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Talk to the President - December 2011

Season's greetings to all and I hope that everyone is well into the holiday celebrations.  This is probably one of my favourite times of the year!  A time for giving and for forgiving and a time of peace and goodwill.

2011 is fast coming to an end and my hope for each and every one of you is that 2012 will be a better year for you.  I'd like to thank you for your continuing feedback and support and just want you to know how much it is appreciated.  Please keep it coming! 

As always, I'll have my usual monthly question at the end of my update and would love to get your thoughts.

My quote for this month is:

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pahro


December was  a bit of a less busy month for your board as things slowed down as yearend approached.

Your first VP John attended a meeting that was chaired by Rogers Communications to discuss the next steps in descriptive video programming.  A new committee was formed to discuss future work.

Your second VP Rajesh continued his steady work during December.  He made updates to our fund raising brochure to reflect some of our newest initiatives and he was busy putting the finishing touches to the  awarding of the AEBC's scholarships for 2011. 

Rajesh is pleased to announce the AEBC's scholarship winners for 2011 and they are:

  • Vytautas Bucionis of Montreal; and,
  • Ruby Szpeflicki of Ontario.

On behalf of the board, I'd like to extend heartiest congratulations to these two very worthy recipients!

Your director Marc called his first meeting of bloggers to discuss plans for the launching of the AEBC's blog early in the new year.  I was extremely heartened to hear so many excited voices on the teleconference that evening.  As mentioned previously, this blog will become a part of the new online facility that the AEBC is very excited about.  It will enable members to communicate more directly with each other and with the rest of the world and give them an opportunity to express their thoughts through their blogs. 

At this meeting, the following topics were discussed:  Training on how to post and comment, content of blogs, editorial guidelines, frequency of posts, communication among group members, and publication of names of bloggers in my monthly update.

If you would like to join this very dynamic team then please email Marc at

Your treasurer Charles was busy wrapping up the AEBC's financial business during the month of December.  He presented our budget to the board and he warns that next year we are all going to have to work even harder to try and put the AEBC in a better financial position.

Your secretary Cindy continued her steadfast work to keep things in order; ensuring that members lists were kept up to date, minutes of meetings were properly recorded, and keeping tabs on the various emails coming into the AEBC's various accounts.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our board members and our chapter presidents for all of their hard work over the past year and I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of our program admin person Mary Potter and our book keeper Lois Benko.  Mary will be leaving us at the end of this month and her replacement will be announced in my January update. 

Good luck Mary!  You will be missed!

Finally, a huge bouquet of thanks to Denise Sanders and her 20th anniversary AGM committee and  to Anthony Tibbs,  Robin East, Richard Marion, Melanie and Brian Moore, Susan Pinder, Sharlyn Ayotte, and Chris Chamberlin for their tireless efforts. 

I have just confirmed my own travel plans for the first quarter of 2012; that being to reach out to our chapters and other organizations.  As you may remember, this was just one of my commitments  to you at our 2011 AGM in Brantford and in order to be financially responsible, I will be making these trips in combination with my own business trips.  So, the AEBC will not need to pay for my travel.

First, I will be traveling to Ottawa in mid January to help resurrect the Ottawa chapter and I thank Sharlyn Ayotte for her efforts towards this initiative. 

Second, I will be traveling to Brantford to make a presentation to the students of the W Ross McDonald school; date and time to be confirmed. 

Third, in late February I will be traveling to Montreal to work with the Montreal chapter to help set up common initiatives of interest with the Montreal MacKay Rehabilitation Center.



I have news about your town hall committee!  They are on the move again and here is the latest!

The town hall committee met on Dec 07 and our next project has been identified. 

Employment - marketable skills and how can one market their skills to employers, not a forum for finding jobs. 

Guests will be identified shortly and the session would only include phone callers.

The targeted date is March 03 2012.

Stay tuned for further news in next month's update.

Just to reintroduce your town hall committee: Melanie Moore, Cindy Ferguson, Jane Blaine, Pat Seed, Richard Marion, Brian Moore, Anthony Tibbs, Terry Green, and me.  As you can see, a committee made up of members from 3 distinct organizations:  The AEBC, Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, and Canadian Blind Sports Association.



I have news on the library front as follows.

The CNIB called a teleconference on Dec 01 and Lori Sutej their project leader gave us an update. She said that the CNIB is hoping to share their business plan by the end of December.

They have posted a survey which is now on our website and has been sent to our members list.

