From the President’s Desk
On behalf of The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) it gives me great honour to be a part of Vision Health Month. I had the pleasure of participating in CCB events focused towards vision health, including an outstanding Vision Health Month Conference and Dinner in Ottawa, where we showcased our efforts along with our partners and sponsors to provide a platform of gratitude for their continued support and collaboration. This was highlighted by the Hon. Judy Sgro, M.P., who continues to move us closer to a National Eye Care Strategy (Bill C 284).
We owe so much to the Minister for taking the lead on behalf
of all of the Vision Organizations across Canada, and we are so thankful as the Minister continues to bring this closer to fruition.
Organizationally, we have also been a key support of Bill C-22, (Canada Disability Act), as the Bill moves closer to third reading. The Council has been very actively writing and supporting this key legislation, on behalf of the entire Disability Community. Read on for more information on Bill C-22 in an article featured in this edition of the newsletter. Following the outstanding events in Ottawa, I would be remiss if I did not highlight the wonderful planning and organizing team in Miramichi, New Brunswick, who hosted the Atlantic Sports and Recreation Weekend (ASRW), an annual event of sports, recreation, and mentoring for all of our Atlantic Canada participants. A shout out to the organizers, and participants for their competition and sportsmanship for this wonderful annual event. Next year the event will be held in Summerside, Prince Edward Island.
On May 27th, the Toronto Visionaries Team showcased their outstanding abilities in continuing to move forward on reforming the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) in Ontario. I would like to thank all the speakers and organizers for their ongoing efforts in championing this important program. The group continues to meet regularly to ensure the ADP program is updated to serve the needs of those who take advantage of it.
Finally, I would like to close by thanking the many who helped promote and organize the wonderful events which transpired during Vision Health Month.
Vision Health Month has also brought to light a disturbing reflection I heard on numerous occasions, that so few persons across Canada are taking advantage of regular eye examinations. It is so critical that we remain proactive in getting our eyes checked regularly, no matter what age, as the facts are alarming and we need to focus on regular eye examinations which are critical to eye health.
Thank you to everyone involved in making Vision Health Month such a tremendous success! We are so gifted with such a wonderful group of organizers and staff who are critical to the success of the Council.
Canadian Council of the Blind’s White Cane Magazine
CCB launched our newest edition of White Cane Magazine.
Read the newest issue of White Canada Magazine
Check out this issue to learn more about National Vision Health Month as well as:
- Meet the CCB’s Person of the Year and the President’s Award recipients
- Learn about Bill C-284, a bill that will create a national eye health strategy for Canada
- Learn about publicly funded health care from a senior provincial health minister
- Read about “Nothing without us” – the true meaning of inclusion
- Learn about the integrated Vision Loss Rehabilitation Clinic in Halifax
- Learn about the creation of the first Indigenous braille code
- Learn about the CNIB’s new strategic plan
- Learn how to create a podcast from blind outdoorsman Lawrence Gunther
Who says people with sight loss cannot fly an airplane?
Well that is not so! We may not be able to take off or land but we can certainly maneuver the plane in the sky!
On Saturday, May 27, I had the wonderful opportunity to do just that thanks to Dream Wings. This is a charity that generally takes children with disabilities for a short airplane ride along with parents or guardians and when airborne they have the opportunity to fly the plane sitting in the co-pilots seat. It is a dream of many to be able to actually fly a plane. Recently, this very kind pilot has now included persons with sight loss. I was the lucky one here along with my sister as photographer, in Sydney to do so on May 27th, 2023.
This is not his first time to include adults with sight loss. A number of people and their guide dogs were able to take to the air in Halifax. This gentleman is an amazing person who gives of his time and ability to make dreams come true for persons with disabilities to actually live a dream.
Thank you, Dimitri, for your generosity and kindness.
Submitted by Louise Gillis
TOP TIPS FROM THE WOMEN OF CCB:
This month’s article is about the top ten fun activities you can do in your community with your CCB Chapter, friends and family.
- Join the women of CCB and meet some new friends and enjoy each other’s company online. Email Leslie at [email protected]. We will be starting up again in September.
- Join the men of CCB. The men’s group has a lively and interesting group of gentlemen who are not afraid of having good conversations. Email Shane at [email protected] the men’s group will also be starting up again in September.
