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Inclusion More Than Mere Access

Editor's Note: What follows is adapted from a presentation delivered at the Collections, Connections and Communities Conference, Ottawa, October 2, 2009. <a href="">Full presentation available</a>

For many persons with disabilities, the prospect of visiting a museum, art gallery or heritage property can be rather intimidating. While today, more of these institutions aim to educate and entertain all members of society, too often access is limited for people with disabilities. Organizations need to adopt a more inclusive concept of accessibility--much more than just physical access to premises.

Canada's disabled community is comprised of people with visible and invisible disabilities alike, and accounts for about one in seven people in the country, a figure that is rising as our population ages. As such, true inclusion means understanding and valuing differences within Canada's entire population, and involves access to collections, educational programs, employment and volunteer opportunities, and to information about what's on display and what's happening in your facility.

The ability to gain access to your facility and move around easily inside, providing parking spaces close to the entrance, level door- and walkways, lower countertops, accessible washrooms, and conveniently located benches and elevators will all make your facility more accessible, as will adequate lighting, clear signage, and minimal surface glare.

How do you publicize your programs? Is it only by print flyers inside your facility's entrance? Do you provide brochures in multiple formats? Does your phone line have a recorded message, especially at night? Does your website conform to current W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards? Do its links include alternate tags so blind users will know what they contain? Are online videos and photos accompanied by text descriptions? Is there information on accessibility in all the forms of media you use?

New technologies are increasingly used to enhance the experience of all museum goers. Do you provide audio guides to your exhibits and if so, are all items described, or only some? Are visitors with disabilities able to use your interactive kiosks, or are they operated by inaccessible touch screens? Are you investigating other innovative technologies that can transmit information directly to a visitor's own mobile phone? Through inclusive design practices and compliance with accessibility standards and legislation, we can ensure museum technology affords engaging experiences to a greater number of users.

How are your staff and volunteers recruited? Do you rely solely on word of mouth or do you reach out to various groups in the community to ensure a more representative workforce and pool of volunteers? Do you provide training on diversity issues and have you developed a policy on providing needed accommodations?

Do you offer public lectures? Are they held in fully accessible rooms? Do your lecturers adequately describe the content of slides they use to support their presentations? Do you offer educational programs, where a patron can participate, and would a person with a disability be welcome in an art or sculpture class?

What about your collection? Is information about items on display presented only by notes in tiny print on a display case? Or do you offer replicas, audio guides, tactile drawings, or information sheets in multiple formats, including large print and braille? Are items displayed solely in glass cases, or is it possible to examine any by touch? When you are negotiating for visiting or special exhibitions, is access ever discussed with the artist or the facility providing the exhibition?

Gallery guides are important to the museum or art gallery experience for all visitors. How much verbal description or background information on an object or painting do you, or should you, offer visitors? Of course, tours for blind patrons will inevitably involve more time to provide verbal description of visual images. Individuals who lead such tours often say they gain a deeper appreciation of a piece, and even of the important role they themselves play.

What do your collections say about war, and how it adds significantly to the number of persons with disabilities worldwide? What other items do you have on display that pertains to disabled people's lives and history? At a time when museums are increasingly concerned with researching and presenting "hidden histories," why is disability rarely, if ever, exhibited?

Representation of people with disabilities in displays and exhibitions, when presented, often conforms to prevalent stereotypes found in film, literature, television and charity advertising. These stereotypes include people with disabilities as freaks, passive and dependent recipients of charity, Biblical miracle cures, and heroes who somehow transcend their disabilities. Depictions of people with disabilities in more realistic, everyday life have been practically non-existent.

The social model of disability provides a powerful lens to challenge and counteract such negative representations by highlighting the environmental, attitudinal and social barriers that people with various disabilities face in their struggle for equality, and for basic human rights.

Curators have been afraid of causing offence. How does one present difficult stories surrounding disability history--of asylums, industrial and war injury, holocaust, freak shows, and people's personal experiences of pain, discrimination and marginalization? How can material in collections be presented to help confront and alter outdated and stereotypical attitudes about disability?

I have travelled extensively, both in Canada and abroad, and have visited many museums, art galleries, castles, maritime facilities, nature reserves, pioneer villages and historic sites. I was particularly impressed by how many implements used to build this country could be touched at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

At the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, I have had special tours, especially during the summertime when its staff is augmented by archaeology and anthropology students, and touched much from its extensive First Nations exhibition. The Royal Tyrrell Museum, meanwhile, in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada's only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of paleontology, houses one of the world's largest displays of dinosaurs. I suggest any visitor start in its Gift Shop, where you can examine dinosaurs in various forms, from stuffed animals to key chains, and gain a better appreciation of what you are about to see as you tour the collection itself.

