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Alliance For Equality of Blind Canadians' Inaugural Conference

From Thursday, April 28 to Sunday, May 1, 2005, the Ottawa chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) was thrilled to welcome people and many canine partners to our inaugural conference under the name of AEBC.

The conference took place at the Aristocrats suites hotel in downtown Ottawa. A week prior to the conference, I conducted a disability awareness seminar for hotel staff. The seminar was well attended and the staff was wonderfully helpful throughout our stay.

On Thursday evening registration took place, and the Ottawa chapter hosted a "meet and greet", complete with food and a welcome cake.

Also on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, the vendors were set up with their displays. Many companies were represented and the area was very popular. We thank Humanware for donating a daisy player as a prize.

On Friday morning we started bright and early with the president's message delivered by our fearless leader, John Rae. Next we had a panel discussion about future directions for people with disabilities. Panelists included Traci Walters from the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (CAILC), Helen Simson from the Canadian National Institute for the blind (CNIB), and Marie White from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD). Their discussion left us with much to ponder over lunch.

Friday afternoon consisted of two sets of three workshops. Workshops were popular and well attended. Themes included future of employment, future of travel and transportation, Working with the Media, Duty to Accommodate, Future of Technology, and Future of Library Services/Access to Information. Thanks to everyone who led a workshop.

Saturday morning was spent in various discussions, including the future of AEBC and where we might want to focus our efforts in upcoming years. The afternoon was spent debating resolutions and other business matters. For a complete list of resolutions, please visit our website at:

A candidates' forum for those running for election to the AEBC Board of Directors also took place Saturday afternoon, and elections were held Sunday morning.

John Rae was re-elected as President, Rick Oakes was elected as Second Vice President, Marcia Cummings was acclaimed as Secretary, and Devon Wilkins was elected as Director without Portfolio. Congratulations to everyone who ran for board positions. No, we were not bored with the board elections!

After elections, more resolutions were debated. The meeting adjourned around lunchtime and Chapter presidents held a meeting, as did the new and old boards.

But the conference was not all business. We had a lot of fun socializing too.

There were over 15 guide dogs at the conference. I am not sure what they debated while lying under the tables in the conference room.

I shared a room in the hotel with two other women and our three guide dogs. At night when the harnesses were off, two of these guides wrestled and wrestled and ran around like fools. My golden retriever rolls her eyes and says that wasn't her! But I know differently. I don't have pictures to prove it though.

The other canine resident of our room went and hid in the closet during this wild canine party. So our room contained at least two party animals.

We had two optional dinners, which many of us attended. One was at a local Mexican restaurant where over twenty of us went to eat. The other was in the restaurant at the hotel.

The socializing did not end there though. There seemed to be at least two party rooms on my floor alone and the amount of coffee made and consumed would make your head spin and your heart race!

One delegate attending the conference suggested that we sing the resolutions being debated to make things a little livelier. Maybe we will form the AEBC choir in the next year or so to accommodate this wish at the next conference?

The weather was generally good and the company was wonderful. Some people said they did not want to leave. We in Ottawa thank everyone who attended and hope that you visit us again very soon.


President: John Rae, Toronto, Ontario; email:

1st Vice President: Penny Leclair, Ottawa, Ontario; email:

2nd Vice President: Rick Oakes, Kelowna, British Columbia; email:

Treasurer: Denise Sanders, Kelowna, British Columbia; email:

Secretary: Marcia Cummings, Toronto, Ontario; email:

Director Without Portfolio: Robin East, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; email:

Director Without Portfolio: Devon Wilkins, Collingwood, Ontario; email: