Minister Qualtrough introduces National AccessAbility Week to promote accessibility every day, everywhere in Canada

Minister Qualtrough introduces National AccessAbility Week to promote accessibility every day, everywhere in Canada

As Canada’s Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities, I believe that our country’s diversity is our strength—and when we include people with disabilities, we create a stronger Canada for everyone.
It is my pleasure to announce that launching this spring, for the first time in many years, an annual national week devoted to inclusion and accessibility.
From May 28 to June 3, 2017, National AccessAbility Week will celebrate, highlight and promote inclusion and accessibility in our communities and workplaces across the country.
We’ve made great strides in promoting inclusion for Canadians with disabilities, but there is still much work to do.
To create a truly inclusive society, we need to change the way we think, talk and act about barriers to participation and accessibility—and we need to do it right from the start, not as an afterthought. An inclusive Canada is one where all Canadians can participate and have an equal opportunity to succeed.
National AccessAbility Week will aim to bring this perspective to the forefront for Canadians, and highlight some of the important initiatives this government and its partners are undertaking to bring about this change.
Please join us in celebrating National AccessAbility Week. I invite you to host events in your own local communities, and participate on social media. More information will be available in the coming weeks on, and I encourage you to follow @AccessibleGC on Twitter, Accessible Canada on Facebook and follow the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and #AccessAbility for the latest information.
Together, let’s continue working towards an Accessible Canada.
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Tribute Post: RIP Natasha Achter, CCB White Cane Club and Get Together with Technology Regina

The GTT community would like to honour the loss of a quiet leader, supporter and genuine Canadian.  Natasha Achter, President of the Regina White Cane Club and Get Together with Technology Coordinator passed away peacefully on March 28, 2017, and she will be sadly missed by all she came into contact with.  A celebration of her life will be held on April 1, 2017 in Regina, click on this link for details. 


On March 28th the CCB and the blind community lost a vibrant young soul, a kind Canadian and a dedicated friend and family member.  We also lost a leading peer mentor and assistive technology advocate and supporter.  Rest In Peace Natasha.


Below is a reprint of an article featuring Natasha that was published in the March edition of the CCB National Newsletter.


CCB National Newsletter March 2017


Member Spotlight++:


We would like to take a moment to recognize an up and coming member in CCB: Natasha Achter, from Regina, SK.

Natasha has taken the initiative to start up a GTT group in her area, is a strong advocate for the blind and also happens to be a great curler!


She was the featured curling athlete for Curling Canada, and the following is the article that accompanied the accolade.


Since 2005, when she started blind curling in Regina, Natasha Achter has been accumulating trophies and titles.


That first season, her team made it to the Blind Curling National Championship in Ottawa, finishing third, and Natasha’s performance earned her recognition as Athlete of the Year for the Saskatchewan Blind Sports Association (SBSA).


Originally a lead, Natasha began skipping in 2007. Although her team finished at the bottom of a three-team league that first season, they rose to the challenge and took home the league’s Grand Aggregate Trophy twice, in 2009 and 2011, as well as the City Championship Trophy for playoffs in 2009-2010.


Natasha’s on-ice accolades include MVP status at the 2008 and 2009 Western Blind Curling Championship, an event she attended in 2011 with a team made up of players under the age of 30.


“I was very proud of them,” she says about her most recent trip to the event. “This was only our second Western Championship as a team.”


Birthplace:  Regina, SK

Hometown:  Regina, SK

Curling Club:  Caledonia (Callie) Curling Club and Highland Curling Club

Current Team:  SBSA Team Achter

Position:  Skip

Delivery: Right

Nickname:  Nash


Quick Hits with Natasha Achter

Do you have any superstitions?

“Yes I almost always have to wear my lucky pink toque. I just seem to win more with it than without it.”


Three people, living or not, whom you would invite to a dinner party.

“Kevin Martin, Abe Lincoln, and Rachel Ray to cook the food.”


If you could be a star in any other sport, what would it be, and why?

“Hockey, because I used to skate but was never that capable to play other than with my brothers.”


If you could change any rule in curling, which one would it be, and why?

“If I could change one rule it would be that we would be able to hit the boards, so that almost every rock is in play and this would make it so much easier for two reasons. One is that it would be easy to learn and two it would keep more of the totally blind curlers’ rocks in play.”


What music do you like to listen to before a game?

“Usually it’s just country on the radio in the car on the way to the rink, but last year at Westerns we had to listen to “I Got a Feeling” by the Black-Eyed Peas before every game to get us pumped up.”



… Website?  “Facebook I guess it’s not my fave, just the one I visit most.”

… Order from Tim Hortons?  “Iced coffee in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter”

… Vacation destination?  “Maui, Hawaii. Aloha”

… Junk food?  “Cheesies!”

Do you have any pet peeves?

“My third trying to change my mind (lol)! And when they say “Oh!” when the shot I called works. Just kidding. I don’t really have any.”


Three things you always travel with?

“My iPod touch, money, and good people to accompany me.”


First thing on your Bucket List?

“To go to Hawaii – but crossed it off the list February 2011.”


Favourite pastime between draws?

“Listening to music and visiting with people. Also we usually spend some time talking about our pros and cons of the previous game, i.e. what we did well and what we could improve on.”


One thing most people don’t know about you?

“That I love most water sports. I like fishing, kneeboarding, surfing; love snorkeling, rowing; would love to try kite boarding. I am not a big fan of tubing or wakeboarding. I have tried water skiing but failed miserably.”


What is the biggest misconception about curlers?

“That curlers are all old.”


Your ideal shot to win an Olympic gold medal:

“Guard raise takeout to win the game by two.”


Guest Post: VocalEye Newsletter, Spring 2017, Specializing in Audio Description of Live Performances in Vancouver and Victoria

2) Described Performances in March and April:
3) Bittergirl at the Surrey Arts Centre
4) Angels in America at the Arts Club Stanley
5) Mom’s the Word 3 at the Arts Club Granville Island
6) Community:
7) Audio Subtitles
8) Coming Up:
Plex Talk Raffle
Alice Munro Stories at the Belfry
Comedy on Wheels for Realwheels
9) Support
10) Reminders

[This month’s opening image is a photo of a yawning bunny rabbit.]

This spring’s schedule is so loaded that I’m doubling up this issue! I’ve been invited to lead a describer training at the new Tangled Art Gallery in Toronto at the end of March. Tangled is the first art gallery in Canada dedicated to showcasing the work of artists with disabilities. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to work with them to make their gallery more accessible to visitors with vision loss. (

I will get back in time to meet a grant deadline at the beginning of April… This tight squeeze means I won’t be able to send you an April newsletter, so I’m loading you with all the info I have on our upcoming shows. Please visit the VocalEye website for updates and support materials and keep in touch through Facebook and Twitter.

March will be a bit quiet for described performances, with Bittergirl at the Surrey Arts Centre and the launch of our “audio subtitle” project this weekend. If you’re craving even more comedy and drama this month, check out PlayMe, an innovative audio podcast that celebrates the work of Canadian playwrights and performers. (

If you’re looking for more podcasts, check out Aroga’s ATBanter and their most recent interview with Master Chef, Christine Ha. (

Or try A History of the World in 100 Objects, a look at human history through 100 objects from the British Museum. (

In case you missed it, this AMI video highlights VocalEye’s partnership with the Push Festival, Ingrid’s description and our first pre-show Touch Tour of Concord Floral last month. Big thanks to Erin Brubacher, Anika Vervecken, Grant Hardy and everyone who attended the show! (

Rick Waines is busy describing his second season at the Belfry in Victoria and he sent us some lovely photos from the Touch Tour of last month’s show, Gracie. Our thanks to everyone who attended and to Jenn Swan and Erin Macklem for sharing some of the production’s backstage secrets!

In April, Rick returns to Vancouver to describe two performances of the award-winning Angels in America, Part 1 at the Arts Club Stanley. The Arts Club will produce Part 2 next season, so don’t miss it!

