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President's Report - October 1, 2013

Hello, AEBC!

We must become the change we want to see in the world.
-- Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to the October edition of the President's Report. This month has been busy for AEBC, and there are some exciting developments in the community that we need to harness and build upon, like the availability of accessible prescription drug labels at a Canadian pharmacy. Sure, it's only one pharmacy, but it's a start.

We've also had a busy September with the strategic planning session, hosting a number of discussions that have proven to be very fruitful. I am impressed with the energy and enthusiasm with which so many of you have shown to the process. What we are hearing has been enlightening in a number of ways, and I'm hoping to see as many people as possible at the session this coming Sunday (2pm Eastern) to talk about strategies for overcoming the obstacles that stand in our path.

There are a couple of really important things that need to happen very shortly, though. One of those is membership renewals. The other is national committee member recruitment. One of the comments at the last strategic planning discussion amounted to someone saying, "The national board should not do it all itself. There should be committees of the board to work on particular priority issues." And you know what? There already are! Some have struggled to attract members to actually carry out their mission, but they're there. More information on those committees is below.

Before I get to the news of the day, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of how you can contribute to the AEBC. Every dollar helps, and a small donation over a longer period of time adds up. $5 or $10 a month helps to pay for conference call phone lines, for example. And there are a number of ways you can donate. The easiest for us (because they take care of the paperwork and sending you a receipt) is if you donate via CanadaHelps, which will accept both single donations and monthly recurring contributions by credit card, Interac Online, gift cards, or PayPal. To donate online, visit https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/3315. You can also call 1-800-561-4774 to donate with your VISA or MasterCard over the phone.

Remember, 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!

A. Announcements and Reminders

1. Membership Renewal Time!

It's that time of year again when we have to get memberships renewed for 2014. Our membership year ends December 31st. There is a resolution on the books that says that, if a new members joins on October 15th or later, their membership will be good for both the rest of 2013 and the 2014 year.

The easiest way to renew is to do so online through PayPal. Every AEBC member has an account on the AEBC web site. Your user name and password were mailed to you when it was established, earlier this year. If you do not know your user name or password, do not create a new account -- email us at communications@blindcanadians.ca and we'll reset it for you.

Once you are logged in, follow the "My Account" link, and then the "My Membership" link. Your renewal options will be explained there.

You can, of course, also renew through your local chapter or, if you are paying with VISA or MasterCard, over the phone, by calling 1-800-561-4774.

For those who are curious, we currently have 261 members, including 93 lifetime members. Of the 167 active members:

  • 1 has paid their dues through the end of 2015;
  • 17 are paid up through the end of 2014; and
  • that leaves 149 of you to renew before the end of the year.

We need to do more than just renew you, though. We need you to bring in some new people, some new blood. We know there are more of you out there. Why aren't all your friends members already?

2. Telephone Hotline

The Board is investigating the possibility of setting up a telephone-based information hotline for those who do not have e-mail access. This could include a pre-recorded copy of the President's Report, but what other information would you like to see posted here if this were made available?

Please let us know. Email tibbs@blindcanadians.ca with your ideas.

3. Upcoming Community Events

4. Other Announcements

5. Blog Posts This Month

B. Priority Issue Updates

1. Braille Camp (Donna Jodhan)

As of September 2013: Progress is being made toward the realization of the Braille Camp initiative for the summer of 2014. In the coming months, more information will be coming out, including a call for volunteer braille mentors who will be paired with the campers for the week. If you'd like to spend a few days next summer sharing your love of braille with the next generation, keep an eye out for more information on how you can!

But there are things you can do right now to help make this a reality. The AEBC has committed to raising $15,000 toward the camp, and we have $6,000 in the coffers to date. Why not donate today? Use this link to donate directly to the Braille Camp initiative: https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/16296

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

As of September 2013: I have been speaking with several members throughout AEBC, some former members of the POS committee, who have brought me up to date on much that has evolved or not evolved over the past few years.

I am still reviewing some information in doing research.

At the Halifax Chapter's last business meeting, there was much interest in POS and members have stepped forward to participate. I am trying to re-involve some old members who were interested in the issue, and at least one person from Montreal has stepped forward to help.

Would you like to help out? Contact dar@blindcanadians.ca today!

3. Accessible Websites (Darlene Wournell)

As of September 2013: The focus for this committee is, of course, inaccessible websites, with the addition of inaccessible apps for smart phones, Apple and Android devices, etc. The goal is to schedule a meeting for the end of September and get everyone's input and put forth the foundation of this committee for the next year.

Would you like to help out? Contact dar@blindcanadians.ca today!

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

The next Broadcasting Accessibility Fund meeting is scheduled for early November.

