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Talk to the President December 2012

Dear fellow AEBCers:  Ah yes!  2012 will soon be in the history books and it will be that time again to say "happy new year" to loved ones and a big hello to 2013.

I'd like to thank those of you who took the time to stop by with your feedback and especially to those of you who committed endless hours to the work of the AEBC for this past year.  We should be proud of what we have accomplished for 2012 and let's raise our glasses to a better 2013!

My quote for this month is as follows:
"Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself, and know that everything in this life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from."
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

In board news
Before sharing our board news with you there is something very exciting that I'd like to share with you!  I believe that Santa did not forget the AEBC after all and his name is Jeffrey Stark!  He lives in Ottawa and like Santa, this very generous member has decided to do something very special for some very special folks! 

Remember that I told you last month that Jeffrey would have a huge surprise for us?  Well, here it is and from me personally to you Jeffrey, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Santa Jeffrey has given the sum of $5,000.00 to the AEBC which he has requested to be donated to the Braille camp for blind and partially sighted  kids which will be held from July 14 - 19 at Lake Jo in Ontario.  This very generous gift will not only benefit those participants at next year's camp but it will also raise the profile of the AEBC. 

Santa Jeffrey along with Liz Hurdman and Chris Chamberlin both of Toronto and I are all members of this committee and the AEBC is working with other partners including CNIB and others to make this camp a reality.  This is Santa Jeffrey's brain child!  A wonderful note on which to close out 2013 for us all!

In the coming months, I will be making other announcements about this exciting initiative and it is my personal hope that some of our members would also be willing and able to participate.

Your national board wishes to put out a call for anyone who is interested in heading up the point of sale committee.  If interested, please send your email to

Early in the new year, The website committee will be starting work on a letter that will be going out to some of those companies whose websites have been identified as being difficult to access.  Stay tuned!

Recently, I made the decision to share some important info with you based on my ongoing efforts to be
transparent and accountable to our members.  I did this based on the facts and info that were available to me and our board at that time and I encourage you to keep on sharing your thoughts both directly on the list as well as with me or any other board member.

Your national board will be reviewing all recommendations
from the AEBC's rep to the Consumer Advocacy Group as they are made available to us and we will be keeping you up to date.

I'd again like to thank our support staff of Lois Benko and Tyler for all of their help.  They work tirelessly to help keep our ship sailing.

We  invite you to visit the page to have a look at our committees and to sign up if you feel that you can help us. 

In other news
Your second VP Rajesh Malik is pleased to announce the winners of the following scholarships.
For the Jennifer Wilson Scholarship, the two recipients are
Mia Losier and Jennifer MacDonald.
For the in-house AEBC scholarship, the recipient is Dominic Manuel.
The AEBC congratulates these three worthy winners!
We thank Rajesh and his committee for all of their hard work. 

Well, as promised, the AGM committee is pleased to let the cat out of the bag with regard to its keynote speaker for our 2013 AGM.  He is none other than Paul Edwards, one of the past presidents of the American Council of the Blind (ACB).  Thanks to some very skilful stick handling on the part of this committee, Paul has kindly agreed to attend our entire AGM and to deliver the keynote address.  He has even offered to pay his own way to Toronto!  This is indeed a great feat for our committee and I am sure that our members will enjoy hearing from Paul!

The AGM committee is also pleased to announce the theme for next year's AGM; "See our potential through accessibility, collaboration and technology"  I personally thank Mr and Ms AGM!  Stephen Ricci your national director and Denise Sanders for all of their hard work! 

The following is an announcement from our town hall team.  This announcement already went out to our members earlier this month and early in the new year, I will be making another call for member participation. 

"We are thinking of having another town hall meeting some time in March 2013 but this time, we would like to hear from you the members as to what you would like to discuss.
We are also seeking persons who may be interested to be part of our dynamic town hall team. 
So if this peaks your interest then please send me your response no later than January 04.  You can send your response to me at .
We need your input in order to keep hosting these town hall meetings.
Thanks everyone and enjoy your day.

