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Highlights of Recent AEBC Activities

Accessible Elections

AEBC Board members, Penny Leclair, Robin East and John Rae met with Elections Canada representatives in Ottawa on December 1 to reiterate how blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians should be able to vote more independently and privately during federal elections.

Even though there are 60,000 polls in 308 ridings, we believe our expectations can be met. We proposed that electronic voting is the best option for all electors. An amendment to the Canada Elections Act would be required for a full election but electronic voting could be tested in a bi-election without amending the act. AEBC secured a commitment to be consulted in the development and implementation of any electronic voting system.

Blind Canadians Face Continued Poverty

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind's (CNIB) National Needs Study of over 350 blind and partially sighted consumers, along with medical practitioners, parents and service providers, reveals continuing major unmet needs, especially in the areas of poverty, unemployment and isolation. "This Study represents an indictment of the entire blindness system in Canada!" said AEBC President, John Rae, at the Study's launch in Ottawa on November 2, 2005.

For a commentary, visit: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20051104/HBLIND04/TPHealth/

To read John Rae's comments at the launch, visit: http://www.blindcanadians.ca/press_releases/index.php?BriefID=31

To read the full study, visit: http://www.cnib.ca/eng/media-centre/stories/needs-report/needs-report.htm

AEBC Appears Before Parliamentary Subcommittee

On November 14 in Ottawa, the AEBC appeared for the first time before the Parliamentary Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities to respond to the CNIB National Needs Report. "This was a red-letter day for Canada's disability rights movement," said AEBC President, John Rae. "AEBC appeared, together with Canada's national cross-disability coalition, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, before the Parliamentary Committee to discuss blindness issues."

To read the testimony, visit: http://www.parl.gc.ca/committee/CommitteeList.aspx?Lang=1&PARLSES=381&JNT=0&SELID=e21_&COM=9237

Rights for Disabled Celebrated

Again this year, the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (CAILC) organized a major event in Ottawa (December 2) to celebrate the annual United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons, which is December 3. This year's theme was "Rights of People with Disabilities: Action in Development", and this event also celebrated the 20th anniversary of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

AEBC manned a booth at the exhibit, and our President was part of a panel discussion. During his speech, John Rae observed that Canadians with disabilities have made far more progress in gaining an equitable legal framework than gaining substantive equality, the bread and butter issues that affect all of us.

To read John's comments, visit: http://www.blindcanadians.ca/press_releases/index.php?BriefID=32

International Day Essay Contest Winner

The AEBC wishes to congratulate Linda Bartram for her winning entry in the 2005 Members Only essay contest. Her essay, "The Blind Leading the Blind", supports the theme of this year's International Day of Disabled Persons--"Rights of People with Disabilities: Action in Development".

To read the essay, visit: http://www.blindcanadians.ca/resources/leadingblind.php

We Want Our Day in Court

It will be easier for us to take on systemic violations of our human rights now that AEBC has joined the Court Challenges Program (CCP), a non-profit corporation established to provide assistance for test cases of national significance. The cases put forward can be on behalf of or by groups or individuals to promote and enhance the language rights of Canada's official language communities or the equality rights of historically disadvantaged groups. Its main role is to administer test-case funding.

AEBC has become a full member of the CCP and Robin East attended its 2005 three-day conference and annual general meeting in Winnipeg from November 18-20. Our role will be to assist the CCP in advising where we need help on issues regarding blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted individuals. We will also assist by discussing possible challenges that individuals or AEBC put forward.

AEBC's Montreal Chapter Meets A Hybrid Car

On October 22, members of the Montreal Chapter got a chance to check out a hybrid Honda Accord. They even managed to get some media coverage from CTV. More of this kind of publicity will hopefully encourage manufacturers to consider the needs of blind pedestrians when designing new cars of this type in the future.

AEBC Participates in Canadian Teachers' Federation Conference

On November 17 and 18, AEBC's Executive Assistant and three members of the Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter staffed a booth at this important conference, Building Inclusive Schools. The group had many conversations with parents of children with disabilities, teachers, and other interested people.

Got to Love Those Dogs

For the past several years, the AEBC has been seeking closer relationships with other consumer organizations across Canada. On November 5, AEBC President, John Rae, spoke at Guide Dog Users of Canada's (GDUC) annual general meeting held in Toronto. "Consumers communicating with other consumers should occur far more often," said Rae during his remarks.

We want to congratulate Adele Farough of Ottawa on her election as GDUC's new president, and we look forward to working more closely with this national consumer organization.

AEBC Participates in PAWS Conference

Paul Thiele, Past Second Vice President and Membership Committee Chair, represented our organization at the PAWS International Dog Guide Conference, held October 13-15 at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Hotel. He was ably joined by Theresa Andrews, President of AEBC's Lower Mainland Chapter, and Devon Wilkins, Board member and Collingwood Chapter President.

Two highlight presentations were on training dog guides for blind wheelchair users and on the recently introduced Blind Rights Act of Alberta.