Further afield, at Nelson Mandela's former house in the Soweto district of Johannesburg, South Africa, I was able to touch much of what was on display, including Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns' World Championship boxing belt, which was a great thrill for me. At the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark, whose collection includes artifacts from Egypt, the Near East, Greece, the Ancient Mediterranean and Imperial Rome, I was asked to put on a pair of thin cotton gloves to prevent the oils from my hands from causing any damage to the irreplaceable pieces I was examining. Finally, at the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru, which boasts one of the world's largest collections of pre-Columbian art and pottery, I was able to touch replicas of vessels and take one home, a unique opportunity organized by Traveleyes International, a UK tour company that organizes tours for blind and sighted travellers.

While there are a variety of ways to convey information about items on display, for a blind visitor like me, there is simply no substitute for tactile access to regular collections--no substitute whatsoever! Replicas, raised-line drawings, special tours and other means of gaining access, however, can be somewhat helpful.

Although conservators cite possible damage to pieces as grounds for not offering tactile access, having them on display at all, exposed to light, air and flash photography, can pose a threat. We take these minor risks, however, because while preservation is a priority, these works are on display so we can all appreciate and enjoy them. What's more, the greater number of objects on display that can be touched, the less each individual piece will be handled.

If museums and art galleries in such diverse places as Peru, South Africa and Denmark, as well as the several in Canada mentioned above, can provide tactile access, then surely more museums and art galleries across Canada can make their collections more accessible to people with a variety of disabilities, who wish to learn more about the past and participate in present-day culture. I believe that "access for all" in experiencing the past, through all our senses, is our shared goal. We in the disabled community look forward to working collaboratively with staff in museums, historic houses and art galleries to make this goal a reality in every community across Canada.

National Meeting in Montreal - 2010 AGM/Conference Report

Editor's Note: Marc Workman has served on AEBC's National Board and is currently the President of the Edmonton Chapter.

The Hotel Espresso in the heart of downtown Montreal was the setting for the 2010 AEBC Conference/Annual General Meeting. The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with a thoughtful and impassioned keynote address by Anna MacQuarrie, Director of Government Relations and Strategic Initiatives with the Canadian Association for Community Living. The topic of her address was the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (adopted by Canada on March 11, 2010).

Throughout the weekend, people visited exhibits and participated in engaging workshops on human rights, using the media, technology, and access to library services. The usual AGM business was conducted. President Robin East welcomed everyone and gave his report, elections were held, door prizes were distributed, and all were able to enjoy the great food and hospitality offered by the Montreal Chapter.

At this year’s Conference, four positions on the National Board were up for election--President, 1st Vice President, Treasurer and Director without Portfolio. Robin East and John Rae were re-elected as President and 1st Vice President respectively. Anthony Tibbs moved from the position of Treasurer to Director without Portfolio, and Nancy Riley joined the National Board as Treasurer.

Denise Sanders, a long-time Director, stepped down from the Board. She has done a tremendous amount of work for the AEBC over the years, and her presence on the National Board will be missed. Fortunately, Denise will continue to advocate locally in the Kelowna Chapter, provincially in the British Columbia Affiliate, and nationally on various committees.

Several important resolutions were debated and passed this year. Among them is a resolution endorsing AEBC’s participation in a coalition of national organizations representing blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted rights holders, and another that established three priority issues for the National Board (in order: website accessibility, access to library services, and access to point-of-sale devices and household products). Participants on these committees are welcome at any time.

Every year, each member organization of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) can nominate one individual to receive the Annual CCD Award. The AEBC names the winner of the CCD Award at each year’s AGM, and this year the award was given to long-time advocate Irene Lambert. Irene has worked tirelessly at the local level as the President of the Montreal Chapter and nationally as a Director on the AEBC Board. The recognition of her contribution to improving the lives of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians was well deserved.

AEBC also recognizes the member who has made the most significant volunteer contribution during the previous calendar year. This year’s winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award was Richard Quan, former Director on the National Board and current President of the Toronto Chapter. Richard has been a tremendous leader in the Toronto Chapter and has turned it into one of the AEBC’s most active Chapters. It is only through the hard work and determination of our members that the AEBC succeeds in promoting the rights and responsibilities of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians.

Many parts of this year’s Conference were recorded including the keynote address, the President’s Report, elections, resolutions, and several workshops. If you would like to receive a CD containing the recordings from the 2010 AGM, simply make a request via AEBC’s toll-free number or email address at the front of this publication.

Our Rights, Our Future: A Rights-Holder Perspective

Editor's Note: The following are notes for the President's Report delivered by Robin at the opening of AEBC's 2010 Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Montreal, Quebec.

I would like to welcome all of you to our Conference and AGM in Montreal. I am sure you will enjoy your visit here. I hope you meet some old friends and get acquainted with some new folks from across the country. Please join me in thanking the organizing committee--Anthony Tibbs, Marc Workman, Natalie Martiniello, Heather Rupert, Rosie Arcuri, Ezra Chitayat, Paulo Monteagudo--and the rest of the Montreal Chapter for working hundreds of hours to make this weekend a success.

