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President's Report - December 4th, 2013
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. - Anne Frank
The holiday season and a Canadian winter has descended upon us, and while this might be a time of hibernation for many, I am excited to bring to you this very positive President's Report. I hope it will inspire you to continue the great work of AEBC between now and the conference in Ottawa!
First, a technical note. This newsletter has headings throughout to make navigation easy and so that you can skip over content that you find irrelevant. If you're reading this on the web site and using JAWS, the H key should help you skip to the next heading. If you're reading this in your email that might or might not work. You might find it easier to read on the web site. There should be a President's Report link available from the homepage in any event.
Now, there are a number of very important items in this month's report, including a significant update on the strategic planning process, important information about submitting resolutions for the AGM, chapter updates, and a recap of the myriad of responses that I received to last month's question where I asked:
Can you name one thing, just one thing, that you did, or were involved in doing, in the past two months, that you believe improved or could potentially improve the lives of blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted Canadians?
As we approach the end of the calendar year, please don't forget to consider donating to AEBC. There are tax advantages to doing so. An Ontario resident who gives $200 will recoup around $40 in tax credits, and if this is the first time you've ever donated to a charity, you could get more than $90 back in taxes saved. (CRA has a Donation Tax Credit Calculator you can use to see how this impacts you.) You can check out the web site or call us at 1-800-561-4774 for more information how to donate. Consider for a moment that if every one of our members gave $2 a month, this would raise almost $5,000 a year! Could you spare $2 a month?
Happy holidays to all!
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, but new members joining between now and the end of the year will be credited for both the remainder of 2013 and 2014 for their $5.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
2. Reminder to Chapters: Memberships!
Are your members renewing through you? That's great! If you are the chapter president or secretary, we can give you access to the national list for your chapter so you can verify the information that we have with your own records. Email email@example.com for assistance.
But in particular, you need to let Jennifer Jesso (firstname.lastname@example.org) know as soon as possible who has renewed for 2014. Members who are not listed as "renewed" in the national records by January will be regarded as non-members, dropped from the announcements list, and removed from chapter rosters. Memberships expire on December 31st and must be renewed prior to that date!
3. Committee and Board Portfolios
With the recent change in the composition of the board, we have redistributed various portfolios, committees, and representations. Below are a list of the committees, projects, and initiatives that currently exist, and the board contact (and where available, the chair) for each initiative.
- Conference and AGM: Stephen Ricci
- Fundraising: Charles Bailey
Priority Issue Committees
- CRTC: Anthony Tibbs, Lui Greco
- Point of Sale Devices: Sharlyn Ayotte
- Website Accessibility: (To be determined)
- Hall of Fame: Donna Jodhan
- Scholarship: Anthony Tibbs
- Braille Camp: Natalie Martiniello
Partners and External Representations
- Coalition of Blind Rightsholders in Canada: Sharlyn Ayotte
- Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD): Anthony Tibbs
- CRTC/Descriptive Video Working Group: Anthony Tibbs
- Broadcasting Accessibility Fund: Donna Jodhan (liaison to Chris Stark)
- Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) Disability Advisory Committee: Robin East
- Library: Sharlyn Ayotte
- Leadership Development: Jen Jesso
- Accessible Procurement: Sharlyn Ayotte
4. Upcoming Events
- March 5-6, 2014 - Vancouver, BC - Employment Conference -- Embracing Ability: Making It Happen. See http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-11-employment-conference-embracing-ability-making-it-happen-vancouver-bc-march-5-6-2014.
- May 4-7, 2014 - Halifax, NS - "Seeing Beyond the Horizon" Conference for teachers, parents, and educators of the blind and visually impaired - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-10-seeing-beyond-horizon-conference-halifax-may-4-7-2014-teachers-parents-and-educators
- July 28-August 1, 2014 - Lake Joseph Centre (Ontario) - "All Hands On Braille" camp for kids in Ontario - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-11-all-hands-braille-camp-kids-ontario-july-28-august-1-2014
5. Other Community Announcements
- The Neil Squire Society would like to gain a greater understanding of the way people with disabilities handle their everyday banking and payment needs. The focus of this study is to look at the issues that technology might create for people with disabilities. For more information on their survey, see http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-11-neil-squire-financial-transaction-survey-how-do-you-bank-person-who-blind.
