From the President’s Desk
It is so gratifying to return to regular activities, both at the Chapter level as well as the National level, which allows our Committee work to resume. There is so much activity going on at the committee level with National advocacy, which truly has never taken a summer vacation! We also return to conferences in person as well as virtual, and the return of education and awareness, as many of our Chapters, and partner organizations have returned to in-person activity.
Being privy to all committees, our National membership committee continues to keep its finger on the pulse of activity across Canada. It is so gratifying to hear chapter activity, sports and recreation (including curling and bowling), events, day trips, fundraising initiatives, lunches and dinners amongst our groups signify the importance of reconnecting with our peers. Many are also planning for Christmas and holiday activities.
Furthermore, many chapters across Canada have recently had elections, supporting the fact that new leadership within the groups at all levels allows for many new ideas to come forward, and to that end as the Council prepares to celebrate its 80th anniversary, we owe our longevity to those who were leaders in their own towns, cities, provinces, and also those who continue to serve and develop new leaders to allow the Council an opportunity to continue being the “Voice of the Blind” for an additional 80 years.
Thank you so much to those who were past leaders in their own; so integral to the longevity of the organization, and those who have stepped up to the plate to offer new ideas and to support the evolution of ongoing changes as we move forward in this ever-changing landscape we are proud to call home.
October ushers in Thanksgiving, an important opportunity to spend time with family and friends, and to give thanks for what we have; as well as World Sight Day, an event hosted by the Council to update the council members and partners on the status of eye health in Canada. We urge everyone to attend this virtual event, as we inform and educate everyone on current developments in eye care and eye health initiatives in Canada and around the world. It will feature expert keynote speakers, as well as a presentation on Bill C 284, presented by the Honourable Judy Sgro, M.P., and sponsor of the bill to create a National Eye Care Strategy in Canada.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, sponsors, and our many volunteers, we wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving and we look forward to everyone joining our World Sight Day event!
The State of Vision Health in Canada – A Canadian Council of the Blind Conference
The Canadian Council of the Blind Conference will take place virtually on Tuesday, October 17 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm (EST) Eastern Standard Time.
In October 2022, the Canadian Council of the Blind (CBC) and Fighting Blindness Canada published a report on the state of vision health in Canada in 2021, evaluating primarily the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had had on vision health. The report card found that vision care in Canada had not returned to pre-pandemic levels due to significant staff shortages, surgical backlogs, and people not keeping their doctor appointments or having their regular eye examinations. In addition, funding for vision research had not changed from pre-pandemic levels and was still woefully inadequate.
This conference proposes to update the audience as to the current state of vision health in Canada and what we can expect to see as we enter the post-pandemic era.
We are privileged to have representatives from the major stakeholders in vision presenting their view of the future. Topics to be covered include An overview of the CCB report card on the state of vision health in Canada. Challenges and concerns related to eye health, from birth to end-of-life. Participants will be walked through the “lifecycle of the eyes,” highlighting what to look out for, what treatment modalities are available, and how treatments are delivered as well as innovations that are in the pipeline which may allow more people to maintain their sight. The pivotal role of comprehensive eye examinations in Canada’s vision health landscape. A report on a joint collaborative survey conducted by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and the Canadian Association of Optometrists on access to vision health. The current state of vision research in Canada and the fundamental role played by research in advancing discoveries, delivering new treatments, and improving access to vision health care for Canadians with vision loss. How an integrated model of service delivery for vision rehabilitation achieves client-centered care that empowers Canadians impacted by vision loss to live the life they choose. We are also privileged to have the Honourable Judy Sgro, PC, MP, with us to present an update on the progress of Bill C-284 – An Act to establish a national strategy for eye care, which was first tabled in the House of Commons in June 2022.
