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Talk to the President February 2012

Greetings fellow AEBC members and I hope that wherever you are, all is well in your neck of the woods.  Ah yes!  February will shortly be a blur in our minds and March will soon be here.  

I would like to start by thanking the number of you who took the time to email me this past month and I am very appreciative.  Remember now, strength lies in numbers and our voice can only be made stronger if we all pull together. 

As usual, I will have a question for you at the end of my update; a very important one which I am asking for your considered feedback.  So please, take a moment to read and email me at or you can share your responses with us on the members list.

My quotation for this month is as follows:

"Few people will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation."

Robert F. Kennedy


Board news for February 2012

This month continued to be a busy month for your national board.

Your first VP John attended and presented at the Andrew Pinto Commission hearing on February 24 and it was all about the AEBC lending its voice to David Lepovsky and the AODA against the Ontario Government's decision to place the onus on complainants to do their own investigation to their grievances.  John also continued his work with the Toronto chapter's fund raising event to be held on March 02.

Your second VP Rajesh continued his work on a bit of everything; making sure that the CBM's latest issue is going to be ready on time for posting to our website before our AGM.  He is also involved in working with the T-Base team to announce a fall scholarship and he will be working on some website initiatives.  

Your national secretary Cindy is busy behind the scenes gettings ready for our AGM; bringing membership lists up to date, and helping to prepare the call for the AGM.

Your national treasurer Charles also continued his work behind the scenes to keep our ship afloat and to start finding ways to plug that gaping financial hole.

Your national director Amal continued her work with the point of sale committee and here are a few highlights of her efforts. 

Letter sent to 17 suppliers, no response, need to draft follow up letter.

Amal in contact with Melanie Brunson, executive director of ACB, will follow up.

Charles has written to NFB and is awaiting a response.

Future Shop may now require a Magnetic Pen.

Best Buy to provide overlay over existing touch screen.

Netcom created a talking option, tried contacting them and still waiting for a return call.

Wall Mart, can enter pin, all other functions are touch screen.

A positional paper is in the works.

Your other national director Marc was also quite busy for February and in addition to the Blind Canadians blog, he attended a meeting in Toronto in mid February.  Shortly afterwards, he posted an email to the members list seeking feedback as part of the ongoing work on Bell's Mobility Accessibility project.  The research consultant on the project, the Inclusive Design Research Centre, had asked committee members to submit ideas on how Bell could improve its marketing of accessible products.

On February 23, I met with Elections Canada at their invitation to discuss some of their initiatives.  Here is a summary of my meeting with them.

They discussed working to develop accessible polling stations with the necessary hardware and software so that blind persons could vote more independently.

More training for staff to interact on a better footing with blind persons.

A possible way for blind persons and the mainstream world to vote from home through the Internet. 

A possible collaboration with organizations such as ours to disseminate information; the distribution of packages to organizations for distribution to their members when an election is called.  

A possible project for blind persons to know which riding they live in, and who their federal MP is.


Here is the latest news from our Blind Canadians blog team.

At a meeting held on February 02, some of the highlights from your national director  Marc were as follows.

Circulation of alternative formats:

Perhaps three or four times a year, the plan is to circulate a number of blog posts among AEBC members in audio and braille formats. The plan is to do the production in house, and Cindy has volunteered to assist with this.

Incorporating the Canadian Blind Monitor into the Blind Canadians Blog:

One idea discussed was to create a CBM account that the CBM committee would be responsible for contributing under. This may be unnecessary given the goals of the Blind Canadians Blog, but it is something that will be discussed with the CBM committee.


From the desk of our town hall committee:

Here is a repeat announcement from our hardworking town hall team. 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  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


Meet your town hall team 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.


Letters and press releases posted to our website:

The following letters and press releases were posted to our website:

Statistics Canada fails to make its surveys accessible to blind and deaf Canadians

An announcement from the town hall committee for its March 24 town hall meeting

A fund raiser event from the Toronto chapter for March 02

A letter from Robin East, chairman of the Coalition of Organizations of Blind,

Deaf-blind, and Partially sighted Rights Holders of Canada (CRBC) regarding

the former Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA).  This letter was addressed to Daniel J. Caron Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

I will note here that letters have also been written by your first VP John and your national director Marc to their respective MPs on this matter of concern.  I encourage others to do the same.  Remember now, strength lies in numbers and we need as many voices to build our chorus of advocacy.

