Guest Post: Attention all Blind and Low Vision Canadians: CBC Docs Casting Call for Canadians with Disabilities

 

Dear fellow blind and low vision Canadians.  Please check out the Casting Call below, and to get a flavour for the project, access the three links provided.  If you are interested in participating in the project you are urged to contact Thea directly to let her know, along with your Skype contact so they can conduct a screening interview prior to the final selection of participants.

 

Although Thea is only working on the English Documentary, there is a French version being worked on at the same time, so if you’d prefer to participate in the French Documentary do let her know and she will pass your contact info to the appropriate personnel at Radio Canada.

 

BTW, this Casting Call is mostly for Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal residents, however there is some limited option to bring people from farther afield into Toronto for filming if necessary.

 

Thea Toole: Hello, I am a researcher for Pixcom Productions based in Montreal. We are producing an 8 part series for the CBC about people who live with disabilities from across Canada. The series is called You Can’t Ask That and is the Canadian version of a successful Australian show, you can see an example here:

 

 

It’s a documentary series that confronts prejudices and breaks down the taboos in our society in an entertaining and authentic format. For our series each episode will ask a group of Canadians who live with various disabilities, the awkward, inappropriate or uncomfortable questions they hear all the time to let the audience hear their honest answers. Every episode features several individuals with the same disability as they sit in front of the camera and candidly answer questions submitted by public and selected by us. Answers can be funny or serious and sometimes irreverent, challenging the audience to rethink their assumptions on the episode’s topic. As each episode features a variety of people who have faced similar challenges, the audience is given a better understanding of the range of experiences these individuals have faced. I am writing to ask if you would be able to recommend people who would be interested in participating in any of our episodes. This is a link to the CBC Docs post about the show, please feel free to share:

 

Casting Call: You Can’t Ask That | CBC Life

Do you get awkward or inappropriate questions about your disability? Would you like to set the record straight?

 

To follow the CBC Docs on Facebook check out their Page at this link:

 

If you have any questions at all, please call or email me any time. Thanks very much, hope to talk soon.

Thea Toole

450-826-0599

ttoole@pixcom.com

 

Game-Changing Technology: A Review of the Horizon Smart Glasses from Aira – AccessWorld® – June 2018

AccessWorld: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired is a monthly periodical for anyone who uses or wants to use assistive technology, provides technology training, has students or clients who use technology, needs to make purchasing decisions, or wants to keep abreast of technological trends and events.
— Read on www.afb.org/afbpress/pubnew.asp

An Evaluation of OrCam MyEye 2.0 – AccessWorld® – August 2018

AccessWorld: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired is a monthly periodical for anyone who uses or wants to use assistive technology, provides technology training, has students or clients who use technology, needs to make purchasing decisions, or wants to keep abreast of technological trends and events.
— Read on www.afb.org/afbpress/pubnew.asp

Guest Post: Let’s Get It Out There, Tele Town Hall Consultations Final Report, August 17, 2018

Let’s Get It Out There

 

Tele Town Hall Committee Consultations

October 2016 to March 2018

Final Report

August 17, 2018

 

*Note: Here is a link to download the file in MS Word format.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/v7pb3krn6lxzhks/Tele%20Town%20Hall%20Final%20Report%20Protected%202018Aug17.docx?dl=0

 

Introduction:

 

In 2016, a question was asked on the member discussion list hosted by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians about the AEBC and the Canadian Council of the Blind merging. The resulting discussion from this simple enquiry resulted in a group of individuals looking for methods to improve relations between blindness, low vision and deafblind organizations in Canada. The goal of the “Let’s Get It Out There” project was to take a holistic view of issues around advocacy, respect and working more closely together. Although there have been previous efforts at coalition building, this was an opportunity through a Tele Town Hall consultation process to receive feedback and suggestions at a grass roots level.  See the Tele Town Hall Committee Mission Statement appended to this report.

 

In Canada, our history of people who are blind, partially sighted and deafblind working together is not that different from other countries. The main thing that makes Canada different is the small population spread over a vast distance that makes ongoing collaboration and communications difficult. When looking at advocacy, we have many different organizations and individuals working on issues sometimes together, but very often in isolation not knowing or trusting what each other is doing. Even today with more communications options available, because of accessibility issues of some current technology and the lack of assistive technology training, many times we are not aware of what each other are doing.

 

Although this discussion was meant to cover all ages, economics and other demographics, no effort was put into ensuring that all were adequately represented.  To recruit participants the communications avenues employed were through discussion mailing lists, Facebook Groups, Twitter feeds and newsletters known by the committee members and the organizations they interact with.  In short, we relied on word of mouth to promote the Tele Town Hall meetings, and by copying representatives of the blindness, low vision and deafblind organizations on our radar it was hoped that news of this initiative would be circulated to their respective networks.  It was noted that the first meeting had the largest number of participants, with numbers decreasing as we moved into the final two gatherings.

 

This report looks at the discussion that occurred during each of the town hall meetings and attempts to put forward some suggestions and challenges to individuals and organizations working in the sector and what that might look like. It should be noted that even though the role of service providers like CNIB was not the main goal of this discussion, it does factor into the ongoing relationships between people and organizations representing people who are blind, partially sighted and deafblind.

 

Premise:

 

It is understood that within the blind, low vision and deafblind community there exists a wide range of people whose experiences, thoughts and attitudes are affected by whether their vision loss is congenital/ Adventitious, their individual independent living goals/skills, interest levels in advocacy, participation goals, and community/family/social support systems.  It stands to reason then that we will have received a wide range of opinions about whether or not existing Canadian organizations ought to be amalgamated, whether the vision loss community should collaborate more closely, where the shortcomings are, how they can be solved and who should do the solving.  The clear message received asked that all those things that make us unique be considered by the organizations of and for the blind, partially sighted and deafblind as they develop services, programs and engage in advocacy.  It is the Tele Town Hall Committee’s opinion that no real concise direction was determined through it all, and that the suggestions found herein were gleaned out of the comments submitted and thoughts expressed by participants.

 

 

 

 

Tele Town Hall Meeting #1

 

October 2016: Let’s Get It Out There

The first Tele Town Hall meeting asked four questions.

  • 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?

Between the panelists and the participants on the phone many issues were noted as being important, namely that: means of engaging youth in advocacy and setting future directions remains important and as yet not well done; that technology has made a big difference in our lives, and that sorting out what the next burning issues are will be important to get done; a united voice is important so letting go of the past is crucial to ongoing collaboration and unity; it’s important to articulate on personal benefits derived from advocacy efforts as a means of increasing engagement; organizational independence is important, as is the demarcation of consumer verses service organizations for public understanding, and; it was noted that good collaboration is possible without the need for amalgamation.  Much discussion ensued related to funding the work of advocacy through strong mandate articulation, the sale of current consumables/services to members as a means of benefiting them now for advocacy benefits down the road.  It was noted that the two largest consumer groups in the USA work fairly well at the local level, and not always as well nationally.  It was suggested that better networking and mentoring programs are needed as a means of increasing youth engagement, as is the study of other successful movements like the “Women’s movement”.  It was suggested that research grants could be a means of funding advocacy efforts.  In order to give the blind, partially sighted and deafblind population a stronger voice suggestions were made around the creation of service organizations made up of primarily consumers of the service.

  • 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 the blind, partially sighted and deafblind working on projects and advocacy to help strengthen community activities provincially and locally?

Between the panelists and participants the important ideas seemed to be that: funders appreciate strategic partnerships; that collaboration can happen without the need for amalgamation; that organizations need to strengthen their coalition building processes so that work can carry on despite personnel changes; that staff/volunteer time be allocated to developing joint position papers on issues related to vision impairment and rehabilitation, and; that all current organizations are meeting different needs for their constituents, a goal that any one organization would struggle to fulfill.  Participants agreed that the specializing of some organizations is helpful to the overall community provided collaboration works well, like having braille, dog guide and other specific organizations.  Respect for each other and the various skills we bring to the table individually and organizationally is important to maintain.  Some expressed distaste for conflict between organizations, especially between service and consumer organizations.  These distinctions can end up being clouded today when service organizations conduct work traditionally reserved for consumers, and when consumer organizations begin to deliver services to their members and other blindness, low vision and deafblind service consumers.  Some expressed that service organizations have no business doing advocacy, and would have no place being a part of any kind of coalition or network of consumer groups.  The issue of Canada’s dual language was raised as a high cost item for all organizations.  National organizations should work solely on national initiatives, and local organizations should focus on local issues.  Either way, information about who does what for whom is an important communications strategy for all involved to consider for the benefit of members, consumers and the general public.