- Join AMI (in Toronto) on December 9th to discuss television! How do you feel about it? Do you find it easy to activate described video? Is there enough programming available with described video? For more information, see http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-11-toronto-residents-join-ami-december-9th-discuss-television.
- Statistics Canada has announced that, as of December 3rd, data from the Canadian Survey on Disability will begin to be released. For more information, see http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-11-new-data-disability-canada-be-released-december-3rd.
- The 2014 Stratford Festival will feature a number of plays with available audio description. For more information, see http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-11-2014-stratford-festival-audio-described-performances.
- NEADS is conducting a survey of graduate students with disabilities about their experiences. For more information, see http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-12-graduate-students-disabilities-survey-your-experience.
- Canada Post has announced that once again this year, Santa has some elves on hand who can reply to letters in braille if you send them his way: http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-12-postal-elves-ready-help-santa%E2%80%99s-post-office
6. Blog Posts
- November 17, 2013 - Safety and accessibility at sea: Concerns from the BC Coastal Transportation Society - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/participate/blog/2013/11/safety-and-accessibility-sea-concerns-bc-coastal-transportation-society
- November 18, 2013 - Robin East - Fighting for more accessible elections - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/participate/blog/2013/11/fighting-more-accessible-elections
- November 22, 2013 - Cindy Ferguson - A lovely second date - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/participate/blog/2013/11/lovely-second-date
- November 23, 2013 - Solo-DX: Audio description for TV and theatre via your smartphone - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/participate/blog/2013/11/solo-dx-audio-description-tv-and-theatre-your-smartphone
- November 30, 2013 - Robin East - National Network for Equitable Library Services and You - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/participate/blog/2013/11/national-network-equitable-library-services-and-you
- November 30, 2013 - Robin East - White cane, black canes -- what's in a colour? - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/participate/blog/2013/11/white-cane-black-canes-whats-colour
- December 4, 2013 - A Community Venue Creates a Hands on Experience for Persons who are Blind and Partially Sighted - http://www.blindcanadians.ca/participate/blog/2013/12/community-venue-creates-hands-experience-persons-who-are-blind-and-partiall
B. Priority Issue Updates
1. Braille Camp (Natalie Martiniello)
As of December 2013: We're in fundraising mode! The AEBC has set a fundraising goal of at least $15,000. We've raised $6,000 so far. We need your help to promote the Braille camp, draw attention to it, and most importantly, to drive donations to it! Use this link to donate directly to the Braille Camp initiative: https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/16296
Support braille literacy and help the braille camp become a reality in summer 2014!
For more information on the camp or how to fundraise for it, visit http://www.blindcanadians.ca/programs/braillecamp or contact AEBC for details.
2. Accessible Point-of-Sale (Sharlyn Ayotte)
As of December 2013: Sharlyn is taking over this committee from Dar, and will be in touch with a number of people who expressed an interest in participating in this committee.
3. Accessible Websites (TBD)
This committee is currently without a chair and largely without members. Are you interested in helping come up with a plan or working on this issue? Do you have an interest in web accessibility, or ideas for projects or initiatives related to web or mobile app accessibility? Let me know!
4. CRTC (Internet, TV, Phone) (Anthony Tibbs, Lui Greco, Donna Jodhan)
Searchlight Recruitment is leading the search for the first CEO/Funding Officer of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund.
The job posting is available at http://www.blindcanadians.ca/news/bb/2013-11-job-opening-broadcasting-accessibility-fund-ceofunding-officer.
C. Committee News
1. Accessibility in Procurement (Sharlyn Ayotte)
As of December 2013: Sharlyn is in the process of drafting a "position paper" on the issue of accessibility in procurement. This will be circulated to the board shortly and shared with the membership for comment before being sent along to the CAG (Consumer Accessibility Group) for consideration.