SPEAKERS: The Honourable Judy Sgro, PC, MP, Humber River–Black Creek, Ontario; Dr. Keith Gordon, Senior Research Officer, Canadian Council of the Blind; Dr. Phil Hooper, President, Canadian Ophthalmological Society; Dr. Martin Spiro, President, Canadian Association of Optometrists; Jennifer Jones, President and CEO, Fighting Blindness Canada; Dr. Larissa Moniz, Director of Research and Mission Programs, Fighting Blindness Canada; Jennifer Urosevic, President and CEO, Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada
Register here to attend virtually
CCB Men’s Group:
The CCB National Men’s Group is a monthly meeting that is held every 4th Tuesday of the month via Zoom. We discuss topics that affect men who are blind and visually impaired. Each month features a different topic and all are encouraged to speak openly about their experiences, give encouragement to other men, and to make new connections.
In October, we will be having our monthly meeting on Tuesday, the 24th.
We will mail out the Zoom link to those on our mailing lists. If you wish to join us and are not already on the Men’s mailing list, please email Shane at [email protected].
We also welcome your suggestions for future topics.
CCB’s Get Together with Technology (GTT):
We are excited to share some upcoming CCB-GTT Meetings! You are invited to the Zoom meetings where we focus in on the technology needs and concerns of Canadians who are blind or have low vision. The calls will take place over the accessible Zoom Conference system, which will allow participants to dial in using their landline phones, smartphones, or computers.
GTT meetings cover a variety of topics and are a great way to learn about assistive technology. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a tech pro, there’s something for everyone!
You will find the Zoom link and phone numbers below the meeting listings. Please pay special attention to the “(NOTE)” notation after some of the meeting listings.
Here’s just a sample of some of the meetings coming up in October. For more information on GTT, please contact one of the coordinators listed at the end of this article.
CCB-GTT MONDAY OPEN CHAT
Monday October 16th, 23rd and 30th: 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific: Join us each Monday as we discuss and share the tech topics of greatest interest and concern within our community. Come and ask your questions, network with others, and share your knowledge and tips.
CCB-GTT MAC USER’S GROUP
Tuesday October 10th, 17th and 31st, 2023: 2:00 PM Eastern/11:00 AM Pacific: Topics include Zoom meetings, using a calendar, and Outlook on the Mac.
(NOTE): Registration is required. Please e-mail
CCB-GTT NORTHERN ONTARIO AND RURAL CALL
Tuesday, October 17, 2023: 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific: The topic is “An Introductory session on IOS 17”. Elmer Thiesen will be answering questions about any issues people might have. As always, others in our group who can help with useful information are happy to do so. Everyone from across Canada is welcome to attend.
CCB-GTT BACK TO BASICS CALL
Wednesday, October 11, 2023: 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific: As usual, in this call, any and all questions are welcome! If there is something you’ve always wanted to know but thought it was too basic to ask, bring your questions and curiosity to the group. Also, this month, we are wondering what tips you wish you had known when you started with your access technology?
Is there something basic you learned later that might have helped you on your journey?
CCB-GTT ANDROID USERS GROUP
Wednesday, October 18, 2023: 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 PM Pacific: Topic: Android Questions and Answers. Tracy and Matthew have put this group together to share their experiences navigating Android devices. We welcome input from users of all experience levels so we can learn together. Please make sure your device in which you will be signing into the Zoom meeting has your proper name, so the host will recognize you and let you into the meeting.
(NOTE): Registration is required, a different Zoom room is used. Details are given to those who register. Email:
CCB-GTT LOW TECH TIPS AND TRICKS CALL
Wednesday, October 25, 2023: 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific: Come join us as we once again share our low-tech tips and tricks. We’ve discussed locator dots, Braille labels, marking things using elastics, and much more. Come and ask your low-tech questions and share your tips with us.
CCB-GTT BRAILLE DISPLAY USERS GROUP
Thursday, October 12th and 26th: 2:00 PM Eastern/11:00 AM Pacific: Topic: A variety of presentations and time for general Q and A. If you are using an electronic Braille display, come join us to ask questions, share tips and tricks, and get the most use out of your device.