I would also like to thank the 2009-10 Board of Directors for their commitment of valuable time and hard work to the AEBC. Each National Board member devotes many hours each week to promote the goals and objectives of our organization. Denise Sanders is leaving the Board after serving four terms, two each as Treasurer and Director Without Portfolio. She plans to stay involved on the Communications Working Group and will continue to participate with the Kelowna Chapter.

Welcome to all the new members who have joined AEBC during the past year.

To all the Chapters, I thank Executive members for their commitment to the work of AEBC. Also, I would like to thank the Affiliate for all its hard work in British Columbia. Further thanks go out to our National Committees, including scholarship, finance/fundraising, human resources, membership and policy development, and their many working groups.

I am pleased to report that, for the 2009-10 academic year, AEBC awarded three scholarships and two bursaries: The AEBC Rick Oakes Scholarship for the Arts to Mr. Allan Angus; The AEBC National Achievement Scholarship to Mr. Anthony Tibbs; The Alan H. Neville Memorial Scholarship to Ms. Helen McFadyen; The Reverend Leslie Ball Bursary for the Performing Arts to Mr. Koceïla Louali; and The Reverend Leslie Ball Bursary for Vocational Training and Trades to Ms. Stephanie Berry. Congratulations to the winners. We wish them all the best in their studies and future plans.

AEBC has been very active during the past year. Discussions have taken place over the past several months between representatives of consumer organizations of blind Canadians, CNIB, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. These discussions have been aimed at drafting recommendations on how a new network hub responsible for coordinating access to library services for print disabled Canadians should be designed and operated. Final recommendations were submitted to Library and Archives Canada (LAC), which is drafting a proposal to be sent to Cabinet. There will be future opportunities for AEBC and individual members to have further input into this process.

AEBC’s National Board of Directors has approved these recommendations with one exception: we have a membership resolution in place stating that any entity like the one being proposed be government run and operated. This resolution prevents the AEBC from endorsing that particular recommendation; however, the Board supports the remaining recommendations.

AEBC has also been meeting with other national rights-holder organizations and CNIB to attempt to form a national coalition that will work collaboratively on common issues. The main purpose of these meetings was to build on some of the momentum established over the last several months as these and other disability groups worked on the library issue.

Everyone seemed to agree that the working relationship was positive and productive, but if it is to continue operating as anything more than an ad hoc coalition, we needed to determine and clearly articulate the structure, roles and operations of the coalition and its various member organizations. In May, the groups met for two days in Toronto, and developed terms of reference for the Coalition. Each participating organization is to discuss the outcome of these meetings, and indicate its participation in the coalition. It is expected the groups will not meet again until the fall of 2010, and in the meantime work is to begin on access to PIN-and-card and point-of-sale devices.

A resolution will be introduced to you, the members, at this Conference to endorse AEBC's participation in this coalition.

Over the past year, the AEBC National Board has been engaged in a comprehensive review of our activities. Our goal has been to determine those areas where we are most effective, and those in which our performance or effectiveness could be improved. Discussion of this review will take place at this Conference.

We also need to work on our communications strategy. The present redesign of the national website will go a long way toward addressing this concern, by collecting information on each “issue” (elections, quiet cars, education, etc.) into a central location; however, our internal communications (among Chapters, members and the National Board) also needs an overhaul. This Conference will give you the opportunity, as members, to participate in determining how AEBC will go about communicating our future activities to you. The final plan will need "buy-in" from all levels of the organization--Chapters, committees and the National Board--to be successful.

Several years ago, Donna Jodhan, our 2nd Vice President, launched a Charter case in which she is challenging the Canadian government over inaccessible websites and unequal access to information. Donna, with her lawyers and supporters, including AEBC, has been fighting to force the federal government to make its websites and information accessible and usable. Unfortunately, to date, the Canadian government has ignored all requests to settle this ongoing action. Donna's case, on behalf of all Blind Canadians, will be heard in federal court on September 21-23, 2010. The AEBC fully supports this landmark access case, and we urge members of our community to come out and show their support. (Editor’s Note: Please see “Challenging the System” elsewhere in these pages for further details and an update on the case.)

AEBC continues to submit briefs and make presentations on issues of concern. More and more, we are being recognized by all levels of government as the real voice of Canadians with significant vision impairment.

Our activities over the past year (2009-10) have included: meeting with representatives from the Office of Disability Issues re a national ID card; hosting Michel Grenier, Director of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) at our November Board meeting; making a presentation to the review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA); a presentation on poverty to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development (HRSD); presenting Webzine on the AODA and the Accessibility Standards development process for Citizens With Disabilities-Ontario (CWDO); a presentation to the Standing Committee on Social Policy for Bill 152, an act respecting a long-term strategy to reduce poverty in Ontario; meeting with HRSD Canada Special Advisor to Minister to discuss funding, hybrid cars, electronic voting, library issues etc.; participating in Canada Transportation Agency Advisory Committee meetings; Speaking on advocacy and facilitating a workshop at the annual Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Action Coalition Conference, entitled Leading the Way: Developing a Poverty Reduction Strategy for People with Disabilities; speaking on a panel at Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Taking Action on Poverty, Poor Health and Bad Jobs, sponsored by the Toronto Social Planning Council; and attending the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly on the introduction of the Blind Voters Rights Bill.