  • 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?

Between the panelists and participants a range of opinions were expressed that included: coalitions can include cross disabilities, which can be a powerful statement to the general public; ground rules need to be negotiated early on how coalitions will be staff/funding resourced and populated; service providers can be invited under the understanding that consumers will speak on behalf of the members; formal working relationships and agreement to participate in a coalition on a specific issue works best to ensuring continued success even as representatives and personalities change; opportunities exist for coalitions to work on employment and other issues, and strategies to work toward them ought to be articulated and goals set for such coalitions to move forward; the DASM report (Developing Alternative Service Models) by BOOST written in the 1970’s is still a good model for consumer groups to work on in developing their strategies for future service delivery goals; conflicts should be worked out behind closed doors with unified fronts being exhibited in public, and; some believe that only organizations “of the blind, partially sighted and deafblind” should make up advocacy coalitions, and others indicated that issue by issue decisions can be made on such strategies, and that limiting membership in this way can leave a coalition without adequate resources to get the job done if some organizations are left out.

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

Between the panelists and participants it was noted that: when viewing advocacy on an issue by issue basis there is little in the way of fragmentation; the blind, partially sighted and deafblind community is broad raged in terms of degree of remaining vision, which leads to different accommodation needs that can often be viewed as fragmentation; where ever disagreement exists between individuals and/or organizations we might be better served by viewing that as a starting place to build consensus rather than separation; we can better utilize communications technology to bridge the geographic divides as we work toward finding common ground upon which to agree; blind, low vision and deafblind pride is something toward which we might try to move and to develop consensus, recognizing that those who identify as having low vision tend to resist the word blind; we might need a “blind revolution” in Canada, and that the National Accessibility Act is now before Parliament it presents a good opportunity for organizations to coalesce; the Consumer Access Group (CAG) seems to have failed to mount a sustained coalition, which appears to be an important thing to do according to some participant’s sentiments; some people believe that CNIB is one of the shackles holding back blind, partially sighted and deafblind consumers, and that Federal Government funds given to CNIB would be better spent on advocacy with the consumer groups; fragmentation, if it exists can be mitigated by using an inclusive cross-disability approach and networking with a variety of experts and those with the lived experience of vision loss; in Quebec there seems to be less fragmentation in the blind, partially sighted and deafblind consumer sector which is thought by some to be as a result of the Provincial Government being the rehab service provider, and that they don’t come to the table purporting to speak on behalf of their blind, partially sighted and deafblind citizens; egoism, lack of respect and unprofessional behaviour among some advocates reduces the whole community and ought not be tolerated; within the blind, partially sighted and deafblind community we must learn to be tolerant of the ranges of skills, vision acuity and levels of adjustment we’re all experiencing, and in order to be inclusive within our own community we should establish advocacy train the trainer sessions and adjustment to blindness, vision loss and deafblindness peer mentoring gatherings with a view to coaching consumers to become better service consumers; coalitions can be coalitions of three, which can then be built into larger forces for good and positive movement; some fragmentation exists due to services available for children and seniors, with a perceived gap for the working age group;

 

Tele Town Hall Meeting #2

 

March 4, 2017: Let’s Get It Out There

The second Tele Town Hall meeting asked four questions.

  • Question 1: How should service and advocacy organizations be transparent and accountable to the community?

Between the panelists and participants it was thought that: more open decision making and communications processes between organizations and with members would move us toward more accountability and transparency; there’s a perception that some organizations work at cross purposes, which might be mitigated through a conscious effort to build trust; that accountability means someone, organization or individual, should take the lead role in setting goals through consensus building; some existing organizational structures may be transformed into coalition style advocacy efforts, and some may need to be dissolved; some believe that CNIB isn’t serving the blind, partially sighted and deafblind in ways that is perceived by the general public, funders and government decision makers; there is a lack of separation between what the consumer movement and the CNIB do on behalf of the blind, partially sighted and deafblind in Canada in terms of advocacy; it was suggested that CNIB be broken up into provincial self-governing blindness , low vision and deafblindness rehab organizations, then establish Boards of Directors consisting of consumer group members elected by their members leading to accountable, effective, progressive service delivery; consumer organizations should meet annually to share advocacy goals and determine which organization will work on which priority; with increased reporting to the consumer movement on government grants and funding as to services delivered and outcomes achieved, more and better accountability to the end user can be achieved; a “Watch-Dog” organization should be established that would deliver an annual report card on service and consumer organizations based on three criteria, Tell us what you’re going to do, Tell us about it as you do it and Tell us how you did at the end, and; CNIB appears to be more concerned with its continued relevance, funding, and identity rather than the needs of blind, partially sighted and deafblind consumers, and that consumer groups taking matters into their own hands is seen as a threat.

  • Question 2: How do we engage individuals and the blindness community concerning our needs and rights in the broader Canadian society?

Between the panelists and participants it was thought that: individuals who want a better way must take responsibility to work toward it; consumer organizations only work if there’s a community that comprises it; cross organizational collaboration is essential; small incremental gains should be celebrated if it moves toward the greater good; for increased engagement and participation all forms of communications should be used, telephone, face-to-face and written participation; to engage youth in advocacy different forms of communication need to be employed, that there be a set of concrete actions with immediate results for them to stay engaged, those who didn’t attend “schools for the blind” may not be well connected in the blind, partially sighted or deafblind communities, and may not want to be outside of sporting and similar activities; organizations who are successful in engaging youth ought to be sought out for advice; some of today’s youth have multiple disabilities which makes advanced advocacy more difficult; we need to engage them In activities that will build their skills sets and resumes; older citizens who lose sight are also without a blind community to identify with, and they too must be engaged in ways that bring them into the fold rather than alienate them; engaging with cross disability organizations is a great way to take our message to the masses; we need a more unified message from the consumer movement to take to CNIB so as to articulate the blind, partially sighted and deafblind community’s real needs; one size does not fit all, and that organizations have to remain conscious of varying needs, skills and abilities of individuals, and to articulate that clearly to the general public, funders and government decision makers;

  • Question 3: What specific actions can individuals and organizations take to promote transparency, integrity, accountability, and respect?

Between panelists and participants it was thought that: we all must be clear when doing self-advocacy that it is our opinion and not necessarily the needs of the community; As both organizations and individuals, we need to act and be transparent with what we do for the different segments of our community, deafblind, multi-disabled and/or LGBTQ; we must refrain from judging others and to offer understanding and support for our differences, preferences and independence goals; assumptions can lead to fragmentation, conflict and general misunderstanding, as might be some of the comments shared regarding youth through these meetings with no known youth attending to speak on their own behalf; silos are believed to exist in the community, which leads to closed communications, lack of trust between organizations and to confusing messaging broadcast to the general public; more research is needed to establish the real needs of blind, partially sighted and deafblind consumers so that an information hub can be developed; we should lead by example  to promote trust, integrity and respect by demonstrating the same; we should “Be as wise as serpents, but as gentle as doves”: On a personal level, be respectful of others – but analyse the situation and have an understanding of the landscape as not everything is as it appears to be, particularly where individual and organizational power imbalances exist; the blind, partially sighted and deafblind community might do well to select a national awareness day aimed at promoting the abilities and needs of those living with blindness, vision loss and deafblindness; we should be respectful of others without playing into stereotypes of those “nice polite blind people”, other advocacy endeavours don’t always play by nice rules; the more experienced advocates might want to be less intimidating when working with the less experienced among us, and to seek such opportunities to coach and mentor, and; we should individually and organizationally express appreciation when decisions are made and action taken that supports growth, forward movement and the achievement of our goals for independence, inclusion and autonomy.

  • Question 4: What should be included in rules of engagement that would govern ongoing collaboration in the blindness community?

Between the panelists and participants it was thought that: little steps build trust for bigger steps, and that we should individually and organizationally focus on the message trying to look past “delivery style” and personal flair – all collaboration efforts should begin with a reminder of the importance of focusing on the content and not the messenger or delivery; we should want to, and demand to be part of the decision making process where consumable services are debated and established; when we recruit for work on an advocacy initiative we must ensure that we’ve brought to play all the experts and relevant information with which to make the best decisions and action plans; the establishment of best practices communications is a great way to share results, policies and strategies; rules for engagement with service providers is different than within the consumer movement; the consumer movement needs to support each other with letters of support when goals are achieved and the community’s agenda is advanced by any organization, and; coalition efforts ought to be established on a case by case basis rather than expecting them to survive across several differing initiatives.

 

Tele Town Hall Meeting #3

 

October 14, 2017: Advocacy without Borders

The third Tele Town Hall meeting asked presenters to tell us about the consumer and rehabilitation services systems in their countries.

