GTT Edmonton Meeting August 10, 2015
The most recent meeting of the Get Together With Technology (GTT) Edmonton group was held August 10 at 7pm at the Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.
18 people attended most of whom were blind or visually impaired.
August 10Feature Topic –iDevice keyboards
• Lorne demonstrated various keyboards for iDevices including how to use them to navigate screens and apps.
• Carrie demonstrated the iOS app called KNFB Reader for iPhone and iPad showing how it can be used to take a picture of a paper document and read it back.
• Russell showed the Cortana voice recognition feature within the new Microsoft Windows 10 Operating System now available as a free upgrade on PCs.
• Members‘ questions were answered regarding Victor Reader Stream, Facebook, and Mac computers.
• Assistance was given to several members with Victor Reader Streams to help them delete notes, delete books, and connect to WIFI.
Funding For Trekker Breeze
With the interest shown in the Trekker Breeze GPS one of our members wanted to remind everyone that funding for this device is available to qualified Albertans through CNIB’s Step program. For more information contact Sharon Koepke at 780-488-4871
Next Meeting Agenda (Monday September 14, 7pm)
• The group wants more hands on experience with Trekker Breeze route navigation.
• In breakout groups we can discuss any topic you wish. Please bring your technology, your questions and answers.
• We will continue to collect the $10 membership fee for 2016 to secure our application as an official chapter of CCB. We will not restrict participation in GTT to members only but we hope as many of you as possible will help GTT Edmonton by becoming members. Both sighted and vision impaired people can be members.
Church Meeting Logistics
Some logistics for future meetings.
• GTT meetings will be every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
• We meet in the basement meeting hall.
• Please enter the church from the back door only. There is parking at the back and drop off space for taxis, DATS.
• Try to arrive between 6:45pm and 7:15pm after which the door will be locked. If you arrive late there is a door bell to the right of the outside door.
• If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.
GTT Edmonton Team
• Gerry Chevalier is blind. He is retired from HumanWare where he worked as the Product Manager for the Victor Reader line of talking book players.
• Heather MacDonald is the specialist for CNIB career and employment services. She has a wealth of experience helping blind and visually impaired people with the challenges of finding employment.
• Carrie Anton is visually impaired and is the accessibility specialist for Athabasca University.
• Russell Solowoniuk is blind and works with alternative formats and assistive technology at Grant MacEwan University.
• Lorne Weber is blind and is the accessibility specialist for Norquest College.
GTT Edmonton Overview
• GTT is sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
• CCB now has GTT chapters in Ottawa, Victoria, and Nanaimo.
• There is a national GTT monthly teleconference as well.
• GTT Edmonton will foster the same learning experience as the above GTT chapters by holding monthly meetings to help participants with all manner of assistive technology.
• Each meeting will have a feature technology discussed in the first hour and general question and answer about any other technology in the second hour.
• Small groups or even one on one assistance is possible at the meetings.
• Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because the second hour is for any and all questions. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
• Participants decide what the feature topic will be for the next meeting.
The Albert A. Ruel Road to Blindness
A 21 year old man stood on the beach at the Sproat Lake Provincial Park with friends early in May of 1977, and upon gazing across the lake found the Gulf Oil sign missing from the dock-side filling station there. When this fact was shared with his companions they glanced at him with puzzled looks and said, “No Albert, the sign is still there”.
That was the beginning of a road through confusion, anger, isolation, loneliness and discovery for me. It all began with a visit to a local Optometrist who could see that my vision wasn’t right, but that corrective lenses wouldn’t help. He then referred me to a General Practitioner, where I received a clean bill of health and an additional referral. This time to an Ophthalmologist. Immediately upon peering through the dilated pupils, Dr. McKerricher was able to see the problem, Retinal Vasculitis.
Now, you would think that all would start to improve at this point, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, CNIB, from 1918 until 1985 only served the needs of people who were “Legally Blind”, a level of vision loss I wouldn’t reach until November of 1979. The words of Dr. McKerricher still echo in my mind today, “Albert, I don’t know what has caused this and nothing we’ve tried is helping to stop it, and you’re not blind enough for me to refer you to CNIB”!
In the middle of this transition from 20/20 vision to “Legally Blind” came the Motor Vehicle Branch and it’s rules of the road. On August 3, 1978 I drove a car for the last time as my vision had reached the level at which operating a motor vehicle became too dangerous, further intensifying feelings of fear, isolation and anger. Sadly, through this period the only available guidance and support was through family and friends, but not the experienced professionals I needed at the time. Although these support systems are critically important they can often be smothering and facilitating, rather than encouraging and supportive.