In order to capture the government's attention and that of potential donors, there needs to be an effort towards showing that the more than 26,000 clients of the CNIB could benefit from a library placed under a non charitable organization.

The AEBC membership identified library services as one of its priorities and completing the CNIB's survey may be a way for you to have your voices heard.  This survey can be found at



The following press releases were posted to our website:

  • AEBC heralds the International Day of persons with disabilities



On Chapter news:

From the Winnipeg chapter I have news that an election was held last month and that the following members were elected:

  • President – Richard Campbell
  • Vice President -Rico John Rostant
  • Secretary  – Christine Ross
  • Treasure – Richard/ Christine

One of the things discussed at this recent meeting was Shaw and MTS not providing adequate or described video service locally. The winnipegg chapter is poised to push for answers on this matter.  They will be going in search of contacts on the MTS Accessibility Advisory Committee. 

Congratulations to Richard Campbell and his executive!  We are looking forward to continuing great things from you!

Toronto held its elections on Dec 10 and Amal Haddad our national director has assumed the presidency of the Toronto chapter.  A new executive was voted in to be her supporting cast.  Amal assumed the helm from Richard Quan who stepped down in the middle of his term.

The new executive is:

  • Amal Haddad president,
  • Reg Sullivan vice president,
  • Ross Robertson Secretary,
  • George Stevens treasurer,
  • Steven Ricci member at large.

Special mention should be given to Susan Pinder and Maria Fitton for having planned a rousing send off for their outgoing president Richard Quan.

Congratulations to you Amal and your team and we look forward to your continuing dedication.

The Brantford chapter ended the year on a mixed note.  First off, they lost one of their founding members; John Barnard who passed away on December 05.  A memorial was held for him on December 10.  Despite this loss however, the Brantford chapter managed to keep its Christmas spirit by donating to a toy drive. 

This chapter has worked extremely diligently for this year; having engaged in fund raising events during the months of May, August, and November and it should be noted that they hosted the 2011 AGM and did an excellent job of it.  A big congrats to president Bob Brown and his hard working team and we look forward to continuing good news from Brantford for 2012!

We will be holding our second teleconference for chapter presidents on Jan 11 and I look forward to meeting with them once again.  I would like to thank our chapter presidents for all of their continuing hard work. High on the agenda for this meeting will be discussion of helping to shape the AEBC's future and building more awareness of our organization.



Members news of the month

This month, I'd like to recognize the efforts of Richard Marion through his letter to John Rafferty, president and CEO of the CNIB.  Richard wrote a very thoughtful and insightful letter to John Rafferty expressing his thoughts with regard to the CNIB's fundraising letter titled "Lost in a blizzard."  The letter is pasted below and I thank you Richard for having taken the time to write this letter. 

December 16, 2011
John M. Rafferty
President and CEO

Dear Mr. Rafferty:

RE:  Lost In A Blizzard

I am writing to you today regarding a recent fundraising letter I received from you.  While I understand you may not have written the letter yourself, it did however have your signature on the bottom.  The subject of the letter was “Lost in a Blizzard”.

When I first received this letter, I reacted very strongly to it.  On my first read of the letter, it reminded me of some past fundraising campaigns done by CNIB that stressed the poor downtrodden blind person angle.  Now on further reflection, I can see the letter is a marginal improvement from such fundraising letters as one in 2008 called “What Would you Sell To Keep Your Sight”.  At least in the current letter the individual that was profiled did obtain blindness skill training after their incident.

Over my life time, I have spent many years working in the consumer movement both in the cross disability arena and more recently specifically on issues concerning people who are blind or partially sighted.  During this time, my primary goal has always been to change the public perceptions of blindness and dispel some of the more stereotypical views of people who are blind.  But when the service agency uses what I will call world vision fundraising tactics it in my opinion sets the educational work done by the consumer movement back and only reinforces what we are trying to dispel about blindness in the public eye.

Positive portrayals of blindness are so important in our efforts to increase our equality and acceptance in society. As the National Federation of the Blind in the United States demonstrates, with good blindness skills development, it allows people to compete on greater terms of equality.  In Canada, it is my belief our rehab system is broken.  This is not the fault of any one individual or organization, however, it is because of too many years of trying to fund rehab services on charity and the fact governments across Canada continue to ignore their responsibilities for funding good rehab services that should allow a person losing their sight to learn how to function as a blind person before they sink into a major depression.