(NOTE): Registration required. Please e-mail: [email protected]
CCB-GTT FRIDAY OPEN TECH CHAT
Friday, October 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th, 2023: 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific: Join us each Friday as we discuss and share the tech topics of greatest interest and concern within our community. Come and ask your questions, network with others, and share your knowledge and tips.
How to Join Meetings:
You can participate by phone or Internet from wherever you are: All calls listed above, with the exception of the CCB
GTT Android Group can be accessed via the following link: https://zoom.us/j/9839595688?pwd=N01yeERXQk4rWnhvNCtHTzZwdXcwQT09
Meeting ID: 983 959 5688
For more information on all things GTT related, please contact Us:
David Greene, CCB GTT Accessibility Trainer
[email protected] or 1-877-304-0968 Ext 509
[email protected] or 1-877-304-0968
Corry Stuive, CCB National Program Coordinator
[email protected] or 1-877-304-0968 Ext 550
October Medication Safety Awareness Month:
ScripTalk talking about prescription labels helps a variety of people who cannot get their prescription information in traditional ways. Talking prescriptions help people with vision impairment, they help people who are print impaired or have other neurological limitations.
The challenge, as we focus our efforts on bringing ScripTalk into more Canadian pharmacies, is to get our CCB members to speak with their pharmacy manager and let them know that these labels will allow people with disabilities to be able to stay safe and independent while taking their own medications.
October Will Be Medication Label Safety Awareness Month
We hope you will join us in promoting safe prescription labeling practices.
Prescription labels in Audible, Braille, Large Print, and Translated formats help those who cannot read small print or English safely access their prescription label information.
Every year we hear patients and pharmacists say, “Why didn’t I know about this sooner?”
Please help us spread the word!
Visit our Medication Label Safety Awareness page for more ideas, social media content, and videos.
You can also request brochures and samples by contacting Loretta Roberts at [email protected]
In the News
Nova Scotia Punching Above its Weight in Goalball:
Nova Scotia recently won Silver at the Canadian Senior Women’s Goalball Championship in May 2023.
Harry Nickerson has been in gymnastics since he was a toddler, but after trying goalball at age nine, it quickly became his favourite athletic activity.
Now 14, the Halifax teenager has become so proficient at the sport, designed for those with visual impairments, that he routinely plays with adults and on teams representing Nova Scotia at national events.
In 2022, he played on the Nova Scotia team that took a bronze medal at the Nova Scotia Goalball Tournament held in Halifax.
The winger said while he likes the team aspect of the sport, he particularly loves putting numbers on the board.
“I love scoring goals,” he said.
Nickerson’s sight is affected by retinitis pigmentosa, and he describes his vision as like looking through a mail slot.
Peter Parsons, chair of Blind Sports Nova Scotia, is equally enthusiastic about goalball, also having discovered it after being involved in other activities.
Unlike Harry, though, he jumped in at 28 and is now in his 40s.
“I played a lot of sports growing up even with my visual impairment,” Parsons said.
“But the thing I love about goalball is it’s on an equal playing field. I wouldn’t be any better if I had good vision, which for all the other sports I’ve played … I would have been so much better if I could see normally, or at least have more than 10 per cent of my vision.”
Goalball, played on a volleyball court with nets spanning the width of the court at either end, has three players aside trying to toss a ball about the size of a basketball into the opposing net.
Players, who have varying degrees of visual impairment, all wear eye covers to make it equal.
A bell inside the ball helps them track its location and the court’s edges are marked with tape and string.
“It’s a good feeling to know I could take it as far as I could take it … with my vision not being a factor,” said Parsons, who has Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration that affects the detail in his central vision.
Women’s team player Jennie Bovard was also an adult when she first tried the sport, having initially rebuffed it as a teenager.
