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President's Report - July 3rd, 2013

If we do not like our work, and do not try to get happiness out of it, we are a menace to our profession as well as to ourselves.

-- Helen Keller, "Know Thyself," The Home Magazine, September 1930

Hello, AEBC community members!

The time has finally come to get this show on the road. At the annual general meeting this past April, I was elected as your President. I then headed off into the sunset to get married and have a honeymoon. That is in part why this first update is so long in coming!

I intend to use these President's Reports to provide a global update on the AEBC's activities, and my own thoughts on these issues. My hope is to continue the tradition that my esteemed predecessor Donna Jodhan began, and to use these reports as a way to keep everyone "in the loop" and informed about what is happening. One thing you will find are links to outside resources that might be relevant or helpful. If I mention a product, company or services, I'm not vouching for or necessarily recommending them -- I may have no personal experience with them. But for many readers these may not be commonly-known resources, either.

With that in mind, if you, your chapter, or your committee has a news item or announcement or resource of interest, please send it to me (tibbs@blindcanadians.ca) for inclusion in my next report.

This is not intended to be a one-way communication. I want, we want, your feedback. The best way is to comment on the President's Report blog entry on the web site, since those comments will be seen by everyone and a dialogue can develop. You can also email me directly, and where I can I will share some of the responses received.

My intention is that future reports will follow a similar format, so you can quickly determine which parts are relevant and interesting to you and which you can gloss over without missing important information.

A. Announcements and Reminders

1. Coming Soon: Leadership Development & Training

A new Leadership Development & Training committee is being formed to organize training options for chapter presidents, chapter executives, committee chairs and individual members who might like (or, at least, need) to know more about running meetings, planning projects, taking minutes, financial record-keeping, and so on. If you are interested in participating in this initiative (either to receive training or to help deliver it), please let me know!

2. Recent Blogs

B. Priority Issue Updates

1. Braille Camp (Donna Jodhan)

AEBC has committed to raising a total of $15,000 toward the operation of the 2014 Braille summer camp.

We have already raised $6,000 through private contributions, and Donna Jodhan is in the process of approaching other funders and philanthropists to secure additional funding.

Over the next few months, more information will be forthcoming about how you, our members, can assist with the camp next year, and ways in which we can raise some more funds for this initiative.

We're 40% of the way to our $15,000 commitment. Why not make a donation today?

2. Accessible Point-of-Sale (Darlene Wournell)

As of June 2013: This committee is in the process of re-organizing itself and determining its game plan for the 2013-2014 year. If you would like to help, contact Dar!

3. Accessible Websites (Darlene Wournell)

As of June 2013: This committee is in the process of re-organizing itself and determining its game plan for the 2013-2014 year.

4. CRTC (Internet, TV, Phone) (Anthony Tibbs, Lui Greco, Sharlyn Ayotte)

  • The DV Best Practices Working Group is finalizing its Described Video Best Practices guide. This guide was the result of a year-long collaborative effort between the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, broadcasters and distributors such as CBC and Shaw, AMI, the AEBC, and the CCB. The purpose was to develop a framework or set of guidelines for producers of audio description.
  • The CRTC has approved Bell's application to acquire Astral Media. But in doing so, they agreed with Media Access Canada/Access 2020's submission that Bell ought to divert some of its tangible benefits funding to the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund. The commission noted: "... Astral and BCE did not provide detailed information as to the type of initiatives that would be put forward under this proposal. It considers that it would be appropriate to use existing mechanisms rather than creating new ones, thereby not delaying the impact of the funding on the system. The Commission therefore considers it appropriate to require BCE to allocate funding to the following three existing initiatives: ... The Broadcasting Accessibility Fund (BAF). This fund was established to ensure that programming – regardless of whether the platform upon which it is available is traditional or digital (formerly referred to as new media) – will be accessible. Additional support to the BAF will help ensure the development of innovative solutions for making programming accessible in a digital environment, enabling all Canadians to be able to fully participate in Canadian society and the digital economy."
  • This spring, A committee consisting of John Rae, Charlin Ayott and Lui Greco put forward two nominations for the Broadcast Accessibility Fund. Chris Stark and Heather MacKenzie have been nominated as candidates to the new board. The board was elected on June 28 and Chris Stark was acclaimed as the representative for blindness issues. Unfortunately, Heather MacKenzie from Vancouver BC who was AEBC's candidate to fill the two independent positions was not elected. AEBC would like to thank Heather for letting her name stand. At the same time, we look forward to hearing from Chris as the BAF board begins it's work.

C. Committee News

1. Accessibility in Procurement (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of June 2013: Sharlyn and Robin continue to work on the issue of ensuring that, when government tenders and requests for proposals are issued, and purchase decisions are made, accessibility is a decision-making factor that is considered.

2. AGM & Conference (Stephen Ricci)

As of June 2013: The 2014 conference will be held April 25-27, 2014 in Ottawa at the Extended Stay Hotel. Details to follow!

3. Bylaws & Governance (Anthony Tibbs)

As of June 2013: Our updated bylaws and constitution have been submitted to Corporations Canada for processing.