We need members to join this dynamic team to help spread the word about our next town hall meeting after the announcement has gone out.  

In chapter news
Well, let's see which chapters have had time to share some info with us for this busy Christmas season.

Yes, it's Montreal at the top of the list once more and this chapter is heavily involved in advocacy and fund raising. 
Its members are pushing hard for Future Shop to make its point of sale devices more accessible.  Its public education committee is busy developing collaborative efforts with McGill university, and working with the MAB/McKay Center to make its presence known in their newsletter and yes!  They are planning a come all Italian evening for April 06.  Well done Heather and team!  Continue to go out there and make us proud!

It is with great delight that I introduce you to the new president of the Toronto chapter!  Yes, it is Melanie Moore and on December 08 Melanie was acclaimed as the newest Toronto chapter president.  Her new member at large is Corana Lee who was also acclaimed and her treasurer is George Stevens who is into the second year of his term.  Melanie will be officially naming her vice president and secretary after the Toronto chapter's January meeting.  On behalf of national, congrats to you Melanie and we look forward to hearing great things about your chapter in the coming months.

I have always said that we should never count our happy Halifax chapter out of the race and pasted below is an end of year report from their president and national secretary Dar Wournell.  As you will see from this report, this tireless president and national secretary continues to work non stop and she deserves a huge bouquet for her dedication and commitment.  Here now is her report.

"Chapter activities have slowed down over the past month. We continued to sell tickets on our home-made knitted Christmas Stockings and had the draw this evening after our chapter’s end of the year board meeting.

We went to Sobeys on Windsor Street and had Christine, the Supervisor do the draw. The two winners for the stockings were Robin Julian and Edith Richie from Halifax.

As I look back over this past year, the Halifax Chapter has had it’s struggles. In the early part of 2012, we spoke many, many times of dissolving the chapter as we were unable to get new members and many of the members who used to be with the Halifax Chapter had left and not returned.

All it took was one simple conversation from the AEBC National President, Donna Jodhan at a conference I attended in Gatineau, Quebec last February; my mind was changed. I came back to the chapter members which we had (only 3) and put our heads together. We looked at the minutes from our chapter since it’s birth in February of 2008 until that time and looked at what worked and at what did not work. Then, it was decided that we not only would have meetings in our local community, but we expanded to Skype. Skype let others join our chapter, to participate in our work so that they could take what we were doing in our chapter and implement it into their community. Skype was a huge factor when the transit system in Halifax went on strike for many weeks in February. This was our link to having our chapter meetings continue and those who did not have a computer, well, we called them into the Skype conference. We went from 3 members at that time to a huge 12 members, two of which are youth members and enjoy working along-side our members.

We decided that having meetings every month was difficult for everyone and decided to hold our meetings on the odd months while having a social in our community on the even months. We have collaborated with many local organizations in our community and have had many membership recruitment and fund raising dates to get AEBC out into our community and abroad.

Our chapter committees have worked hard, collaborating together with the Capital Health District in Halifax, creating a “Diversity Pamphlet” for patients going into the hospital and making that information accessible in alternate formats. We will continue working together with them and reaching out to the other Capital Health Districts in Nova Scotia in the new year.

Chapter members are attempting to raise funds for a bursary for a blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted individual in Nova Scotia. This bursary will assist them purchase adaptive aids that they otherwise would not able to afford.

We finally got our chapter on Face Book and on Twitter which is wonderful. We also struck up a Mental Health committee because, sometimes, blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted individuals suffer from depression and later may have mental health issues. Our Events committee has planned events for 2013, our membership committee is working hard to recruit members and volunteers. Our Fund Raising committee has had an eventful three months with bookings for fund raisers.

We have plenty of workshops for nursing homes planned for next year along with having a seminar for those who wish to find out more about the RDSP and hosting workshops for using Voice-Over on I Phones, I Pods and I Pads. We will also be asking CNIB and APSEA (Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority) to set up a meeting after the new year.

Five members of the Halifax Chapter got the go-a-head this evening to attend the AEBC National AGM that will be held in Toronto, Ontario from April 26 – April 28 which is very exciting to say the least. We are all looking forward to it!

