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Highlights of Recent AEBC Activities

  • 2008 Blast of Media Coverage

Two critical issues, calling out bus stops and the dangers of the hybrid car, gained the AEBC extensive media coverage as 2008 began.

Following the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal's decision in David Lepofsky's second case against the Toronto Transit Commission, the AEBC sent information on that decision to the mayors of many of Canada's largest municipalities. Bus drivers in Winnipeg, Manitoba, are now calling out stops, which will greatly enhance the independence of residents who are blind or partially sighted.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, AEBC's Lower Mainland Chapter made presentations to local municipalities on the dangers of the quiet, hybrid automobile and obtained extensive media coverage.

See "Transit Drivers Calling the Stops" and "Are Hybrids a Silent Danger?" elsewhere in these pages.

  • Presentation at International Conference on Walking

Marcia Cummings, AEBC's National Secretary, presented a paper on the barriers to walking for blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted pedestrians at the eighth annual Walk21 Conference, "Putting Pedestrians First," held from October 1 to 4, 2007, in Toronto, Ontario.

The conference featured plenary sessions, walkshops, and workshops on everything to do with the pedestrian way of life. The keynote speaker was David Suzuki, who spoke about the serious issues facing our planet, and how we are all one organism, each of us affecting everyone else indirectly by what we do and how we live.

To read Marcia's paper, "A Walk on the Wild Side", go to: www.blindcanadians.ca/press_releases/index.php?BriefID=44

  • British Columbia Assistive Devices Program

With the winding down of AEBC's pilot project on assistive devices for British Columbians who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted, the next step towards a comprehensive program will be one virtual and four physical Personal Support Centres--Victoria, Cranbrook, Prince George and Vancouver--slated to be off the ground as early as July 2008.

All demonstration centres will be fully accessible, have peer Navigators and offer information on devices in multiple formats to facilitate assessment and equipment trials. Local community implementation groups will ensure that centres emphasize the Participation Model's values, vision and principles, with AEBC having representatives in all groups.

The Personal Support Centres will be open to all persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance will provide funding for devices for Ministry clients and is looking for funding opportunities to include devices for seniors and others (e.g. CPP-D recipients) who currently fall through the cracks.

  • Action on Poverty in Ontario

AEBC's 1st Vice President John Rae and Poverty Committee Chair Mike Yale participated in "Speaking Out on ODSP," the Ontario Disability Support Program Action Coalition's annual conference, held November 15-16, 2007. The coalition consists of social justice advocates, legal clinic staff working in the anti-poverty field, and those receiving disability benefits.

The conference focused on disability support recipients who have been traditionally passive and intimidated, providing workshops and plenary sessions aimed at teaching them how to speak up, effectively tell their own stories in their own communities, and utilize their local media.

The combined work of various anti-poverty groups in Ontario has pressured the recently re-elected majority Liberal government in Ontario to finally agree to develop a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy. A number of community organizations are now trying to influence the content of this critical strategy.

The primary demands of the Coalition and its allies are: an immediate and meaningful increase to ODSP and Welfare benefits; future rates linked to the cost of living or inflation; improvement of the child tax credit; a hike in the minimum wage; provision of more affordable housing etc.

For an article by Mike Yale on this topic, see "Demanding Dignity, Not Deprivation" elsewhere in this publication.

  • Important Initiative on Library Access

On October 2, 2007, Library and Archives Canada announced the Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA), a $3 million, three-year initiative designed to improve access to information and to develop a strategy that will support equitable library service for Canadians with print disabilities.

To launch this initiative, LAC invited the publishing, library and multiple format production communities, as well as organizations representing Canadians with print disabilities, to a "kick-off" consultation with the following objectives: to develop a shared understanding of the Initiative; to consult stakeholders on how best to coordinate their collaborative efforts; and to determine the next steps to deliver on this common understanding.

AEBC President Robin East was one of 11 invitees. He committed our organization to full participation throughout the project's three years, and AEBC hopes to hold a full consultation with its members at its May 2008 Annual General Meeting in Toronto, Ontario.

Robin made a distinction between "Rights Holders" and "Stakeholders" at this meeting. "We who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted consumers are Rights Holders," said Robin. "We do hold the right, as every citizen does, to have full access to public libraries and we should not have to rely on charities to deliver such a public service. Stakeholders are other interested parties that have an interest in the outcome; e.g. service organizations and publishers. However, our rights do come first and, as such, our voice must have more impact on the outcome."

  • Welcome for Two New Chapters

The AEBC is delighted to welcome two new chapters to our organization--Nanaimo, British Columbia, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. This brings our current number to 12 chapters, from Halifax to Victoria.

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