2. AGM & Conference (Stephen Ricci)
As of December 2013: The 2014 conference will be held April 25-27, 2014 in Ottawa at the Extended Stay Hotel. On Friday, a variety of presenters and exhibitors will be on site to demonstrate their various wares. A draft schedule for the conference should be available by the end of January 2014.
We're now beginning to look at the question of what workshops should be offered at the conference. A separate communication will be forthcoming about this, where we'll ask you for your preferences about which workshops might be offered.
3. Bylaws & Governance (Anthony Tibbs)
The AGM is scheduled for April 25-27, although actual business will only be conducted on April 26-27. The following dates are therefore important:
- In order to be eligible to VOTE at the AGM, your membership must be paid and recorded in the national membership database no later than March 12, 2014.
- The deadline for submitting resolutions (other than bylaw amendments), which are called "proposals", to be considered at the meeting, is February 25, 2014.
- The deadline for submitting bylaw amendment proposals, to be considered at the meeting, is March 12, 2014.
- The final call to the annual general meeting, including all proposals to be considered, will be distributed by e-mail no later then April 5th, 2014 (21 days prior to the meeting).
If you want to submit a resolution/proposal, it must not be more than 250 words long. You may also submit a short statement or explanation in support of the resolution but, if you do so, the proposal and your statement cannot, together, exceed 500 words.
All proposals will be subject to review by the Bylaw Committee to ensure that they are technically correct and will not be ruled "out of order" at the meeting. Proposals that have been submitted will be published in the President's Reports leading up to the AGM so that members can begin discussion and consideration prior to the meeting.
A word of warning to chapters who are sending representatives to the meeting: You may want to plan to have a chapter meeting sometime between April 5th and the conference. The proxy form will not be available this year until the final call to the AGM, because under the new Canadian Not-for-Profit Corporations Act the form of proxy must provide options for the appointer to specify their voting instructions for each item of business on the agenda. Since that might be subject to change until the final call to the AGM, proxy forms cannot be completed until the agenda has been finalized.
As of this writing, one resolution has been received for consideration by the membership.
Proposed Resolution (Bylaw Amendment) 2014-01: Proxy Votes
Submitted by Heather Rupert (Montréal)
Whereas an individual is entitled to hold no more than five proxies at a membership meeting;
And whereas the members wish to be able to carry ten proxies to a membership meeting;
Therefore be it resolved that the word "five" be replaced with the word "ten" in article 17.5 of the Bylaws.
4. Communications (Sharlyn Ayotte)
As of December 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.
On Facebook, only 68 people have "liked" our page. There are surely more of you out there on Facebook who could "like" us to follow our activities. Share us with your friends, families, and professional networks, too!
On Twitter, we have 682 followers and we, in turn, follow 1,549 other people. Are you one of them?
- Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/blindcanadians
- Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindcanadians
5. Fundraising (Charles Bailey)
Donate today. 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.
(If you want to donate specifically to the braille camp, please see http://www.blindcanadians.ca/programs/braillecamp for more information.)
6. Library (Sharlyn Ayotte)
As of November 2013: We have received word that a group of public libraries is devising a "consumer advisory committee" to assist with the development of a national alternative format library initiative. Details are especially scant at this time but more will follow.
7. Scholarship (Anthony Tibbs)
The Scholarship Committee is revamping itself and re-arranging for the 2014 scholarship program. Details to come, but if you want to participate and help, contact Anthony Tibbs!
8. Strategic Planning
Who are we, what do we do, how do we do it, and how should we be doing it? These are questions the AEBC has been asking of itself for the past numbber of months. Beginning with the discussion at the AGM, and continuing on through the various member consultations that have taken place over the last few months, the Strategic Planning Committee has been listening.