Martine Abel-Williamson talked about the importance of differentiating our access needs from the needs of people with physical disabilities.  NZ has one service provider and people are served in their homes primarily.  NZ got its first blindness org in 1945 about when the CCB was started in Canada, and shortly after the NFB was started in the USA.  It’s when blind people started to want autonomy and independence.  Martine talked about the need for local and international collaboration as well, and the importance of having a good peer mentoring strategy and a legal aid program to assist persons with disabilities when their rights are violated or ignored.

Fran Cutler talked about what’s available in Australia, starting out with the need for a really good website targeted to each region of the country as the basis for good advocacy, information sharing and dissemination.  The use of all the social media channels today has also become most important for keeping people informed and moving them to action when needed.  She talked about the post cards used to alert people to hazards left on sidewalks that have the organization’s name and contact info on it.  Most rehab services are office based in Australia as 2/3 of the population lives in 5 major Cities.  Consumers in Australia are often asked to consult on matters of public access, and because voting is compulsory they are working hard at ensuring an inclusive and cost effective voting system.  Guide Dogs Australia uses a billboard showing 30 people using white canes with one dog guide user, with the slogan that says, we train 30 blind people to move around independently with a cane for every Guide Dog user.  Theirs is a home based rehab service model.  Fran also indicated that the Australian organizations she spoke of seem to have carved out their own specialties, with one focussing mostly on advocacy, two on rehab services and another on public awareness and education.  She didn’t say a lot about collaboration, animosity or political disagreements.

The need to consider services and advocacy from the indigenous person’s perspective was raised, where some collaboration work is being done internationally, in New Zealand, but not in Australia or Canada.  Both speakers indicated that some advocacy has worked in educating decision makers and that much more needs to be done in order to achieve some degree of consistency.  Technology support is another area where consistency isn’t always apparent.  When government seeks advice on issues of blindness it appears that the higher profile organizations are called upon.  New Zealand appears to have something similar to Canada’s Consumer Access Group that functions reasonably well.  In terms of learning from each other what works in the advocacy arena, both presenters suggested that we don’t give up trying to find reasons to work together to advance our agenda.

 

Tele Town Hall Meeting #4

 

November 18, 2017: Advocacy without Borders. The forth Tele Town Hall meeting asked presenters to tell us about the consumer and rehabilitation services systems in their countries.

 

Mitch Pomarance gave us an overview of the American system of Federal and State funding of rehab services, which in California used to include everyone who lost sight, and more recently has been curtailed to focus on the working age population.  Due to funding pressures, there appears to be some friction in the USA between the Independent Living movement and the blindness specific service and advocacy areas regarding who’s best equipped to deliver good independence skills to the blind population.  Mitch talked about a time about 20 years ago when the two large consumer organizations in California worked together to advocate for a separate rehab organization for the blind, and that even though they didn’t get the organization, they did get a separate division within the State Rehabilitation Agency for persons with disabilities.  California has established a 13-member advisory body that meets quarterly to advise the Rehab Agency on matters of importance to the blind community which is made up of people from the two consumer organizations, service providers, consumers and others.  Mitch indicated that the collaborative framework has worked well and is worth spending energy on.

John Panarese talked about how different rehab outcomes exist in the 50 States of the Union.  It seems that despite having two large and powerful consumer advocacy organizations in the USA they still end up with differences in how rehab services are delivered from State to State.  John has noticed too that despite the two large consumer organizations there are a lot of individuals who don’t know how to advocate for themselves.  It was also stated that consumers need to learn how to articulate their needs, strategize on how to best achieve them and insist that the rehab organization provide that which is needed and not that which is convenient to the service provider.  John emphasized the need/desire for one over-arching consumer organization that could represent blind persons so that consistency might be achieved, and politics reduced.  He expressed the importance of educating the consumer to their rights, responsibilities and the need for them to take charge of their lives and the path of travel.

Questions around the working relationship between the two consumer groups indicated that although it works well sometimes, trust and power struggles usually cause collaborations to falter.  Clarification was given to the role of the ADA in the USA.  It only covers matters of access and accommodation, and doesn’t touch areas related to rehabilitation.  As in Canada, the access needs of physically disabled citizens enjoys a higher priority than do blindness related issues.  The consumer groups in the USA are structured with Divisions dealing with separate issues like, deafblind, employment, dog guides, LGBTQ, lawyers, teachers, children etc.  On the question of consumer groups working together Mitch indicated that the NFB and the ACB will amalgamate shortly after the Democratic and Republican Parties join forces.  Everybody has their own philosophy, goals and desires and the best we can do is to learn how to work together with respect and understanding.  The question of attitudes about blindness among the general public was discussed, and despite much effort being spent on this issue by both consumer organizations in the USA, there is still a long way to go.  Blindness is still one of the top three feared disabilities and little has changed in that regard over the years.

 

Tele Town Hall Meeting #5

 

March 10, 2018: Have Your Final Say

The fifth Tele Town Hall meeting asked five questions.

  • How well do current blindness/low vision rehabilitation services organizations in Canada serve your needs?  Or do they not serve your needs as the case may be?  (I.E. Are your personally happy with existing Canadian blindness rehabilitation services?)

Participants indicated that: low vision issues are not well understood by the general public and that service organizations could do a better job of disseminating information about the difference between blind and low vision; The geography of Canada is such that in rural areas little in the way of rehab service is available or delivered making independence more difficult to achieve; Given the constant change to the assistive technology in our lives it has created a need for more and ongoing training, and there is not enough mobility training available to blind, partially sighted and deafblind Canadians; The monopoly in the Canadian Rehabilitation Services sector needs to change so that competition can start to drive innovation, and that entrepreneurial opportunities for blind, partially sighted and deafblind citizens ought to be made available in this regard through open tendering of those available funding dollars; In Quebec where the province funds rehabilitation there appears to be a hierarchy of service availability with blindness services like Orientation and Mobility falling behind other services; The pan-disability employment services currently operating in BC means that staff there no little about blindness, low vision or deafblindness, and the CNIB and our consumer organizations have not done well to educate them, leading to a less than helpful level of service to the end consumer; The ongoing upgrading needed to our assistive technology and the training required in order to stay abreast of it is lacking, as is the funding necessary to keep up with these constant changes; With CNIB moving to a provincially funded Rehabilitation Organization model perhaps increased opportunities will be generated for entrepreneurs to enter the sector, and; In Nova Scotia blindness rehabilitation has been funded by the province for about 2 years, and so far no increase or improvement has been noticed.

  • How well do blindness/low vision advocacy support organizations in Canada serve your needs?  How are they not serving your needs as the case may be?  (I.E Are you personally happy with the existing consumer advocacy and support movements in Canada)?

Participants indicated that: we need unity with autonomy, unity with diversity rather than amalgamation of the consumer movement; we don’t always work well together in some pockets of the country, and in others it works a little better; the consumer movement in Quebec isn’t as strong because all rehabilitation services are provincially funded, and that as similar strategies are employed in other parts of Canada similar things might start to happen, and hopefully we can learn from each other; the CAG initiative has worked to some degree, however because it is financially dependent on CNIB there has been some reluctance to criticize them for fear of losing that funding and administrative support; among the post-secondary student population there is little connection to the existing consumer organizations which is leaving them disconnected and unaffiliated; the older adult who lost sight after a lifetime of vision are not well represented in the consumer movement, as well as those who live with low vision, and that our consumer organizations need to broaden their programs and recruiting efforts to engage those two groups more effectively; consumers from foreign backgrounds are not well assimilated into the blindness, low vision and deafblindness consumer movements or in society generally, so more needs to be done to ensure that all are included; the changes to the role of the service provider whereby they are taking on a larger advocacy role is causing a scary future for the consumer movement in Canada, so where we can we must find ways to unify or run the risk of losing our identity; there is a lack of accountability and transparency at the national level in the consumer organizations that isn’t so prevalent provincially and locally; too many consumer organizations have not done and are not doing enough succession planning to replace the few people who seem to do most of the advocacy work, which has led to the closure of one BC organization so far, and; the CNIB is the “go-to” organization for most governments, the media and the general public like it or not, so consumer organizations are wise to work with them if we’re to succeed.

  • If not, what will make them more responsive to the needs of blind, low vision, and deafblind Canadians and make agencies flexible enough to move the with the merging societal demand?  If we don’t think that rehabilitation and advocacy organizations are filling our needs, what sorts of things will make it better?  What sorts of things will make them more ready to shift with the times?