Next year will be better, fingers crossed, for our chapter. We will continue to get new members and will get more involved with other organizations in our community.

A letter will be sent tomorrow, asking the newly elected and much smaller, City Council, if a member of the Halifax Chapter can sit on one of the accessibility committees. This would be a great accomplishment if granted our request.

We have learned a lot from each other over this past year and the one main thing we all have in common is AEBC and working together as a team. I have a great board of directors in the Halifax Chapter and members alike.

We are now planning for our chapter’s fifth year anniversary which unfortunately is supposed to be February 29. Can you believe that! Well, there isn’t a leap year next year so we are having a huge anniversary celebration at my place on February 22 and inviting past members to attend.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Keep well and stay safe. Here’s to 2013!"

The chapter presidents held their quarterly tele conference on December 05 and one of the main themes coming out of this meeting was a desire for more two-way communication between national and chapters.  This would mean chapter presidents posting their minutes more regularly to the chapter presidents list, letting us know what is going on in their respective chapters, and national posting regular updates to the presidents list. 

We thank Darlene Wournell national secretary and president of the Halifax chapter and Chantal Oakes president of the Kelowna chapter for having helped to set the agenda and facilitate this conference meeting.  I'd also like to thank our chapter presidents for all of their continuing hard work.  The next chapter presidents tele conference is scheduled for March 06 2013.
Members of the month
Well, when it rains it really pours and what am I talking about now?  Why!  None else then those members who are not afraid to stir the pot and push the envelope all in the name of advocacy! 

This month, the first member stirring the pot is none other than our own Marcia Yale of Huntsville.  She and her husband Mike have taken the time to share the following media release with us and I am taking the liberty of re-posting this below. 

"Outcome of Ontario Human Rights mediation brings opportunity for equality

November 29, 2012

As a result of two long and productive days of mediation at the Ontario
Human Rights Tribunal, there will finally be a true test of the capabilities
of the accessible pedestrian signals installed at Main and Centre and Main
and Brunel in downtown Huntsville. The test, which will take place in the
spring of 2013, will follow a proper calibration of the output level of the
signal units, something which has never been completed. Once the sound level
has been properly adjusted, the signals will be set to operate in concert
with the regularly-changing red and green lights. Therefore, people who are
blind, colour-blind, and anyone else for whom the visual information is not
adequate, will have easy and equal access to the audible component, which
provides the information most of you receive by looking at the coloured
lights. There will be many ways to provide feedback on the process,
including a town hall meeting. Although we hope that all this feedback will
be either positive or neutral, we welcome the opportunity of speaking with
those people who may have concerns, in order to determine a useful and
adequate sound level that will respect both sides. We look forward to being
able to conduct an intelligent and meaningful dialogue with the community, a
dialogue which should move the agenda of human rights forward and foster a
more inclusive and friendly atmosphere in the town where we all live."

Great going Marcia and Mike and we look forward to hearing more from you!

The second member stirring the pot for this month is our very own Jean Menzies, and again, I am taking the liberty of posting her information below. 

"Last summer I responded to my city of St. Albert's accessible pedestrian signal policy, and wrote a substantial submission requesting changes be made to the policy and installation guidelines. Many of you provided me with comments and supporting documentation, and I would like to thank you all for your contributions and input.

Below is the response and outcome of my efforts to re-educate and influence positive change. I received this from the Transportation Supervisor yesterday.

* * *
Good afternoon Ms. Menzies,

My apologies for the delay in response, however I wanted to provide an update as far as actions taken and tentative plans for the future since our last correspondence earlier this year.  I appreciate your initial feedback and since that time the following has occurred:

·         At the International Municipal Signal Association conference in August 2012, I focused time on review of Accessible Pedestrian Signal infrastructure and two key manufacturers were recognized for potential placement and improvement of infrastructure in St. Albert.

·                  Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Accessible Pedestrian Signal guidelines were reviewed and have become recognized as the guidelines for the City of St Albert installation and operational considerations for all Accessible Pedestrian Signal locations.