The first stage of the process has been completed, and we have now identified six strategic areas where our focus will lay over the next couple of years. These priorities have been approved by the national board. The next step, which will take place over the next few months, will be to particularize these and develop an implementation plan, which will be presented to the membership at the conference for ratification and adoption. There will likely be several opportunities between now and then to share your input and views on how this process is unfolding.
The strategic directions that have been identified are as follows:
- **First Wave Strategies** (3-6 month implementation horizon)
- Create a Board committee structure that reflects the current needs of the organization.
- Clarify the AEBC brand.
- Engage with members through proactive communication.
- **Second Wave Strategies** (6-12 months implementation horizon)
- Create a national fundraising strategy.
- Improve the quantity/quality of members.
- **Third Wave Strategies** (12 months and ongoing implementation horizon)
- Increase organizational capacity
Specific projects, goals, and objectives for each of these strategic directions (which are necessarily broad in their scope) will be developed over the coming months.
D. External Partners and Groups
1. Consumer Advocacy Group (Sharlyn Ayotte)
As of December 2013: A face-to-face meeting took place a few days ago in Toronto. This was a positive and engaged meeting, with all parties working well together, with plenty of discussion and agreement on many fronts. There was a round table with introductions and summaries of what each organization was doing.
The statement of purpose was discussed and will be revised to reflect agreements and then recirculated to members. Governance was discussed and it was decided that members will elect a Chair following nominations of an impartial party outside of the group.
This is a loose coalition of consumer groups and service providers coming together to develop positions on issues where common ground exists, and through our numbers can make progress through collaboration and associated advocacy efforts. Positions would be posted on each group’s websites and shared with our individual networks and other activities and actions would flow from there by each organization.
As position papers are drafted, it was agreed that each group and their brand would be preserved and the person responsible for moving a specific position would be identified as the contact point on the position to answer questions once a position has been adopted.
AEBC is currently working on drafting a position statement regarding accessibility in government procurement.
AEBC intends to remain involved with the Consumer Accessibility Group at this time.
2. Descriptive Video Working Group (Anthony Tibbs)
The "best practices" subcommittee met in late November to discuss the next phase of their work. Several concerns have been identified, including the lack of an available accessible integrated/embedded web-based video player (that can support captioning and descriptive video). Work is being undertaken to develop such a player, but this is, at the moment, only a dream.
Second, we have seen a notable increase in the number of service providers who offer descriptive video production services; however, there is currently no industry standard or certification process by which these suppliers can become accredited. There is, on the market, great variability in the quality of the descriptive content being produced. While the increased availability is a good thing, some thought now needs to be put into how to fairly control and manage the quality of the output. Work will begin on a proposal in that regard.
E. Chapter Updates
British Columbia Affiliate
There are two issues we are tackling at present; our wish to continue working with the Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC-BC), in the area of accessibility assessments, and to do what we can to have the Equipment and Accessible Technology Initiative (EATI) renewed after its current end time of March 31st, 2014.
The latter is certainly the larger of the two projects, with 4 of the BC Chapters involved. Our Vice President, Linda Bartram, has done an excellent job of putting together a toolkit of sorts, containing sample letters, a fact sheet, some excerpts from testimonials from those who have received equipment, and contact information for the political officials, Federal and Provincial, who are in a position to impact this program. The chapters expressing interest have been urged to write letters to the appropriate people, and some have done so already. There will soon be a travelling circus of sorts, meeting in communities throughout the province, seeking input from the disabled, individuals and groups, as well as the thoughts of employers, on what to do to help more disabled people, find employment. It has been noted that the Disabled Community will be represented by what is called the Minister’s Council on Employment, which is an issue because there are no blind or vision impaired individuals on this council. We will be seeking an answer to, and a correction of this situation.
With regard to SPARC, we have made contact, and they say they are looking forward to working with us. We will have to stay on top of them though as there has been a tendency to forget to include any kind of assessment of accessibility where the blind are concerned.
AEBC Halifax Chapter
October - November 2013
Over the past several weeks, members of the Halifax Chapter have been involved in many aspects of chapter events.