Briefs and position papers we have submitted include: Electoral Accessibility: A Key to Equality, to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; Status of the AODA; Copyright Consultation; National Economic Strategy, to the Standing Committee on Finance; Review of the Municipal Elections Act, to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing; Bill 152, an act respecting a long-term strategy to reduce poverty in Ontario, to the Standing Committee on Social Policy; and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard (ICAS), to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.

More details on our activities can be found by visiting our website: (Editor’s Note: Also see “Headlines & Highlights” in these pages for updated information).

Finally, some AEBC members believe our organization would be more successful if we concentrated our efforts on fewer issues. This is an understandable view but potentially problematic, due to the vast number of other barriers blind Canadians continue to face daily. We, as a national organization and the voice of the blind, cannot ignore these issues. However, I believe that becoming more focused on a few issues can be achieved, as long as we still recognize there are many issues related to blindness that need to be addressed, albeit at a lower priority.

Over the past few months, the AEBC Board has been discussing the idea of trying to find three to five "issues" that we, as an organization, can prioritize so that our actions are focused and more effective. A large list of issues that matter to blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted members was drawn up primarily from the brainstorming session at the face-to-face Board meeting that took place in Toronto. We started out with a list of more than 20 items, which we then proceeded to merge and eliminate, combine and rewrite. We also recently conducted a poll among the membership to ascertain which issues you consider the most important. The results will help guide the discussions at this year's Conference.

The outcome of these discussions, in many ways, will be a difficult task for each of you to consider. The issues are all very important, and it will be hard to choose a few that deserve to have a higher priority than others. However, we need to face the question of whether we can achieve more by becoming focused.

An AEBC member is a rights-holder who inspires empowerment and addresses our rights for the future.

Each member of this organization needs to advocate and be part of the common voice of the blind. We, as a community, need to work together, speak out, and take action. We must work in our local Chapters, through our National Committee's, and as a national voice to ensure our rights are entrenched. Our advocacy must become focused, and yet we must continue to address the wide range of barriers we face.

Our rights and our future are in your hands.

Reflections on New Westminster

Editor's Note: Brenda Cooke, this magazine's Editor, asked three first-time attendees for their thoughts on AEBC's 2009 Conference and AGM. With the assistance of Sara Bennett, Associate Editor, she has recorded their perspectives here.

The 2009 Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) took place at the Inn at Westminster Quay in New Westminster, British Columbia, on the weekend of May 1-3, and saw the largest attendance yet in the 17 year history of the organization. Friday afternoon began with opening remarks from President Robin East and the Keynote Address by entrepreneur and activist Donna Jodhan. The Conference wrapped up at noon on Sunday, after a brief brainstorming session on the future direction of AEBC. In the interim, delegates attended workshops on employment, transportation, poverty, assistive devices programs, overcoming barriers to daily life, and abuse of blind and partially sighted women. In addition, members introduced resolutions on issues like advocacy, copyright, a clearinghouse for accessible information, digital rights management, calling out transit stops, and an AEBC listserv and archives. In their spare time, attendees enjoyed strolling along the Fraser River's boardwalk, dining at local restaurants, getting to know each other in the Hospitality Suite, and more.

Rob Gourley, President of AEBC's Saskatoon Chapter, found his first trip to an AEBC Conference and AGM a great learning experience. "I chose to attend the transportation workshop," he says, "because the presenters were long-time disability rights activists, and I wanted to learn from their knowledge and experience." He thought the resolutions passed later in the weekend, on access to print were particularly interesting, not to mention the method used by the large group of blind people for the process of voting at the AGM. Rob continues, "Socially, I enjoyed the paddleboat cruise and the Hospitality Suite, because I got to meet people from across Canada, learn about the types of blindness-related issues they face, and how they handle them." Rob also appreciated the hands-on exposure to the Trekker device, which assists in mobility, that a fellow AEBC member afforded him.

One of the advantages of attending AEBC's National Conference and AGM is the feeling of community it fosters. This was true for Mike Cornett, a member of the South Georgian Bay Chapter. "Because I come from a fairly small area in Ontario--sometimes feeling quite isolated--I was impressed that people at the conference were friendly, open-minded and willing to be of assistance," says Mike. "I thought, as a newcomer, I might not fit in, but I was relieved and pleased to discover my fears were unfounded." Mike heard about the Registered Disability Savings Plan for the first time at the conference, and was particularly interested in hearing about technology to assist with mobility. When he returned home, he had one more item than when he left--a talking alarm clock that he had won as a door prize!