Participants indicated that: in the consumer movement we are the blind speaking for ourselves and not like the CNIB which speaks on our behalf, and if some of their clients want to be involved in advocacy they should join one of the groups and encourage the CNIB to be a better rehabilitation organization; there is a need for more mentorship programs for students coming out of secondary and post-secondary schools and wanting to join or re-join the work force; when working toward more and better mentorship programs we need more consideration given to the diversity within our community related to age, degree of vision loss, education, skills, culture, language and independence goals; our consumer organizations ought to appoint annually a consumer advocacy coordinator to whom the members can upload issues, and from whom they may determine what successes have been achieved, and that this person from each organization meet as a group periodically to establish priorities for the group to work on; the large dog guide schools often provide advocacy support on issues, and so to should the CNIB if they have the funds to do so, and the consumer organizations should be able and willing to work with them to advance the cause; we need more work done by organizations like the Consumer Access Group, and we need to encourage and educate each other on strategies of individual advocacy so that we can do more for ourselves, and by extension more for the entire community, and; we need to work out who has the skills, knowledge and ability to move issues forward, and work together to support each other toward resolution for the benefit of the community.

  • What strategies are required if we are to strengthen the voice of blind Canadians with government, communities, employers, (i.e. do blind Canadians need one single strong voice in order to advance our needs?)

Participants indicated that: although it might be difficult to bring the consumer organizations together to speak from one voice, we need to find some avenues where that can happen on an issue by issue basis, like public and government education around the abilities of blind, partially sighted and deafblind people and their needs in terms of rehabilitation if we’re to improve employment and societal inclusion deficits; we need to have the resources, time and energy in order to carry the torch of advocacy, and where that is found we need to gather behind it and work at moving the community forward, and that’s how the CNIB and CCD have gotten to “top-of-mind” today; we need a diverse, multi-skilled national consumer advocacy group that will focus on blindness, low vision and deafblindness issues, as well as age related and cultural issues; we need to recruit more worker bees to help carry the load; we need to work in the cross disability arena as a means of getting our priorities in front of a larger segment of the general public and decision makers; those of us with the lived experience of blindness, low vision or deafblindness are best situated to speak on our behalf rather than having someone else speak for us, and; technology is so important today in leveling the playing field, and there’s not enough understanding about the difference it can make, nor is there enough training in its use.

  • What strategies can blind Canadians employ to amplify their voices in order to be better heard within Canadian organizations of an organizations for the blind?  (I.E. do blind Canadians want to be more involved in driving the organizations that provide rehabilitation services in Canada?)

Participants indicated that: the CNIB National and Division Boards are mostly made up of sighted business people for purposes of fundraising and that staff make all the service, budget and strategic decisions, and that’s very dysfunctional. Their boards need to be reduced to about 12 members and that all seats be taken up by blind, partially sighted or deafblind Canadians; we must speak out when we see organizations intensifying the fear of blindness through their fundraising and other messaging; we need to be seen, we need to be persistent and we need to get and stay involved in order to move our agenda forward, let’s be the squeaky wheel; in order to acquire the technology and training that will allow us to participate in Canadian society we need funding, and that funding will only happen when the decision makers understand how important basic participation is to the eventual success of each of us; in order to seek the support of the public in our organizations we need to put forward a positive reflection of blindness, low vision and deafblindness, not a pitiful one; in acknowledging the hard work and dedication of those who have done the work to date, and in acknowledging that we who have the lived experience are key to telling the story and raising expectations, we must keep in mind the importance of bringing with us those allies who can help to elevate our issues and support our efforts; technology has connected us, and it disconnects us, it’s a friend and a foe due to its constant changing nature, it helps bring young people together and it keeps seniors from fully participating and it’s not going to go away so let’s find out how to make it work for us; fundraising works when it pulls at heart strings rather than at success stories so we’ll likely continue to see that style of letter coming from the CNIB, and we have to remember that many who are starting on their vision loss journey can identify with the sentiments expressed in heart-string fundraising, and; if we’re to engage young blind, partially sighted and deafblind Canadians we will want to ensure we’re communicating through all forms of social media.

 

Conclusions:

 

The Tele Town Hall Committee through a series of conference call meetings since the first such gathering in October 2016 has attempted to foster a system based on both individual and organizational mutual respect, and the goal to seek opportunities to foster the dream of achieving excellence within the consumer and vision rehabilitation fields in Canada.  The motto, “Nothing about us without us” rang true and strong throughout the initial three open discussion gatherings, and from the presenters recruited to show us how things are done in Australia/New Zealand and in the USA during the “Advocacy Without Borders” segment of the Tele Town Hall meetings.  These premises will be woven throughout the comments that conclude this final report.

 

Rehabilitation Services:

 

CNIB is often believed to be one of the barriers keeping blind, partially sighted and deafblind Canadians from achieving forward movement in terms of inclusion, Human Rights and true independence, and if those barriers are to be clearly articulated and worked on the consumer movement must come together to set goals, strategies’ and timelines aimed at affecting some of the changes we might wish to see.

 

Decisions based on science, not myth:

 

Participants were unified in the belief that we must ensure the best information is gathered/researched and subject matter experts recruited regarding advocacy issues being worked on, and for decisions being made that concern the blind and low vision community.  No one thought it a good idea to operate on assumptions, stories or long held myths and beliefs if we’re to improve consumerism and/or the blindness, vision loss or deafblindness rehabilitation system in Canada.

 

Hear the message, not the messenger:

 

It was also noted on several occasions that when debating/discussing issues it is the desire of participants that we will individually and organizationally stay focussed on the message and not the messenger when offering our input, criticism and suggestions, and that it is equally important to hear only the message when receiving input from others.  It is our responsibility to deliver respectful messaging, and to receive it in ways that foster cooperation, mutual understanding and respect.  To agree is not always necessary or required for the community’s agenda to be moved to a better place.

 

Sharing information:

 

Several participants during the different segments of the series asked that we continue seeking new ways to set-up systems for the ongoing sharing of individual and organizational points of view, which already exists by email and periodic conference calls.  To engage youth the consumer organizations ought to study the best ways to achieve participation, and to start by gaging the level of interest and the types of issues most important to that community

 

Engaging youth:

 

Engaging youth in the consumer advocacy movement was discussed with only a very small number of them participating in the Tele Town Hall meetings, so anything coming out of these meetings is conjecture and not based on their meaningful input.  A study needs to be undertaken to determine how they might be invited to participate in continuing to build toward our collective future.

 

Engaging seniors:

 

Older citizens who lose sight are often without a blind, partially sighted or deafblind community to identify with in the same way younger people are if they’ve attended a “school for the blind”, and they too must be engaged by the consumer sector in ways that bring them into the fold and utilizes their experience and knowledge rather than alienate them.

 

Leadership growth and technology:

 

Succession planning is a major issue within the consumer organizations of people who are blind, partially sighted and deafblind. As we become more technically dominated, it is even more important to identify potential upcoming leaders and show them the value of collective action within one of the consumer organizations. Today, many young people see social media as the way to invoke social change. We need to work with them to show them that social media is only one tool in the toolbox that they can use to make change happen

 

Unity where we can:

 

One thing that was learned through this process is that a lack of unity within the population of people who are blind, partially sighted and/or deaf blind is a common issue in many different countries. Because of our different life experiences and the fact that blindness itself can’t be a unifying factor as with other societal issues, we need to look at where we can be successful as a larger group and work towards a common front on those specific issues so government and other organizations will listen to us as consumers instead of utilizing the conquer and divide strategy that has been used all too often in the past.  For unity to work, each of us must be respectful and non-judgmental about the differing skill levels and needs of others, whether it be due to age, degree of vision loss, type of vision loss, time of life when vision loss occurred, culture, and independence goals desired.

 

Public/Government education:

 

Participants expressed multiple times how important it is to educate funders, the general public, government decision makers and the blind, partially sighted and deafblind community about the difference between a consumer organization and a rehabilitation service provider.

 

Celebrate victories:

 

Too often we hear sentiments that we’ve failed if we’ve only achieved part of our advocacy goal, and that’s hurting the community.  Participants expressed a desire to celebrate some small victories along the way as a means of keeping the energy levels up, and from which to springboard to the next success story.

 

 

 

Strategic partnerships:

 

In this day and age, governments, funders and most of the blind, partially sighted and deafblind community appreciate strategic partnerships on important issues, and that came through in comments delivered by Tele Town Hall participants.  As well, it was reflected in some of the comments that more cross disability collaboration is needed in order to have our needs heard and recognized more broadly by governments, funders and the general public.