With respect to the Described Video Working Group, the CRTC is very pleased with the Described Video Best Practices document that was developed earlier in the year. With the success of this document in mind, they have asked that we continue with the work that we’ve started and look forward to the production of additional description best practices that are now relevant with the establishment of this document. They see it as a basis upon which to build. Those best-practices relate to French language description, as well as live and embedded description. A further meeting of the working group is planned for October.

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 September 2013: All is quiet on the bylaw front for now.

4. Communications (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of September 2013: Ongoing work in growing our social networks continues to attract new twitter followers and organizations which have an interest and stake in our future as an organization and individually as blind, deafblind and partially sighted customers of programs, products and services.

Effective October 1st, I pledge $1 to the AEBC for each new follower in the months of October and November, up to a maximum total pledge of $200.

You can help in this venture by providing the twitter handles of contacts you may have that we might be interested in following. You can send me a link to the twitter profile page, and I will follow the person or business you identify. Success is achieved when they follow us back.

You say, I pay! Send suggestions to Autocraticqueen@rogers.com

People and organizations which we actively follow include:

  • Individual Blind, deafblind and partially sighted consumers;
  • Consumer based organizations;
  • NGO and businesses providing services to meet consumer needs;
  • Federal Governments of Canada and the United States;
  • Provincial and Territorial Governments in Canada;
  • Government political leadership in North America;
  • Technology companies providing accessible resources;
  • Financial service providers;
  • Healthcare service providers in both public and private sectors;
  • Telecommunications sectors throughout North America;
  • Journalists;
  • And more.

As we continue to build this network of contacts and provide important links to our content through tools such as twitter, we can highlight matters of interest to our community; identify best practices, social and technology trends, and comment on matters of interest with an impact on blind, deafblind and partially sighted consumers.

Next, we will be looking at setting up a LinkedIn account to pull in business contacts. It will help us connect with corporations with commitments to marginalized groups as part of corporate social responsibility. These types of contacts can also be used in our fundraising efforts.

5. Fundraising (Charles Bailey)

The fundraising landscape has changed drastically over the last few years for charities and non-profit organizations across Canada. Traditional methods, such as door-to-door canvassing, are giving way to more sophisticated online giving campaigns. The AEBC has to similarly adapt, and look to new and inventive ways to raise the funds necessary to carry out our mission.

The AEBC has a number of programs that are worthy of donor contributions. Aside from the membership support and networking opportunities we provide, our scholarship programs are critical to the success of students, and the Braille Camp that we're working to set up for next year is equally important.

But we need to revisit our fundraising and donor strategies and come up with some new ways to do business. Is there a product or service that our members could provide or sell? Are there grants available to us from foundations or government that we're not taking advantage of? How can we approach the corporate giants to seek their support?

If you have any ideas or some talent to share, please contact Charles Bailey (cwbailey@telus.net). We need your thoughts, expertise, and manpower!

6. Library (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of September 2013: The library committee has been busy and expects to report to members during the month of October on the state of the accessible library question. This has been a hot topic for a number of years now, and there has been some movement toward an alternative format library service that will be delivered through and by public libraries. The AEBC library committee has been busy and expects to provide some information to members during the month of October on the status of this discussion.

In the spring, the AEBC submitted an access to information request to Library and Archives Canada to learn more about the fate of the Initiative for Equitable Library Access. We have not yet received a response to this request.

7. Strategic Planning

The last of the strategic planning consultation sessions will be taking place this Sunday, October 6th, at 2pm Eastern. This session will focus on coming up with strategies to overcome the obstacles that have been identified as preventing us from achieving our mission and vision.

If you are interested in attending, and were not at the session this past week, email us at communications@blindcanadians.ca and we'll add you to the distribution list for the call-in information and background documentation.

D. Our Partners

As of September 2013: With respect to the Consumer Advocacy Group, a face-to-face meeting is tentatively scheduled for late November. The question of a potential merger, joinder, or collaboration between CAG and the CBRC is still being explored.

E. Chapter News

1. Halifax

The Halifax chapter is in the process of setting up a scholarship/bursary program of their own, separate and apart from those given out by national. Details to come!

2. Montreal

The Montreal chapter is in the process of setting up a bursary to assist students in the Montreal area who are pursuing a degree or program (be it law, education, psychology, sociology, political science, social work, etc.) that will "change the lives of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians." The chapter's goal is to raise $10,000 to fund a $1,000 scholarship for the next ten years. The chapter has secured an anonymous matching donor who will match up to $5,000 in donations toward the bursary.

At the meeting last week, a new executive was elected for the year: Heather Rupert (President), Michael Ciarciello (Vice-President), Ezra Chitayat (Treasurer), Anthony Tibbs (Secretary), Michael Jackson (Director), and Sharie Clarke (Director).

F. In The News

G. Thought-Provokers

October's Question: What have you done this month to "advocate" or improve life for yourself or others who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted?

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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