Finally, Donna Jodhan, of AEBC's Toronto Chapter, went to the conference "to listen, learn, understand and interact." An entrepreneur and activist, she delivered the event's Keynote Address, and was later elected as AEBC's 2nd Vice President. While Donna went to the conference with few (if any) expectations, "What impressed me the most," she says, "was the superb job the organizers did at ensuring everything ran smoothly. The hotel accommodations were excellent, the boat cruise was well planned and executed, and the sessions all went off without a hitch. My heartiest congratulations to all!"

Here's looking forward to AEBC's 2010 AGM in Montreal, Quebec!

Note: To read notes from the President's Report that Robin East delivered at AEBC's 2009 AGM, see "A Glimpse of the Past and a Look into the Future for Rights Holders" elsewhere in these pages, and for more information on AEBC's Officers, see "2009-10 AEBC Board of Directors."

A First-Timer's First Impressions of The 2007 AEBC Conference

Editor's Note: Jennifer Jesso is a teacher who lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

This past spring, between Thursday, May 17th and Sunday, the 20th, I attended the conference held by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) and hosted in Victoria, British Columbia, by the Victoria Chapter. Held at the Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites near the city's harbour, the hotel was in a central location for various attractions offered throughout the conference, and the service provided to guests was excellent. As a new member of AEBC, I had never been to any conference surrounding disability issues before, and I found the weekend both enlightening and inspiring.

On Thursday afternoon, during registration, attendees could visit displays of blindness-related products and services. In the evening, there was a catered reception, where we were treated to a speech by the Minister of Employment and Income Assistance, Minister Claude Richmond, on the new BC Disability Strategy for employment that the government is launching.

Friday morning, after a continental breakfast, we heard the president's report from John Rae (see President's Report elsewhere in this issue).

Next, the keynote speaker, Patrick Fleck, Access Consultant, spoke about universal design, what it is, and seven principles to follow to incorporate it into everyday environmental design. Small breakout sessions ensued, where each group discussed one or two principles of universal design, and the results of each of these discussions were then shared.

Pat Danforth, Employment Coordinator, Victoria Disability Resource Centre, then spoke about the possibilities and limitations of having a National Disability Act for Canada, which she expressed ambivalence about given Canada's unique constitutional needs as a federation.

After lunch, the focus of presentations turned to the BC government and services it provides for British Columbians with disabilities.

First, Deborah Ainsworth, the Executive Director of Disability Services Delivery of the BC Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance, expanded on the BC Disability Strategy that had been introduced to delegates on Thursday evening by Minister Claude Richmond.

Next, Christine Gordon, co-chair of the Provincial Equipment and Assistive Devices Committee, spoke about a new model of service delivery for a BC Assistive Devices Program.

Finally, Linda Bartram, AEBC member and program coordinator, gave a presentation outlining the pilot project AEBC is running for the Low Tech Assistive Devices Program in BC. This initiative is funded by the BC government and provides assistive devices such as magnifiers, portable reading systems, mobility aids and talking household products to British Columbians who are blind or partially sighted.

Later in the afternoon, concurrent sessions focused on The Future of Library Services and Accessible Pedestrian Signals.

Saturday began with another continental breakfast, followed by the first presentation of the day--an inspiring workshop by Mike Yale, AEBC member and long-time disability and human rights activist, on the topic of advocacy. The presentation incorporated Mike's personal experience with advocacy, which he described as "a way of life" for him as he shared anecdotes from movements and projects he has been involved in through the years.

Throughout his presentation, Mike also drew on a recently published guide to advocacy, which he highly recommends reading. The guide, entitled "Stand Up! Speak Out! An Advocacy Guide for Blind, Deaf-Blind and Partially Sighted Canadians," written by Monika Penner, is available for download from AEBC's website at:

The workshop concluded with a question and answer session and discussion period.

Following this, we broke out into simultaneous sessions whose topics included Meeting the Needs of Those with Partial Sight, Addressing Poverty, The Role of AEBC In Service Provision, and The Role of Independent Living Centres in Meeting the Service Needs of Canadians Who Are Blind, Deaf-Blind or Partially Sighted.

Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were spent on board nominations/elections and on resolutions.

One important resolution that was passed was proposed by Mike Yale regarding poverty. Resolution 2007-09 calls upon AEBC to advocate to both provincial and federal governments to introduce a poverty reduction strategy that better addresses the needs of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians who are unemployed or underemployed. This strategy would cover the following principles: income support programs addressing the cost of living; providing adequate cost for the disability itself; providing families with the basic income necessary for reasonable health and nutrition, housing (taking into consideration market rents), as well as clothing and other costs to ensure a reasonable standard of living; promoting and encouraging individuals' participation in community life, as well as providing resources to re-enter the workforce, if possible; and finally, reducing disincentives to employment with the eventual goal of their elimination altogether.