·         A meeting was held with CNIB representatives and discussed their stance on APS setups and requirements and their role with any installation.  They are no longer an "approving authority", however we will meet on an annual basis to communicate any requests they may receive through their clients from St Albert and information about the CNIB and contacts may be provided to residents contacting the City requesting installation.  These contacts are only provided as information alone, and there is no mandatory training involved.

·         A review of existing standards and practices for a number of municipalities in Alberta was conducted and information received on how public requests are received, standards, contact with CNIB and pro-active installation of APS equipment.  This information was utilized, along with information collected from the previous noted reviews, to adjust and improve Administrative Policy and Procedures related to Accessible Pedestrian Signals.  These changes are currently under review, and have been recommended for acceptance which will help guide future programs.

As siscussed in our earlier phone conversation, the installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals was not captured within past programs and that is something that has since been adjusted - beginning with the 2012 Program.

As part of the 2012 Program, we have / will be installing APS at the following locations:  (these are to be completed tentatively by December 7, 2012)

1.    Intersection of St Albert Trail and Hebert Road / Gervais Road - as requested by yourself.

2.    Intersection of Gervais Road and Grange Drive / Glouchester Drive - this was a location of existing Audible Pedestrian infrastructure that had malfunctioned and was a priority to upgrade and have operating.

3.    Pedestrian Crossing at Grange Drive and Village Tree Transit Centre - as requested by a St Albert resident.  1/2 signals or Pedestrian Activated traffic signals are a priority due to the sound queues of only one direction of traffic and the inability to refer to two sets of roadway noises.

4.    Intersection of Sir Winston Churchill Avenue and Perron Street / Greengrove Drive - as requested by yourself.

The equipment that has been installed utilizes a locator beep to provide guidance to the push buttons, and tactile arrows to recognize the direction of travel the push button will make the request.  The Audible crossing sounds will only occur if the push buttons are activated, and will be heard during the Walk phase of the traffic signals, with no noise produced during the Walk Clearance time (as per industry standards).  Once the push button is activated, there will be a voice message that says "Wait", which provided the knowledge that the button has been activated, but the walk light is not on.  Then the audible crossing noise will be activated to express it is safe to begin crossing.

The goal is to complete locations where requests have been made for Accessible Pedestrian Signals and to upgrade existing old Audible Crossing locations.  The program will continue in 2013 with the tentative locations to be:

1)         Boudreau Rd @ Akins Drive / Page Drive

2)         Hebert Rd @ Akins Drive / Falstaff Ave

3)         Gervais Rd @ Galarneau Place

4)         St Albert Tr @ St Vital Ave / Rivercrest Cres

5)         St Albert Place pedestrian crossing St Anne St

Completed locations will be based upon finalized approved budget for the program (which is currently underway).

Future programs will recognize the completion of corridor systems and will continue to focus on communication with the public and improvements around commercial or high pedestrian movement locations.

I want to thank you again for taking the time to provide feedback as to past actions, and if you have any further questions or concerns please contact me."

Terrific going Jean and we are all very proud of your advocacy efforts!

Too often, we inadvertently forget about those who are the silent contributors to our organization and for this month we salute the efforts of the following people: 

Meet Paul E Thiele. BA, MA
Professor and Director Emeritus
Crane Library and Resource Centre
University of British Columbia

Paul is the mastermind behind the creation and founding of the Crane Library.  This landmark library was primarily founded to provide students with books in alternate formats such as Braille, large print, tape, tactile, and graphics.  What started out as a two to three year project ended up turning into a multi year work of commitment, dedication, and creativity.  Paul took his initiatives to as far away as Kenya and even taught for a bit at the University of Nairobi.   

We are all indebted to Paul for his foresight and willingness to have spent so many years to ensure that our world of reading is made more accessible. 

Meet Mike Yale!  Someone who has given a lifetime of varied contributions To blindness related issues and to the AEBC.  No stranger to stirring the pot and never afraid to speak his mind; Mike Yale's contributions stretches over decades.   