Now 37, she’s been asked to vie for a spot on the national team, thanks to a silver medal performance by Nova Scotia at last May’s nationals in Ottawa -the highest finish ever for a provincial women’s team.
“That was a proud moment for me,” she said of the invitation to try out.
Bovard, who said she was into “outdoorsy stuff” before getting involved in goalball, has about five to 10 per cent vision due to albinism.
Both Parsons and Bovard say the challenge is to grow interest in the sport, which due to its nature will always have a small pool of players to draw from.
Blind Sports Nova Scotia has no paid staff, and Parsons said it’s hard to find volunteers to help grow the sport, which is currently only played in Halifax at the George Dixon Centre.
“It’s hard to sustain any programs outside of Halifax,” Parsons said. “That being said, our numbers in Nova Scotia are the highest per capita (in the country).”
About six competitive men’s players, including three juniors under 21, are playing for Nova Scotia right now and 10 or 12 are playing goalball recreationally.
Bovard said the women’s program is in a transitional period as players move on to other things.
Despite the challenges, Parsons said the province punches well above its weight in the sport, especially with the junior men, who, along with the junior women, were national champions in 2019.
“We have the best young men’s players in the country,” he said. “Our guys are pretty big favourites to win.”
By Pat Lee
Lobbying to bring back braille menus:
Terry Hoddinott lost his vision to cancer when he was just three years old. He now runs a London, Ont.-based business that seeks to improve life for others with visual impairments.
He admits there are always hurdles to overcome, like the one he experienced during a recent visit to a Boston Pizza in Toronto when he asked for a braille menu.
“They said, ‘Well, we have QR codes’,” recounted Hoddinott. “I told them that doesn’t work, it’s not accessible and they said, ‘We can stand here and read it to you’ and I was flabbergasted.”
Hoddinott said that option draws unwanted attention to people with visual impairments and makes the dining experience less pleasurable, “Independence is out the window when I have to stand there while you’re reading the items to me. I have to ask the prices, flip back and forth.”
He said it can be particularly awkward during a business lunch or in certain social situations, like a first date.
Hoddinott is supporting a change.org campaign designed to have all restaurants offer alternative menus with large print and braille in them. He says the large print is also helpful for seniors or those who don’t do well in low-light situations.
Hoddinott said restaurants would only need two or three accessible menus on hand, “You keep them behind the desk. When you have somebody come in asking for them, you provide them at the table. Simple as that.”
Hoddinot said Boston Pizza had braille menus up until about four years ago, but switched to using QR codes. The code links to an online menus and utilizes text-to-voice or text to braille technology, which links to a portable braille translation device.
Hoddinott said the technology is unreliable and not helpful for people who aren’t tech savvy.
His business, Braille Masters, does custom braille transcriptions and printing. That does include providing braille menus to some clients, but he insists his campaign isn’t designed to attract business.
He would have no issues if another business landed the contract to provide braille menus. Just so long as they’re available to customers, “It’s one of those things that’s a simple, easy fix and there’s no reason for them not to do it.”
Hoddinott has been reaching out to area MPPs to draw attention to the issue and says he and others are considering an Ontario Human Rights Commission Appeal.
By Gerry Dewan
CTV News London
Lego Braille Bricks: Making Learning Braille an Inclusive Adventure for All:
Since their introduction in 2020, Lego Braille Bricks have been transforming the educational landscape for individuals with blindness or partial sight.
Originally limited to select educational organizations through charitable channels, these innovative bricks are now breaking barriers by becoming available for purchase by the wider public. This significant expansion comes after the undeniable impact the bricks have had on blind and partially sighted learners.
“For blind and partially sighted children, and adults for that matter, it makes all the difference if they can share their journey of learning braille with the people they love the most. For the blind community, braille is not just literacy, it’s our entry to independence and inclusion into this world, and to have LEGO Braille Bricks made available for the wider public is a massive step forward to ensuring more children will want to learn braille in the first place. And because it’s based on a product that so many families already know and love, this is really an invitation for all family members to have fun building tactile skills and getting familiar with braille using the same tool,” says Martine Abel-Williamson, president of the World Blind Union.