Other resolutions addressed issues such as preserving human rights, accessible elections, service animal definitions, accessible entertainment, and service provision. A complete list and the text of each of the 2007 resolutions that were adopted can be found on AEBC's website at:

The conference was rounded out by several optional social events. The Hospitality Suite was open each evening for members to socialize with friends and meet members from other provinces. A narrated horse-drawn wagon ride around Victoria gave us the opportunity to see many historical sights and was enjoyable despite a bit of rain! A group of us enjoyed a tour of the Titanic exhibit at the Royal British Columbia Museum, with an impromptu tour led by a museum staff member that impressed us all (the tour was supposed to be unguided!). Dinner out at a variety of restaurants and ethnic establishments were enjoyable and another good chance to socialize.

All in all, the AEBC national conference in Victoria was a very informative and fun weekend. As a first-time attendee, I look forward to future AEBC conferences.

Impressions of The Agm and My Stay in Kelowna

Editor's Note: Judy Prociuk lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

I left Saskatoon on a beautiful spring day and boarded my plane to Kelowna, British Columbia, for the 2006 AEBC Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Prestige Hotel. After a very brief touch-down at the Vancouver international airport, I was en route to Kelowna, arriving around noon on a Friday. It was a perfect day with the sun shining and the birds singing.

After quickly signing in at the hotel and getting reacquainted with my room-mate, Irene Lambert, we headed off for the afternoon focus group on leadership, facilitated by Colin Cantlie, former head of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

I suspect that Colin, who was wearing two hearing aids, is an accomplished lip reader since, whenever anyone addressed him, he moved much closer to them. This also enabled those of us with residual vision to see him better. He did an excellent job of facilitating the discussion, saying that we already had good knowledge of the issues.

Colin talked about the character traits of good leaders. They should not, for example, be dictators, or afraid to admit they have made a mistake. Good leaders should also have followers who want to follow them; they must give the followers some cause or reason to belong to an organization.

Colin gave some examples of how things can and do go wrong in organizations. He said many groups fail because, when they try a tactic and it doesn't work, they get bogged down, assign blame and continue in this unproductive circle, instead of switching tactics or focusing on something else. He said everyone must learn to respect each other and not lose their temper. A little humor can go a long way, he said, and you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, to use an old adage.

Participants made many suggestions, and everyone who attended felt the workshop was an extremely worthwhile exercise. The three-hour session went by so quickly that it seemed like only 30 minutes. It is too bad that not all members of AEBC were able to attend.

Later that Friday evening, the Kelowna Chapter hosted a social with a wide selection of locally produced wines and a large assortment of delicious cheeses. Chairperson Chantal Oakes and her Central Okanagan Chapter did themselves proud in organizing the social and the Saturday AGM. Thanks also to the Oakes daughters, Tiffany and Whitney, who were available throughout the weekend to assist us.

On Saturday, May 6, the day began with a continental breakfast and registration continued. At 9 AM the meeting was called to order, and the approximately 44 attendees were introduced. John Rae gave his President's Report (found elsewhere in this publication), highlighting AEBC's activities and challenges over the past year. He also said that 2005 had seen a difficult fundraising climate for non-profit groups, including our organization, and that AEBC will have to pursue some new sources of funding.

At approximately 9:55, we were in for a special treat--we got to hear the Treasurer's Report directly from the auditor since he lives in Kelowna.

Treasurer Denise Sanders introduced John Diduch and promised that everyone could question him at the report's conclusion. The auditor being present to answer questions was especially important in light of today's tough climate for fundraising. John Diduch was reappointed auditor for the coming year.

Following the auditor's report, an hour was set aside to discuss the outcome of the CNIB Needs Study. The question asked was: Where do we go from here? Many very productive suggestions came out of the discussion, and everyone present felt it had been very positive. John mentioned that two or more resolutions associated with this discussion would come to the floor later that day; both resolutions were passed by AEBC's membership.

Just prior to lunch, there was a call for nominations and the following people were nominated as candidates for AEBC's board: Robin East as 1st Vice President; Anthony Tibbs as Treasurer; and Denise Sanders as Member without Portfolio. After lunch, the three nominees had an opportunity to speak for five minutes each.

Then came the resolutions. There was considerable discussion on the resolution that would have inscribed into the bylaws a guarantee of subsidies for Annual General Meetings, as well as increasing the number of proxies an individual could carry from five to seven. The resolution was amended to remove the part alluding to subsidies, but the resolution was defeated after considerable discussion.

The resolution to require members to secure permission from AEBC's President before speaking publicly as a representative of our organization was also defeated. I felt particularly strongly that this latter resolution should not be carried. It was extremely close, with the floor having it winning by one vote, but it was defeated when proxy votes were included.

After the break, there was another call for nominations and, even though additional people were nominated, they declined to run. Robin East, Anthony Tibbs and Denise Sanders were all acclaimed in their respective positions.

John Rae presented Denise Sanders with the annual AEBC CCD Award. Marcia Cummings, AEBC's National Secretary, presented Mike Hambly, President of the Calgary

Chapter, with a beautiful ceramic pot as the first recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award.