Before coming to Canada in 1968, Mike learned about social activism through extensive participation in disability rights work in California, and through the U.s. Civil Rights and anti-war movements.  Since coming to Canada, he has had a varied work career, working with both the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commissions and the Ontario Information and Privacy Commission.

Mike is the co-founder of the Blind Organization of
Ontario With Self-Help Tactics (BOOST), has mentored and
encouraged many to get more involved in blindness related issues, has served on the AEBC's national Board as National Secretary, and has been involved in anti-poverty related issues.  Mike strongly believes that there is a place for everyone in our fight for equality.

Meet Vic Pereira!
A person with a diverse background who strives at all times to be a true advocate. Vic was raised in Calgary and moved to
Winnipeg where he met and married his wife Anne.
Viic has worked for Communications Canada, then Industry Canada, and now he is with the new Department Shared Services Canada.
In his work, as a volunteer, and in his sparetime he has
always stood behind efforts that are as inclusive as possible. Vic continues to volunteer as well as support organizations such as  Guide Dog Users of Canada (GDUC), Vision Impaired Resource Network (VIRN), Guide Dog Foundation / America's VetDogs (GDF /
AVD), CNIB, church, and AEBC.

When Vic worked with Winnipeg Transit to bring in automated next stop announcements, he insisted that it be marketed for everyone. This has proven to be successful, because new comers to Winnipeg find it helpful.

Currently about half of Winnipeg's signalized intersections have accessible pedestrian signals. On top of installing
twenty per year, all new installations and repairs are fitted with APS. Vic has been part of this as well.  At the present time, Vic is working with the city to test passive detection and tactile with vibrating arrows are being tested to be certain that they are
effective in Winnipeg's harsh climate.

Vic has also worked with his church to make it easier for persons with disabilities to receive Communion and he continues to strive towards helping others to find solutions to employment challenges.

They are not on our national board, nor are they chapter presidents.  They are simply people who believe in our commitment.  They are our unsung heroes of the month and we thank them! 

On the minds of our members
In an attempt to motivate our members to let us know what's on their minds, I am introducing a new section to my monthly update and I invite any member to send me their thoughts about anything.  It may be a good way for you to share your thoughts/insights with  the rest of us.  Just send along to us at .  No personal attacks or personal criticisms; just your thoughts on issues that are important to you and near and dear to your heart.

For this month, I have several members from the Montreal chapter who have taken the time to share their thoughts with us as well as our Chris Stark from Ottawa who is never shy to voice his opinions.  So, I'll share Chris's opinions with you first followed by members from the Montreal Chapter.

For Chris Stark and in his very own words:
"there are many examples of CNIB doing commercial work and the like
including: web access accessibility audits, facility and service
accessibility audits, and multiple format production for a fee or other
charges. The result of this activity is to take business away from
persons who are blind and their businesses. To often CNIB uses its
advocasy efforts to develop business lines for itself. As a result I am
also reluctant to get involved with their advocasy."

Chris goes on to share more of his thoughts with us as follows:
"Your Question of the month is this one.
Should the AEBC be collaborating with other like minded organizations
to promote our own organization's agenda and causes? If so, with whom,
and how far should we be going with regard to collaboration? When is it
compromise and when does it become a so-called sell-out

Good Morning

It is rare that I poke up my head these days but the answer I have to
the above question is in part why I work alone on issues of direct
impact on my quality of life. I have no time for politics,
procrastination or Judging one another. Most groups decend into this
quagmire all to often.

My answer is all when their objectives coincide with my positions and
moral code. To often others try and manipulate my involvement for their
own agency/organization self sentered desires.

Some examples may help you understand my perspective. I agree that your
court case should have been concluded when it did because the potential
for more damage to the original decision could occur. The CNIB should
have helped you with their analysis. what they then did was unethical
and unfair to us all when they released a news release highlighting
their great work, and congratulating the feds on making their web sites
accessible. This was done in my view to steal some of your credit as
well as enhance their position for federal dollars. Already federal
officials are saying CNIB says our web sites are accessible for people
who are blind and so the problem is you – go away.