 

Blindness awareness:

 

September is often used as an opportunity to promote blindness, vision loss and deafblindness prevention work, CNIB uses May for Vision Awareness Month and the CCB uses the first week in February to promote White Cane Week.  It was suggested that the community of blind, partially sighted and deafblind consumers and consumer groups focus on one annual day/weekend/week to promote awareness of our abilities and needs.

 

Consensus building:

 

The message that participants desire to see multiple Canadian consumer organizations joining together to establish an arms-length advocacy coalition aimed at pursuing issues of common concern/importance was heard often and loudly.  We also often heard the belief that building consensus is a key to success when organizations undertake to work on an issue together.

 

Coalition strategies:

 

Currently, The Consumer Access Group (CAG), is the only active national forum where various blindness, low vision and deafblindness organizations gather on a regular bases to share information and potentially develop strategies for working on issues of common concern. The CAG has done some work at developing position papers on some issues of general concern (See above link). However, there has not been the efforts necessary to ensure there is broad knowledge of this work even within the population of people who are blind, partially sighted or Deafblind.

 

Success stories exist:

 

In order for CAG to be truly effective, a method of broader input into the activities of the coalition could be developed that might look similar to how the Hands Off Our Harnesses Coalition of Guide and Service Dogs is operating. IN this case, there is a social media presence, a discussion list for interested parties and a few people carrying out the detailed work of the coalition. CAG may want to focus on a couple of specific activities and work towards a broader decision making structure that is effective and inclusive and efficient.

 

Questions of the Blind, partially sighted and deafblind sector regarding Next Steps:

 

Given the above introduction, comments and conclusions your committee would like to offer a challenge to the leaders of all blindness, low vision and deafblind consumer organizations in Canada to come together to answer a few simple questions, and to begin the work of coalition and consensus building with the view to constructing a road to that better day we all seek.

 

Although the work of this Committee has concluded, it is our fervent dream that the current and future leaders in the Canadian consumer movement will take up the challenges issued in these pages, and that one day blind, partially sighted and deafblind Canadians will have a meaningful seat at the decision making tables related to our participation in community life, that all will offer us the respect we deserve for our abilities, dreams and goals, and that we will truly speak for ourselves to ears that know it is the only way forward.

 

  1. The Tele Town Hall Committee challenges each and every blind, partially sighted and deafblind Canadian to share this report to the staff, volunteers and members of organizations who serve and support your needs, rights and responsibilities.  Think about it. To gain an edge, the evil one needs only to get able men and women to see themselves as neutrals. Make sure that this will never be the case with you!”  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” –Edmund Burke.
  2. The Tele Town Hall Committee challenges the blind, partially sighted and deafblind consumer sector to begin working toward the day when rehabilitation service providers are no longer at the Government table deciding our fate or speaking on our behalf.  We must embrace the motto, “What’s about us is up to us”.
  3. The Tele Town Hall Committee challenges all Canadian consumer organizations to continue similar consultation efforts that lead to the compilation of the information in this report as a means of further engaging the blind, partially sighted and deafblind community toward increased involvement in their own future.  “Nothing about us without us”.
  4. The Tele Town Hall Committee challenges the Board Chairs of every blindness, low vision and deafblind consumer organization in Canada to meet before the end of 2018 to begin the process of developing go-forward strategies to improve and strengthen the “voice of the blind” in Canada.  “If we think we can or if we think we can’t, we’re right.” Henry Ford.

 

Respectfully submitted on August 17, 2018:

 

Donna Jodhan, Richard Marion and Albert Ruel, report authors on behalf of the entire Committee, the Let’s Get It Out There tele town hall team Richard Marion, Anthony Tibbs, Melanie Marsden, Albert Ruel, Paul Edwards, Robin East, Louise Gillis, Pat Seed, Jane Blaine, Kim Kilpatrick, and Donna Jodhan

 

 

Mission Statement

 

Appendix A

 

Tele Town Hall Organizing Committee

Revised Sat 9/9/2017 1:11 PM

 

Nothing worthwhile in the world happens that doesn’t begin with a dream.

It is the mission of this Town Hall organizing Committee to provide an opportunity for people who are Blind, Partially Sighted and Deaf Blind In Canada to explore, together, options and opportunities that will make life better for All Canadians.

 

We, the Town Hall Organizing Committee, are a group of individuals, with a variety of affiliations and interests, who are committed to forwarding the betterment of the lives of blind, partially sighted and Deaf Blind Canadians by providing town halls at which information can be shared.

 

As Facilitators of these Town Halls, we have chosen speakers from all over the world who, themselves, are Blind, Partially Sighted, or Deaf Blind. They will explain the agencies and services in their part of the world, and how those who are Blind, Partially Sighted, and Deaf Blind obtain and receive services within their region.

 

They will also provide information about any peer interaction and peer support Best practices that they have experienced.

 

Each Town Hall will include time for participants to ask questions of the speakers.

 

It is our hope that, after consumers have had a chance to attend and participate in these town halls, they will be in a position to take what has been learned to develop some consensus about the future direction of services and activities for those who are blind, Partially Sighted and Deaf Blind in Canada.

 

It is at that point, that we, who are Blind, Partially Sighted and Deaf Blind in Canada, can all meet, together, to provide recommendations and design a process to affect Positive change in the wider community.

 

Guest Post: BLC Newsletter June 2018, a Publication of Braille Literacy Canada

Newsletter ● June 2018

Message from the President

Dear members of Braille Literacy Canada,

 

I love braille.

 

I love to read it. Left to right. Right side up. Even upside down or backwards (which is completely possible – trust me!).

 

I love to read it alone, or when I’m out. Or when I just accidentally happen to stumble upon it in an elevator or on a sign. Or when the electricity fails and I’m the only one able to read to my nieces and nephews. Lights out? No problem. I love the feel of the dots as they run beneath my fingers.

 

I love the scent of every braille book I’ve ever received. Just like those dusty old print books I remember, these scents tell a story of their own, transporting me back in time to the first place – that library, that corner on the kitchen floor, that classroom – when I first opened its pages and the world was brought to me. Even to this day, decades after I was first introduced to the wonders of Louis Braille, I am in awe that six mere dots could hold the key to every letter, symbol, word, thought, story.

 

I love electronic braille books, too. The feel of the crisp dots, the sound as each line refreshes to reveal a new secret. I love that, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can hold thousands of pages – endless possibilities – on one small device.

 

I love to write braille. I love the loud, clunky, ever reliable, ever present Perkins brailler, with its iconic “ding!” as I reach the end of a line. And the satisfying “punch” as I press the stylus into the paper. I love that – even with all the fabulous technology around me – I can carry this one small tool everywhere, just like a pen and paper, and it will never, ever fail me.

 

I love braille because it truly is literacy. And that, as I have experienced firsthand, is nothing short of freedom, emancipation, and equality. I love braille, not because it is a replacement for any other format (like audio), but because it is part of the rich tapestry of choices available to me. Braille, however, has transformed me into a reader, a writer, and not one who must rely on others. With these tools in hand, it has made everything possible.

 

It was at the age of six when I first began learning braille. In those very first days before braille and I knew each other, I saw it as something that set me apart. My Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, with her infinite wisdom and creativity, encouraged me to invite a sighted classmate to those first few lessons. That first year, we made braille Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in my class along with special decoder cards. It became a yearly tradition. I very quickly came to see that – yes, braille did set me apart. But in an immensely positive  way. I wasn’t the odd one out who “needed” braille. I was the luckiest one of all, because I was the only student in the class learning it. Fast forward many years later, I began working as a rehabilitation specialist, teaching braille to children, adults and seniors, and now also as a Ph.D Candidate, where I experience the joy of engaging in meaningful braille related research every day.

 

I write to you wearing my new cap as President of Braille Literacy Canada, to thank all of you who participated in our recent Annual General Meeting, either in person or virtually, and for putting your trust in your new 2018 BLC board. Our organization is successful not merely due to one person, but because of the many busy working hands – both on and off the board – who collaborate to make BLC what it continues to be today. And with this in mind, I am eager to introduce you to our new 2018 board, which includes:

 

  • Natalie Martiniello, President
  • Daphne Hitchcock, Vice-President
  • Anthony Tibbs, Treasurer
  • Kim Kilpatrick (Canadian Council of the Blind), Secretary
  • Jen Goulden (Crawford Technologies), Past President
  • Cathy Ausman, Director
  • Rebecca Blaevoet (Tactile Vision Graphics), Director
  • Jessica Blouin (T-Base Communications), Director
  • Jen Jesso, Director
  • Jenn Monks, Director
  • Laurie Moore (W. Ross MacDonald), Director
  • Dwila Nixon, Director
  • Cheryl Roberts-Dupasquier, Director
  • Melanie Romer-Noel (CNIB), Director

 

I am excited to work with such a talented team of braille readers, transcribers, producers, teachers and researchers for the 2018-2019 BLC year. On a personal note, I want to thank our Past President, Jen Goulden, for her countless years of dedication and commitment to the organization.  We are fortunate that we can continue to benefit from her immense knowledge and experience as she remains on the board as our Past President, and I know she will continue to be an invaluable member of our board. On behalf of all of us, thank you Jen!

