is piloting them until 2024, when it will determine whether the strips aided in accessibility.)

Without those strips, Quaiattini says he has to use his cane to determine the edge of the train platform. “It’s really my only option.”

Another concern for Quaiattini is a lack of safe, designated boarding areas for passengers with disabilities. As well, he says you have to press a “Timbit” sized button to open the doors. So Quaiattini has only a short amount of time once a train arrives to run his hand along the train to find the button to open the doors.

“On occasion, I’ve had my hand or white cane caught behind the doors as they slide open — that’s no fun,” he said.

Another danger for Quaiattini is what’s known as a floating bus stop, which is between a bike lane and car traffic. To reach it, Quaiattini must cross the bike lane.

The stops are designed with cyclist safety in mind, but in 2020, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that some stops in Victoria discriminated against people who are blind and may not hear cyclists approaching.

Quaiattini says Calgary is making some good efforts to improve the accessibility of its transit system, but “there’s a long way to go.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek agrees.

“I will be going to my colleagues on council,” she told Marketplace. “I will make sure that Peter’s voice is heard and amplified and I will make sure that we are making the decisions we need to in the interest of Calgarians who are facing accessibility issues.”

Preston said that in Canada, accessibility is legislated at federal, provincial and municipal levels, creating a patchwork of laws across the country and a lack of consistent standards.

Canadians “presume that disabled people are being taken care of in this country, because that’s a fundamental value of this country. The reality, unfortunately, is it couldn’t be further from that.”

He said that setting government goals for accessibility recognizes the need for change, but laws “need to be a lot more proactive than simply ‘let’s make a plan and see how you did over the next three years.’ “

“I’ve had experiences in Europe in very old cities that are far more accessible than things that I’ve experienced here in Canada,” Preston said.

He pointed out that adding accessibility features makes things easier for everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, automatic doors are helpful for people with their hands full or pushing large strollers, and audible announcements are helpful for anyone not familiar with the service.

He is calling on governments to issue harsher fines to transit providers that are not accessible, and develop better accessibility standards that “actually open up a world for people with disabilities.”

“Disabled people in Canada have decided that we’re sick and tired of being left out in the cold,” he said. “We’re ready to be full Canadians, but we need your help.”

By Jenny Cowley, CBC News

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