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is delighted to announce the launching of the Blind Canadians blog!

A brochure jointly produced by the AEBC's Halifax chapter and Capital District Health of Halifax.

A fundraiser for Italian night to be held on Apr 20 by the Montreal chapter.


In chapter news:

I am starting this section by announcing how excited and delighted I am that our esteemed chapter presidents have agreed to work on committees that will help to increase awareness of the AEBC as well as bring in new members.  After our September 2011 teleconference meeting, a report was generated in which our chapter presidents identified certain processes that could be worked on in order to foster the above.  It is my pleasure to announce the following committees and our chapter presidents have agreed to get started right away and will be giving us a status report hopefully by the end of March.


1. A committee to circulate brochures about the AEBC to special needs offices of colleges and universities and to various CNIB offices.

We could use existing materials or develop new ones.

2. A committee to develop ways to take advantage of social media and to post activities of chapters on our website.  The use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sources could be considered.

3. A committee to develop opportunities; cooperation with other organizations and additional ways to reach out to others.  We could target other like minded organizations.

Our town hall meetings is a start. 

Thank you chapter presidents for taking this bold step.

I would like to give a very warm welcome to Darlene Wournell and her Halifax chapter.  I met Dar at a conference in Ottawa in early February and I am pleased to have her back on board with us.  She has some great news to share with us and in her own words:  "We are small but we are mighty."  So here is her news.

In 2008, the AEBC Halifax Chapter collaborated with Capital District Health (CDH) in the Halifax Regional Municipality to create accessible pamphlets for blind, partially sighted and deaf-blind patients from all over the four atlantic provinces when they come into the hospital for day surgery or for a longer stay. As a result of this, the AEBC Halifax Chapter and Capital District Health collaborated on a "Diversity Pamphlet" for all staff at the hospitals in the Halifax Regional Municipality.  Since last fall, the AEBC Halifax Chapter once again collaborated with Capital District Health to update the information.  The updates were finally completed this past month. 

This chapter has  a "Flea Market" scheduled for the spring. All proceeds of table sales, admission, beverages (coffee & tea), fifty-fifty ticket sales and items sold at our own table will help provide our chapter with means of funding for our "Social Evenings" which take place every second month.

The Halifax chapter has also teamed up with the "Checkered Eye Project", selling pins and badges as a fund raiser as there is nowhere in Nova Scotia to purchase these pins. The "Checkered Eye Project" has pins that let people know that someone has no or limited vision. As sighted people are not encouraged to wear the pins, there are also t-shirts that we can sell but have not gotten any as of yet. The website is:

This chapter is planning fund raising events for end of May and July and is also planning to hold a membership drive sometime in the spring.  Finally, it is going the Skype way to hold its meetings.  Great work Dar and we are very proud of the Halifax chapter!

The Winnipeg chapter continued where it had left off for last month by announcing its intension to participate in White Cane week.  President Richard circulated a sign that he had put together for this event. 

The Winnipeg chapter continued its ongoing battle to have descriptive video services made fully accessible and this is an ongoing matter.  This chapter also continued its efforts to ascertain whether or not the Human Rights Museum will be made fully accessible to blind patrons. 

This chapter also discussed its potential spring bingo bowl fund raiser expected to be held in either late April or early May. 

A photo of the Winnipeg chapter celebrating White Cane week is posted on our website.

Good going Richard and team!

The Toronto chapter kicked off its 2012 year with a brand new president and executive and did not waste time getting down to business. 

First, it made a call for its chapter members to get involved in the Achilles walk scheduled for March 18. 

Next it announced its fund raising evening to be held at the Hugh's Roomon March 02. 