After the presentations, we returned to resolutions. Unfortunately, there were more resolutions in the chapter package than time allowed for; only the first 11 were addressed, and the others died on the floor. Of the 11, nine were carried and two were defeated.

To read the text of the resolutions that were adopted at the 2006 AGM, visit: (opens in a new window)

Just before adjournment, the Toronto and Victoria Chapters presented proposals for the 2007 conference. After listening to both presentations, we overwhelmingly chose Victoria over next year's Victoria Day weekend. The meeting adjourned at 5:30 PM on Saturday.

Everyone was free for the evening. Many AGM attendees congregated for a group dinner, and many also tried their luck at the casino with the coupons in their registration packages.

The whole weekend was very enjoyable. The weather cooperated beautifully, the Prestige Hotel was accessible, and the staff was accommodating. Thanks again to the Central Okanagan Chapter for hosting the 2006 AGM!

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:

Saskatoon 2004 NFB:AE Annual General Meeting

Editor's Note: *Two photos: 1. Vancouver chapter member Peg Mercer reading resolutions at a podium, at the 2004 NFB:AE AGM. 2. Phil Wiseman, Sarah Mainland, Joyce Mainland, Chantal Oakes and Rick Oakes at the AGM Phil Wiseman is the former President of the NFB:AE?s Toronto Chapter, and its current Vice President. Unfortunately, the proposed NFB:AE name change mentioned in this article, whose resolution passed at the 2004 meeting, was rejected by Industry Canada. Consequently, the NFB:AE will hold a special membership meeting to continue the discussion.

On a hot and humid Friday morning in May, my faithful guide dog and I embarked on a journey that would take us from the ?big smoke? to the prairie flatlands. This trip from Toronto to Saskatoon for the 2004 NFB:AE annual general meeting (AGM) would be a special one for us as it was the first time that I had travelled on a plane with Hart.

On arriving in Saskatoon, John Rae, Devon Wilkins and Rajesh Malik headed off to join Brenda Cook at the Museum of Antiquities for a hands-on tour of their permanent collection of full-scale replicas of ancient Greek, Roman and medieval sculptures, while the rest of the NFB:AE?s Toronto contingent went downtown to the Delta Bessborough Hotel.

The hotel was nicely laid out and easy to get around, and the staff was quite eager to help us in any way it could. By the third time of travelling up to the room, Hart had figured out where it was located.

Having settled into our rooms, some of us got together to go out for lunch. Members of NFB:AE?s host Saskatoon Chapter guided us to a good Vietnamese restaurant. After lunch, our ?city guides? gave us a walking tour of part of the downtown area.

They showed us their audible pedestrian traffic signal, which I found quite interesting. The signal emitted the standard chirping and cuckoo sounds as I have heard in other cities, but there was one added wrinkle--a verbal announcement immediately after the light turned green said something like ?You may now cross 21st Street.?

As we continued the walking tour, we stopped at an ice cream stand, where the taste of the ice cream reminded me of the old fashioned hand-made ice cream that I had in my youth. It really took me back.

After returning to the hotel, I attended an interesting afternoon workshop that featured Richard Bridge (IMPACS), who gave an informative presentation about the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency guidelines for charities. His discussion gave a bit of a historical perspective about what the guidelines were in the early days and how they have changed over time to what they are now. The workshop?s interactive discussion was lively and informative, with about 20 of 25 AGM registrants in attendance.

The policy statement to which Richard Bridge referred can be found at:

On Friday evening, AGM registrants attended a reception (with a cash bar and hot and cold appetizers) hosted by the Saskatoon Chapter. The atmosphere was conducive to mingling, and I had a chance to reconnect with old friends and meet some new people from Saskatoon. I found everyone to be quite friendly. During the reception, Robin East, the Saskatoon Chapter President, welcomed everyone to the reception and wished us all a good time during the weekend meeting.

The general meeting on Saturday opened with 25 NFB:AE members in attendance, and John Rae started his President?s report with great news--as of Thursday, May 13, a motion was made to officially form a new chapter in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. The members at the Saskatoon AGM enthusiastically received this news, and our new Chapter has invited the NFB:AE to hold our 2005 conference in Ottawa.

Highlights of John?s presidential report included that the organization is in good shape financially, that it has recorded significant surpluses over last year and that this gives us an opportunity to fund our own activities! The report also stated that investigations into alternative and additional sources of funding are ongoing. Also, two grants had been acquired for the Saskatoon AGM.

The NFB:AE President further stated that, in his view, the organization should focus on three main areas in the coming year--membership, accountability and access to products.

Saturday morning?s keynote speaker, Richard Bridge, quickly reviewed the information that he had presented to many of us during the workshop the day before. He highlighted the things that charities can and cannot do according to the aforementioned policy statement, and he concluded by stating his opinion that the NFB:AE is operating within the guidelines of the Act.

