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The Blind Canadians Blog

Is the Smart Phone the Interface the Blind had been Waiting for?

This article in the Minnesota Daily describes an app that could significantly aid blind travellers.

The app could indicate not only what street a person is on, but could tell a person when traffic lights have changed and how much time is left to cross the street.

A legitimate concern raised in the article is that, if such an app becomes very popular, there will be less of an incentive to install audible pedestrian signals. This issue is an interesting one that goes well beyond traffic lights, and it is one we are going to have to grapple with over the coming years.

Marco The Clown: Making Your Own Way

Marc Proulx is a member of the AEBC's Brantford chapter.  Blind since the age of 12, Marc has tried time and again to secure employment and end his dependence on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for survival.  He has not had much success with that effort.  But rather than simply complaining about the discrimination that employers often exercise (intentionally and otherwise) against blind and partially-sighted applicants, Marc has essentially gone into business for himself - as a clown.

In a recent profile published in Brantford's The Advocate, Marc is quoted as saying:

Notable Improvements to the NVDA Screen Reader

On March 2, I did some investigating on a free screen reader called NVDA.  Although this screen reader has been discussed in earlier conferences and reviews, I was curious to find out if there had been any improvements to the software.

To my pleasant surprise, I found out that, Sure enough, NVDA, in the last year or so, has made significant improvements when using Microsoft word.

The most noticeable change is that the user now has the option to be able to check if there is bolding, underlining, and tab spacing in their document.  These features do also exist in other screen readers, such as Jaws and Window Eyes; however, there is a reason, which I will come back to later, as to why I am so happy that this has now been implemented in NVDA.

Innovative Competition Challenges Ontario Students to come up with Accessibility Solutions

This recent condo.ca blog post describes an innovative challenge to university students in Ontario. The "Innovative Designs for Accessibility" (IDEA) is a contest organized by the Council of Ontario Universities and the Ontario Government and includes a cash prize for the winner. The challenge is to consult with industry, government, and the disability community to identify access barriers and to come up with creative, cost-effective, and practical solutions. The winner will be announced at an event at the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery Conference in May 2012.

The web access software dilemma

There used to be a time not too long ago when it was so difficult to find any company willing to develop web access software that could be used by blind and partially sighted persons to surf the Internet without sighted assistance.  Within the last few years, however, this picture seems to have changed, and, within the last few months alone, I have had both sighted as well as blind and partially sighted persons tell me that more companies seem to be developing software that would make it possible for us to be more independent surfers.

What did I learn today - CAPTCHAS

What Did I Learn Today

I am enrolled at Ryerson University, taking part-time distance courses towards a degree in Disability Studies.  I am registered with the Access Centre, Ryerson’s accommodation provider for students with disabilities.  This week, the Access Centre circulated a survey to students in an attempt to evaluate and improve the services they provide.   I thought to myself, here is an opportunity to recognize those things the Centre does well, make suggestions about those services where improvements should be made, and to discuss my views on accommodation versus accessibility.

"Great Things About Being Blind!"

Kim Kilpatrick, a "storyteller, disability awareness presenter, and music therapist" from Ottawa, embarked on a journey in January 2011 that would see her write at least one blog post per day on the great things about being blind.  Almost 500 posts later, she is continuing strong with the tradition. 

Talk to the President February 2012

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

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

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

My quotation for this month is as follows:

The Ontario Government's proposed distance learning policy

It is often said that it is the early bird that catches the worm, and in this case, I thought that I would go out there and try and catch the worm or maybe jump the gun in order to register my concerns.

Have your say at the International Conference On Technology & Persons With Disabilities

For the last 27 years, the International Conference On Technology & Disability has been the premier event on Accessibility, Job Accommodation & Adaptive Computer Technology in North America, providing an inclusive setting for researchers, practitioners, exhibitors, end users, speakers and other participants to share knowledge and best practices. It regularly draws thousands of participants, hundreds of exhibitors and assistive/adaptive technology manufacturers and researchers from around the world.

This year, Jeffrey Stark, the chair of CWDO's Technology Committee, will be attending the conference in California. He has offered to take your questions, interests and other requests to the participants of the conference.

A Great Technology Training Resource

On February 23, 2012, I came across a web page that deals with technology training for the blind. The web page is www.blindtraining.com.