Another example is AMI . The DV Guide is not remotely similar to on
screen programming.
my concerns have not been addressed but avoided and marginalised. I
would never oppose anything that someone else may find helpful.
However, after trying the service I have to say that it is even more
impractical than even I expected. It does not meet my basic needs and
the basic needs of many others It was far from ready to be launched..

The DV Guide does not have numerous services like CTV 1 and 2, Global,
DIVA, Bravo Vision TV, TVO, etc. You have to check another list of
hundreds of channels to find a program as no channels are listed. You
can not set it for Ottawa and thus PBS Watertown is not listed just PBS
Boston which we do not get. No other American stations are listed I
could not set it for Ottawa or to just give me programs for the next
hour which is common functionality on similar sites. A personal profile
is a basic requirement of any such service. . Perhaps the worst thing
was miss information when I called the info line and was told there
were no DV programs on these channels Saturday when infact Anne of
Green Gables A new Beginning was on CTV 2 at three pm and other
examples exist.

Let me just say in my view the DV Guide is incomplete, not
comprehensive,, inaccurate, lacks basic user configuration options and
is not practicle or usable by me and may be others.

All these issues arise from the Decision Accessibility of
Telecommunications and Broadcasting Services Broadcasting and Telecom
Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-430 21 July 2009

Also they are using the CBC renewal of licence to be an intervener as a
supporter to get more business from the corporation by collecting names
from people who are blind . Now AMI wants to do the same thing for the
cell phone consultation to in my view enhance their revenue streams by
opening up new business opportunitys at our expence. Two other examples
are voice print and the accessible channel funded by all viewers
through a monthly fee we pay on our cable or satellite bil. Originally
industry expected and did use this as a reason for not providing main
streem descriptive narration on their broadcasts.

Other examples abound like the launch of the first audible ATM in
Ottawa, the 311 CRTC matter etc.

I do not have a magical solution to this very real problem. In fact in
40 years I have failed more times than I have succeded in preventing
others from commercially profiting from myy efforts at my expence. I do
view many not for profits as commercial entities in sheeps clothing.

The only thing I can suggest is that AEBC consider developing a
collaboration agreement which others must sign to get AEBC’s
cooperation. It would be like a mediation agreement and its drafting is
a job for a lawyer.

Of course individuals can say and do what they wish but when they
represent an organisation they should only speak publically on behalf
of the organisation with views approved by the Board of Directors. I
have no facts but I guess that is what happened to AEBC in the press
release for the DV Guide.

To be honest that news release is causing me to consider continuing my
membership in AEBC after this year because it is so different from the
organizations core values.
Chris Stark



From the Montreal chapter:
"Should the AEBC be collaborating with other like minded organizations to promote our own organization's agenda and causes? If so, with whom, and how far should we be going with regard to collaboration? When is it compromise and when does it become a so-called sell-out?

I might have sent this before, but am having trouble...don’t believe we should be partenering up with any other organization.
When it comes down to weather or not we should collaborate with other entities.I strongly believe that we should be there as a resource to these other communities.
I strongly believe we should make a presence and let them know who we are and in some cases when it comes to matter of accessible issues regarding house hold appliances, Computer technology, and Radio/t.v. we could definitely be of some assistance there.
As computer technology, and resources become more readily available, it very crucial that we collaborate with other communities, and organizations.
However we should not control the other communities, more should they, there is definitely a fine line.
We would be there as I stated above to provide a resource, and to assist in matters dealing with accessibility issues, and they in turn could do the same.

Mike Ciarciello
I think we should work with other organizations because they might have other people facing the same problems and frustrations and they are not sure who to turn to because they keep getting the runaround going from one place to another and another etc. I am not sure of how to answer the last part of this question, When is it compromise and when does it become a so-called sell-out?