With a combination of braille and printed letters, numbers, and symbols on each brick the new ‘Lego Braille Bricks – Play with Braille’ set makes learning braille an engaging and accessible experience for everyone. Inspired and co-developed by entrepreneur Matthew Shifrin, who is blind himself, this groundbreaking experience offers builders the option of accessing select LEGO building instructions as audio or text for braille readers.
Originally, Lego Braille Bricks were provided at no cost exclusively to organizations specializing in the education of children with visual impairments.
Now, these unique bricks are available for purchase on LEGO.com. The latest addition, ‘Lego Braille Bricks – Play with Braille,’ caters to children aged
6 and above. This product has been meticulously designed to ensure that anyone, whether they are blind, partially sighted, or fully sighted, can explore the braille system at home with family members in an inclusive and playful manner.
Lego Braille Bricks – Play with Braille is priced at $89.99 USD and is currently available for pre-order in English and French versions. The official launch is set for September 1st, 2023. Early in 2024, the product will also be released in Italian, German, and Spanish versions, further expanding its global impact.
These innovative bricks are not just a new way to play; they’re a step toward a more inclusive world, where the joy of learning knows no bounds. Let’s embark on this journey together and make education a universally accessible adventure.
For more information, visit LEGO.com
By Fridah Mlemwa
Introducing the Revolutionary See Me Cane by Smart Guider Inc – The First Fully Lighted Blind Cane for Enhanced Safety and Independence:
This cane can empower the 253 million other blind people in the world to travel more safely and independently.
What is the See Me Cane?
The See Me Cane is a lighted blind cane (traditionally called the white cane). The See Me Cane provides a new level in safe navigation for the blind.
The bright internal light within the See Me Cane makes the user more visible in low-light conditions. The unique See Me Cane feels like a normal blind cane, but as the user sweeps and taps the lighted See Me Cane, it makes a great light show, drawing people’s attention to the cane and to its visually impaired user.
How Does It Work?
The See Me Cane is a simple but powerful blind cane. It comes in different sizes (from 2 feet to 6 1/2 feet). Running on a rechargeable battery, this Led lighted cane can be seen by nighttime drivers up to 100 yards away. The handle has two buttons: one for the on/off function and another that causes the cane to vibrate letting the user know its on/off status.
The ‘See Me Cane’ was created by Kelvin Crosby, a deaf/blind man. After being hit 3 separate times by cars, he created the ‘See Me Cane’.
CANES are custom made. You choose the size and color, (usually white/red or all white).
It takes approximately 3 weeks to make the Cane.
For more information, please visit: https://www.seemecane.com/
Or E-mail seenecane.com
Easier and Safer Use of Electrical Plugs and Extension Cords for the Visually Impaired:
My brother and I have macular degeneration and have difficulty inserting electrical plugs into wall receptacles and extension cords; my brother got a shock while inserting a plug. Here are some ideas about how to minimize danger and frustration while using plugs and extension cords.
Inserting plugs into wall receptacles:
With low or no vision, it can be difficult to find the holes in a wall receptacle into which the prongs of a plug must be inserted. Using fingers to guide the prongs of the plug into the receptacle risks shocks or burns. The most frustrating receptacles are the modern Decora style which have flat surfaces on which the prongs of your plug can skate around while seeking the holes. Many older style receptacles that have a two-hole cover have a bit of a funnel or ramp around each prong hole that facilitates entry of the prong into the hole. These are easier to use than the Decora receptacles.
Here are four ways to reduce frustration with both types of receptacles.
- If you have low-vision, it may be easier to find the prong holes if you darken the plastic around them with a marker to provide more contrast. Never put a metal pen tip into a plug hole.