On October 3rd, members of the Halifax chapter joined together at the Humani-T Cafe for their social, met Darren James' family and had the opportunity to learn more about AEBC as an organization at all levels with a Q&A, written up by Dar, which was well received by everyone.
From November 1st to November 3rd, AEBC Halifax Chapter members participated in the Christmas at the Forum Craft Show. Here, members sold many crafts donated by members and their families, sold 50/50 tickets, sold tickets on a Sidney Crosby Hockey Jersey, sold baked goods while distributing AEBC pamphlets and business cards to everyone who came to our exhibit and had fun while doing so. Many thanks to Nick Ogden and Drew DeCoste and her family for helping us this year. Drew designed a beautiful banner which was on display all weekend and a poster, advertising what we were selling. We also have to say "Thank you" to Rick Colewell of Cole Harbour. Rick donated a beautiful painting of "Noah's Arc" from Framed Plus Art at the end of the Christmas at the Forum for our chapter to raise funds with.
Members met at the HumaniT-Cafe for our November 7th meeting. Projects in work include: an Audio Book Club and an audio Described Movie Night which will start after the new year; fund raising campaigns for chapter activities and for the 2014 AEBC National Conference and AGM; the Darren James Memorial Bursary Fund is complete and will be posted and circulated in January for all blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Nova Scotians of all ages; and work is almost complete on the proposal for hosting the 2015 AEBC National Conference and AGM.
Donna Jodhan also joined members via teleconference at the November 7th chapter meeting, introducing herself as a writer/publisher of audio mysteries. Members had a first-hand opportunity to speak with Donna and how she became interested in writing audio mysteries. We also gained another new member that evening!
On December 2nd and December 3rd, the AEBC Halifax Chapter will be participating in the 2013 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Here, Yvon will be distributing AEBC pamphlets, business cards and networking with other organizations in our community. This year's symposium will be held at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront and the theme is "Ability Starts Here - From Conversation to Action". More can be found at http://www.abilitystartshere.ca.
Our Christmas Dinner will be held at the Bloomfield Centre on December 19th. After dinner, the executive will be handing out the "President's Awards" to those who have spent numerous hours volunteering for our chapter. This is something new to our chapter but a great opportunity to say "Thank you" for those who have demonstrated hard work and dedication over the past year. Following the awards ceremony, Dar and Yvon will be playing their guitars and we'll have a sing-a-long while Santa Claus drops by and hands out gifts to everyone.
Our Twitter and Facebook followers are growing nicely. We use our Twitter to re-post topics of interest, blogs and bulletins from AEBC national and others, and we ask questions now and then to open discussions. We recruited a nice list of Twitter followers during the Nova Scotia provincial election, posing questions again and drawing attention to what barriers we face when trying to exercise our right to have a "Secret Ballot". Stay tuned for this one!
For 2014, our chapter's quests are as follows:
- membership recruitment - foremost, we need more members to grow our chapter throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and Nova Scotia.
- Fund Raising - We need to fund raise for: chapter events, the bursary fund and for attending and hosting the upcoming 2014 and 2015 AEBC National Conference and Annual General Meeting.
- Advocacy - We will continue to advocate in our community and throughout Nova Scotia in hopes of making a change; if not making a change, then at least drawing someone's attention to it and being heard.
- Youth: collaborate with Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA) and teach students how to advocate, offer support and resources, etc., in hopes of forming a Youth Chapter.
- Socials: we will continue meeting at different locations throughout HRM for an evening out. This is a great way of helping businesses in our community to become more comfortable when someone who is blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted comes into their establishment, especially with guide dogs.
- provide a monthly audio book club for members and interested individuals in our community.
- provide a by-weekly audio described movie night for members and other interested individuals. Movies will be selected by members who attend movie night for the following week
- promote Braille: Louis Braille Day will be our first date on our calendars. We will have an exhibit set up with the Braille Alphabet poster along with Braille cards for everyone to take with a message on the bottom written in Braille which says "Thank you for supporting the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Halifax Chapter" which they must decrypt.