PAWS Trivia night is always so much fun and it turned out to be my lucky day as I won the coveted 50/50 draw for the second year in a row! More fuel for VocalEye! I want to thank our awesome Faux Paws team: Jeff and Meagan, Eileen Barrett, Rick Lin, Brian Nicol, Teri Snelgrove and Anika Vervecken for your impressive smarty pants. Big thanks to Wendy, Rosamund and Moose’s Down Under for hosting another great evening that supports PAWS for Independence! (

I’ve received a number of inquiries about describing shows at the Queen Elizabeth and these take the most time to negotiate. Once again, I encourage you to let the producers know you’re interested in having shows described.
I’ve also been talking to several dance companies about describing dance. This would involve some special training and workshops with describers, choreographers, dancers and members of the blind community. Our resources are limited and we want to make the best use of them. Please let me know if you would be interested in having dance described, what kind of dance interests you and if you would like to participate in a development workshop (you can reply to this newsletter). If there is enough interest, we will pursue some funding for this project.

Time to get hopping!

Wishing you a happy spring with loads of chocolate bunny eggs!



BITTERGIRL, a new musical featuring the best breaking up and making up songs of the 60’s (on tour). Described on Saturday March 4, 2017 at 4 pm at the Surrey Arts Centre, 13750 88 Avenue, Surrey. Tickets are $25 for VocalEye users, while they last. Please call the Box Office to purchase at 604-501-5566.

ANGELS IN AMERICA, PART ONE: MILLENIUM APPROACHES, an award-winning modern epic that tackles life, death, love, sex, heaven, hell, AIDS, Reaganism and redemption in 1980’s New York. Described on Sunday April 16, 2017 at 2 pm and on Wednesday April 19, 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Arts Club Stanley, 2750 Granville Street. Tickets are $29 for VocalEye users, while they last. Please call 604-687-1644 to purchase.

MOM’S THE WORD 3: NEST HALF EMPTY, a touching and hilarious new chapter in the lives of Vancouver’s favourite Moms. Described on Tuesday April 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Arts Club Granville Island, 1585 Johnston Street. Tickets are $29 for VocalEye users, while they last. Please call 604-687-1644 to purchase. This performance will be followed by a Talk Back with the cast.

Theatre Buddies are available to guide VocalEye Members 18 years of age and over from a designated meet up location to and from selected theatres in the lower mainland. Reserve your Theatre Buddy by calling 604-364-5949 or send us an email ( (48 hours notice is required). In Victoria, please contact Linda Bartram at 250-595-5888.


Audio subtitling is a new program VocalEye is offering in partnership with the Kids Culture Film Series and Reel2Real International Film Festival for Youth to make foreign language films with English subtitles more accessible to young children and to others who have difficulty reading print materials. The English subtitles will be read aloud and transmitted through VocalEye equipment. Headsets are limited. Please reserve when booking your tickets.

ANINA is an animated film from Uruguay suitable for children age 5 and up. This film is in Spanish with English subtitles and will be screened on Sunday, March 5 at 1 pm at The Rio, 1660 East Broadway at Commercial Drive. Advisory: some scenes of child nightmares. Kids $7 and Adults $10 in advance or $8 and $12 at the door. (

Anina Yatay Salas is a ten-year-old whose name spells trouble: those three palindromes in a row are an ongoing source of teasing at school. When a playground fight results in mysterious punishment, Anina will learn to put her problems in perspective and empathize with others in this sweet little daydream of a tale.

HEIDI is a Swiss-German film with English subtitles suitable for children age 9 and up. Screening on Saturday, April 8 at 2 pm at the Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver. Tickets are Kids $7 and Adults $10. (

Heidi is one of the most beloved and best-selling books ever written. Director Alain Gsponer’s fresh take on this classic tale conjures everything that is magical about the precocious orphan girl who is sent to live with her mysterious grandfather (Bruno Ganz, Downfall) in the Swiss Alps. When Heidi is whisked away by her aunt to a posh house in the city, her worldview expands rapidly. A term of Heidi’s lodging and education is that she is expected to provide companionship to Clara, the lonely, wheelchair-bound daughter of this well-to-do family. This is hardly a chore since goofing around with her new friend is decidedly fun, and Heidi is up for adventure. Ultimately, she finds herself caught between her friendship with Clara, and longing for the freedom of mountain life. Heidi is an epic tale of friendship, family, and following your instincts.

** 8) COMING UP…

We’ll launch our third raffle of a Plex Talk Mini, generously donated by Aroga Technologies, on May 1! (

ALICE MUNRO STORIES, the sublime words and blessed humanity of Canada’s celebrated author come to life.. Described on Sunday May 7, 2017 at 2 pm at the Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Avenue in Victoria. Tickets are $24.68 for VocalEye users plus a 25% discount for a companion, while they last. Please call 250-385-6815 to purchase. This performance will be followed by a Touch Tour.

VocalEye will also describe COMEDY ON WHEELS for Realwheels on May 18, 19 and 20.

In June, we’ll offer training workshops in sighted guiding, Fingerworks for Fireworks and introductory description. Filmmaker Sarah Race will begin shooting her documentary short about our fireworks project this summer as well. Dates and details still to be confirmed.

In July, we’ll be back at Bard on the Beach for two shows in the main stage tent with Touch Tours. Plus summer musicals at the Arts Club, Theatre Under the Stars, the Vancouver Pride Parade and more!

** 9) SUPPORT…
VocalEye will describe more than 40 performances and events this season for people who are blind and partially sighted, thanks to the generous contributions of our funders and supporters (

We gratefully acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the Province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, our Community Donors and Individual Donors for their critical financial and in-kind support. VocalEye is currently in the process of becoming a registered charity and will not be able to issue tax receipts for donations until our application is approved. In the meantime, donations are greatly appreciated from anyone not requiring a tax receipt.

We thank you for helping us provide people with vision loss greater access to arts and culture.


* VocalEye’s complete season of described performances can be found on our website ( .
* Tickets and headsets must be reserved by calling the theatre, unless instructed otherwise.
* Be sure to mention VocalEye when booking your tickets to receive any discounts offered and indicate whether you have partial vision, a guide dog or other seating preferences. Seating options may be limited.
* Arrive early to pick up your equipment so you can be seated in time for a sound check and to listen to our pre-show introduction that includes brief descriptions of the set, characters and costumes. These begin 10 minutes before curtain.
* Our handheld receivers come with a single earpiece that can be worn on the left or right ear, or you can use your own earbuds or headphones. The audio signal is mono, so it will come through on only one side.
* VocalEye Memberships are FREE for people with vision loss.
* VocalEye Members are eligible for Theatre Buddy assistance, ticket discounts and equipment pickup without a deposit.
* VocalEye newsletters are available in your choice of formats: Plain Text or HTML with images. Both include a link at the top to a simple Word Doc format.
* VocalEye respects your right to privacy. We will not rent, sell or trade our list. Our mailings are intended to inform you of our events, programs, services and fundraising activities. You may unsubscribe at any time.
* You can help us spread the word about described performances and arts access for people with vision loss by sharing this newsletter with those in your network.

Thank you for reading through. See you at the theatre!

Online Learning Resource: 24 Karat GoldWave! A Training Course for Screen-Reader Users

Are you interested in audio editing with the JAWS screen reader? Check out this online course.

