The GTT Victoria CCB Chapter met on Wednesday, October 7, 1:00 to 3:30 PM in the community room of Victoria Central Public Library at 735 Broughton Street. There were about a dozen people in attendance, some arrived late, or during the break, so the exact number was not determined.
The first presentation was given by Wendy Cox from the BC Technology@Work program, in conjunction with the Neil Squire Society and Victoria Disability Resource Centre.
Wendy explained that this program is similar to the EATI program with which many are familiar. The differences are: it is tighter in terms of eligibility; there is a cost share requested of employers as well as participants. In addition, there is no income reporting requirement for eligibility.
Basic eligibility requirements are:
• To be 16 years of age or older;
• Must have a disability;
• Must be either working, be verifiably going to work, or starting a verifiable volunteer position within the next few months; and,
• Equipment provided must remove a workplace-related barrier or barrier with work-related safe travel.
Provincial and Federal Government employees are not eligible.
Another priority of Technology@Work is to raise awareness and create opportunity around employment possibilities for people with disabilities. It also works individually with participants to help them develop a whole range of job readiness skills.
The website is http://www.neilsquire.ca/bctechatwork/
You can sign up by completing a paper form, available from the Victoria Disability Resource Centre at 817 Fort Street, or an online version available from the above website link. If you have trouble, you can request assistance by phone at 250-595-0044, or check http://www.drcvictoria.com
2. GTT Update
Albert Ruel, GTT Coordinator for Western Canada, provided an update on GTT activities being carried out around the country. He started by letting us know that the Victoria chapter now has 12 paid members, with three more added at this meeting, and that memberships for 2016 are due in December. He then explained that this GTT group has become a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind. GTT originally started in Ottawa, providing blind and visually impaired people with the opportunity to form peer support groups where members could inform each other about training and technology-related experiences.
GTT is trying to diversify itself around the country in ways that match the interests of its members – curling clubs, book clubs, etc. The most recent group formed on September 23, in conjunction with the Blind Beginnings group in Vancouver, as a continuation for young people who have now finished with the Blind Beginnings program. There were 15 people in attendance, and it was a very good session. See the GTT program blog https://gttprogram.wordpress.com for more details, including information about GTT startups in Edmonton, Toronto, Kingston and Sydney, Nova Scotia.
There is a monthly national GTT teleconference in which anyone may participate. Each month features a technology-related presentation and discussion.
Albert also wanted everyone to know about the next Vocal Eye presentation to take place for the 2pm matinee at the Belfry Theater on November 8, entitled “The Leonard Cohen Story”.
3. BC Transit
Trekker Breezes installed on BC Transit buses announce cross-streets and not bus stops. The BC Transit Facebook page contains a number of postings from sighted people complaining about this inadequacy.
Tom clarified that GTT should remain focused on peer support related to effective use of technology, and that the political process to improve the transit situation should be managed by an organization such as Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC). Anyone interested in re-establishing an AEBC chapter in Victoria may contact Tom Dekker or Susan Gallagher.
4. Technology – Podcasts
The technology feature for this meeting was a presentation and discussion about podcasts. What is a podcast, why podcasts are important, and how one accesses them. Tom explained that a podcast is essentially an audio recording that can be made available via the internet. Many blind people now produce instructional podcasts about all kinds of assistive technology and can thus be a great source of peer support.
In regard to accessing podcasts, Tom demonstrated a Windows podcast management program called Q-Cast, produced by Accessible Apps, a company owned and operated by two blind programmers. Traditionally, Windows-based podcast management apps have not been particularly screen-reader friendly, but this one is very easy to use, while still offering all features related to podcast management. If you can find the arrow keys, the alt, tab, and enter keys, you can easily learn any app produced by this company. The help documentation is also fully accessible and very clearly written.
The company also produces an excellent app for reading documents and E-books called Q-Read, a news reader called Q-Feed and a Twitter client called Chicken Nugget. Free 30-day trials are available. Find out more at http://www.q-continuum.net
Of course, there are thousands of podcasts on all kinds of topics, but Q-Cast makes it very easy to search for and subscribe to podcasts of interest. Almost any informational radio programs are now available as podcasts, especially from networks like CBC, BBC and NPR. Contact us if you wish to have more information.
The next meeting of the GTT Victoria group will be on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 at the Greater Victoria Public Library in the community room, 735 Broughton Street from 1:00 to 3:30 PM.
Submitted on October 23, 2015 by:
Tom Dekker, GTT Victoria Coordinator
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