Simon wong
I think that we should concentrate on blindness, for other organizations are well known and blindness isn't well known yet. we need to imform more people of blindness before forming with groups, there isn't a lot of imformation out there about blindness and people don't know how to interactwith us or employers don't know what we are qualifide to do, or what equipment is avalible. just in general we need to be known ourselves be for we branch out and start helping other organizations. we need to let employers and manufactures that we donormal every day things like a sighted person and we need to have things made user friendly for us so that we can be independent and they can learn more about blind people and that they can learn and try and find better ways to help with all of our needs in the real world.
Nathalie masse
In short, I believe that AEBC should collaborate with other
like-minded organizations. I do believe, and social work theory seems
to as well) that banding together can help change happen faster. That
said, the type of organization we should work with and to what extent
is dependent on which issue is being worked on and what we want to
happen. For example if we are talking about physical accessibility
organizations for people in wheelchairs, seniors and even maybe young
parents would be of use. There’s been talk of strategic planning and
picking priorities. I believe that if we can internally stand for the
same objectives and priorities, this will help decide what we work on
and who we work with. Also knowing exactly what our goals are (i.e.
not just to advocate, but very specific measurable goals) will help
ensure that the organization doesn’t compromise too much on the
important things and does not sell-out
Rosie arcuri
In about 1970 the Canadian Society for the Study of Education was formed to bring together a number of different Education organizations, all at the university level. The reason was simple: the federal government had said that it would only fund one group from then on. Thus the different groups formed a single "umbrella" organization, each with all its original structure and activities but with their presidents meeting twice a year and with one annual conference at which each of the original groups still had its own sessions but with a common published programme and coordination of sessions. And a plenary session with a speaker and general meeting. Among other things, the new umbrella society then established a journal and a committee (in its case for to promote research) to lobby and seek funding.

The moral of the story seems to me to be that the marriage was a shotgun one produced by a threat to lose funding, and that two good things came of it, perhaps the most important being a stronger public voice and certainly enormous success in getting new funding and recognition for the the field.

Should you decide to go that route, this would be one model to consider. The Society does have a published history in both languages. But only in print.

Michael Jackson

From Eliezer Mizrahi
> The following is my answer to the question of the month:
“In order to be heard and acknowledged, our numbers must be large.
The more individuals we have supporting our cause, the more likely we
are to be heard.  As such, I believe we should collaborate with as
many like-minded organizations as possible while at the same time
limiting our collaborations to those that support individuals with
handicaps that render it more difficult to find employment, such as
for individuals suffering from deafness, blindness, muteness and so
on.  In collaborating with as many organizations as possible that are
confronted with the same level of complexity with regards to similar
issues as we are, our numbers will be increased along with our chances
of being acknowledged by society at large.  Once we receive the
recognition we seek, each organization would then proceed to further
intervene on behalf of the particular type of disability that they

In addition to collaborating with other like-minded organizations I
also believe that it is crucial for us to work together with the
government so as to ensure that particular laws are put into force
that guarantee that a certain percentage of the jobs available will be
reserved for people with various disabilities.  While it is true that
the law protects us from being discriminated against based on our
handicaps, history has demonstrated the lack of efficiency that this
law has in securing positions for disabled people.  We must act to
take this a step further and ensure that jobs will continue to be
available to us regardless of the fact that we suffer from a
From Lucio d'intino
I think that we can definitely go with other organisations but certain ones only such as organisations that would help us promote ours. Let me explain. I would look into getting hooked up with Institute Louis Braille, Association sportive des aveugles, ramm and ramqand a few more. I would stay away from groups that do the same as we do in the french sector. Not because of anything but the most important reason is that we would eventually become under their thumbs and would be forced to operate in french also. This is how it would become a sell out. We are already affiliated with the MAB-Mackay and we are safe with them as they have no intentions of playing our role. I would not go with other organisations that advicate for other disabilities either. As mentioned at the meeting, when there are more disabilities involved, the visual impairment always tend to get pushed to the bottom of the list and  that would not work for us. I think that is it for now."

Commitment of the month
I'd like to proffer the following commitment for the month of January.
It's a brand new year and maybe we should be renewing our commitment to the AEBC.  Let us make a commitment to commit to our esteemed organization.  Just one hour a week could be a start.  So how about it?