24 Karat GoldWave! A Training Course for Screen-Reader Users.

Many blind people love creating audio content. It is something we can enjoy completely and independently. But how do you get started? Moreover, if you have knowledge of how to undertake simple recording or editing tasks, how do you build on those skills to add effects such as reverb, change the tone of the audio known as graphic equalisation, or apply noise reduction such as for restoring those old vinyl records and tapes?
Fortunately there is not only a training course which can teach these skills but there is also probably the most accessible audio editor we have ever seen: GoldWave.
Our new training course, “24 Karat GoldWave”, will be ideal for those just beginning to learn how to record and process audio content for the first time, through to those people who have some more detailed knowledge. If you use an alternative sound editor, you may like to purchase the training course to learn why GoldWave is streets ahead of the competitors, certainly in terms of accessibility. Put simply, despite its low price point, GoldWave is a simple, easy-to-use, accessible audio production tool, ideal for people who do not want or need to know about the more complex digital audio workstations. Read onto find out about the many features of GoldWave and what you can achieve.
What is GoldWave?
GoldWave is a highly rated, professional digital audio editor. It’s fully loaded to do everything from the simplest recording and editing to the most sophisticated audio processing, restoration, enhancements, and conversions. It is easy to learn and use.
• Play your favourite songs, fast forward and rewind, or change the playback speed so as to learn a song by ear or transcribe dictation.
• Record from any source, such as microphone, line-in, turntable or audio streaming.
• Record speeches or reports, music, your own voice, Set a timer to start recording at a certain day and time. Use level activated recording to continue and pause recording automatically whenever the signal is above or below a given value.
• Edit audio with all the familiar concepts including Cut, Copy, Paste and delete.
• Apply dozens of different audio effects. Adjust bass or treble with the Equalizer. Even out volume levels with Auto Gain. Easily fade in and out background music, add echoes, reverbs, flangers, and much more. Change the pitch of your voice or make it sound mechanical. Preview effects real-time before processing them. Most effects include presets for commonly used settings so you don’t have to be an audio expert.
• Remaster old vinyl or tape recordings. Use Noise Reduction and Pop/Click filters to clean up the audio and take out the buzz, hiss, crackle, and clicks.
• Includes a collection of powerful tools. For example, copy audio directly from an audio CD with the CD Reader tool.
• Contains many keyboard shortcuts for tasks which can be reassigned if necessary to suit your own tastes.
• Freely available script files provide important information required for working on projects.
What Will I Learn?
The course is divided into four sessions, each of which will last 90 minutes. The course not only teaches you how to work with GoldWave, but also to understand important concepts such as good microphone placement, poor and excellent editing, and effective audio mixing. Topics include, but are not restricted to:
• Installing GoldWave and the accompanying script files.
• Configuring GoldWave including the settings specific to recording and playback.
• Customising GoldWave for use with screen-readers.
• Making Your first recording.
• Saving and opening files.
• Playing and navigating through the audio.
• Learning the location of the cursor in hours, minutes and seconds.
• Moving to a specific time in the audio.
• Selecting audio ready for editing.
• Playing the selected audio.
• Cut, copy, paste and delete.
• Making very small audio adjustments.
• Moving between a number of files which are open.
• Copying audio from one file to another.
• Adjusting playback speed.
• Adjusting Volume and Normalising.
• Checking the level metres.
• Trimming.
• Cue Points and how to use them.
• Fading and Crossfading.
• Mixing voice over music.
• Saving recordings to MP3.
• Inserting silence.
• Using Effects to alter sounds in a variety of ways. Changing pitch, volume, graphic equalisation, echo and reverb, Filter.
• Noise Reduction and audio restoration.
• Swapping channels and panning.
• Working with time to ensure audio runs to a specific length.
• Set recording to begin at a specific time of day.
• Extracting the content of CD’s.
How Does GoldWave Compare to Other Audio Editors in Terms of Accessibility and Functionality?
Undeniably, GoldWave is an inexpensive audio production tool and so you may be forgiven for thinking that it does not offer the sophistication of higher priced products. We would suggest otherwise. Not only are many features comparable to similar products, but in terms of accessibility GoldWave outshines them.
The later versions of some of the more popular audio editors are becoming more and more challenging to work with from an accessibility standpoint. Take “Audio Ducking” as an example, the process where a person’s voice can be mixed over music. Many other sound editors do not give you the flexibility and control over this process which GoldWave delivers. Superb results can be achieved in this regard when using this program. Join us and see how it is done!
Who is the Course For?
This course is suited to anyone who has an interest in creating or working with audio content. You should be familiar with how your screen-reader functions together with Windows concepts, such as how to navigate around applications.
By the end of the course, you ought to be able to carry out the simplest of recordings through to creating audio for podcasts, PowerPoint presentations or perhaps to mix together a spot or promo for broadcast on radio. You decide!
There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions regarding the topics under discussion, however this is achieved in a structured manner. This ensures that you can focus on learning the concepts being taught and easily refer back to sections of the archive recording at a later date.
What Happens If I Do Not Have the GoldWave Software?
This is not a problem. A fully functional evaluation copy of GoldWave can be downloaded and installed, details of which will be provided to you when you sign up for the training course.
Should you decide to purchase a copy of GoldWave, a lifetime license for home use is priced $45 or alternatively $15 per year.
Links will also be provided by us for the JAWS scripts mentioned above.
If I Purchase the Course, What Will I Receive?
The course will be delivered online via our accessible Talking Communities server. If you have not used this conferencing software before, you will receive instructions prior to the commencement of the course. This software allows for the delivery of the presentation, including the output from the screen-reading software.
The course will give to you:
• Four lessons starting 15 March 2017. Each lesson will begin at 7 PM UK time, (2 PM Eastern), each Wednesday.
• An audio recording of each lesson in MP3 format.
• Sample files which you can use in your Projects and to work with at a later date.
• Text documentation to reinforce topics covered in the lessons. This will include a comprehensive list of keystrokes so as to achieve all tasks.
• An email list active prior to (and during) the course so you can ask questions outside tuition time.
The proposed dates for the course sessions are as follows:
• 15 March;
• 22 March;
• 29 March;
• 5 April.
If you cannot take part on those dates, you can still gain plenty of benefit, since you will receive all the lessons and accompanying documentation, as well as being able to ask questions through the Email list provided to you.
All recordings, documentation and the Talking Communities chat room are accessed through a secure area of our website which is only available to course participants.
The cost of the course is £60 which is currently 72 US dollars.
This is a slight increase from our usual rate due to the production of sample files which are required. Payment should reach us by Wednesday 8 March 2017.
Purchase 24 Karat GoldWave Online.
Alternatively, anyone who would like to take part in the course should register their interest by sending an Email to, whereupon a fully accessible electronic invoice will be sent to you which can be paid through PayPal or any major credit or debit card. Orders can also be placed by telephone:
• Call us (from within the UK): 02920-850298.
• Call us (from the United States): 415-871-0626.
• Call us (from any other country): (+44)2920-850298.
If you would like to read the views from participants of our previous courses, please Visit our Training area.
Course Prerequisites.
It is important that you have:
• Good keyboarding skills;
• A computer with an internet connection.
• A microphone so as to ask questions within the course.
• JAWS for Windows or the NVDA screen-reader. Please note that our company is exclusively concerned with the JAWS for Windows screen-reader, however there is an Add-On for NVDA and GoldWave. NVDA has been tested extensively with the program and it works well.
• At the very least, a microphone so as to make recordings with GoldWave, or alternatively a more sophisticated environment, such as an audio mixing console. If you do not wish to make recordings, and are content with importing audio including our samples, a microphone may not be necessary.
Over many years, GoldWave has proven itself to be a thoroughly usable, productive audio environment in which to work. It has a large feature set, great file compatibility, and plenty of effects and tools for audio restoration. Why not give it a try and learn how to use it from a blind person’s perspective! It’s a Golden Opportunity!

Brian Hartgen
Choose Hartgen Consultancy for high quality JAWS Script Writing, training and our products including J-Say, J-Dictate and Leasey.
Telephone (in the UK) 02920-850298.
Telephone (in the United States of America) 1-415-871-0626.
Telephone (from any other country) +44-2920-820598.
Visit our website for more information!
Follow us on Twitter, HartgenConsult.
Like our Facebook Page.

JAWS Certified 2016.

GTT Victoria Summary Notes, White Canes and Mobility, February 1, 2017

Get together with Technology (GTT) Victoria
A Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind

Summary Notes, Wednesday February 1, 2017
GVPL Main branch, Coomunity Meeting Room

The meeting was called to order at 1:05 pm by chair Albert Ruel

Attendance, Kara, Bruce, Brent, Evett, Karen, Sky, Elizabeth Lalonde, Elizabeth Syringe, Joan, Albert and Corry.

Albert welcomed everyone back for another calendar year of the CCB GTT program in Victoria.

BC Transit, Victoria Trekker Breeze Issue:
The meeting started with some discussion and an update on the Local Transit situation, that being that BC Transit has publicly stated that they will have a fully operational GPS system up and running within the next 18 months. The importance of having a fully inclusive system in place was reinforced by several members including Bruce who stated that the readout of stop locations was a must in his world. The question of whether this new system would include a speaker by the front door identifying the bus route name and number. It was agreed that we should communicate to transit the importance of this specific feature to ensure that it is given high priority and does become a reality.

Transit App:
The Transit app was discussed at great length and highly recommended by both Tom and Corry. Although the service does not feature real time tracking yet in Victoria, the app is great for letting you know when you are approaching your desired stop.