Then it was announced that the Toronto chapter has partnered with Ryerson University to produce a video about the Toronto chapter.  The objective of this video is for use in outreach projects.  It is hoped that this video will be ready for circulation by mid April. 

President Amal also brought forward a proposal to form five permanent committees; publicity, fund raising, outreach, workshops and events, and advocacy and policy development.   We wish Amal the very best in her term of office.

Finally, a message from Heather Rupert and her Montreal chapter.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Montreal Chapter Italian Night Fundraiser

 When:  Friday , April 20, 2012  from 6pm-midnight

Location: San Domenico Savio, 9190 rue Sainte Claire,  Montreal, Qc  H1L 1Z7

Cost:   $40.00 per person Includes-Dinner  & Music/Entertainment

For tickets Please Call Mike Ciarciello or Heather Rupert @ 514-722-6867

All Proceeds go to Alliance for Equality Of Blind Canadians (AEBC) Montreal Chapter


Members of the month

This past month one of our members Richard Marion, vice president of the BC affiliate, stirred the pot and kicked things up a notch or two when he took the bold step to write to the minister responsible for Statistics Canada, Christian Paradis.  Richard along with others were rightfully upset with this Federal agency for not having made their surveys accessible to Blind Canadians and their sentiments were echoed by persons with other disabilities who were unable to complete Statscan's survey due to inaccessibility.  A copy of Richard's letter follows and the AEBC also issued a press release which along with Richard's letter are both posted on our website.  CBC News also ran a story on this matter which was posted on February 07 and was titled Statscan accused of not accommodating blind man.

Here is the text of Richard's email to the minister.

From: Richard Marion
Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2012 2:21 PM
Subject: Statistics Canada accessibility

The Hon. Christian Paradis
Minister of Industry

Dear Mr. Paradis:

My name is Richard Marion and I am a person who is blind.  Recently I was sent a letter from Statistics Canada as part of a random sample to take part in Canada's portion of a major international longitudinal survey focusing on employment, education & volunteerism. 

After receiving the letter, I contacted the interviewer who had left a card at my door to make arrangements for the interview.  when I contacted the interviewer, I did not mention I had a disability as she told me this survey was an interview and would take 1 to two hours depending on the results of the screening questions.  Also, because my household only had one occupant, she said this would speed up the process. 

Last week February 2, 2012, was the night I tried to do the survey.  The first part was an interview.  We did complete this part within an hour.  But I was selected to also do the international part of the survey which is self directed.  Meaning I was to input the information myself into the computer the interviewer had with her.  this computer she had did not have any software on it that would make the interface accessible to me.  I was told I could not use my own computer and she said she would let me know if there was an accessible version of the survey.  Yesterday, February 7, 2012, I received a call letting me know that they could not produce a Braille copy of the survey for security reasons and there was no accessible computer that had the survey on it. 

Today I found out as a result of being sent a link to an article on the CBC website that a person in New Brunswick was told the same thing.  MY issue is not resolved yet and I have asked for some sort of resolution within the next week or so.

If you are interested in assisting me with this issue, please contact me.  I think that a prompt resolution to this issue will help ensure that the government's international commitment to people with disabilities is more than just the act of signing the UN Convention on disabilities.

Richard Marion


I would also like to congratulate our own Penny Leclair for having dared to go out there and speak up at an Ottawa session of the Andrew Pinto Review Commission on Human Rights and I am pasting below her very sobering sentiments that she shared on our members list.

I feel something different might raddle the cages of the government officials who are trying to cut costs, not always easy, but human rights systems goes to the core of reasonable standard of living, quality of life. We will always have people who are rather closed minded and selfish, hence a fair human rights system is important to maintain.

Thank you Penny!

The AEBC would like to welcome Bev Milligan to our fold.  Earlier this month, Bev signed up as a lifetime member.  Bev is the chair person of Media Access Canada. 

The AEBC also welcomes Christine Boyle; Executive Director MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, Directrice générale, Centre de réadaptation and she has also signed up as a life time member.  Welcome ladies!


Now for news on the 20th Anniversary AGM front!