- Many two-pronged plugs such as those on lamp cords are polarized and have one wider prong that can only go into the matching wide slot in the wall receptacle. Most receptacles are mounted so that the wide slot is on the left and the third hole or ground is below the prong holes. If you first feel the plug for the wide prong and keep it to the left before approaching the receptacle, you may have an easier time getting the plug in. Remember to keep fingers off the prongs when actually inserting the plug.
- Install an EZ-Outlet cover on the receptacle to help guide the plug into the receptacle holes. EZ-Outlet is about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and is shaped to help guide a plug to the holes. EZ-Outlet is most suitable for the older standard outlets on which the cover has two holes and is secured by a single central screw. If lazy painters have painted your receptacle covers onto the wall, you may be able to install EZ-Outlet over the existing cover by using a longer 6-32x ¾” screw. Decora outlet covers have two screws and EZ-Outlet would not work unless secured on top of the existing cover with glue or mounting tape. EZ-Outlet is available at EZ-outlet.com, Rehabmart.com, Maxiaids.com, Lssproducts.com, Amazon.com and Walmart.com. I could not find a Canadian vendor. They cost about $13 US. This YouTube video demonstrates installation and use of EZ-Outlet https://youtu.be/nbSiilptaxk
If you remove the existing cover to replace it with EZ-Outlet, dangerous electrical wiring will be temporarily exposed until EZ-Outlet is in place
- Install an additional cover plate over the existing cover. As a cheap and available alternative to EZ-Outlet, I installed a standard plastic two-hole outlet cover plate (not a Decora cover) over the existing cover. These covers are known as a “1-gang duplex receptacle wall plate” and are available at hardware stores, for less than $3.00. The additional cover plate forms a fence around each outlet that restricts the movement of the plug when searching for the plug holes. The standard older style cover has two rounded holes. You can secure this over the original cover of the same type using the existing central screw. Some of the screws are too short for two covers and you will need to get 6-32 x ¾” screws to replace them.
If your wall receptacle is the modern flat Decora style, the cover plate has two screws and a rectangular opening around both outlets. I prefer to add a standard two-hole cover over Decora covers because the rectangular opening of the Decora style leaves too much open space between the outlets in which your plug can wander. Use glue or mounting tape to secure the additional cover over the original cover. I secured a two-hole cover with mounting tape over a Decora Ground Fault Circuit Isolator (GFCI or AFCI) outlet in the bathroom. This works well and makes it easier to plug in my shaver.
WARNING. Cover plates are typically secured with a slot-head screw. A slot-head screwdriver will enter the plug holes of a receptacle. It would be dangerous to inadvertently insert any tool into an outlet hole. If the cover plate is removed, electrical wiring is exposed. If unsure, have someone else do this or turn off the breaker for that circuit before doing anything with the receptacle and cover.
Some USB chargers will work with two covers installed but many larger power bricks cannot be inserted fully. Do not use a plug that cannot be fully inserted. Instead, use a short extension cord.
Extension cords and Splitters
Do not insert a plug into an extension cord that is already plugged in to a wall receptacle. It is easy to insert the plug of an appliance or device into an extension cord so that only one prong is engaged in a hole. That leaves the other prong exposed where you can touch it and get shocked. Before trying to insert a plug into an extension cord or splitter, it is best to unplug the extension cord from the wall receptacle. Once you are sure your device is properly plugged connected then plug the extension cord or splitter into the wall outlet. If your device or appliance does not work, unplug the extension cord or splitter from the wall and then investigate the plug you inserted. A power bar with a built-in switch is a great alternative to an extension cord because it is easy to turn off the power before inserting a plug. Extension cords and power bars are available that have an integral Ground Fault Circuit Isolator (GFCI/AFCI) that helps to protect you from shocks.
It is very important to keep extension cords fastened near the perimeter of a room so you do not trip on them.
I hope that these suggestions may make it easier and safer for you to use electrical equipment.
Submitted by Milton Charlton, who is a retired Professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto. He continues to attempt DIY projects.