GPS Apps:
From there the discussion centered around the various types of GPS apps available, Albert spoke briefly about some of the differences. Data usage was also discussed and tips on how to minimise data requirements were discussed. Mapmywalk and Runtastic are two apps that seam to use minimal data and can be very helpful if you wish to incorporate a fitness component to your daily activities.

White Cane Week:
After a short break, the White Cane was discussed at length (White Cane Week is Feb 5 – 11, 2017). Elizabeth Lalonde gave us a great overview of the various types of canes available and the great work that is going on at the Pacific Training Center in regards to mobility training and cane usage.

Tom Decker spoke about a new initiative going on at Ihabilitation, they have purchased a new program called Screen Flow Recorder and will be producing inclusive “how to” videos in the near future. Tom will keep us posted on the progress.

White Canes:
During the final portion, several types of White Canes were passed out and the members had an opportunity to try different types and lengths.

Meeting adjourned at 3:45 PM
Next meeting, Wednesday March 1, 2015
Submitted by Corry Stuive

Newsletter: Braille Literacy Canada, January 2017 Newsletter

[Braille Literacy Canada logo]
January 2017 ● Issue #5

Notice to B LC Members: Save the Date

Our next annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place in Toronto on May 6th, 2017. We recognize that not all members will be able to attend in person, so we will offer some options for participating electronically. These will include appointing a proxy or submitting an electronic ballot. A notice with more details will be sent out to members in the next couple of months. We look forward to seeing you there!

New UEB Listserv

If you are learning, teaching or transcribing Unified English Braille (UEB) and are looking for a place to post questions, Braille Literacy Canada (BLC) invites you to join our UEB listserve. Subscribers can post to the list, and all queries will be answered by code and formatting experts. Information and announcements relevant to UEB will also be forwarded to this list.

To subscribe to the discussion list, visit

Focus Group Announcement

As many of you may be aware, the federal government is currently undertaking a consultation process to inform the development of new legislation aimed at improving accessibility and removing barriers to the participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society. Public consultation sessions have been held in major cities across the country, but individuals and organizations are also permitted to make written submissions to the process.

The scope of these consultations is wide. Feedback is being sought to help determine the goals of the legislation, the approach it will take to improving accessibility, how standards should be developed, how compliance and enforcement should be handled, and what the government can do to support organizations in becoming accessible. More information on the consultation process generally can be found at
For more information on the scope and reach of the federal government’s regulatory power, please see:

Braille Literacy Canada intends to submit a position paper to the government outlining the importance of federal organizations ensuring that information is accessible and available in braille. To facilitate this, we would like to hold a consultation session with our members to gather input on what factors should be considered in this submission. Questions to consider may include:

(1) What arguments (academic, theoretical, practical, or otherwise) would you use to justify the importance of having access to braille from federally-regulated organizations for Canadians who are blind or deaf-blind?
(2) Should braille materials be on hand, available upon request, or, within a “reasonable” timeframe? If the latter, what would seem to be a “reasonable”
(3) In the reverse direction, should Canadians who are blind or deaf-blind have the right to submit documentation in braille to federally-regulated bodies?
(4) To what degree, if at all, should the legislation specify the standards to which braille is to be produced? What ‘standards’ should it adopt, and how?
(5) Should we attempt to solidify, through legislation (or regulation), Braille Literacy Canada’s (internationally recognized) role as the preeminent “authority”
for braille standards in Canada? If so, how?

Anyone interested in contributing to this discussion is invited to join us by telephone for a conference call on January 28th, 2016 between 1 and 3pm Eastern (10-noon Pacific, 11am-1pm Mountain, 12-2pm Central, 2-4pm Atlantic) or, alternatively, to submit written comments and feedback to
on or before January 28th, 2016.

If you would like to participate in the conference call, please e-mail
to register. Information on how to join the call will be sent to you a few days before the event.

We look forward to your participation on January 28th! If you have any questions or require further information in the interim, please feel free to email

BLC Committees

As many of you know, the work of BLC is done by committees. Here is a list of our current committees and their responsibilities. New members are always welcome!

For more information please send an email to

The web committee

* Maintains web site and social media and updates content with current events, resources and other items of interest.
* Works with other committees to update content as appropriate.

The membership committee

* Collaborates with the BLC treasurer and the Corporate Secretary to manage membership data.
* Ensures that email reminders are sent to those members who have not renewed their membership.
* Proposes options for increasing membership.

The communications committee

* Proposes options for increasing communication with BLC members and the general public.
* Prepares and distributes the BLC newsletter.

The braille formats committee

* Determines other guidelines that should be reviewed by BLC for use in Canada. Members of this committee must have a thorough knowledge of braille and must be familiar with issues specific to formatting.

The teaching and learning committee

* Conducts research related to braille instruction of children and adults.
* Seeks funding sources to support this research. Committee members should be employed as an educator of visually impaired students or be studying in the field.

The nominations committee

* Seeks candidates to fill vacant positions on the Board of Directors.
* Presents the slate of nominations to BLC members at the Annual General Meeting.

The braille promotion committee

* Proposes and implements activities to promote braille in Canada. The brailler bounce initiative is a project of this committee.
* Plans teleconferences on various braille-related issues.

The French braille standards committee

* Proposes and implements research and/or other projects pertaining to French braille in Canada.

The bylaws committee

* Drafts text for changes to BLC bylaws as appropriate. Previous experience with bylaw revisions is an asset.

Braille Screen Input on iOS Devices
By Natalie Martiniello

For people who are blind or who have low vision, one could argue that the built-in accessibility of Apple’s iPhone and iPad ranks among the most significant developments for our community since the year 2000. Based on universal design, Apple products led the way by demonstrating that technology could and should be accessible to diverse users from the start. Rather than retrofitting, universal design from inception has not only levelled the playingfield for those of us who are blind, but has also benefited users with perfect sight. After all, doesn’t everyone – sighted or blind – use Siri nowadays? And this is the point. When you make things accessible from the start, everyone wins. And the trend is catching on. Though Apple paved the way, other companies are following in their footsteps – Google’s Android, being one.

As someone who is blind and who has also taught clients who are blind, I have seen multiple examples of how this innovative technology can increase independence and opportunities. I have about 7 pages of apps on my iPhone. The true wonder and joy of all of this, for those of us who are braille users, is that all of these apps that are accessible with VoiceOver (the built-in screenreader on Apple products) can be used with a braille display. Suddenly, we have so much more access to braille – for learning, practicing and using it in our everyday lives. With the launch of the Orbit Braille Reader (sold by CNIB in Canada), the first low-cost braille display, access to braille information in this way is about to increase for many more people. Despite what mainstream news at times inaccurately proclaims, technology hasn’t replaced braille – it’s solidified its place in a truly exciting digital age!

As a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, I’ve harnessed the power of this technology with braille learners – many of whom are adults and seniors, when possible. It allows us to access far more material than ever before, and enables braille learners to practice braille in ways that are so meaningful to them – writing a facebook post, a tweet or an iMessage provides instant satisfaction to many, particularly for those who are losing their vision and who are eager to reconnect with the social world. These are just some creative ways one might use a braille display (connected to an I-device) during lessons.

I’d like to use the remainder of this post, however, to describe the use of the on-screen braille keyboard. Since iOS 8, braille users can activate an on-screen braille keyboard that they can use in place of the regular, on-screen QWERTY keyboard that usually appears for typing. Though many blind users, myself included, can and do use the regular on-screen QWERTY keyboard, it can be somewhat cumbersome and time-consuming to use, since the letters need to be located and selected one at a time. The on-screen braille keyboard, in contrast, allows you to form braille letters directly onto the screen, which greatly increases writing speed.

I use the on-screen braille keyboard exclusively for all my iPhone typing, and can type quicker than most of my sighted friends because of it. It’s also a great way for learners to practice braille. Using the on-screen braille keyboard requires them to think about how braille symbols are formed and what dots are included – It can be a great way to reinforce the learning of braille letters while accomplishing meaningful and relevant tasks on an I-device. Plus, the built-in screen reader on Apple products provides instant audio feedback, which is a great motivator and learning support for students!

To activate the on-screen braille keyboard:
1. Select the Settings Application from the Home Screen.
2. Press the “General “button, found within the Settings main menu.
3. Press the “Accessibility” options button.
4. Press the “VoiceOver” options button.
5. Press the “Rotor” options button.
6. Find the Braille Screen Input function.
7. If Voiceover doesn’t say, “Selected,” double-tap on braille-screen input to add it to your rotor.