 

In addition to the elections, two proposed bylaw amendments were considered at the AGM. The first proposal (which would have resulted in lifetime members who were “inactive” being excluded from quorum calculations) was tabled and not voted upon. The second proposal (which relaxes term limits on the board so that an individual may remain on the board more than 3 terms but only if they are elected to a different position) was accepted by the members. For more details on each of these proposals, please see the documentation included in the 2018 AGM call or write to us for more information.

 

Two workshops were also held at the AGM. The first (presented by Kim Kilpatrick and myself) focused on the use of braille displays with iDevices. In the second workshop, Jen Goulden and Anthony Tibbs introduced participants to a freely available braille transcription program developed by the American Printing House for the Blind called “BrailleBlaster” (http://brailleblaster.org/).

 

We look forward to continuing our tradition of offering braille related teleconferences throughout the year – So let us know what topics you’d like us to feature, and stay tuned!

 

We are always happy to hear from you! If you have ideas, stories to share, comments, or questions, please feel free to write to me at president@blc-lbc.ca.

 

Here is to a year full of possibilities, hard work, lots of fun – and most of all – many, many dots!

 

Yours truly,

 

Natalie Martiniello

President, Braille Literacy Canada

 

Membership in BLC

 

BLC membership coincides with the calendar year. If you are not yet a member or haven’t renewed for 2018, we invite you to visit http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/about-us/get-involved/become-a-member.

 

If you are a member you can:

 

  • Have your say: attend the Annual General Meeting
  • Get involved in the work of BLC: join one of our committees
  • Help to promote the use of braille in Canada
  • Participate in teleconferences on braille-related issues (free for members)
  • Receive our bi-monthly newsletter, as well as other communications, directly from BLC
  • Get answers to all your UEB questions: join our UEB listserv by sending an email to UEB-request@lists.blc-lbc.ca.

 

Braille Copies of the BLC Newsletter Now Available Through CELA!

The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) now offers braille versions of the BLC newsletter upon request. Readers can subscribe by emailing help@celalibrary.ca or by calling 1-855-655-2273 and asking to subscribe to the braille copy of the Braille Literacy Canada newsletter. The newsletter will also continue to be published electronically. Thank you to CELA for this partnership!

 

Calling all braille stories!

By Kim Kilpatrick

 

In our recent survey of BLC members, you asked for more personal stories about how we use braille in our news letter.  We want to deliver!  In honour of International Literacy Month in September, we will be publishing a special issue of the newsletter devoted to “braille in action” – filled with your personal stories about braille. Help us celebrate braille as literacy and the brilliance of braille! Send us your stories about how you use braille or what braille means to you. Be as creative as you like – stories, letters, poems – we’d love to read it all! We invite submissions from braille readers of all ages (children, adults, seniors!), parents, teachers and anyone else who has a braille story to share! Send your entries  (in English or French) to info@blc-lbc.ca by August 31st and help us spread the word about the beauty of braille!

 

Naming the Newsletter

We haven’t received many submissions, so we will keep the contest open and announce a winner for the September issue. Please email your suggestions to info@blc-lbc.ca. Thanks to those of you who have already sent in your ideas!

 

The Brailler Bounce Initiative

 

We are continuing to run this program but we do not have braillers available at this time. We will send out an update to BLC members once we have more braillers on hand and are able to take new requests.

 

Immortalizing the Edie Mourre Scholarship Program: Calling on all members to help us secure the future of this important initiative!

By Anthony Tibbs, BLC Treasurer

 

Braille Literacy Canada established the Edie Mourre Scholarship Program in 2008 to provide financial support for those seeking certification as a transcriber or proofreader of braille.  The scholarship has been offered annually since that time, as funds have become available.

 

We have an exciting opportunity this year to make this a permanent and self-sustaining program, but we need your help to make it happen! Between now and November 30th, 2018, every dollar donated to BLC in support of the Edie Mourre Scholarship Program will be matched by a third-party donor (up to $6,500).  That means that if BLC raises $6,500 by November 30th, we will actually have raised $13,000.

 

The exciting part is that with $13,000 in hand, we will have enough to establish a permanent endowment fund to guarantee that the Edie Mourre Scholarship will be awarded to at least one deserving applicant each and every year.

 

Consider this – If every single member of BLC raises $100 between now and November 30th, we will have surpassed our goal! Just $100 each! Or $20 a month between July and November. Here are some creative ideas on how to help us get there – If you have other fundraising ideas, we’d love to hear from you!

 

  • Host a special brunch, lunch, dinner or braille game/braille bingo party at your house. Invite all your friends and ask them to donate $20 (or an amount of your choosing) to attend. Make it a braille themed party if you like!
  • Follow the link below: One of the options is to donate $20 each month between now and November 30th to total $100!
  • Share the link on social media. Spread the word to family, friends and teachers!
  • Give a Coffee – Ask your friends and colleagues to skip one morning coffee and bagel by giving the amount they would typically spend on that meal – and donate it to a good cause instead! Better yet, donate and eat that delicious meal anyway!
  • Kids! Help your child run a lemonade stand – maybe include some braille chocolates for sale too! Check out the Braille Superstore for chocolate braille molds.
  • Braille Read-A-Thon! Students or any supporters obtain pledges from their friends and family members for the number of pages of books that they can read in a month – Raise money while keeping up those braille skills over the summer!
  • Get a local coffeehouse or club to host a poetry slam. Charge admission at the door, and advertise a Poetry Slam night with prizes. To raise awareness, challenge each participating poet to write a poem about your cause and invite braille readers to participate too!
  • Stay tuned for special announcements about other exciting ways you can help, while celebrating braille too!

 

Donate now: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/blc-lbc/campaign/edie-mourre/

 

Email treasurer@blc-lbc.ca or visit http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/en/donate-now for more information on other methods of donating to BLC and to the Edie Mourre campaign.

 

 

BLC Goes to Seeing Beyond the Horizon!

By Daphne Hitchcock

 

The 15th Biennial Canadian Vision Teachers’ Conference: Seeing Beyond the Horizon was held in Nisku, Alberta last month, May 3-5. Most every province and territory was represented by at least one of the 200 delegates.

 

A comprehensive line up of keynote speakers and presenters covered a wide range of topics, including cortical vision impairment, technology options, creating accessible materials, Canadian National Standards, budget AT solutions, teaching strategies, youth transitions and much more. It was difficult to decide which session to attend, as there were so many excellent presentations available. Fortunately, the presenter handouts are available for download through accessing this link https://sites.google.com/site/2018cvtc/handouts.

 

Braille Literacy Canada PosterBLC presented at the conference poster session. Delegates could view information and ask questions about BLC activities, who we are, membership benefits and BLC contributions. There was an opportunity to enter a membership draw at the poster session. This attracted additional new members – welcome!

 

All conference delegates were given an BLC info flyer in their conference bag.  To heighten our BLC profile and support the CVTC conference, BLC donated 3 children’s books in print and braille (UEB) to the Silent Auction.

 

Towards a simpler contracted French Braille

Originally published in the May 2018 BLC newsletter, authored By Anne Jarry, M.Ed, CVRT/SRDV

Translated into English by Emmanuel Blaevoet

 

In this column, I will share with you my opinion on the reform of the contracted French Braille code that might be taking place soon.

 

Personally, I had the pleasure of learning contracted French Braille as an adult after losing my sight at the age of 25 due to juvenile diabetes.  Back in 1986, there was no such thing as computer speech software.  So, Braille was for me the only option to read, write and learn, whether at University, or later on, at work. I have loved the fact that through the discovery of French braille, a whole new world of information and knowledge reached me.

 

However, considering that the contracted French Braille code contains over 900 symbols, one had to be extremely motivated and focused to learn and master this beautiful but extensive code. Had there been any speech software or audio access to information available to me at the time, would I have chosen to follow this arduous path? Today, less and less people who lose their sight at a later age deliberately choose to learn the contracted French Braille code. Why? Is it really far too difficult to learn over 900 braille symbols? Failing to think carefully on the state of abbreviated French Braille today, we might not be able to keep it a viable option for future blind and visually impaired learners.

