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Talk to the President - January 2012

Greetings fellow AEBC members and yes! January is almost over and we are only just a short distance away from beautiful spring! I hope that all is well with everyone and I would again like to start by thanking those of you who continue to give me very valuable feedback for it is only through you and with you that your board and I can continue to persevere.

As always, I'll have a question for you at the end of this update and I hope that you will have a moment to drop by and give me your thoughts.Please send your feedback to me at djodhan@blindcanadians.ca.

My quote for this month is as follows:

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."

Thomas Jefferson

News from the Board

January saw your board members picking up some steam after a well deserved Christmas holiday break. We continued our mission; that being to ensure that the AEBC's work be given top priority.

Your first VP John reported in that he was busy recruiting members to help with work pertaining to CRTC matters. He also participated in ODSP Action Coalition meetings in preparation for next round of consultations on Social Assistance Review.

Your treasurer Charles has started to get things ready for the AGM in May. That is, he is busy helping to ensure that financial resources are adequately spread around to maximize efficiency. As of February 01, your secretary Cindy will have a new program admin person to work with. Tyler Moore will be taking Mary Potter's place. Mary left us at the end of December but will remain a volunteer for the AEBC. Thank you Mary! Tyler will be based in Ottawa.

Your director Amal has been up to her usual tricks; ensuring that interest is maintained for the point of sale priority and she and her team have been busy writing letters and gathering comments from others.

Your director Marc Workman was engaged in gathering feedback for the Bell Mobility Accessibility project and he circulated an email to the members list as well as to chapter presidents seeking input from members. The Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) out of the Ontario College of Art and Design is working on this project. The project focuses on the identification of accessibility concerns in the following areas:

  • Handsets
  • Hardware accessories
  • Apps and software
  • Web-site
  • Customer service (stores, call centre)
  • Service plans.

Marc has since posted the feedback that he received from the above and here it is again:

1. Offering a range of accessible handsets. This was the most common concern I received. I love my iPhone (perhaps more than is appropriate), but it's not for everyone. It's crucial that Bell and other carriers offer a range of accessible phones (both feature and smart phones) at a variety of price points.

2. Improving handset design. Some members expressed concerns about the physical design of handsets (e.g., buttons that are small, recessed, lacking tactile markers and thus difficult to press). Concerns about accessibility should be raised with original equipment manufacturers and incorporated into procurement policies.

3. Subsidizing the cost of assistive software. I forwarded a press release to this list describing how Sprint is picking up the cost of Code Factory's Mobile Accessibility. I think Bell has to adopt a similar practice. It may be that the logistics of this practice can be borrowed directly from Sprint. This would mean that a screen reader user would be able to access a variety of phones running Android. However, I'm not suggesting that this be limited to mobile Accessibility. Where similar software is available for Blackberry, Nokia, and other phones, this software should also be subsidized.

4. Pressuring platform creators to care more about accessibility. Apple has done a lot with respect to accessibility in IOS (the iPhone operating system), but more could be done to increase the accessibility of this platform (e.g., incorporating accessibility testing into their application review process). Google is doing better with Android's accessibility than in the past, but they have a long way to go. And Microsoft really dropped the ball on accessibility in Windows Phone 7. These companies need to hear from Bell that accessibility to all their customers is a priority.

5. Increasing website accessibility. I did not receive specific accessibility issues regarding the website, but this was a general concern I heard. An easy to use, accessible website is essential.

6. Improving customer service. Dealing with customer service agents that lack knowledge of accessibility was a concern raised by many. Perhaps part of this project could involve an audit of in person and call centre customer service in the area of accessibility.

7. Ensuring that service plans can easily be compared. It's important that a blind person can independently compare service plans to determine the best one. New deals and promotions also need to be communicated in ways that are accessible, and there needs to be a mechanism for removing the costs of features that cannot be accessed (e.g., a blind person may have to pay for a text messaging plan even though her phone is not accessible and she cannot read or send texts).