The first thing that I noticed about the web site was its ease of use and accessibility. Everything was categorized in headings, and the links were easy to navigate to using Jaws for Windows, Voice Over on the Mac, and Window Eyes screen readers.

The web site caters to trainers who write electronic tutorial text books on the use of Software’s such as Word, and Internet Explorer just to name but a few. There is even a link that points to free electronic text files in the use of Windows 7 with Jaws and Window Eyes, and how to deal with the ribbon menu in Microsoft office 2007 or 2010.

Call for Photos Taken by Blind and Partially Sighted Photographers

What follows is a call for submissions to an exhibit that will be held on the University of Alberta campus. The photographers do not need to live in Edmonton to have their photos qualify for the exhibition. I encourage anyone that is interested to submit some photos.

In Focus: Blind Photographers Challenge Visual Expectations

In Focus is an exhibition of photographs taken by blind and partially sighted individuals. This exhibition will explore the built environment. The photographs will feature urban spaces, including interior or exterior human-made places, such as buildings, streets, parks, rooms, and objects.

Call for Submissions

We are seeking blind or partially sighted individuals to submit photographs to the In Focus exhibition. 

Fix the World, Not the Person

It seems as though every dozen or so tweets I read on Twitter is another link to an article describing some new technology (for example, retinal implants, gene therapy, stem cell treatments) that is eventually going to lead to a cure for many forms of blindness. This BBC story describes the use of gene therapy to restore some vision to three Americans with Leber's Congenital Amaurosis. The media are full of similar stories.

Live Audio Description Comes to Vancouver

Going to the theatre has taken on a whole new meaning for me since I was introduced to live audio description 1 year ago. I have been to 5 performances so far, and I highly recommend this experience to others who are blind or partially sighted.

VocalEye's live audio description is provided as a service through Kickstart Disability Arts & Culture and is the first initiative of its kind in Canada.

Here is how VocalEye is described on their website:

Music Technology-Breaking the Barrier

On January 19th, the Hadley School for the Blind hosted an online presentation on music software allowing easy access to the visually impaired. You can download and listen to the presentation from the Hadley web site at http://www.hadley.edu/PastSeminars.asp.  Follow the link to "Braille Music Technology".

"Blind Lawsuit" - 2008 Paralympic runner who is blind being sued for colliding with woman on canal pathway

An article posted on SportsOttawa.com a few days ago was brought to my attention, which details how it is that 2008 Paralympian Jon Dunkerley is being sued for $350,000 in damages over a 2010 jogging collision.  You can read the original article at http://sportsottawa.com/content/blind-lawsuit.

If I could dream

If I could have just a few seconds to dream then this is what I would dream of: That blind kids of the future will have a better shot at enjoying a more mainstream life.  That they will be able to have equal access to such things as websites, information, and services.  That their parents would be in a position to afford to buy them the necessary access technology that they would need in order to function on an equal footing with mainstream kids.  That somehow, they would be able to go out there and literally reach for the stars.

What did I learn today - Canadians and Charity

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations states “Knowledge is power.  Information is liberating.  Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”.  I believe this statement should be our guide in everything we do.  We have opportunities to learn something new everyday.   Learning can be through formal education, classes at our local community centre, reading a newspaper or interacting with others.  Learning and education are lifelong activities and I have decided to try to learn something new everyday.  When my children were in elementary school I would ask them at dinner, “What did you learn today?”  Now I ask myself, “What did I learn today?”

Talk to the President - January 2012

Greetings fellow AEBC members and yes! January is almost over and we are only just a short distance away from beautiful spring! I hope that all is well with everyone and I would again like to start by thanking those of you who continue to give me very valuable feedback for it is only through you and with you that your board and I can continue to persevere.

Is the government complying with its new standard on web accessibility? Help us find out!

On November 29, 2010 the Federal Court of Canada released a landmark decision concerning the rights of Canadians with disabilities to access government websites. 

Justice Kelen declared that Donna Jodhan's inability to access certain government websites is representative of a system wide failure by government departments and agencies to make their websites accessible, and that the government's failure to monitor and ensure compliance with its own accessibility standards violates the equality guarantee in the Charter. He declared that the government has a constitutional obligation to bring itself into compliance with the Charter within a "reasonable time period, such as 15 months."  If the government is not complying, Justice Kelen indicated Ms.

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