Though it’s beyond the scope of this article to explain the Rotor and how it works, I recommend this website which provides a very helpful explanation:

Once you’ve followed the above steps, you’ll also want to configure your braille-screen input to best meet your needs before using it for the first time. Visit this link to learn more about how to select uncontracted or contracted input, six or eight key entry, and the braille code you wish to use when typing. By default, the braille code that is used for Braille Screen Input is Unified English Braille:

Once you’ve added braille screen input to your rotor and configured the settings for the first time, the braille screen input will now be available to you whenever you’re within a text field and need to type. Simply perform the Rotor gesture to select braille screen input.

How to Type using On-Screen Braille Input: Once activated, there are two options for typing using braille screen input. Table-top mode (when your device is laying flat on any surface) allows you to use your index, middle and ring fingers for typing as if it were a Perkins brailler. Screen-away mode, which I prefer and find more reliable, is preferable for smaller devices (such as the iPhone). To use braille screen input in screen-away mode:

• Activate braille screen input in your rotor
• Hold your iPhone in landscape orientation (that is, with the screen facing away from you, and the home button to the right).
• Hold your iPhone using your thumbs on the top edge and your pinky fingers on the bottom edge of your device. Your Index, Middle, and Ring fingers should now form two vertical columns of three dots just like the dots in the braille cell.
• Imagine this braille cell in front of you before typing, with dots 1, 2 and 3 placed vertically on the left and dots 4, 5 and 6 placed vertically on the right. Press down the fingers that correspond to the dots of the symbol you’d like to form. For example, press down your left index finger (which should be located on the top left of your screen in landscape orientation) to form the letter “A”, and press your left index, right index and right middle fingers together to form the letter “D”.

Try doing the entire alphabet for practice!

Other useful gestures when using braille screen input in screen-away mode:
• Swipe with one finger towards the left to delete the previous letter
• Swipe with one finger towards the right to insert a “space”
• Swipe with two fingers towards the right to move to the next line (VoiceOver will say “new line”)
• Swipe with three fingers towards the left to switch to contracted mode (which allows you to type contractions).
Swipe with three fingers towards the right to move back to uncontracted mode.

Now, you can type in braille on your device wherever you are!

Braille: A Story of Personal Life-Long Empowerment
By Leo Bissonnette, Ph.D.

As we celebrate the contribution of Louis Braille and his impact on our individual lives today, this issue features articles that make a strong case for the value of braille. My story adds to this accumulated statement of empowerment and the need to keep braille relevant in the lives of the blind today.

Like so many others in the blind community, I have listened to audio books since I was able to operate the record player that used to store talking books back in my early childhood. Today I enjoy reading books on my iPhone, using my Victor Reader Stream, or sitting at the computer. As important as the digital age is to me, nothing has even come close to empowering me as a blind person the way braille has.

A Little About Me
I was born with low vision and started my education working in large print. Then my mother, who was quite the advocate in making sure that I received a good education and essential rehabilitation services, felt that braille should be a tool added to my toolbox. So I started learning braille in third grade while attending the Montreal Association School for the Blind. I quickly took to using braille right away, and have used it as my first tool, taken from my toolbox, on a daily basis ever since.
Back to the Present
These days, what with the portability and low cost of ebooks, it seems that braille is struggling to keep its place in the lives of the blind. The high cost of braille displays compounds the problem, making it easier to simply abandon braille, or perhaps relegate it to infrequent use. Does it really matter if Braille becomes a medium that exists only in the memories of older blind people? Is it time to move on to more modern and cost-effective ways of communicating the written word, or should we fight to bring braille back to the forefront of our collective consciousness? Why is braille still relevant today?

I believe braille is essential for good writing. I would not be the proficient speller I am today if I had not read hundreds of thousands of braille words over the course of my life. While any decent screen reader provides the ability to spell words and review lines of text character by character, it is virtually impossible to catch all formatting and spelling errors in a document with speech alone. Anyone who uses text-to-speech software at all knows all too well the frustration of deciphering b’s from d’s, and sorting out all of the words that sound alike but are spelled differently such as there and their.

When I really need to digest something I am reading, I will slow my speech rate down or transfer the content to an SD card for later reading on my braille display. I am constantly amazed at the number of errors I find in documents I am reading in braille that I did not catch with speech alone.

Would I want to go back to the days before I had my iPhone and portable book reader? No way. Am I as likely to use a slate and stylus today as I was 50 years ago—although I still carry one in my brief case just in case I need it? Probably not. Can I imagine what my life would be like if I never again read another line of text in braille? I don’t even want to dwell on the thought!

Exploring Braille Settings on iOS
by Kim Kilpatrick

This will be the first in a series of articles exploring the use of braille displays with iDevices.

In this article, I will briefly describe the braille settings and show you how to pair a refreshable braille display with an iDevice. Braille support for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and iPad Mini is built into the screen reader which comes with your iDevice. This screen reader is called VoiceOver. Most braille displays work well with VoiceOver. You must use Bluetooth to pair a braille display with your iDevice. Unlike other Bluetooth devices (keyboards, headphones, speakers) braille displays are not paired in the Bluetooth settings but are paired in the VoiceOver braille settings.

Braille Settings
In Settings on your iDevice go to General, then Accessibility, then VoiceOver. You can also ask Siri to open VoiceOver settings. Double tap on Braille.

The settings are as follows (double tap each setting to explore its options):
1. Braille Display Output (this is what you read on your display). You can choose from uncontracted 6-dot braille, uncontracted 8-dot braille and contracted braille. Double tap on the one you want.
2. Braille Display Input (what you use when brailling with your display). Again, you can choose from uncontracted 6-dot braille, uncontracted 8-dot braille and contracted braille.
3. Automatic Braille Translation: When this is turned on, it translates braille contractions as you type. When it is off, it waits until you press space to translate the braille.
4. Braille Screen Input: This is for typing braille on the screen of your iDevice. I will discuss this in a future article.
5. Status Cells: This will also be discussed in a later article.
6. Equations Use Nemeth Code: You can toggle this off or on depending on how you feel about Nemeth code.
7. Show on screen keyboard: I will discuss this in a future article.
8. Turn pages when panning: This is also a toggle and I suggest you leave it on as when reading a book it will just keep going to the next page.
9. Braille Translation: In English braille your options are: English (unified), English (US) and English (United Kingdom)
10. Alert display duration: This will be discussed in a future article.
11. Choose a braille display: Verify that Bluetooth is enabled on your iDevice.

Pairing Your Braille Display
Make sure that your braille display is in Bluetooth or pairing mode. How you achieve this varies depending on your display (consult your braille display manual). Then, find your braille display in the list below the heading titled Choose a braille display and double tap on it.

Some displays pair automatically while others require a PIN to be entered. Check your braille display manual for more information.

Once the display is paired, it should stay paired.

When turning off the braille display and/or iDevice, lock the device first, then turn off the display. When turning them back on, turn on the braille display first then unlock your device. They should pair again without you having to do anything in the braille settings.

If you need help using your braille display with your iPhone, or have questions or topics you wish to be covered, let us know.

BLC on Social Media

Braille Literacy Canada is now on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn! Find us there to receive news about BLC and braille, to stay informed, and to join a network of others devoted to braille just like you.

[Facebook] Braille Literacy Canada/>

GTT Victoria: Report on Trekker Breeze on BC Transit Busses, December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016

Two: Get Together with Technology (GTT) Victoria Members
RE: Victoria Regional Transit Street Announcements System, Trekker Breeze

We are very pleased to advise that the BC Transit Commission has approved an automatic vehicle locater system for the capital regional district fleet. This new system, once installed will allow BC Transit to implement accessible stop announcement systems that we have discussed in the briefing note you’ve seen earlier this fall. Christy Ridout, Director, Corporate and Strategic Planning for BC Transit has sent a note to us concerning it. We have had a recent discussion with her checking that we’re on the same page, which we appear to be. We’re meeting with her early in January, and we have offered the assistance of our membership as the process unfolds, which she was quite pleased to accept. Please see the full text of that email message below.