As mentioned earlier in this letter, the current campaign is better than some past fundraising efforts.  But as a person who is blind, I am still troubled about continuing to tell the public that depression is a problem with blindness.  It is something I think many people are all too aware of.  The key to further improving CNIB’s message to the public is highlighting how life does go on after blindness.  Tell the stories of those of us who work, volunteer, and even travel.  I am not saying to forget everything that is still a problem with blindness, but maybe if we do point out some of the problems, we should talk about the problems that are pervasive throughout society like the high poverty rates.

As we look toward what should be a better and brighter future for people who are blind or partially sighted, we need to find ways of raising the necessary funds for services that don’t require designing campaigns that pray on the public’s fear of blindness or tugs at the heart strings for increasing donations.  I strongly believe a more general educational focus on achievements and issues could still obtain the same results for public fundraising.  I would be prepared to discuss this further with you in the New Year.

Thank you for reading this letter and your personal commitment to change the perception of blindness and the services required by people who are blind.  Merry Christmas to you and I look forward to further dialog with you on this and other important issues.

Richard Marion



There is some news on the AGM to report:

First, details of the president's contest has been circulated around; both within and outside of the AEBC.  So please, do remember to buy your virtual brick as soon as you can.  The grand prize is $500 and everyone has an equal chance.  The announcement is posted below. 

This is a perfect time for you to buy a virtual brick for someone special; 500 ways to show how much you care!

I thank Anthony Tibbs for putting this contest together.  This handsome prize will be drawn on May 26 in Kelowna by our esteemed Denise Sanders, chair person of the 20th Anniversary committee.


Greetings members!

In May 2012, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians will celebrate twenty years of supporting blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians!

Would you like a chance to win $500 cash?  Help achieve our goal! We're building a virtual wall for 20th Anniversary Supporters, to represent the foundation on which the AEBC is based, and the supportive nature of our scholarship program.  The funds raised will serve as the foundation for the scholarship program this year and into the future.  When you join as a 20th Anniversary Supporter, and help lay that foundation by buying a virtual "brick" on our 20th Anniversary Supporters' Wall, you will also be entered into a draw for a $500 cash prize! In fact, for every dollar that you (or someone you refer to AEBC) donates before May 26, 2012, you will automatically receive one additional entry into the contest!


How will this work?

First... Buy your brick and make a donation to the AEBC! Each brick costs only $1.00. With your virtual brick you will receive an entry into a contest for a $500 cash prize, to be drawn during the 20th anniversary conference and general meeting in Kelowna, BC (May 25-27, 2012). You can only buy one brick, but for every dollar that you donate to the AEBC before May 26, 2012, you will automatically receive an additional entry into the contest! But wait...

When your brick purchase is processed by AEBC, you will be given your "brick number". This is a unique 5-digit number that identifies your brick on the wall. Pass that number along to your friends, family, co-workers, and anyone else you can think of. When they buy a brick, and supply your brick number, you will also get credit (and additional contest entries) for every dollar that they donate and raise for AEBC.  (You also will be given a special URL that you can post to Facebook, Twitter, and email messages to ensure you get credit for your referrals.)

Don't want to buy and pay online?  Call us at 1-800-561-4774!

If you would like a tax receipt, be sure to provide a shipping address in PayPal so that we know where that should be sent.  Note that your initial brick purchase ($1.00) is not eligible for a tax receipt.  If you make a $10.00 donation and you do not yet own a brick, then a tax receipt of $9.00 will be issued.

Join and donate online at

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us at


Last month I promised you a further announcement on the other prize to be awarded at our AGM in Kelowna.  You already know that it is going to be an IPad donated by Sharlyn Ayotte of T-Base Communications Inc.  Well, here's another tidbit for you.  Yes!  It is opened to all registered attendees and will be awarded on May 25 right after dinner. 

This prize will be drawn by no other than Sharlyn Ayotte herself! 

I'll keep you in suspense a bit longer and give you the final details about this prize in my January update.

Stay tuned for further announcements on our upcoming 20th AGM Anniversary celebration in future emails and updates.



Time now for my question of the month. 

What can we as a community do in order to help make restaurants more accessible to us? Help restaurant owners to become more aware of:

Better access to physical locations, menus in alternate formats, better physical layout of restaurants, waiters to be better trained, greater access for our guide dogs? 


That's it for me for this month.  Once again, I wish you and your families the very best of everything for 2012.  

See you in 2012


Donna J
Your national president


This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.