With gratitude, and some trepidation I finally was able to access CNIB services in November of 1979, and the world opened up then. There I was able to meet other blind people and receive the daily living and mobility skills required to live independently in this sighted world. I learned elementary braille and began to discover technology as necessary tools of independence.
Thankfully, in 1985 CNIB’s National Board altered the course of service to visually impaired Canadians forever. They added a third prong to their Mission Statement, “To promote sight enhancement services”. This opened the door to all Canadians who were beginning to lose sight, as well as those who had a fear of vision loss to access the full range of CNIB Support and Rehabilitation Services. So now, whether it’s someone’s Mother who is experiencing Macular Degeneration, or an Uncle experiencing the affects of Glaucoma, all have the ability to seek information, guidance and support as all involved deal with the fear and anxiety that accompanies such life altering experiences.
With the help of professional Rehabilitation Workers and Employment Counselors I was able to continue traveling independently within my own community, and even more remarkably anywhere in the world I desired to go. I managed to attend College in Nanaimo and New Westminster, as well as traveling to the Mayo Clinic and to doctor’s appointments in Nanaimo and Vancouver without assistance. All of this while living with some usable vision, but not yet needing a white cane for travel.
During the mid 1980’s I was a stay-at-home Dad and did all that was required of that challenging work, from changing diapers to preparing meals, and from cutting the grass to maintaining our home. I even took a woodworking course through Alberni’s Adult Education program and built and restored several pieces of furniture. Of course the 1958 Chevy Impala in the garage was my pride and joy, and I devised ways to do much of the work it required.
I also joined and participated in many community activities, like the local Car Club, and a disability support group that catered to the needs of people with many different disabilities. Of course, continued participation in family life remained of critical importance through this period.
In 1989 a secondary condition began to extinguish the vision that remained, which set into motion a new stream of professional rehabilitation services and supports. By the spring of 1990 Glaucoma had turned out the lights completely, and the darkness I had feared so desperately was upon me. Strangely though, I found this to be a great relief rather than the tragedy I had imagined it would be.
Through several professional rehabilitation sessions, and by joining peer mentoring and advocacy groups I was able to come to terms with this strange feeling, and to learn additional skills and strategies for living with no visual cues of the world around me. This is also about the time that I decided to explore CNIB as an employer, and to see if I could provide the sort of guidance and support to others that had been my pleasure to receive. Those 14 years were a wonderful experience of ongoing discovery for me, as teaching may be the best way to solidify one’s own learning. In other words, those we assist through this transition in turn help us all as we develop best practices and improved service.
Following a 14 year career with CNIB I also served the blind community as the first National Equality Director employed by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), and as a Basic Computer Literacy Trainer with the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). Most recently I have enjoyed coordinating the CCB’s newly launched Get Together with Technology Program in Western Canada, which brings to the fore my passion for assistive technology and the power of peer mentoring.
Without sight I have continued to travel far and wide, with trips to Conventions of and for the Blind in Anaheim California and Melbourne Australia, as well as to many events and activities in Toronto and Vancouver. Of course my work has taken me to many communities throughout Western Canada, and most particularly nearly all regions of BC and on Vancouver Island. None of which would have been possible without the services and support of organizations like CCB, AEBC and CNIB.
For most people blindness generates a fear of extended movement, both within one’s home and community, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Independence comes from personal desire and increased skill. Many community organizations can assist with both through their mentoring and skill development programs. I remember always that life has little to do with what happens to me and 100% what I do about/with it. There is a quote I like to use from the National Federation of the Blind in the USA, “With adequate skill development and opportunity blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance”, and nothing could be closer to the truth.
Helen Keller said many years ago, “There is nothing more tragic than someone who has sight, but no vision”. She also challenged the Lions Clubs of the world to become the “Knights of the Blind, and to take up the crusade against darkness”. I too joined a Lions Club in 1992 and continue to work on the crusade that Helen Keller began in the 1920-s.
View all posts by Albert Ruel
2 thoughts on “Edmonton GTT Meeting Summary Notes, August 10, 2015”
I find that you folks are discussing lot of good items in which I would be interested. I am blind and reside in coquitlam, British Columbia. Is there any way I can get details on the discussion. Please let me know. thanks George.
George, are you aware of the meeting tomorrow in New West? Please call me at 250-240-2343.
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