 

We seem to be on the verge of finding a solution today. A process, initiated in 2008 at the same time that the new Uniform French Braille code was adopted, and later implemented in 2010, is the last stage towards the reform of French Braille. For the committee in charge, the positive points are important. They suggest, among other things, a huge reduction of the number of contractions to 103, down from over 900. We could see a greater number of readers and users of contracted French Braille, but also a greater number of teachers would be able to learn it and teach it in return.

 

All the same, changing a code that has been in effect since 1955 is not welcomed by all long time French braille users. A survey that was held from January to March 2018 gave us insight into the point of view and opinions of French Braille users and readers throughout the whole of Quebec. Following this survey, the members of the Quebec committee will present their report to the international representatives of the whole Francophonie in June 2018.

 

We will then have to take into account the input and comments of experts from Quebec as well as from the rest of the French speaking world before we can see the adoption of the new code. This extensive task is a necessary step but might require, as often the case, a fair amount of diplomacy and resilience in order to reach a consensual agreement from all parties.

 

If you would like a copy of all working documents supporting the work of this committee, as well as the documents in their .brf version, please feel free to reach me via email at anne.jarry@umontreal.ca.

 

It will be my pleasure to provide them on demand.

 

Looking forward to the opportunity to write the next column and announce the adoption of the new code very soon!

 

Study on the Experiences of Adults and Seniors who Learn Braille

By Natalie Martiniello

 

I am seeking participation for a research study that I am conducting through the University of Montreal to better understand the experiences of adults who have learned braille. The results from this study will help us to better understand the facilitators and barriers that adults experience during their braille training, and how to improve the training provided in future. We are seeking participation from people who are blind or who have low vision, are 40 years or older, and who have learned braille sometime within the past 10 years. Participation would involve a single, confidential, anonymous phone interview that will take between 60 and 90 minutes to complete.

 

If you are interested in participating, we will send you a consent form in advance that will tell you more about the study in either large print, braille or electronic (email) format. You also have the option of requesting a copy of the questionnaire in advance, to give you a better idea of the kind of questions we’ll ask.

 

The results from this study will help rehabilitation professionals design braille training programs that better meet the needs of adult and senior learners. Please feel free to tell others who may be interested in participating as well. Please feel free to write to me at natalina.martiniello@umontreal.ca to learn more. Thank you for your time.

 

Braille Club at the CNIB Community Hub (GTA) Update

By Karen Brophey

 

June 8 – with Literacy Staff from Deaf Blind Community Services we kicked off Deaf Blind Awareness month with a Braille Demo table in front of the Hub on Yonge Street! We handed out Braille Activity sheets, let folks try out a Perkins and put their hands on some books. Inside they had a chance to learn how people communicate via Intervenors, two-hand manual, etc. In the kitchen we handed out ice cream cones! (some kids even used fingerspelling to request their choice of flavours).

 

Coming Up:

 

  • June 23 – at the Hub’s next party for kids at the Hub (1525 Yonge St.) we’ll demo how to use the Perkins to draw tactile pictures.
  • June 24 – join CNIB walking in Toronto’s Pride Parade – all are welcome! We have 10,000 braille bracelets that we’ll be handing out as we walk!
  • July 7 and 8 – visit the Braille Club at the Maker Festival being held at the Toronto Reference Library (Yonge and Bloor!)
  • September 24 we’ll have a booth at Word on the Street at Toronto’s Harbourfront.

 

Lots more in the works including presentations and activities for the Braille Conference!

 

ALL braille enthusiasts are welcome to attend our meetings. Contact karen.brophey@cnib.ca for more information!

 

Low-Cost Refreshable Braille

By Jen Goulden

 

You may have heard people wrongly claiming that braille is dying but the reality is that it is very much alive. The future of literacy for blind people is more secure now than at any time in the past, thanks in large part to the advent of refreshable braille technology. Whether you use a notetaker on its own or you connect a display to your computer or smartphone you are benefiting from technology that makes braille easier to access than ever before. The only drawback is that the cost to purchase one of these devices has traditionally been significantly more than most people can afford to spend. Thankfully that is beginning to change! In the last couple of years a number of braille devices have been developed. While most of them are still in the testing phase it looks like there will be some affordable options for braille readers in the very near future.

 

While attending the midterm executive meeting of ICEB in Ireland earlier this year I had a chance to check out a couple of these low-cost devices. The Canute e-reader is a multi-line braille display with a total of 360 cells. The braille is very easy to read and because it refreshes one line at a time you don’t have to wait for the whole page to refresh before you can continue reading. I found that this model is much quieter than previous versions. Although it can be used to read any kind of document it would really be beneficial for material such as music scores, math textbooks and even tactile graphics. For more information please visit www.bristolbraille.co.uk.

 

The Braille Me is another device that will soon be available. This 20-cell display has some notetaking capability and can be connected to a computer or paired with an iPhone. The braille is crisp and the display has cursor routing buttons. One thing that is different about the Braille Me is that the keyboard is closer to the front and the braille cells are at the back, which is the opposite of most devices on the market. It also does not contain dots 7 and 8. It does make some noise when the display refreshes, but I believe that the advantages of the Braille Me make it an excellent option for low-cost refreshable braille. For more information please visit www.innovisiontech.co.

 

Tips for Transitioning to Post-Secondary Learning

By Betty Nobel

 

At this time of year, I often think of students transitioning to post secondary learning.  Many students will be excited but a little fearful about going to college or university.  While support varies in different provinces, what students can count on is that the braille and other supports they had access to previously will not be the same as in high school.

 

What to do?  Here are some ideas.

 

Get some O&M training on campus.

 

Use the internet until you are comfortable being online.

 

Practice scanning printed materials and converting image files to text

 

Find out about how you can obtain adaptive equipment, including refreshable braille technology, if you need it.

 

Contact the disability services department and see if you can get a reading list for any of the courses you want to take.  This way, you can sometimes “get ahead of the game.”

 

Organize financial aid if needed.

 

Find out about sources for written materials such as Kindle, Ibooks, etc which can be accessed with speech-output and refreshable braille

 

Make sure you have a membership with Bookshare.

 

Listen to Ted talks or other podcasts and practice taking notes.

 

Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

 

Remember to acknowledge and appreciate those who assist you and try to find ways to give back to them.

 

Make sure that you take breaks and find balance in your life.  School is important, but so is your mental health.

 

And most important…HAVE FUN!

 

Harry Potter and UEB

By Jen Goulden

 

What does Harry Potter have to do with UEB, you ask … well, aside from the obvious answer that braille makes it possible for blind people of all ages to read these fabulous books? It’s probably more precise to ask what UEB has to do with Professor Dumbledore.

 

Based on member feedback, we’ve decided to highlight a UEB-related question in each issue of the newsletter. What better place to start than the magical world of Harry Potter?

 

Our UEB list recently received a question regarding the use of the “ed” contraction in the word Dumbledore. As we had hoped when setting up this list, there was some discussion back and forth on why the word should or should not be contracted. UEB allows for contraction use that would not have been permitted before, but Duxbury – which is quite reliable about these things – does not contract Dumbledore. So, does the famous fictional professor have a contraction in his last name? Why or why not?

 

No. According to The Rules of Unified English Braille, groupsigns such as “ed”, “st” and “wh” should not be used when the contraction would bridge two words in a non-hyphenated compound. As a result, the word “boredom” can be contracted but “kettledrum” cannot. If you’re like me and thought that Dumbledore is just a name that J.K. Rowling made up you might be surprised to learn that it can also refer to an insect, some sort of dung beetle. It also happens to be considered a compound word, so the “ed” contraction cannot be used.

 

If you have code-related questions about UEB and would like to join our list, please sent an email to ueb-request@lists.blc-lbc.ca.

 

If Braille Were Print

 

In the Winter 2016 issue of Future Reflections, Erin Jepsen wrote a passionate and powerful piece that so eloquently and clearly articulates the importance of braille – that braille is to the blind what print is to the sighted. In it, she addresses head on many of the misconceptions and stereotypes about braille that are voiced through the questions we too often hear from others: Isn’t braille hard to learn? Is braille really needed, now that we have access to so much audio? Jepsen beautifully illustrates that if we replaced the word “braille” with “print” many of these questions would not be asked. And that is the crux of it – braille is literacy!

 

To read this article and share it with others, go to: https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr35/1/fr350110.htm

 

Social Media Updates

Here is a taste of some of the gems posted on the BLC Facebook and Twitter pages over the past few weeks!