4. Communications (Sharlyn Ayotte)

Sharlyn continues to build our presence on Twitter. At the beginning of June, we had slightly less than 500 followers, and as of this report, have 575 followers. We are following 1504 others.

Sharlyn has set a goal in July of securing at least 100 new followers on Twitter. For every follower over the committed 100 new followers, she has pledged $2. You can all do your part to make her pay up, by going to profile actions on the AEBC profile page and turning on notifications. When there is a new AEBC tweet is posted, you will be notified. If it is a tweet you like, please share it with your network!

5. Library (Sharlyn Ayotte)

This committee could use a few new members, especially if they happen to have some expertise in library services or copyright.

In April, the AEBC made an Access to Information request to uncover the state and results of the IELA program run by Library and Archives Canada. We continue to await for a response from this request.

In late April, AEBC became aware of a letter that the Canadian Federation of the Blind sent to Members of Parliament regarding library services for the print-disabled community.

You can read this letter at: http://www.cfb.ca/letter-urging-parliament-to-advance-accountable-public-library-system-treating-blind-people-as-equals

Among other things, the letter brought to light the fact that public libraries across Canada have been working on and implementing a system for the sharing of alternative format materials. This is being put forward as an alternative to the "national hub" model that has been proposed by CNIB.

The AEBC library committee is currently reviewing this information and developing a position with respect to these alternative format service models.

6. Strategic Planning

As of June 2013: The strategic planning committee has met to discuss the results from the in-person AGM session and to begin looking toward the more in-depth focused discussions that will take place in the next few months.

The committee is planning to offer one additional opportunity for general comments, particularly for those who were unable to attend the AGM and/or who do not have access to e-mail. Details to come.

D. Chapter News

1. Montreal

The Montreal chapter is embarking on a project to establish a local scholarship for students at the post-secondary level. The plan (in principle) is to raise at least $10,000, so that the $1,000 scholarship may be offered annually for at least the next ten years. We will provide more details on our strategy and process when these become more solidified.

E. Working Together (Our Partners)

1. Council of Canadians with Disabilities

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) held a council meeting in mid-June in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Dar Wournell attended on AEBC's behalf. CCD is facing difficult times as its federal funding has been slashed and though there are promises of the availability of some new funding in the future, this funding will be in the form of open competitions amongst all national disability organizations and certainly not guaranteed as it has been in the past. More news to come on this front.

2. CBRC / CAG

The Coalition of Blind Rightsholders in Canada and CNIB's "Consumer Advocacy Group" are currently in discussions to determine how these two groups, whose ultimate objectives and goals are so similar, can work collaboratively together.

A meeting was held by teleconference in June with a number of CAG member organizations for the purpose of discussing whether or not CBRC should be merged with CAG. Both coalitions are supported and sponsored to some extent by CNIB, and it is felt that CNIB may not be able to support both groups. AEBC's position thus far has been that:

  • This is not a merger;
  • Both groups can exist as separate coalitions operating at different levels of governments, etc.
  • Members of CAG have the right to opt out of any position taken by the group or member organizations; and,
  • Signatories to a proposed position would sign on to proposed positions using our own brands and not as CAG.

F. In The News

  • Elections Ontario has released a report on voting reform which does not paint a promising picture for the short-term implementation of accessible voting alternatives. See the AODA Committee's press release at http://www.aoda.ca/for-immediate-release-elections-ontario-report-on-telephone-and-internet-voting-is-a-slap-in-the-face-to-voters-with-disabilities/ for details.
  • More than 50 countries have signed on to the "Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled" (the text of which can be downloaded from http://www.wipo.int/meetings/en/doc_details.jsp?doc_id=241683). This Treaty, if properly implemented, is intended to simplify and facilitate the international sharing of alternative format materials. At present, very little international material is shared due to perceived legal difficulties relating to copyright legislation -- one of the reasons that Canadians do not have access to the full collection of material in Bookshare, for example. This treaty must still be ratified and implemented by each country, but with any luck this is a step in the right direction. Recording legend Stevie Wonder spoke to the importance of the treaty at the closing of the conference at which it was passed. See: http://www.wipo.int/dc2013/en/news/2013/news_0016.html

G. Thought-Provokers

Each month, I will propose a question or discussion point or two for consideration. Chapters might use these as springboards for discussions at their meetings. You might be inspired to write a blog post in response to the question. You might simply come to the AEBC web site and comment on the blog (president's report) to start a discussion amongst members. Either way, I will share some of the responses that this generates next month.

July's Question: Summer is a time of travel and holidays for many. Do you travel, or "sight see"? If so, have you found, over the years, that access to attractions, access to historical locations, access to museums, has improved for you? Do you find that there is any greater sense of awareness of the needs of a blind or partially sighted visitor? What travel stories do you have to share?

Resource Tip: There are several companies that provide specialized trip-planning and accommodation services for travelers who are blind or partially sighted. Travel Eyes (http://www.traveleyes-international.com/) is one such company, providing holidays for both blind/visually impaired and sighted travelers.

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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