The new system will be implemented in Victoria, Kelowna, Kamloops, Nanaimo and the Comox Valley over the next 18 months, with the Request for Proposals being readied for Mid-January 2017. See the links at the bottom of this note to a couple of Times Colonist articles on the matter.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Have a wonderful Christmas holiday season, and a very safe, happy, healthy and successful New Year. We will continue to report progress as it unfolds.

Greg Koyl and Albert Ruel

From: Ridout, Christy
Date: December 16, 2016 at 4:14:09 PM PST
Subject: Letter regarding Trekker Breeze and Automatic Voice Annunciators
Dear Mr. Koyl and Mr. Ruel,

Your letter to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission was provided to me as the representative of BC Transit’s SmartBus Program.

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to discuss the future of BC Transit’s existing automatic voice annunciator system, Trekker Breeze. Your timing is excellent, given the Commission just recently approved a memorandum of understanding to move to a real-time technology solution for the fleet.

Under BC Transit’s new SmartBus program, Victoria’s conventional fleet of buses will be equipped with automatic vehicle locators by 2018. This technology, which is linked to schedules, will enable real-time tracking of buses in operation. Customers will be able to determine the expected arrival or departure time of their bus from a their selected stop either via BC Transit’s website, a mobile app, or passenger information displays at major locations. The technology will also enable next-stop announcements that are linked to bus stops, not just cross-roads as the Trekker device does now. As a result, the Trekker device will be removed when the real-time technology is installed. Although subject to negotiations with the preferred vendor through a competitive process, it is our desire to also equip all buses with passenger information displays so that upcoming bus stops are not only announced, but textually displayed for customers inside the bus.

While the existing voice annunciation system has assisted us in meeting an immediate need within our transit system, we are confident that our upcoming real-time technology will further enhance our services and better meet the needs of individuals with accessibility challenges.

Please let me know if you have any further questions about this project and I’d be happy to discuss further.

Best regards,

Christy Ridout
Director, Corporate and Strategic Planning

*Note: To read a couple of articles covering this event please access the below links:

Times Colonist Editorial, December 15, 2016:

Times Colonist Article, December 14, 2016:

GTT Victoria Summary Notes, General Discussion, December 7, 2016

Get together with Technology (GTT) Victoria

A Chapter of

The Canadian Council of the Blind

Summary Notes
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Held in the Community Meeting Room of the GVPL Main branch

The meeting was called to order at 1:05 pm by chair Albert Ruel

Attendance, 10 people, Kira, Bruce, Doug, Joan, Karen, Trevor, Yvette, Mike, Albert and Corry.

Over the last few days the poor weather in Victoria has made mobility somewhat difficult thus the reason for the smaller than usual number of attendees. Seeing as only a half dozen participants were there at the meeting outset, it was decided that today’s meeting would be very informal in nature. Let’s just talk, share tips and tricks and solve any problems or concerns you might have, was the decided upon format.

So, we proceeded as a group on that matter and as it turns out the discussion was extremely productive. Questions and discussion ranged in topics including CELA, Victor Stream and podcasts, Windows 10 and the need to upgrade, is it really essential is 7 is doing everything you want?, Siri vs VoiceOver, Texting without sight and getting started with tech.

The group was informed that we are selling 50/50 tickets for the CCB BC/Yukon division and CCB annual memberships are now due for the 2017 club year.

In total, the CCB GTT Victoria club now has 9 members, down substantially from last year. We encourage you to support the GTT initiative by becoming a member if you have not done so already.

It was decided that the January 4, 2017 meeting will be cancelled. the next CCB GTT Victoria meeting will take place just ahead of White Cane Week, on Wednesday February 1st. 2017.

We hope to see you there……For more info contact 250-240-2343, or email us at

Merry Christmas and all the best in 2017 to all and from all at the CCB GTT Victoria chapter.

The Get Together with Technology (GTT) program is an exciting program of the Canadian Council of the Blind. It is designed to help people who are blind, deaf-blind or have low vision to explore low vision and blindness related access technology. You can learn from and discuss assistive technology with others walking the same path of discovery.

The group is made up of blindness related assistive technology users, and those who have an interest in using assistive technology designed to help blind and vision impaired people level the playing field. GTT groups meet monthly to share their passions for assistive technology and to learn what others can offer from their individual perspectives.

In order to get information about upcoming GTT meetings and conference calls as well as meeting notes and resources, please subscribe to the GTT blog. To register please visit the web page below. Look near the bottom of the page for a link called, “Follow“. Press Enter on that link and leave your email address in the edit field that will appear. The final step is to Click on the Submit Button below the Edit Field. You will receive an email message asking you to confirm that you wish to be subscribed, and clicking on the “confirmation” link in that message will complete the process.

GTT Edmonton Summary Notes, Aroga Tech Demo, December 12, 2016

Summary Notes
GTT Edmonton Meeting December 12, 2016

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held December 12at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.
19 people attended.

December Feature Topic – Aroga Tech Exhibit
We were joined by Steve Barclay from Canada’s premiere assistive technology company, Aroga Technologies, who demonstrated and answered questions on 3 assistive devices for blind and low vision people:
• Transformer HD portable magnifier with Wi-Fi and text-to-speech,
• HumanWare’s new Braillenote Touch Android tablet notetaker,
• NuEyes Easy Glasses electronic magnifier
Steve announced that Aroga now has a new financing program for items over $500. More information is available at their web site. Steve also explained that Aroga provides a consulting service for people who need one-on-one assistance with technology in their home. The fee is $90 per hour . For more information you can contact Aroga’s Calgary rep, Arlene Hansen, at:
Toll Free: 1-800-561-6222

Next Meeting (Monday February 13 at 7pm)
• As the January meeting time will be devoted to a training session at Norquest computer lab, we will not meet again until February. The students for this training session were selected at the November meeting.
• At the February meeting Owais has volunteered to demonstrate Google Classroom.
• Then we will continue our one-on-one training with iPhone and DAISY players.
• As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.

Meeting Location and Logistics
• Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton.
• We meet in the basement hall. There is elevator access.
• Enter the church from the back door. There is parking at the back and drop off space for taxis, DATS.
• Meetings are every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
• If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.

GTT Edmonton Team
• Carrie Anton is visually impaired and is the accessibility specialist for Athabasca University.
• 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 a career and employment specialist with extensive experience helping blind and visually impaired people find employment.
• Russell Solowoniuk is blind and works with alternative formats and assistive technology at Grant MacEwan University.
• Lorne Webber is blind and is the accessibility specialist for Norquest College.

GTT Edmonton Overview
• GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
• GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
• Each meeting will present a feature technology topic and general question and answer about any other technology.
• Small groups or 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 questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
• There are GTT groups in Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, Northern Ontario, Pembroke, Halifax, Sydney, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Victoria, Nanaimo, Vancouver, and more to come.
• There is also a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:
There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.
[End of Document]

Tele Town Hall, Let’s Get It Out There, Summary Notes, October 29, 2016

Hi everyone:
As previously promised, we are pleased to share a summary of the recently concluded tele town hall that was held on October 29.
We invite you to share your feedback with us by writing to

Please find our summary notes pasted below.

Some time in January, the Let’s get it out there tele town hall team will be convening to plan another meeting which we are hoping to host in the early spring and we will be keeping you abreast of our plans.

In the meantime, may we take this opportunity to once again thank you for your continuing interest and to wish you the very best for the holiday season. May 2017 be a bright and prosperous year for you.

Yours sincerely,
The Let’s get it out there tele town hall team

Summary of Proceedings: Let’s Get it Out There Teleconference Town Hall October 29th, 2016, 1pm – 3:30pm Eastern

Moderator: Jane Blaine of Canadian Blind Sports

Special thanks to Louise Gillis of Canadian Council of the Blind, Pat Seed of Citizens with Disabilities – Ontario, and Robin East for their behind-the-scenes work on this teleconference session. CCB generously provided teleconferencing services for the call.