First, please do not forget to start registering for this all- important AGM!  I'll let the cat out of the bag!  Montreal is ahead of the game as six of their chapter have already registered!

The hard working 20th Anniversary AGM Committee continues to toil diligently away at its tasks; nailing down the agenda, sponsors, vendors, and any and everything that needs to be done.  I thank Denise Sanders and her hard workers for all of their tireless efforts.

Last month, I promised to unveil another sponsor to our AGM and here goes!

Accessible Media Inc has kindly offered to sponsor a portion of our AGM in the very generous sum of $5,000.00.  The AEBC is pleased to welcome AMI and among other things, this organization will be making a speech to our members on how they are moving to build a closer relationship with Blind Canadians through their programming and other activities. 

 I wish to acknowledge the following sponsors:

Air Canada - for providing the AEBC with two economy class tickets to bring two of our past presidents to Kelowna.  John Rae and Robin East will be the lucky ones to fly via Air Canada.

RBC Dominion Securities - Richard Papadina for providing the sum of $250 to be used as part of the 20th Anniversary volunteers awards.

T-Base Communications Inc - for a generous donation of $2,000.00 with special thanks to Jeff Potts.

Sharlyn Ayotte - for her contribution of an IPad to be won by any lucky participant registering for the AGM. 

Accessible Media Inc - for their very generous donation of $5,000.00 with special thanks to Peter Burke.  This year, Accessible Media Inc will also be sponsoring the hospitality suite.

Vision Aid Canada - for their donation of a door prize of a large print remote with special thanks to Miriam and Bob Gindi.

A huge bouquet of gratitude to all of our sponsors!

On another note:  Here again is the announcement for the president's contest and I thank Anthony Tibbs for putting this together.  This handsome prize will be drawn by no other than our very own Denise Sanders; chair person of our 20th Anniversary AGM Committee.  Please folks, it is time for you to start buying your virtual bricks!

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

Thank you!


A monthly commitment

As part of my efforts to help us make monthly commitments, and thanks to an idea from Robin East, I am pleased to introduce my commitment of the month.  These are only suggestions and you can give me your thoughts on this. 

January and February are already in the books but nevertheless, here are my suggestions for the first three months. 


January - Let's just renew our commitment to the AEBC

February - Time for fundraising

March - Time for a membership drive

In order for us to strengthen our voices and increase the power and influence of our beloved AEBC, we need to go out there and recruit more members.  Members who will sign on and stay for more than just a while.  Members who would be convinced that the AEBC is a viable organization and that they can help to fulfill our commitments. 

How can we recruit more members?  Through schools, through universities and colleges, through community centers, and more.  We can ask sighted folks to sign up and then work with them to encourage their blind friends and family members to join.  How does this sound?


Question of the month

Time now for my question of the month and here goes:

For this month and the next, I will be soliciting your feedback and it is my sincere hope that you will take a moment to drop by and give us your feedback.  My objective here is to encourage you to share your thoughts on a vision for the AEBC and as we approach our 20th anniversary, I believe that it is important for us to start the third decade of our existance with a firm vision in place.  In addition, as a member driven organization, I believe that members have a responsibility to inform their board about their vision for the AEBC.

With this in mind, I proffer the following.

What type of organization would you like to see the AEBC evolve into?

A. An organization that would focus on becoming the strongest  voice of blind, partially sighted, and deaf/blind consumers in Canada?  This would mean that every member would have to make a commitment to commit.

B. An organization that would focus on becoming one where socializing would be the main objective through annual AGMS, chapter meetings, and chatter on the members list that would include the discussion of issues of the day?

C. To continue as is?  That is, to do nothing and based on present financial projections; it would mean that the AEBC's lifeline will be brought to an end in four or five years time?

Your feedback is really important to us and I cannot stress how important it is for you to share your vision. You can share it on the members list, or write to me or drop an email to

My parting quote for this month is this one:

"Have great hopes and dare to go all out for them. Have great dreams and dare to live them. Have tremendous expectations and believe in them."

Norman Vincent Peale


Thanks much everyone and I wish you a great month of March.

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.
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