- White Cane Week: We will be hosting our own chapter events during this time and inviting members of the public to join in with us. Events yet to be confirmed.
- Our chapter's 6th year anniversary will be in February and we will celebrate it in class. Each year is to be celebrated as our chapter is still going strong after taking a struggling chapter and turning it into a chapter who is strong and feisty.
- International Guide Dog Day: We will celebrate our four-legged furry friends by hosting an exhibit and having a "Meet and Greet" for those interested in the work of a guide dog and their handler.
- We will be attending the 2014 AEBC National Conference and Annual General Meeting in Ottawa; we'll be there with bells on!
- Attending the 2014 Vision Teacher's Conference held in Halifax.
- Our chapter AGM will take place in June; President and Member at Large are both up for election.
- We will be sending out news releases to Nova Scotia media on topics of interest which affect us in the blind community on a monthly basis.
- We will be publishing a by-monthly news letter and circulate it to the media and post on websites for all to read.
- Mentoring: This will be set up as a monthly group session for members, bringing up issues we face daily and issues members may have to discuss with others.
- Host 2 major events in our community such as the Harbour Queen Cruise which is audio described, for members to attend in the summer.
- The Biggest Winner: For our New Year's Resolution, a group of us will be participating in losing weight for a healthier body and mind. Members who participate in this challenge must pay one dollar every week. The week leading up to the AGM, the person who lost the most amount of weight will take home all the money received.
- other events such as a picnic at the accessible trail on the Chain of Lakes Trail, a weekend of camping out at the provincial park, hiking, tandem cycling, etc. will be held.
- Offer seminars and workshops to the following:
- Parents - This will be for parents who have a child or children who live with vision loss; this will also be tailored for parents who are living with vision loss and have a child who lives with vision loss.
- Capital Health: We will offer a seminar and provide the tools for those who will encounter someone living with a vision loss, on how to care for a patient/resident with vision loss.
- Advocacy and letter writing: open to members and interested individuals.
- Fund Raising: open to members and other interested individuals
- Building Effective Committees: open to members and interested individuals
- Membership Recruitment: open to members and interested individuals
- How to have valuable meetings: offered to members and other interested individuals.
- ... and more.
- We will continue doing the work that we have been doing and expanding our work into the community.
- We will continue networking with other organizations in our community and building new relationships.
- There is a good chance that the Halifax Chapter will be putting forth a scholarship after the new year which is fantastic. Those who fund raised to go to Toronto this year well exceeded their fund raising endeavors and it was given to the chapter as a donation instead of putting it forward to 2014 which was absolutely fantastic!
That's it for now. I think that's plenty, however, there are more events that are scheduled on the agenda for 2014.
F. What Our Members Have Done
I posed a simple question in my last report: What have you done in the past month to better the lives of our community? What will you do in the next month?
The response was overwhelming and the range of involvement astounding.
There are some in AEBC who look at us and ask what we are accomplishing. But the "we" in AEBC are the members. While many might not be visibly flying the AEBC banner in their efforts, they are nonetheless contributing positively to our efforts through their own private advocacy efforts. To the extent that AEBC is intended to be an advocacy organization, I think it is succeeding in drawing together a lot of the people who are doing the advocacy. There is value in that.
Without naming names or pointing fingers, below is a summary of the various responses that I received. Perhaps this will give you or your chapter an idea of something you could do in your community. What is clear is that a lot of good work is being done -- done quietly, but done. Let's not underestimate the value of that!
Our members have, and continue to:
- Convinced the Ministry of Justice in Ontario to revamp the various forms used in Family Law proceedings so that they will be more accessible to ZoomText and JAWS users who are representing themselves in family law battles.
- Educated merchants about their right to enter with a guide dog. This included explaining what the service dog does and explain the difference from a domestic pet.
- Ask for braille menus at restaurants even if they already know what they want, in part to show there is demand.
- Asked for a braille menu at Montana's Cookhouse, after discovering that only the dinner menu (and not the lunch menu) is available in braille.