- Join a book club either in person or online. CCB National has an online book club everyone is welcome to join and they will help you set one up in your own chapter or community. Email Shelley Ann at [email protected]
- Join Get Together with Technology (GTT). Discover new technologies; learn new applications and processes for ipads, cell phones and laptops for either android or Mac software. Email [email protected] to get directed to the right person in your area.
- Join a walking group in your community or walk with a friend. By using your guide dog, mobility cane, a sighted guide or a tether you can stay safely with the group.
- Ask your local zoo for a touch tour. Many zoos, aquariums or museums often offer touch tours for people with vision loss and/or other disabilities.
- Call your local live theater and ask for touch tours of props and sets. Many live theaters now offer descriptive audio as well as cinemas.
- Join an inclusive cooking group. It is fun to learn new recipes or techniques and food from other countries.
- Check with your local library and community center for their list of accessible or adaptable events and programs.
- Check with your local library and community center for their list of accessible or adaptable events and programs.
- Enlist a sighted friend to take you to a new area of town, a new street or shopping area. Have them describe everything to you. The buildings, walkways, what the businesses are and their names. This will help to understand a new area and what type of businesses are there. Take your time, have fun and maybe enjoy some time at a sidewalk café.
Enjoy your summer, from the women of CCB!
Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) -Announcement
We are very pleased to announce that Leo Bissonnette will be the CCB rep to BLC, and he is looking forward to the work ahead.
“I look forward to joining the Braille Literacy Canada Board because I believe that Braille literacy is essential for people in our community,” said Leo.” Literacy is powerful and the various BLC projects and initiatives promote Literacy. Bringing support and perspective from CCB will further the important work of BLC.”
CCB would like to thank Kim Kilpatrick for her hard work and dedication as the past CCB representative on the BLC board since 2016. Kim remains as Vice-President on the BLC board.
Vision Health Month Conference: New Treatments for – a Vision of the Future
The Canadian Council of the Blind Vision Health Month Conference took place on May 16. The past few years have seen the advent of new drugs, devices and treatments that have significantly improved the outlook of people with eye diseases that would have previously led to vision loss. This CCB conference explored new treatments for eye diseases that are already in use, as well as those expected to reach the marketplace in the next few years. We were privileged to have three of Canada’s foremost ophthalmologists enlightening us on the following topics:
- New treatments for retinal diseases – wet AMD and geographic atrophy Biosimilar drugs in the treatment of retinal diseases.
- New gene therapies for the treatment of eye disease.
- Luxturna – the first gene-based therapy for the treatment of eye disease.
- New methods for the surgical treatment of glaucoma.
We were also privileged to have the Honourable Judy Sgro PC MP with us to update us all on the status of Bill C-284 – An Act to establish a national strategy for eye care. Bill C-284 is expected to have undergone its second reading in the House of Commons.
The Conference featured expert discussion on some of the issues faced in the development of a new treatment for eye diseases and in gaining approval for marketing and reimbursement of these treatments.
EXPO Forum 2023 – Reforming Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program
The Canadian Council of the Blind Vision Month Forum took place live and virtually on Saturday, May 27 at the Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal JCC, in Toronto.
For over 30 years, Ontarians with vision loss (VL) have benefited from the Assistive Devices Program (ADP), an invaluable resource that partially funds some of the costs associated with essential assistive devices. The technology revolution has impacted the lives of people living with VL to such a dramatic degree that there are now very few activities that a person who is blind or partially sighted cannot participate in when equipped with the appropriate technology. For this reason, it is essential that the ADP keep pace with changing technology and provide rapid reimbursement for assistive devices.
In response to reports from users of the ADP that there are long wait times to receive reimbursement for visual aid devices and that these often resulted in lost employment opportunities, the CCB, in collaboration with a group of stakeholder organizations (“the Vision Loss ADP Reform Working Group”) that represent more than 466,000 Ontarians living with VL, undertook a survey of people living with VL in November 2021 to better understand their experiences with the ADP.
The results of the survey were issued in a report containing a list of recommendations for the reform of the ADP. These recommendations were presented to the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ontario ADP program. In response to this report a new working group was established that included the original stakeholders of the Vision Loss ADP Reform Working Group as well as members of the ADP. This combined working group has been meeting regularly since June 2022 with the goal of improving the ADP by utilizing these recommendations.
This forum updated the audience as to what progress the combined ADP-stakeholder working group has made since its inception by presentations from members of both the ADP and the Vision Loss ADP working group.