Letters and press releases posted to our website
The following press release was released to the media and posted to our website in commemoration of the December 03 United Nations day on the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
"Commemorating the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD):
Equal Access for Blind Canadians is still needed in Canada"

Question of the month
My question of the month is as follows:
Do you think that blind and partially sighted persons should be granted concessions in such areas as:  For bus passes, lower fares for air and rail travel, free movie passes, and so on?
Please share your thoughts with us on the members list or send me your feedback. 

That's it for me for this month.  I'd like to take this opportunity to wish each and everyone the very best for 2013.

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.


Anthony wrote,

"At the same time, taking this logic forward leads to widespread implications that might well bound on the absurd. For example, airplane entertainment systems are generally inaccessible: has anyone suggested that we should get a discount on our flight tickets because of it? Should we get a discount at a restaurant because they do not have a Braille menu? I have trouble with that notion."

Right you are to have trouble with that notion. However, I think you need to ask and answer the question of whether inaccessible entertainment systems and the lack of braille menus significantly impede the ability of blind patrons to travel by air and eat at restaurants. I think the answer is that they don't, particularly considering the accommodations that are made by flight attendants and restaurant servers in terms of setting up entertainment systems and reading menus upon request.

This is not always going to be clear cut, and there will be disagreement. What needs to be considered, though, is not just inaccessibility, but how important the inaccessible aspect is to the ability of a person to more generally access the product or service as well as what alternative accommodations, other than a concession, are offered to mitigate the inaccessible aspect of the product or service.

Lastly, Janet points to another reason for concessions that has nothing to do with accessibility: that is that sometimes it is more economical, not just from the perspective of the person/group receiving but also from the person/group providing the concession, to offer a concession rather than charge full price. It's called price discrimination. Student discounts are not given out of charity; they're provided because they make more money for the person providing them. I suspect many disability concessions do the same. I may be wrong, but I bet the returns, in terms of community participation, volunteer contributions, increased employment opportunities, decreased rates of social isolation and mental illness, and so on, that come from encouraging blind people to use public transit through a concession far out weigh the modest amount that would be received by charging full fare.

I'm not suggesting that these were the sorts of reasons put forward by those asking for and those offering concessions in the past. No doubt they were largely based on charitable sentiments, but that doesn't mean there are not good reasons, reasons that acknowledge the dignity and value of disabled people, for offering concessions in some instances today.

My view is that generally, concessions are not appropriate if the sole reason for their being granted is because of the status of being legally blind. If it is a question of economics, then means-based testing (on income) might qualify most blind people for such concessions. If it is a question of accessibility, then either an attendant should come free or some other arrangements should be made.

There are some potentially difficult middle grounds to think about though. For example, I have seen the argument made that, because the busses in Montreal do not call out bus stops, the system is inherently not fully accessible, and therefore we should not pay full fare. I am not sure I can say that this argument is entirely without merit. At the same time, taking this logic forward leads to widespread implications that might well bound on the absurd. For example, airplane entertainment systems are generally inaccessible: has anyone suggested that we should get a discount on our flight tickets because of it? Should we get a discount at a restaurant because they do not have a Braille menu? I have trouble with that notion.

Regarding concessions for blind/vision impaired, I don't believe we are entitled to such concessions; however, I think they do serve a purpose. In Winnipeg we are granted Free regular transit bus travel. This is a good incentive for me to use the bus and reserve Handi Transit for when I need the assistance. For many of us with low incomes, such concessions provide opportunities that might otherwise be missed; from being able to travel independently to and from work or school, to enjoying a night at the movies, to taking a well earned vacation. Everyone takes advantage of concessions; like the air miles points you earn with a purchase. Since the more you buy, the more points you earn, folks with low incomes miss out on a lot of concessions out there. In my opinion, if we are offerred or can lobby for concessions that offset some of the barriers we face, then I say we deserve them!

How are loyalty programs (AirMiles, Aeroplan, travel points on a credit card) "concessions" in the same sense that a discount or free entrance for being blind is a "concession"?

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