 

Braille Literacy Canada honours Darleen Bogart with the President’s Award:

http://www.brailleliteracycanada.ca/view.asp?ccid=388

 

If Braille Were Print? This article from Future Reflections is a must read:

https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr35/1/fr350110.htm

 

You may have read recently about a new universal standard for #Braille displays adopted by the USB Implementers Forum. This is an industry body comprising  manufacturers and software developers who wish to move the USB specification forward. Participants include Microsoft, Apple and Google among many others.

Freedom Scientific has been a part of the process that has led to the adoption of this standard. Read more here: http://blog.freedomscientific.com/usbhid1/

 

International Council on English Braille Country and Committee reports from the 2018 ICEB mid-term Executive meeting in Dublin are now available:

http://iceb.org/papers18.html

 

Check out this great post on how to incorporate #braille and #literacy skills into your blind student’s yoga activities! A great example of how to combine different parts of the expanded core curriculum #braille #ECC #PhysicalLiteracy

http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/yoga-activities-increase-literacy-skills?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Paths%20to%20Literacy%20Newsletter%20May%2029%202018&utm_content=Paths%20to%20Literacy%20Newsletter%20May%2029%202018+CID_6574467e363155775ac2b881d51342c0&utm_source=Paths%20to%20Literacy%20newsletter&utm_term=Yoga%20Activities%20to%20Increase%20Literacy%20Skills

 

Harry Potter fans will know that Dobby the houseelf would like this idea! Braille socks for the visually impaired:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2018/04/16/korean-company-makes-braille-socks-for-visually-impaired.html?platform=hootsuite

 

The evolution of #tactile solutions for doing #math. Today, students can use a tactile graphics pad for complex equations:

http://www.perkins.org/stories/adding-it-up

 

Tips for promoting #braille in your community:

http://www.afb.org/info/national-literacy-program-fact-sheets-resource-lis/tips-for-promoting-braille-in-your-community/35

 

Graduate student creating digital #braille smartphone app for deafblind users:

https://coolblindtech.com/graduate-student-creating-smartphone-app-for-deaf-blind-users/

 

Wondering which assistive technology options to use with beginning braille readers http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/technology/assistive-technology-beginning-braille-readers

 

From the International Council on English Braille – UEB UPDATE: New UEB symbol for the check mark/tick (dots 4,146) is approved for use:
http://iceb.org/ueb.html

 

@brllitcan

Braille Literacy Canada

LinkedIn

 

Guest Post: Blind News Victoria, a Publication of the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind, Summer 2018

Blind News Victoria

 

A publication of the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind

Vol. 8: Summer 2018

 

 

Well here we are almost half way through 2018 and the end of another Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) school year.  Here are some of the highlights of the winter-spring term.

 

  • PTCB celebrated the graduation of 4 students, TJ in January and Ann, Anna and Delores in June.  They have all worked very hard to complete graduation requirements which include cooking a meal for 8, learning Braille and screen reader technology and becoming as independently mobile as their physical limitations would allow.  Congratulations to TJ, Ann, Anna and Delores.  We’re all very proud of your accomplishments. 
  • Our first Home Stay student, after six months of intensive training, has now returned to Chilliwack and is living on her own and planning to attend school this summer and fall.  Please consider becoming a Home Stay host.  It is a very rewarding experience knowing that you have really made a difference in a young blind person’s life.  Contact us if you would like to know more about the Home Stay host’s role.
  • AMI (Accessible Media Inc.) spent two days filming PTC training sessions and doing interviews with both staff and students for a 23 minute documentary which will air on AMI’s Our Community.  We do not know yet when it will be scheduled but will let you know.
  • PTCB has received several awards and grants in the past year including the top ABC Life Literacy Innovation Award which included a grant of $20,000.  Elizabeth travelled to Ontario to accept this award and give a power point presentation about PTCB.

 

Please consider becoming a member of the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind Society.  Membership is only $5 per year.  The larger the membership, the more successful the Society will be in acquiring grants from the government which are essential to us carrying on the vital work of the PTCB.

 

To join call Elizabeth at 250-580-4910 or email

info@pacifictrainingcentre.ca

 

You can also join on-line through our website which can be found at

Pacifictrainingcentre.ca

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?

 

The Butchart Gardens has Nightly live entertainment at 8:00 and fireworks set to music Saturdays at nightfall during the summer.

Highlight: July 27 Victoria Symphony

 

Go to

https://www.butchartgardens.com/summer-entertainment-calendar/

 

for a list of dates and performers.

 

There is free admission to those with a CNIB card and free admission for your attendant with your Leisure Pass.

The #75 bus takes you right into the grounds

 

***

You can find out what’s happening in Victoria between Blind News Victoria newsletters by listening to the live Victoria Community Report on AMI Audio at 7:00 a.m. (repeated at 9:00 a.m.) every fourth Thursday.  The next report will be on Thursday June 28.

 

AMI Audio can be found at 889 on your television or on line at

 

ami.ca/report-pacific

 

If you miss the live report, you can listen on-line to the most recent report.

 

****

The Victoria Society for Blind Arts and Culture offers an Arts and Cultural Bursary to its blind members, reimbursing 50% of the cost of an arts or cultural activity up to $50.

 

For information or to apply, contact Linda Bartram

250-595-5888

Email: lbartram@telus.net

 

 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

 

Theatre SKAM Summer Festival Sunday July 15, 2018

360 Harbour Road, Victoria

Free described event at 2:00 and 4:30

Walk along the Galloping Goose Trail and stop at several venues to take in a short theatrical performance described by Rick Waines, VocalEye live describer.

Note: This event involves 15 – 20 minutes of walking along a level trail and standing at four,   5 to 7 minute performances.

 

To register for this free described event contact Sierra

sierra@skam.ca

Or by phone 250-386-7526

 

For those booking the 2:00 walk and coming on the bus, a Victoria Society for Blind Arts and Culture member will meet folks at 1:15 at the bus stop on the north side of Esquimalt Road at Harbour Road. 

For those using HandyDart, book your ride to 354 Harbour Road, to arrive by 1:30 and you will be met there and escorted to the event.

Let Sierra know if you wish to be met at either the Esquimalt bus stop or 354 Harbour Road when you book your place

or contact Linda at 250-595-5888

lbartram@telus.net

 

 

***

Described tour at the Royal BC Museum (organized by the Victoria Society for Blind Arts and Culture)

Egypt –The Time of Pharaohs

Monday July 23 at 3:30

 

Admission: Adult (19+) $17.00

Senior (65+) $11.00

Youth (6-18) $11.00

Student (19+ w/ ID) $11.00

Attendant is free if you have a Leisure Pass

 

For more information about the museum call 250-356-7226 or 1-888-447-7977

reception@royalbcmuseum.bc.ca

 

For more information about the described tour contact Linda at 250-595-5888

lbartram@telus.net

 

 

 

***

The VIP Singers will be performing in the library courtyard at noon on Tuesday July 24.  Come and enjoy this free lunchtime concert.

 

 

***

The PTCB hopes to organize Kayaking and a picnic in August with Power to BE at Prospect Lake.  If you would like to receive more information as it becomes available, call Linda to register your interest at 250-595-5888.

 

 

***

The PTCB AGM will be held in September on either the afternoon of September 11 or 18so please set aside these dates until we have finalized the date.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE PACIFIC TRAINING CENTRE FOR THE BLIND

 

The Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) is a Canadian grassroots nonprofit charitable service organization founded and run by blind people.  Its training fosters independence, where blind people empower blind people to be employed, independent and free.

 

The Blind People in Charge Program, provided by the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind, is the only program of its kind in Western Canada that offers regular, intensive rehabilitation to people who are blind or who are losing their vision; it is also the only program that uses an empowering, problem-solving model of instruction, where blind people are the teachers, planners, directors and administrators.

 

The program involves a collaborative, positive, and empowering approach to blindness, where blind people learn from and teach each other in a supportive, can-do atmosphere. Instructors and mentors teach the skills of independence such as Braille, adaptive technology, cane travel, cooking and other life skills, and develop strategies for coping with blindness and vision loss in a sighted world.

 

The Blind People in Charge Program held at the Victoria Disability Resource Centre 817a Fort St., runs two days a week from 10:00 – 4:00 and participants are encouraged to attend as full time students (12 hours a week).  Drop in students are also considered.  Teaching takes place in group and one-on-one sessions and participants progress at their own pace.  Past participants have ranged in age from 24 – 88.  Anyone over 18 who is blind or is experiencing significant vision loss may apply including those who are experiencing other challenges.  There is no charge to students; however donations are always welcome.  For more information, or to participate in our program, please contact us.

 

Phone: 250-580-4910

Email:  info@pacifictrainingcentre.ca