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2004-05 NFB:AE Board of Directors

President: John Rae

John Rae works as a Program Officer in the Accessibility Directorate of the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration in Toronto. During his 24-year career in the Ontario Public Service, he was a Consultant with the Centre for Disability and Work and later an Education Officer with the former Employment Equity Commission.

John Rae has been a board member of many human and disability rights organizations. He has been President of PAL Reading Service, the Canadian Legal Advocacy, Information and Research Association of the Disabled(CLAIR), the Blind Organization of Ontario with Self-Help Tactics (BOOST), the Don Vale Community Centre, and Co-chaired the Coalition on Human Rights for the Handicapped, which secured the first human rights coverage for persons with disabilities in Ontario. He now represents the NFB:AE on the National Council of the Council of Canadians With Disabilities (CCD).

In April of 2000, he received the Individual Human Rights Award from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), and currently serves on several Committees within the Canadian Labour movement across Canada.

In June, 2004, he was elected to the Board of the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, where he plans to bring his views on consumer involvement in all new research to the work of the Centre.

Contact John Rae via email:

First Vice President: Penny Leclair

In 1952, Penny began life fighting for survival as an identical twin born three months premature in Windsor, Ontario. Since then, Penny has fought to survive and participate in Canadian life.

Penny attended regular kindergarten in her community after convincing her parents and the teacher that she could join the class and do what other students did. She Attended the Jericho Hill School for the Blind in Vancouver, where she graduated grade ten, and attended Killarney Senior secondary School in Vancouver for grades 11 and 12.

Penny married shortly after high school and has one son who lives in Vancouver.

In 1984, Penny graduated from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) with a diploma in Business Administration. She was the first deaf-blind person to attend BCIT. Due to significant hearing loss after graduating, Penny found it difficult to secure paid employment, but her volunteer work utilizes this education.

Penny has served on national, provincial and district committees and advisory boards of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) with an interest in improving client services.

Penny moved to Ottawa in 1997 due to her husband finding work there, and was an active member of the community during the seven years she lived there. This experience gives Penny a true appreciation of how different life is for a person who is deaf-blind, partially sighted and blind in eastern and western Canada.

Penny served as a motivational speaker of the Ottawa United Way/centraide speaker's bureau, where she often spoke to the members of the campaign cabinet during training sessions and motivational sessions. In 1998, she received the Ottawa United Way/Centraide Community builder award.

The Mayor of Ottawa appointed Penny to the accessibility advisory committee of the city of Ottawa in 2001 as one of 13 members. During her two years of service, she chaired the accessible pedestrian signals subcommittee and led the way for developing the alternative format policy of the city of Ottawa.

From 2000 to 2003, Penny attended Algonquin College in Ottawa, where she was enrolled in the Massage Therapy Program. She was the first student who is deaf-blind to attend this college.

In September, 2003, Penny was honoured with the Peggy Allan Memorial Award, presented annually to an Ottawa citizen who has done outstanding work to improve accessibility for other Ottawa citizens who are disabled. She was also the recipient of the 2004 NFB:AE/CCD Award.

Penny has been active with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) committee, and has made various presentations in support of a strong ODA that will bring down barriers for disabled Ontarians.

Penny is a current member of the Canadian Society of the Deaf-blind (CNSDB), serves on the Guide Dog Users of Canada (GDUC) Board of Directors where she is the chair person of the GDUC Wellness Fund for guide dogs, a member of the board of directors of Advocates for Sight Impaired consumers (ASIC), and a member of the British Columbia Association of the Deaf-blind.

Through working with the NFB:AE board of directors, Penny hopes to help members to support one another to bring down personal barriers so that all people who are blind, partially sighted and deaf-blind will have more access to their communities in the future.

Penny lives in Ottawa and can be reached via email:

Second Vice President: Paul E. Thiele

Paul Thiele was born in Poland and grew up in Germany. He was born totally blind due to congenital cataracts, regained 10% eyesight after a series of operations, and came to Canada in 1958.

Paul Thiele holds a B.A. in Sociology and Literature and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Paul Thiele was Founder and Director of the Crane Library and Resource Centre at UBC. Prior to taking early retirement, he was Senior Client Advisor, Crane Library and UBC Disability Resource Centre, and he has also taught courses in Special Education and Library Science.

His many involvements include the B.C. Premier's Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities, UNESCO mission to Kenya and Eastern Africa to establish post-secondary student support systems for blind and vision-impaired students in Eastern Africa, founding member of the International Federation of Library Association's Committee on Services and Technical Supports for the Blind, 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons federal and provincial Organizing committees, and he is past Chair of the National Board of Directors of VOICEPRINT/National Broadcast Reading Service.