SPEAKERS: David Schachow, Director, Delivery and Eligibility Review Branch at the Ontario Ministry of Health, responsible for delivery of the ADP; Dr. Jutta Treviranus, Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and Professor in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University in Toronto; Luna Bengio, Senior Accessibility Expert and Strategic Advisor, Government of Canada; Dr. Keith Gordon, Senior Research Officer, Canadian Council of the Blind and Principal Investigator of the 2021 ADP Survey; Ian White, President of the Toronto Visionaries Chapter of the CCB
Expo Forum video:
Major Interim Victory – Senate Passes Bill C-22 (Canada Disability Benefit Act)
With Amendments the Senate’s Standing Committee Added.
We have important and good news, another interim victory in the non-partisan campaign regarding Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act. On May 18, 2023, the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-22, with all amendments to it that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs (SOCI Committee) added. Now this bill goes back to the House of Commons for a vote on whether to ratify the Senate’s amendments.
The task that lies ahead is to press the House of Commons to hold an immediate vote, and to ratify the Senate’s amendments.
The Senate of Canada has now voted to amend Bill C-22:
- To prevent insurance companies from clawing back the Canada Disability Benefit from a person with disabilities who receives long-term disability benefits under an insurance policy or employee plan.
- To guarantee that there will be a right of appeal for applicants for the Canada Disability Benefit.
- To require Cabinet to take into account the poverty line, the additional costs of living with a disability, the intersectional disadvantages facing disadvantaged groups, and Canada’s international human rights obligations when deciding how much the Canada Disability Benefit payment will be to impoverished people with disabilities. Before this amendment, the bill required Cabinet to consider only the poverty line.
- To impose a 1-year deadline for regulations to be enacted that are necessary to start paying out the Canada Disability Benefit to impoverished people with disabilities. Some mistakenly thought that the House of Commons Standing Committee (HUMA) had imposed a deadline for Cabinet to make those regulations, but it had not done so.
- To fix a mess that the House of Commons Standing Committee had made, and which the AODA Alliance had rapidly identified, to the date when this bill comes into force. By the Senate’s amendment, the Federal Cabinet can proclaim it in force on a date that it chooses, but if it does not do so within one year after the bill gets Royal Assent, the bill comes into force automatically at that one-year anniversary.
The Senate also approved the SOCI Committee’s amendment that adds the following to the bill’s preamble:
“Whereas persons with disabilities may face additional barriers because of their gender, racialized or indigenous status or other intersecting statuses;”.
A bill’s preamble does not give any enforceable legal rights or impose any legal duties. It is more like a public statement of Parliament’s feelings, wishes or policy views.
We and a diverse spectrum of disability advocates fought hard to win those amendments. The Federal Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had wanted the Senate to pass Bill C-22 without any amendments at all.
However, on May 17, 2023, during the first day of the Senate’s Third Reading debates, the Trudeau Government’s official spokesperson on this bill, Senator Brent Cotter, urged all senators to pass the bill with the amendments that the SOCI Committee made. He stated:
“In the interest of commitment to the goals of the bill as well as in the interest of timeliness, I’d encourage you to adopt the bill in its present, amended form.”
We express our deep appreciation for the Senate’s passing Bill C-22 with the amendments that the SOCI Committee added to it. We also thank members of the SOCI Committee who proposed amendments and who spoke in support of amendments to strengthen this bill.
We also want to alert you to the work ahead. With this vote in the Senate, Bill C-22 does not yet become a law. It must now go back to the House of Commons for a vote on the Senate’s amendments to the bill. If the House of Commons ratifies those amendments, then Bill C-22 becomes a law that was passed by Canada’s Parliament. If the House of Commons rejects any of the Senate’s amendments, the bill must then go back to the Senate once again. The Senate would have to vote to pass the bill without those amendments, for which so many fought so hard. That would delay this bill for months and leave impoverished people with disabilities out in the cold in the meantime.
We all have a simple, clear and important task in front of us. We need to get the House of Commons to ratify the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-22 as quickly as possible. A majority of MPs at the debate in the House of Commons need to vote yes to these amendments.
We hope that all MPs in the House of Commons will support the Senate’s amendments. However, even if the Trudeau Government does not vote for them, the other parties in the House of Commons can team up to ratify these amendments – that is because the Trudeau Government only has a minority government. It does not have a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.