- Advocated (once again) with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to have them accept, recognize as valid, and properly process "text file" income tax returns. These have been available for years, and CRA assures us that the problems are in the past. Time will tell.
- Continued monitoring the City of Saskatoon to ensure they comply with the letter of understanding negotiated regarding bus stop voice announcements
- Worked with the Ministry of Health and Mount Sinai Hospital to produce a documentary series to be used as an educational tool for training medical bodies and administrative staff at the hospital, for a better understanding of the different needs for accommodation for people with special needs, be it as patients or even applying for employment in the health system.
- Received the Joe Dineley Award (March of Dimes) for my volunteer efforts
- Volunteering with CNIB at low vision clinics held around the local region.
- Speaking to senior centres as an ambassador.
- Running several peer mentoring groups in extreme southern Ontario
- Suggested to a member of my church that she contact CNIB to see if they could assist her. I am happy to report that she has been helped and glad that I suggested that she contact them. She is low vision but uses a white cane to assist and she finds it so helpful.
- Worked with the Salvation Army as a Kettle Attendant. I enjoy it very much and it is so wonderful to notice people who are surprised that my guide is with me and usually it is the children that notice first and I hear the parents say that no dogs are allowed. Their reaction when they do see the dog is wonderful.
- Worked with the local transit commission on their route changes and recently hosted a get together for all visually impaired and blind persons at an open house so persons could obtain one on one contact to go over the routes that each person needs to learn.
- Sitting on the Mayor's Accessibility Committee and we have had several positive things happen.
- I have been able to help my sweetheart with those point of sale debit machines that are touch. I thank God that I am able to see enough to do that. We recently had a fabulous Walmart checker, who got us as far as typing the code in. She was most thoughtful and patient throughout as it did take a bit longer than a "normal" person and we surely were thankful for her efforts.
- At my book study group the other night, in light of some complaints about the new Canada currency, I was explaining how with the new bills the Braille markings make it much easier to identify denomination. Everyone was surprised and many hadn’t noticed the markings and were very interested in what the markings mean on each bill.
- When I was last at the bank, I was explaining to the teller how I could distinguish the bills by feeling the Braille markings, she was very interested and said she didn’t realize what the markings were for.
- Joined with others who enjoy audio books in the forming of a book club that meets once per month to talk about books we've agreed to read.
- I am always meeting people in the area when I travel and I just met someone who is given me a contact to talk in a classroom with children who need to learn about blindness and I am looking forward to speaking with the children.
- Worked at a job that provides government funding for people with disabilities who have an employment goal and who's way to that goal is barred by the lack of technology.
- Have started to work toward a gathering in my local area that will be focussed on technology that helps people who experience low or no vision to level the playing field. Our first gathering on Nov 20 will be centered on talking GPS devices, and during that meeting we'll decide on the areas of interest for the upcoming meetings.
- Considering further attempts to file complaints against Bell, Rogers, and broadcasters regarding accessible web pages, web services like Mobile apps, accessible TV guides and DV on web broadcasts that already have closed captions by such companies as CTV, CBC, etc.,,
- Had the pleasure of working with Shaw Cable to develop a video piece on technology and how it provides blind citizens independence and increased participation in our communities and in the labour market.
- I, with other members of Saskatoon's Blind Community, have been actively involved in improvement of Public Library services for patrons unable to access conventional print/visual content. This has been a long term initiative and will continue as long as barriers exist to equitable Public Library services across Canada.
- I have spent the past few months working with other members of the Library Committee, putting together an approach to all MPs, seeking their support for a group of libraries that are trying to have the production and distribution of alternate format library books, removed from a charity, and made available to anyone needing or wishing to access library material, in a format other than regular print.
- I live in one of the four ridings currently having a bi-election scheduled for Mon. Nov. 25. To the best of my knowledge, no improvements in voting access will be available at that time, and assuming I am correct, I shall the file a new complaint against Elections Canada.