– Richard Marion (British Columbia) – He has been involved in blindness
and cross-disability advocacy for over 25 years. Richard has seen many improvements in accessibility over the years but at the same time, he feels that the issue of accessibility for people who are blind still needs to gain greater attention by society and decision makers.
– Albert Ruel (British Columbia) – A 60 year old totally blind father,
grandfather, and brother, as well as a partner for life to Brenda Forbes. He worked for 19 years in the forest industry when the visual world was available to him, and in the not-for-profit rehabilitation and consumer sectors since 1992 when his vision was perfected to total blindness.
– Melanie Marsden (Ontario) – Has been an advocate for over 30 years.
She has a degree in social work which she obtained while raising two boys.
She is the mother of three. Personally and professionally, Melanie advocates for safe, effective parenting and believes that when we all work together, acknowledging that each person has a voice, we accomplish more.
– Anthony Tibbs (Quebec) – Has more than six years of experience on the
national board of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, as treasurer and then president, and has served on a number of other boards over the years including Guide Dog Users of Canada and Media Access Canada. With a business and law background, Anthony’s day to day job is as a litigation lawyer, but he continues to support the charitable and not-for-profit organizations that play such an important role to the community.
– Paul Edwards (Florida) – Was born in San Francisco and has lived in
Canada and Trinidad. Currently living in the U.S., Paul is a father and grandfather and has been a teacher, rehab counsellor, and administrator.
Retired now, Paul derives much pleasure as a volunteer advocate at the local, state, and national levels. Paul is proud of what every blind person everywhere accomplishes every day.

Notice to Readers

The notes below represent a summary of the comments, positions, and anecdotes which were made during the course of the town hall teleconference call. They are not attributed to any particular participant. While the comments have been paraphrased and edited for duplication and redundancy, a conscious effort has been made in the preparation of these notes to ensure that all perspectives on the issues raised have been acknowledged. All views are those of the speakers alone and do not necessarily represent the views or positions taken by any of the panelists, organizers of the teleconference call, or any organizations that any participant or organizer may represent or be involved with.

Question 1: In order to ensure that people who are blind, partially sighted, or deaf-blind continue to have a strong voice in Canada, what do you think the national consumer movement should look like in the future?

Panel Comments
– All consumers organizations need to actively engage with youth to
introduce them to advocacy, and give them the tools, networks, and experiences to engage in advocacy
– Many basic needs now better met (thanks in part to technology), so need
to determine the burning issues for the next generation
– Need to recognize and acknowledge the history and move on, albeit hard.
But as people who are blind and visually impaired, we need to be at the table in a united front and a united voice.
– Find consensus on issues between organizations. United voice is
important because when there are disagreements within the community, government and others do not take us seriously or choose to do nothing rather than choose one competing view.
– Organizations must provide some personal benefit to members in addition
to advocacy activities
– Must remain independent (acknowledge difference between a service
provider and a consumer organization) and have respectful relationships
– Collaboration does not mean uniting into a single organization

– Major challenge is to ensure we can obtain enough financial funding to
carry out the organization’s activities. In order to do so, we have to ensure our organizations’ respective mandates are strong enough to put forward to potential funders
o How do we fund what is seen by many as an “intangible” (advocacy)?
Organizations have to find creative ways to raise funds, perhaps by providing value-added consumables or services, because the reality is that advocacy is what we do today to improve the situation five or ten years down the road – the results are not immediately measurable.
o Pursuing funding opportunities requires a specific goal. For example,
many people with physical disabilities are eligible for direct funding (attendant care), and that program has just been given a significant funding increase. Establishing projects and programs to support blind and visually impaired people may be one way to attract funding
– Question: How have ACB and NFB worked together in the U.S.?
o ACB and NFB in the U.S. are not necessarily a great example to follow
because while they sometimes work together and are strong when they do, information exchange, collaboration, and communication do not happen (at the national level at least) nearly as much as they should. At the local and state level there are some stronger ties.
o Setting up systems for continuing sharing of points of view and
building consensus is a key to success.
– How do we include youth from various backgrounds (sighted youth/blind
parent, blind parent/sighted youth, etc.)?
o With respect to the college and university population, many of our
organizations offer scholarships or other programs that touch this population, but we do not offer much beyond that to keep them connected.
Need to look at what we can offer these future leaders: networking?
– Need to look at other countries and other communities (e.g. women’s
movement) where organizations are operating effectively: how did they do it and what can we learn?
o Consider whether this research is itself a fundable (capacity-building)
o In the UK, there is a model whereby consumers have “taken over” what
was originally a service provider organization. How can we move from a “for-the-blind” service agency to an “of-the-blind” service agency?
o In Australia, there is a very strong single consumer organization that
provides input at the state and federal level
o In New Zealand, there is a hybrid model
– Multiple Canadian organizations should join together to establish an
arms-length advocacy entity to pursue common issues
o CNIB has a new more proactive advocacy program that may help to unite,
but in the end advocacy must be consumer-led
– Must recognize and, without judgment, accommodate stratification and
the multiple dimensions within the “blind” community:
o vision level (low vision, legally blind, totally blind, deaf-blind)
o newly blinded/experienced blinded/congenitally blind
o retired vs working vs unemployed vs student
o anglophone vs francophone
o independent travellers vs those who rely on other means (ParaTransit,
o technologically equipped and literate vs others

Question 2: Canada is a small country in population; however, it is geographically quite large. Would it be better in Canada to ensure that, on a national level, there is one organization of blind working on projects and advocacy to help strengthen community activities provincially and locally?

Panel Comments
– The answer is not “one organization” as each organization may be
meeting different needs within the community. Working together in a cooperative and collaborative way is more important than the form it takes.
– Each organization should allocate resources (people, etc.) to
developing joint position papers that could then be supported by all the organizations that exist in Canada
– Need to strengthen existing coalition-building activities to ensure
these can withstand changes in personalities at the coalition table
– Funding and granting organizations are often pleased to see strategic
partnerships and collaborative relationships, so there may actually be an advantage to presenting a “united front” across several organizations when applying for such funds

– There are different organizations but there aren’t so many that we
cannot work together, and each organization has a very different focus so that there is little overlap.
– The specialization of certain organizations on can be a valuable
resource that others can utilize and build upon where needed for advocacy initiatives (e.g. Guide Dog Users of Canada, Braille Literacy Canada)
– For unity to work, each of us must be respectful and non-judgmental
about the differing needs of others. Society has imputed an implied belief that in order to be ‘independent’ or ‘successful’ you must do X, Y, or Z perfectly, but as a community we must recognize that we don’t need to be a “perfect blind person” to be deserving of respect and inclusion in the community
o “We must see every person for who they are, and where they are. We
cannot judge people by what they can do; we have to judge them instead by what they do every day. Being blind every day can be hard, but it is also something we can be immensely proud of, and we must come to a point where every person who is blind is equally respected and valued where they are, not where some of us think they need to be.”
o Example: not everyone has the same ability (or interest or motivation
to develop the ability) to travel wholly independently, or to use a computer for advanced work, and we need to be willing to work with these different skill sets.
o Example: not everyone needs or wants to receive the same type of
service in a restaurant setting.
– Education needed about the difference between a consumer organization
and a service provider.
o This education has to happen in the blind community, but also needs to
involve decision-makers at all levels, so that they understand the very different messages that come from the blind and those who speak on our behalf
o Whenever the issue of the service provider (CNIB) is raised, it is
difficult to address because community members seem to be afraid of conflict, punishment. As a community we do not feel empowered.
o Need to be careful about this “consumer organization” vs “service
provider” distinction: consumer organizations could very well become service providers
– A service provider has no place doing advocacy and would have no place
being a part of any kind of coalition or network of consumer groups.
o On the other hand, the support services that a service provider can
offer to a coalition can be very helpful: preparing research documents, secretarial/admin support, funding support
o Ideally we should be sufficiently resourced to not require their
– Any single national organization will need to recognize our linguistic
duality which may be difficult. Many years ago, the federal government funded more translation projects that helped national organizations become more bilingual but this has not been a governmental priority for some time.
– Recognize that a national organization cannot meaningfully address
local issues. National bodies should focus on national issues (telecom, interprovincial transportation, etc.). However, national organizations should facilitate networking between local cross-organizational groups to advocate on specific local issues (e.g. LRT in Ottawa). At the same time, local experiences should be documented and communicated nationally because issues arising in one city are bound to arise elsewhere, too.
– Public and organizational awareness about the fact that there are
multiple consumer organizations within the blind community, and that no single person can speak for all (multiple opinions matter) is required.
Organizations which require input from the blind community need to be educated about the array of organizations with which they could consult and the need to consider input from more than one source.
– Grassroots: Any national organization must be respectful of the
grassroots and people’s local needs, which might be delivered through chapters and personal advocacy, in collaboration with whomever the local service providers might be
– Education of and to the public sector is an important starting point
toward larger changes

Question 3: National, provincial, and local organizations have tried working in coalitions. Are you aware of any activities that these coalitions have done? Would you support a more formal working relationship between the existing national organizations of the blind?