We call on all parties and all MPs in the House of Commons to agree to an immediate vote on the Senate’s amendments, with no delay. We call for all parties and all MPs to vote for those amendments. If necessary, we ask the Trudeau Government to allow for a free vote on the Senate’s amendments, so that MPs can vote for them even if their own party does not agree to support them. The faster the House of Commons ratifies these amendments; the sooner Canada can start paying a Canada Disability Benefit.
Stay tuned for more action on this front in the coming months, and action tips on how you can help. In the meantime, a big thank you to all who supported this team effort.
Statement on passenger accessibility from the National Airlines Council of Canada
For your information, please find below a statement on passenger accessibility from the National Airlines Council of Canada.
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest air carriers (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet), issued the following statement regarding its commitment to passenger accessibility:
“The members of the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) jointly commit to taking steps to improve accessibility and services for passengers with disabilities. We recognize the importance of facilitating the same safe, seamless journey for all our passengers, and ensuring that air transportation be accessible to all passengers.
NACC’s member airlines recognize the fundamental right of all passengers to be treated with dignity and respect and are committed to identifying, preventing and removing barriers to ensure safe, accessible air travel for persons with disabilities.
To achieve our accessibility objectives, we commit to:
Consulting persons with disabilities, including disability organizations and their leaders, on how air travel services and infrastructure can be improved to ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience for passengers with disabilities;
Improving passenger transfers and the handling of personal mobility aids; enhancing our accessibility services training for frontline workers and educating our employees about passengers with disabilities; supporting the continued study and development of safe and feasible accessibility features that broaden air travel opportunities for passengers with disabilities; and working with federal departments and agencies such as Transport Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, the Office of the Auditor General, the Canadian Transportation Agency, Accessibility Standards Canada, airport authorities and others to ensure that the needs of passengers with disabilities are addressed throughout the air travel experience.
Our members have long been engaged in a variety of initiatives to increase air travel accessibility. This commitment marks a step forward in strengthening our dedication to equity in safe, accessible air travel for all passengers.
The Canadian Council of the Blind and Specsavers announce Sponsorship to champion Vision Health
Toronto, June 6, 2023 /CNM/ – Specsavers, an optometrist-owned and led business is proud to announce that it has become a Participating Gold Sponsor of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), whose mission is to improve the quality of life of people who are blind, deaf-blind or living with low vision through efforts that support individuals and communities.
“We at Specsavers are delighted to partner with the Canadian Council of the Blind, an organization that shares our values, to support their important work, and encourage Canadians to take care of their eye health,” said Bill Moir, Managing Director of Specsavers Canada. “The Canadian Council of the Blind has an impressive history of advocating for and supporting Canadians with vision loss. We are excited about what we can accomplish when our two organizations work together.
View the full press release at SPECSAVERS AND THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND ANNOUNCE SPONSORSHIP TO CHAMPION VISION HEALTH (newswire.ca)
Blind swimmer to tackle busy Georgia Strait for guide dog fundraiser: Scott Rees will wear a headset that allows him to receive instructions from a support boat.
A blind North Vancouver man will swim across the Georgia Strait to raise money for Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind:
On July 22, Scott Rees will enter the water at Davis Bay between Sechelt and Roberts Creek and emerge 30 kilometres later at Piper’s Lagoon north of Nanaimo.
The distance is similar to the English Channel crossing and California’s Santa Catalina Island swim.
Rees, 39, has a genetic eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa that has caused a gradual loss of sight over the past 15 years.
“Although I can still see some light I have lost all functional sight, which has necessitated a significant transition in my mindset, career, and personal pursuits,” said Rees, who is an engineer.
Rees is already an accomplished athlete, having won the 2015 and 2016 Bay Challenge — a 9.6 km open-water swim between English Bay and North Vancouver. He came second in the event in 2017.
He received his first guide dog Caleb in July 2021.
“Kaleb quickly became a support for me and has greatly improved my independent mobility, which is something I had lost previously. He is also an integral part of my family, bringing joy to me, my wife, Alexandra, our two young children, and everyone he meets,” Rees said.
“While vision loss has closed the doors on some of my hobbies, I’ve been lucky to have swimming as an activity that I can continue to enjoy. In my childhood I competed regularly in short distance swim racing, and more recently I have tackled longer open water endurance swims.”
Rees wears a waterproof headset that allows him to receive directions from a support boat.
By David Carrigg
What is it Like to Travel Blind?