Marc also continued his work to launch the AEBC's online blogs and was busy putting together podcasts and tutorials on how bloggers can post to and comment on blogs. The blog team has now grown to 20 people that are interested in contributing. Marc and Anthony Tibbs have been working diligently to get everything in order and they are expecting the blogs to be in full swing by early to mid February. A meeting for bloggers will be held at the end of January.

More news from your board

I am delighted to announce that the T-Base Communications scholarship program is very alive for 2012 and that this company will be offering one two thousand dollar scholarship to us. This scholarship will be awarded in the fall to a worthy applicant that we will be submitting to them from our list of those who applied to us for the 2011/2012 academic year. We thank T-Base Communications for their very generous donation.

Here comes your town hall team and an announcement from them!

After the success of the last town hall meeting on the CNIB Library hosted by The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, We are pleased to bring you our next in our series of electronic town hall meetings. On Saturday March 24, 2012 at 10 Am pacific, 11 Am Mountain, 12 PM Central, 1 PM Eastern, 2 Pm Atlantic & 2:30 PM in Newfoundland, we will be conducting a town hall meeting on Employment.

In today's ever changing work environment, it is crucial to understand what may be expected of people in different types of employment settings. The panel we have assembled come from three very different backgrounds. This town hall discussion will be your chance to learn what issues are important for people who are blind, partially sighted or deaf/blind when they consider working in different employment situations. Our panel represents three key sectors in today's job market. Robin East is an employee with Canada Revenue Agency and will share what key points are important when working as a government employee. Chris Chamberlin is the president of frontier Computing and will share his knowledge of working in the private sector and specifically with a small business. Finally, Sandra Carpenter the executive director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto will talk about issues and concerns working in the non-profit sector.

This meeting is not a forum to apply for your next job. It is a chance to learn what will be necessary as you do research into what is the best option for success in the work place. If you want to attend, please RSVP no later than March 10 with your name and email address to Melanie Moore at melanie.moore@cilt.ca. This will allow us to ensure that all participants are sent any documents ahead of the meeting they may be interested in reading prior to the meeting. Please note this meeting will be done via a toll free teleconferencing system.

Thank you very much in advance for your interest.
Your Electronic Town Hall Committee

Note: I will be re-posting this announcement in my next update and I'll take the liberty of introducing your town hall team to you once more:

  • Melanie Moore - Citizens with Disabilities Ontario board member and member of AEBC.
  • Jane Blaine - Executive Director of Canadian Blind Sports Association.
  • Pat Seed - Chair Citizens with Disabilities Ontario and AEBC member.
  • Cindy Ferguson - National Secretary AEBC.
  • Richard Marion - member of AEBC.
  • Brian Moore - member of AEBC.
  • Anthony Tibs - Member of AEBC.
  • Terry Green - member of Citizens with Disabilities Ontario.
  • Donna Jodhan - member of AEBC.

CBM

The final printed edition of the CBM was mailed out in early January. This issue consisted of articles taken from our success stories booklet. We are indebted to our CBM Editor, Brenda Cooke, our Associate Editor, Sara Bennett, our publisher, Public Sector Publications, and to all those who have served on the CBM Committee and contributed to the magazine over the years.

Now the AEBC will be turning their attention to entering a new and exciting era! One in which we will be launching the Blind Canadians Blog! This is a medium that will enable members to express themselves and communicate with each other and with the rest of the world!

Here is a copy of the press release that we will be posting to our website in early February.

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blockquote>The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is delighted to announce the launching of the Blind Canadians blog! This will be a refreshing and exciting blog that will enable members to communicate with the rest of the world and with each other! Most importantly, the Blind Canadians Blog will enable the rest of the world to learn more about the AEBC and the issues facing blind Canadians and to actively participate in discussions and debates.

"This exciting online endeavour shows the AEBC's willingness and readiness to embrace technology and move into the era of social media." Says AEBC's president Donna Jodhan.

"We are very excited about this initiative, and there are already nearly two dozen members that have expressed an interest in getting the ball rolling."