Paul Thiele is currently enrolled in Computer Studies at Vancouver Community College, and is establishing a private consulting/advisory/case management company for blind, vision-impaired and physically disabled persons.

He was recently appointed to the Canadian Network for Cultural Exchange (CNICE) Advisory Panel--a project spearheaded by the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto, whose purpose "is to ensure that Canadian cultural content online and the tools to participate in creating this content are accessible to everyone in Canada, including persons with disabilities."

Contact Paul Thiele via email:

Treasurer: Denise Sanders

Denise Sanders' career background has included Administrative Facilitator with the Elizabeth Fry Society in Kelowna, owner of a telephone answering service and administrative positions with various organizations.

In 1996, she joined the NFB:AE and has been President of the Kelowna Chapter for the past five years. She was elected to her second term as National Treasurer at the 2004 annual general meeting.

Contact Denise Sanders via email:

Secretary: Marcia Cummings

Marcia Cummings was born and raised in North York, now part of the mega city of Toronto.

After attending nursery school and kindergarten in her own neighbourhood, she spent three years at the Ontario School for the Blind (since renamed the W. Ross Macdonald School). However, to her great delight, her parents were approached during the third year with an offer of schooling for her back home in North York. They gladly agreed, and she finished elementary, junior high and high school there.

After high school, she attended Trebas Institute of Recording Arts, but was unable to break into the music industry, and therefore sought a job elsewhere.

Marcia became the first blind Customer Service Representative at Rogers Cable TV-Toronto, and has assisted in training other successful candidates over the past 17 years.

Marcia is active in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) Committee, and has attended all candidates' meetings, committee hearings and other events on their behalf. She is very interested in increasing public education about people with disabilities and their right to respect and dignity. She is also the NFB:AE representative to both the Minister of Transportation's Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation and the Canadian Transportation Agency's Advisory Committee.

Contact Marcia Cummings via email:

Director Without Portfolio: Robin East

Robin East has a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work and a Certificate In Rehabilitation. He has worked as a Teacher Associate, a Behavioural Therapist, and finally an Officer with the Federal Public Service.

At the age of 43 Robin and his wife, Verlina, try to keep up with their three children ages 15, 13 and 10. Add to this volunteer work with the Community, the Union, the Province of Saskatchewan and the NFB:AE, and there isn't much time left in his schedule.

Robin's volunteer activities include: Chairing a Human Rights committee in Saskatoon; representing Equity groups for the Prairies through his union, the Public service Alliance of Canada (PSAC); Representative for Persons with Disabilities on a Human Rights committee for the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour; member of the Ministers' Council for the Office of Disability Issues for the Province of Saskatchewan; President of his Community Association in the City of Saskatoon; and President of the Saskatoon Chapter of the NFB:AE.

Robin has recently stepped down from his voluntary position as ACCESS Representative for Persons with Disabilities for the PSAC at the National level. He informed his alternate that he would step down prior to the ACCESS conference so that the Alternate could gain some experience at the National level. He believes strongly in "successor" planning so information and experiences can be shared and not hoarded.

"An advocate is like a catalyst that mixes with an ally and inspires empowerment" is a favourite phrase of Robins. He believes in working with ally's to overcome barriers and address common issues. He has been involved in advocacy since the early 80's and continues to be a strong leader in whatever role he takes.

Contact Robin East via email:

Director Without Portfolio: Rick Oakes

Rick Oakes was born in Kelowna, B.C. in 1951. Vision-impaired since birth, Rick lost the remainder of his sight in his mid thirties.

Graduating from high school in 1969, he proceeded to relocate to Vancouver and work for Cater Plan, a division of CNIB.

In 1973, he entered the music industry retailing and wholesaling electronic keyboards throughout the four Western provinces. While working in the music industry, he lived in Prince George, Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and Calgary.

While in Calgary, Oakes' career was highlighted when he was hired by the Calgary Flames hockey team to be the organist at home games. He received a letter of reprimand from the National Hockey League when he played the song "Three Blind Mice" when the officials skated onto the ice at the beginning of a game.

Oakes left the music industry in 1986 due to health issues; at that time he was the sales manager for retail and wholesale distribution for Western Canada.

Rick Oakes accepted a position with the CNIB as district manager for Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and the South Coast in 1991. However, he again had to leave his work in 1993 due to health reasons.

In 1994, Rick, his wife Chantal and their two little girls relocated to Kelowna. Rick and Chantal joined the NFB:AE in 1994 and watched the group go through the initial growing pains.

Rick has served on various boards of non-profit service clubs, including President of the Western Association of the Visually Handicapped in the mid 1980's.

Contact Rick Oakes via email:

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