- Every day I am reminding people on the street in stores, restaurants on buses, metros about what a white cane means. Also, at the hospital, I I launched a complaint with the ombudsman about lack of respect and concern...and this in the opthalmology department!!
- I was involved with a baking hack community project it's to get people's motivation going who love to bake who haven't baked in a long long time and it's also to show the community that people with disabilities can do something.
- I took part with a group of blind persons in cooking in the dark. For me cooking is a part of life and I am able to do it in the dark or not, but seeing many not being able to cook a simple meal I got inspired to want to help those that can not do it successfully. It was amazing how much one can be missing if doing something "like cooking". This is one of my way I am going to try to contribute with teaching how to cook a decent meal.
- The education of staff in a store. In my community we nominate businesses who go out of their way to help the blind or even the disabled. This is a great way for one the have great service and not stress out trying to do it all by themselves.
- I have brought two new members into our local chapter.
- On October 24 I spoke at a Cubs meeting about blindness things like guide dogs and how to get around. Showed them braille and talked to two parents about how blind people can do what they put their mind to.
- I signed up to be on a committee for the AEBC with Dar but now it is on hold as you said but I look forward to hearing who will take the committee over.
- What do I plan to do this month I don’t know I just go day by day helping friends and learning how to use my new equipment that I received this year and I will volunteer where ever I can help others.
- In the past month, I explained to someone how my assistive technology works
- Act as a volunteer on the AEBC history Project Committee,
- Pursuing Human Rights complaints against our bank, credit card service, and our tax collector.
- Following the CRTC Deferral Account funds issue,
- On going efforts to get accessible documents from our service providers like,vacation holiday package providers, home insurance,, City utilities pensions, etc.,
- Promoting accessible prescriptions and medical information
- On November 13th, accompanied by my guide dog, I spoke to a crowd of 1st year Nursing students at Memorial University - basically, on "How to react to, better assist and learn to interact with patients who are blind or have low vision. I'll be repeating the "performance" on Nov.28 to another class of nursing students. In January, 2014, I will be giving a similar "talk" to 1st Year Medical students, again at MUN.
- While I was at the bank last week, waiting for the bank-teller to do some transactions, I put my Braille Note up on the counter and just started entering in some details - and of course, she had to ask "what's that - and what are you doing"? Knowing that there was a growing line of customers behind me, I gave her a fast rundown of what I was using this machine for - but she had to have more - and more information. My Financial Officer, in the privacy of her office is well aware of the purpose of the Braille Note and what it can do, but I had never used it at the main counter - but I must say, the Teller was quite intrigued.
- I have to tell you that, over the years, each time there is a new staff person at my branch, their supervisor or whoever shares the specific information on how best to assist customers with impaired vision - I never just have to sign something without them reading it to me or taking me aside to explain what I'm signing - and, in turn, I have written to the local V.P. advising him of the excellent service I receive at this branch.
- While buying some clothes at a store on November 15th, I had to ask/show the clerk how to use the credit card machine (they are all different as you know) and, unless we ask specifics like "what green button are you talking about", how can we make our own transactions independently?
What can we take from all of this? Look at what everyone is doing. Some are talking to kids about blindness. Others are presenting to university classes of future medical professionals. Still others are working with employers to produce education and sensitization materials. Many go about advocating and teaching in their every day lives.
What I take from this is that every member, every single member, can be an "advocate". Every one of you can go out there and do something little that will, hopefully, make life better for the next blind person who comes along. When we say we are an "advocacy organization" we don't just mean that we do big public advocacy spectacles. Nor does it mean we just write briefs and lobby government (that is really a small part of what we do). The work that gets done gets done at all levels and you're all a part of it.
Congratulations to all of those who shared their stories and who are doing all of these great things. Just think of what we can accomplish if we can work together on some of these topics, share resources, and repeat those things that have worked in one place, elsewhere!
G. Question of the Month
Last month I asked you what you have been doing to advocate, and to improve your life and the life of those around you. This month, my question will be about workshops at the conference. Watch your inbox for this in the next few days!
Happy holidays to all!