If you are interested in learning more and possibly contributing to the Blind Canadians Blog, contact your National Director, Marc Workman, at mworkman@blindcanadians.ca

Here is how you too can become a part of this exciting AEBC initiative. The AEBC's entirely revamped website offers new opportunities for members and non-members to participate in discussions and stay informed about the activities going on at the national, provincial, and chapter level.

The Blind Canadians Blog is just one example of the exciting new features of our website. You can also read the latest correspondence, press releases, and bulletin board notices, you can manage your membership information and pay your annual fees online, and you can subscribe to content so that you will receive an email direct to your inbox whenever new content is posted to the website.

It only takes a few minutes to sign up. To make things easier, you can find step-by-step instructions below that will help get you set up with an account on the site and subscribed to content so that you can begin receiving automatic updates. If you have any questions or concerns about using the AEBC website, you can contact Marc Workman at mworkman@blindcanadians.ca.

Here are instructions on creating an account, subscribing to content, and commenting on a blog post.

Creating an Account and Changing the Temporary Password

  1. Go to the AEBC homepage, www.blindcanadians.ca.
  2. Click on the link, "Create New Account".
  3. Fill out the form found below the "Tasks" heading.
  4. After submitting the form, check the email account associated with the email address you provided.
  5. Use the user name and temporary password in the email to log in at www.blindcanadians.ca.
  6. Click on the "My Account" link.
  7. Click on the "Edit" link.
  8. Enter the password you would like to have in the "Password" field and then confirm it in the "Confirm password" field.
  9. Press the "Save" button.

Subscribing to Content

  1. Log in to the AEBC website.
  2. Press enter on the "my account" link.
  3. Press enter on the "notifications" link.
  4. Press enter on the "content type" link.
  5. Check the checkboxes for each of the types of content you would like to receive or check the first checkbox to select all of them.
  6. If desired, use the combo box to adjust the interval at which you receive the updates.
  7. Press enter on the "save" button.

Commenting on a Blog Post

  1. Log in to the AEBC website.
  2. Find the blog post on which you want to comment.
  3. Find the comment edit field beneath the blog post.
  4. Type or paste in your comment.
  5. Find the "save" button and press enter.

Chapter News

Winnipeg

In Chapter news, let me start with Winnipeg.

This fearless and feisty chapter has decided to go forth and speak up on the following issues. They were not happy with a recent Handy Transit meeting as they felt that the good folks at Handy Transit were not listening to the concerns of the consumers and that they did not appear to want to change their policy. The Winnipeg chapter is contemplating issuing an invitation to two of their city counsellors to see if they could help to get things on track. The Winnipeg chapter was also not very happy with a recent Human Rights Museum meeting as president Richard Campbell reported that very few questions were taken from the floor and that he did not have an opportunity to ask any questions pertaining to accessibility for blind and partially sighted persons. He is planning a follow-up. Go get em Richard and team!

Ottawa

A very warm welcome back to our Ottawa chapter. On Jan 17 I had the pleasure of chairing a small gathering of enthusiastic Ottawa folks at the home of Sharlyn Ayotte and on a very snowy evening, the Ottawa chapter was resurrected. These gritty folks elected an interim executive of Sharlyn Ayotte as president, Tyler Moore as secretary/treasurer, and Gaston Bedard as member at large.

Another chapter meeting will be held towards the end of March or in early April and at that time, a permanent executive will be elected. A search for a site for the next meeting and subsequent meetings will be conducted. We look forward to good things from this chapter in the coming months.

Chapter Presidents Meet

On Jan 11, we held our second tele conference chapter presidents meeting and it was well attended. Chapter presidents were in an upbeat mood and some of the items that they have committed to work on are:

  • Defining the future of the AEBC, how to build more awareness of the AEBC, and development of criteria for an AEBC member of the year award. This award will be monetary in nature and would be based on an essay competition.
  • A committee was formed to produce the criteria by our next meeting to be held on April 25 and here are the esteemed members of this committee: Heather Rupert - president Montreal chapter; Bob Brown - president Brantford chapter; Charles Bailey - Fraser Valley chapter.