Panel Comments
– There are rooms for coalitions at all levels of advocacy (local,
provincial, and federal – e.g. government contacts).
– Experience in the US has shown that bringing everyone into the room,
including any proverbial elephants, works best in the long run. But for this to work effectively, the service provider must be a true member of the coalition and be committed to standing united with the coalition viewpoint.
This is particularly true where a service provider has a powerful voice to decision-makers and a powerful voice to the public.
– A formal working relationship and agreement to participate in a
coalition on a specific issue works best to ensuring continued success even as representatives and personalities change
– Active participation and support of cross-disability initiatives and
undertakings can help to foster supportive networks that we can then call upon when advocating for the blind community

– Common issues that we can likely all agree need to be addressed:
o Employment, whether that is being trained, skilled, employed,
self-employed, entrepreneurship – there are great opportunities to forge collaboration. Universities do not necessarily prepare the blind for employment. In the US there are dozens of organizations with the overlapping goal of facilitating employment and entrepreneurship for the blind. Why not here?
o Rehabilitation service delivery models. DASM (Developing Alternative
Service Models) was a report done by BOOST many years ago. If we want to change how rehabilitation services are provided in Canada, we need to present viable alternatives and working together to consider what those models may look like would be a first step forward and may dovetail with defining the future role of the consumer movement.
– Benefits of coalitions (uni-disability and cross-disability):
o Enabling organizations to come together over clearly defined issues
o Develop goals and objectives in the advocacy sphere
o In a cross-disability context, this also helps different communities
learn about the needs of others (so that advocacy initiatives intended to help one community do not inadvertently undermine accessibility for another)
o Differences between organizations and viewpoints can be worked out
behind closed doors, away from the public eye
o Organizations can then speak as one unified voice
– Cross-disability coalitions can be powerful provided that (1) the blind
community is prepared to effectively present our positions and needs, and
(2) the blind representatives are willing to fight and stand up to have our needs given the same priority as others. If we are to be expected to support other groups, they must support us.
– Networking (meeting to discuss and propose solutions to specific
issues) solves problems when we are working with other entities and are not at cross purposes, without losing any individual autonomy in the process.
Example: When the Ontario government cut funding for the O&M training program at Mohawk College, BOOST initiated a meeting with all the different organizations and proceeded to network (which was the word used with the media and the service provider). The result was a continuation and extension of the funding.
– Question: Should a blindness-specific coalition be restricted to member
organizations that have at least 80% of their governing body be blind or partially sighted individuals?
o Regardless of the number chosen, in a coalition of consumer groups, by
definition most consumer organizations will meet such a requirement.
However, there can also be a need for expertise, resources, and information from outside of our own sphere of what we have and can provide to such an initiative. Cutting out organizations by bright line rules risks losing out on expertise and feedback.
o This would be nice to have, but it isn’t necessarily a requirement
particularly on an issue-specific coalition. There are a lot of cross-disability networks and coalitions which have been very successful (e.g. AODA Alliance and Barrier Free Canada, each of which have a mixture of consumer organizations, service groups, etc.). Service organizations do have a level of expertise they can bring to that, as well as administrative resources that the consumer groups may not have.
o Bringing on board other professionals and entities in the blindness or
disability field, even though they do not meet the criteria as indicated, may be important on specific issues.
o Being a ‘member’ and ‘involved’ in a coalition does not necessarily
make one a ‘voting’ member: service providers could participate and support without setting coalition direction

Question 4: Why do you think the blindness community is so fragmented in its approach to advocacy and community activities?

Panel Comments
– “Fragmentation” is likely not real when it is applied to specific
issues. If we coalesce around making change and building coalition as core values, the fragmentation that exists across organizations will become irrelevant.
– As discussed above, accessibility needs across the “blind” population
vary considerably (to say nothing of those who may have additional needs beyond blindness). In a group of ten blind restaurant patrons, one might well need a sighted reader as well as large print, high contrast, braille, audio, and e-Text menus to accommodate everyone’s abilities or information access preferences.
– We lack the singular community identity of “blind”: we use many
different euphemisms to describe “blindness” (blind, visually impaired, partially sighted, etc.). Should we refer to it as the ‘blindness spectrum’
– “When two blind folks get angry with each other, a new organization is
born.” We lose focus and get tied up in ego and mistrust and we see disagreements on issues as an ending place. We need to view our disagreements as a starting place to find common ground, build trust and respect, and check our egos at the door.
– Funders want people who present a united front, who will be working
together with other organizations to achieve more.

– Is there really fragmentation? To be sure, we are diverse and have
diverse needs, but perhaps the community is not truly fragmented.
– New communication mechanisms offer new opportunities to overcome
geographic fragmentation, if we are willing to work with it and make an effort to make it work for us
o Online streams (e.g. ACB Radio) and podcasts represent a new frontier
that we could use to build consensus in Canada if organizations can work collaboratively together to create programming
o E-mail has sometimes not served us well as a community, as it is too
easy to put a literal understanding on the written words and adopt contrary positions (or the mistaken belief that there are contrary positions), rather than working through to find commonality
– We need to build more “blind pride” into the very core of our being,
and more use of the word “blind” (to include the various levels of visual
impairment) so that we do try to unify ourselves.
– This may be a difficult sell to older individuals who are losing their
vision. Education is needed on the range and the spectrum, but whether describing everyone as ‘blind’ will succeed at uniting us.
– In 1975, the Cuban government said to the disability community, “this
is your revolution so get organized”. As a result, the president of each national disability group has a seat in the national assembly, and blind people are integrated in every level of society as a result. The Canadian disability act consultations represent the closest chance we’ve ever had to a revolution of our own in Canada.
– Some years ago, there was the formation of the Consumer Access Group
(CAG), which was hoped to bring, particularly, consumer organizations closer together. What CAG doesn’t appear to have found is the one burning issue that will motivate all these organizations to move in a single direction
– We need to get away from the “shackles” that prevent forward progress:
the one agency (CNIB) that is perceived as being “in charge” of all the names and addresses of blind people all over Canada.
o Federal government dollars flowing to CNIB for its Ottawa office, which
has no business “advocating” for the blind, really ought to have gone to consumers to make resources happen to the consumer movement
o In order to get funds from the federal government, it should put in
place programs that demonstrate its attempts to reach out and include the consumer organizations and consumers.
o The perception that the ‘service provider’ is a risk or fragmenting
force varies by province. In Quebec, where rehabilitation services are provided by the government, there is less of a divisive stance
– Fragmentation, if it exists at all, can be overcome by inclusive
advocacy that is done for all, with the whole community in mind, including those with other disabilities
– Important to recognize that we are not all, individually, experts on
everything – network is important to have individuals we can refer to for specific situations and needs (overcomes fragmentation)
– Egoism, lack of respect and unprofessional behaviour between advocates
limits our ability to move forward, and it is time for the community as a whole to step in and implement zero-tolerance policies toward that behaviour.
– Inclusion and universal design must be accomplished within our
organizations. People have different styles of approaching advocacy and different skill sets, and we have not (as a community) necessarily been very accepting of different approaches.
– Must recognize that people who are newly blinded often feel a great
deal of shame about their vision loss, thanks to the prejudice that courses through our society about blindness. If we can help to make it “ok” to be visually impaired, “ok” to be blind, in the eyes of the greater community, and begin to collect those people into our group rather than having them hide in the closest by themselves (unaware of resources and possibilities), this could help to unify and grow our advocacy community.
– Peer support activities, such as GTT-style groups, bring together a
diverse group of individuals with varying skill sets and backgrounds over a common uniting theme (technology) to allow information sharing and learning, which should help to narrow technological gaps in the community
– A coalition can be a coalition of three people. We need to build the
organizations just the way they are for now, and once we have a critical mass of people in the organizations, then the organizations can get together and work.
– Some fragmentation exists in that there is a gap in service and
attention to those between perhaps 25 and 60 who fall above the reach of “children and youth” programs and below the reach of “seniors” programs, but who nonetheless have a wealth of information, experience, and skills to contribute