A Toronto based Show Designed to Delight Blind and Sighted Audiences Alike
Crow’s Theatre in Toronto is thrilled to present, in collaboration with Fire and RescueTeam, PERCEPTUAL ARCHAEOLOGY (OR HOW TO TRAVEL BLIND), starring and written by the incredible Alex Bulmer, a blind artist whose experience of gradually losing her sight has shaped this sensational work.
Crafted by a team of blind and sighted artists, this play is a deeply personal yet relatable story as well as an important step towards making accessible theatre mainstream.
Alex’s journey with blindness served as a powerful catalyst for this play. Her world, perceived through sound, scent, and touch, has shaped this unique performance, making her a “sensory mathematician,” a “perceptual archaeologist.” She invites you to share in her journey of discovery, to experience a playful and transformative journey across diverse geographies and unexpected emotional terrain.
As part of our dedication to accessibility, we have incorporated several initiatives around this play:
• 👂 Integrated Audio Description: This play evolved from radio essays for the BBC with descriptive audio integrated into the story, meaning every performance is 100% accessible to blind audiences without the need for described audio devices.
• 😌 Relaxed Performances: These are specially designed to welcome those who will benefit from a more relaxed performance environment. Dates are Friday, June 2 at 8:00pm (preview performance), Sunday, June 11 at 2:00pm (masked performance and Pay-What-You-Can admittance), and Wednesday, June 21 at 8:00pm.
• 🧏 ASL Interpreted Performances: For our Deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted performances will be provided by Phoenix the Fire on Tuesday, June 13 at 8:00pm (masked performance), and Thursday, June 22 at 8:00pm.
• Touch Tour: A 15-minute pre-performance tactile tour allowing our blind and low-vision patrons to familiarize themselves with the set, costumes, and props. Join us on Tuesday, June 6 at 7:15pm, (masked performance), Wednesday, June 14 at 7:15pm, and Thursday, June 22 at 7:15pm for the touch tours. Performances will begin at 8:00pm each night.
• 🎟 Disabled/Low Income Tickets: We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy theatre. If you identify as Disabled or low income, we offer a special $15 ticket price for this show. Simply select this option when purchasing your ticket online, or request it when buying via email or telephone.
For more information, please contact Crow’s Theatre:
Phone: (647) 341-7390
Email: [email protected]
We can’t wait to welcome you to this innovative, inclusive, and moving production!
Announcement from FBC:
Fighting Blindness Canada’s Cycle for Sight is marking a 15-year milestone, with over 5,000 riders across the country, and over $6 million raised for vital vision research. Today, Cycle for Sight: Together Let’s Move is more than a cycling event, it’s a movement! Thousands of dollars will be raised across Canada to support Fighting Blindness Canada from individuals, their family, and their friends simply by moving and getting active. You don’t have to cycle to be a part of this opportunity to raise awareness, funds and HOPE for the approximately 8 million Canadians living with an eye disease that could lead to vision loss.
This summer, Cycle for Sight: Together Let’s Move will take part across the nation, offering flexibility and inclusivity to participate in any way you choose.
We invite you to join us at one of the in-person cycle rides or walks – or gather your friends and family for a day of hiking, walking, yoga or swimming on your own schedule. You don’t have to cycle! You just need to share your commitment to the cause and know you have helped to impact the hope for cures and treatments for vision loss.
Did you know? 3 out of 4 cases of vision loss can be prevented if caught early or treated.
Fighting Blindness Canada is also working hard to advocate for health policies and access to treatments that prevent blindness.
Milestone discoveries in vision research are being made thanks to the support of your commitment to Fighting Blindness Canada, but there is still work to do. Moving vision research forward is our mission. Moving together, we will accomplish it.
Remember, you don’t have to cycle to be a part of the Together Let’s Move excitement. You just need to move! Register today at cycleforsight.ca and be a part of the movement supporting treatments and cures for vision loss.
Please join us in this opportunity to raise funds, raise awareness, and raise HOPE for those living with an eye disease that could lead to vision loss.
Create a team with family members and friends and share in a fun, unique and memorable experience and make this your own milestone moment!
Cycle for Sight: Together Let’s Move, so much more than a bike ride.
How to Participate:
- Gibson Centre, Alliston, ON – June 3
- West Langley Hall, Langley, BC – June 3
- Britannia Park, Ottawa, ON – July 9 (Walk and Cycle)
- Paradise Park, Paradise, Newfoundland – July 9 (Walk and Cycle)
- Alberta – Summer 2023 (1st ever Walk for Sight event)
- Anytime until July 15th, 2023.