I have some news to share re our upcoming AGM!

First, our president's contest and an appeal from me for you to please go out there and buy those virtual bricks! You never know! You could be a lucky winner on May 26; a handsome prize of $500. Just imagine how you could feel if our esteemed Denise Sanders were to call out your name on that day? I thank Anthony Tibs for putting this brain child together and I will again paste the announcement at the end of my update on AGM news. This handsome prize will be drawn by none other than our very own Denise Sanders! Affectionally known as "the boss!"

On another front: I told you in my previous update that I would give you the final piece of news to the drawing of that IPad donated which has been generously donated by Sharlyn Ayotte of T-Base Communications Inc. Guess what? All registered participants will automatically qualify for this prize. So how about it? A trip out to Kelowna to see it all?

Here now is the announcement for the president's contest.

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 http://www.blindcanadians.ca/20years

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us at communications@blindcanadians.ca.

Thank you!

Now for some very exciting news!

The AEBC is pleased to announce that T-Base Communications Inc will be donating the sum of $2,000.00 (two thousand dollars) to our AGM. We thank Jeff Potts and his team for this very generous donation. There is another donor in the wings to be announced but I will wait to announce them in my next update.

Here is a message from Denise Sanders, chair of the 20th anniversary AGM committee.

Hi all, It is that time of year again!! We are collecting nominations for the 2011 volunteer award. If you would like to nominate someone who has done a tremendous amount of work for AEBC in 2011, please send your nomination and write up to Cindy at cferguson@blindcanadians before March 15.

Below is the resolution we passed in 2006 with the details.

2006-10: AEBC Volunteer of the Year Award

The AEBC Volunteer of the Year Award be created, to be presented at each year's AGM or Conference, to a member who has made a significant volunteer contribution to the work of the AEBC in the previous calendar year; a request for nominees would be part of the January/February Activity Report, with names and supporting information to be submitted to the National Secretary by March 15; The Board members, Chapter Presidents and Committee Chairs would each vote for two nominees, rating them as first and second choices, with the final decision to be made by April 15 so that the award could be presented at the next AGM, Conference or Chapter meeting. If a person holds more than one office, he/she would only have one vote in the process.

Please note: I will be re-posting this notice in my February update.

Another message from Denise Sanders:

AGM INFORMATION FOR MEMBERS AT LARGE WHO ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH A CHAPTER

Funding for one delegate is available. AEBC will cover up to a maximum of $250.00 for reasonable travel costs and the hotel accommodation costs (assuming double occupancy).

How to Apply: It is likely that more than one person will be interested in attending. If you are interested in attending as a member at large, please send a message to cwbailey@telus.net with your name, email, and telephone number outlining:

  • Who you are (general background info);
  • Any previous involvement with AEBC you might have had (e.g. attending previous conferences, previously part of a chapter, referred by a friend, etc.);
  • What you hope to gain from the conference experience;
  • Why you believe that you would be the best, most deserving, or most significantly benefited candidate for funding; and
  • Your expected total costs for attending the conference.

The deadline for funding requests is March 1, 2012. Applicants can expect to know no later than March 31, 2012 as to the availability of funding.

Posting on behalf of other organizations

A call for participants to respond to a research study on contacting E911 services or receiving emergency alerts on mobile wireless was posted to the members list on behalf of the Neil Squire foundation.

The following letters and emails were sent by the AEBc to third parties and also posted on our website.

Members of the month

This month, I would like to reprint a moving tribute that was written by our own Paul Thiel in memory of Sharon Wagner. Please see below.

A Friend May Be Dying
By Paul E Thiele

My friend, Sharon Wagner may be dying.

Yesterday and this morning, many of us got the news that our friend, Sharon Wagner suffered yet another and this time massive stroke and is now in palliative care and not expected to live.

Why am I writing this with a tear in my eye and a wrench in my gut? Sharon was a good friend of my first wife, Judy Thiele. The two women were 'birth sisters' born on August 15th 1944. They met when Sharon needed a temporary home while going to Jericho Hill School. She developed an early bone disease and needed braces to walk. Her mother died early and her father was a fisherman who needed to be away from home for extended periods of time. So Judy's family welcomed Sharon into their home to look after her for a year or more. The two girls became good friends as they both travelled to the school for the blind by 'Bunny Bus' and as they both supported each other in their bid to lead a normal life in spite of blindness and - in Sharon's case, - debilitating physical hardships. Sharon went on to overcome virtually all of her health problems and became a 'Home Teacher' at the CNIB, later, Executive Director of the Canadian Council of the Blind, and later still a Human Rights Activist on behalf of the blind and partially sighted, joining the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and becoming an active and contributive member.

Before that, she was married and had two sons who adored their Mom and who both struck out to follow their mother's example to strive for the rights of others. I fast-forward in Sharon's life. After the passing of Judy Thiele, we developed this little habit of sending each other birthday greetings, - she for my birthday in March and I for hers on August 15th. We often talked on the phone and met on other occasions such as the Trivia fund raisers for PAWS. I was there when Sharon announced that she had been diagnosed with incurable caner, some years ago. I watched her overcome that probably through sheer will power and to go on to be the first Canadian to successfully train with a special guide dog, Nautilus, to work with a dog and a power scooter. Sharon and Nauty as I called him made a very special team. The next time Sharon and I touched bases, she was in St. Paul's Hospital for treatment and her steadfast companion, Nautilus was with her. My good friend Tom Teranishi and I visited her every single day for over a week to cheer her up and encourage her to get better in order for both of them to get back home. I was so pleased to see Sharon make progress and be able to get out of her power chair and walk again if only for a short distance. Then a stroke felled her and her speech became slurry and hard to understand. In the meantime Sharon also suffered a heart attack. But through all that, she remained cheerful and determined to beat all the odds.

Now we are informed that her time may be up, that this latest set-back may be too much for her to withstand and that she may not be with us for too much longer. I am writing this to you all to remind you about what a wonderful, determined and courageous woman Sharon Wagner is. I would not be the least bit surprised is she survives this latest set-back. If you are into praying, crossing fingers, thinking good thoughts or sending good wishes to a great and strong person like Sharon, this is your opportunity. If all of that does not work and Sharon' more than nine lives are used up, please remember her as the strong a courageous person and role model she was and pattern your own life after hers.

Sincerely,
Paul E. Thiele

I would also like to acknowledge a blurb that was written about an interview that Mike Ciarciello gave to the CBC in Montreal earlier this month. Mike is a member of our Montreal chapter and a summary follows.

On January 9, 2012, Mr. Ciarciello, Employee at Mab-Mackay, and member of the AEBC was asked to participate in a CBC Montreal interview regarding right on red in Downtown Montreal.

In this three minute interview Mr. Ciarciello was asked to share his views on whether downtown Montreal was ready to start implementing the write to have vehicles turn right on red.

Ciarciello stated that while certain areas of Montreal I-E Laval did have the go ahead to have cars turn right on red, it would not be feasible for the following reason to have this law in place in Downtown Montreal:

Due to the heavy traffic, and constant road work, having the go ahead to have vehicles turn right on red would cause numerous accidents among pedestrians wanting to cross the busy streets in Downtown Montreal. Ciarciello went on to state that perhaps this issue could be reviewed at a later time if and when the volume of road work decreased, and motorists would have to be trained to exercise patients when driving in Downtown Montreal, as is the case that most accidents occur due to the lack of patients from Motorists.

Question of the Month

It is time for my question of the month but before I put it out there, I found another quote to share with you. Here it is.

Quote For Today:

Being human, we are imperfect. That's why we need each other. To catch each other when we falter. To encourage each other when we lose heart. Some may lead; others may follow; but none of us can go it alone.

Hilary Clinton

Question: How accessible do you think online shopping is for blind persons? What can online companies do in order to improve access for us? Do share your feedback.

That's it for me this month. Enjoy your February!

Donna J
Your national president

Disclaimer:

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.
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