Nominations and elections for four board positions (First Vice President, Treasurer and two Directors at Large) took place before and after the lunch break. With the exception of the incumbent Treasurer, Denise Sanders, new people were elected--Penny Leclair, Rick Oakes and Robin East. Congratulations to the successful candidates!

The treasurer, Denise Sanders, then gave a very encouraging 2003 financial report, which showed significant surplus over the previous year. In fact, the surplus was slightly more than double that which was reported last year!

The rest of the meeting was spent discussing resolutions (17 of them in all). In this report, I mention three of them.

The first ?name change? resolution, proposing our organization be renamed ?Alliance of Blind Canadians?, was narrowly defeated--by one vote! The second ?name change? resolution, suggesting the new name ?Association of Blind Canadians?, was passed to a resounding burst of applause, and many people seized the opportunity to begin trying the name on for size to get accustomed to it. But we still awaited Industry Canada?s approval.

A third resolution was passed to change the NFB:AE logo from the ?scales of justice? to a key unlocking the ?maple leaf? (signifying opportunity).

When the meeting adjourned, we celebrated by going out for dinner at a nice steakhouse.

After dinner, a few of us took a walk along the ?river bank?. The South Saskatchewan runs behind the hotel, along with a 21-kilometre walking path that features a combination of historical landmarks and beautiful scenes. Hart and I took the opportunity to enjoy the walk, and Hart seemed fascinated by the geese and ducks along the river. I had to hold him back so that he wouldn?t take a dip!

The remainder of the evening was spent meeting with new and old friends and enjoying a drink or two. A good time was had by all, and when it was time to say good-bye to some of the local folks, we hoped that we could get to see one another soon.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the AGM in Saskatoon. It was great to see friends again from Vancouver, Kelowna, Victoria and Montreal. The wonderful people of Saskatoon were very friendly and helpful to us (especially my guide dog), and Hart and I look forward to seeing everybody at the conference next year in Ottawa!

Disabilities Supports Policy: a Blindness Perspective

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article draws upon a presentation by Marie White, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) to the Board of the Consumer Organization of Disabled People of Newfoundland and Labrador (COD), SEPTEMBER, 2002, discussions at the Disability Supports Policy Forum in Ottawa March 2-4, 2003, and a Workshop held at the 2003 NFB:AE Conference in Montreal, May 16, 2003.

The Roeher Institute has defined the term "disability supports" as any good or service which assists a person with a disability to overcome barriers to carrying out everyday activities or to social, political, and cultural activities and economic participation. The goal is independent living as opposed to the older medical model goal of curing or rehabilitating a person with a disability.

There is no fixed list of disability-related goods and supports. A good or service becomes "disability-related" when it is used to assist a person or persons in overcoming barriers associated with a disabling condition.

The list of disability supports can include, but is not limited to:

Technical aids; Transportation; Job Coaching; Attendant support; Homemaking assistance; and respite and back up for family care givers.

People with disabilities require disability supports to achieve their social and economic potential. Data from the 1991 Health and Disability Limitation Survey (HALS), however, shows that one-half of the 44 per cent of people with disabilities who are not in the workforce cite barriers and disincentives as the reason;

25 per cent of Canadians with disabilities on income support programs cite loss of supports as a reason for not looking for work; and 36 per cent of people with disabilities had non-reimbursed out-of-pocket disability-related expenses.

Many existing supports are not portable across sectors. Supports that are provided in the home are often not provided in the school or workplace - making it impossible for a person to pursue training or employment options.

In other cases, supports are attached to specific forms of residential care, such as nursing homes or group homes. This creates problems for residents who wish to seek independent living arrangements.

For Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, the list of essential disability supports includes, but is not limited to: adequate orientation and mobility training; a nationwide Government-funded assistive devices programme, that includes adequate training on technology provided; full internet accessibility; availability of public transportation; access to regular community programs, including psychological support and counseling on disability-related depression; low vision clinics; universal design/usability of products and alternative format versions of product manuals; increased employment programs; paid readers at home and in the workplace to read print materials; Building Code standards that include adequate lighting and prevention of glare; standards for accessible vending machines; independence in voting; access to municipal recreation programmes and library services; accessible consultation methodology; and outreach/communications strategies to provide information on new initiatives.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Canadian

Association for Community Living (CACL), through support from the Government of Canada's Voluntary Sector Initiative, have launched a new project, "Connecting People to Policy." This Initiative's overall aim is to build the capacity of the disability community to engage with federal and provincial/territorial governments in policy discussion and development related to disability supports.

Canada's disability consumer movement has identified achieving greater availability of disability supports a priority issue. there remain some jurisdictional and delivery issues to be resolved. The Disability Supports Policy Forum held in Ottawa, March 2-4, 2003, identified four key areas that require further research and discussion: federal / provincial / territorial / first nations transfer payments, mobility rights, use of tax policy, and information and reporting. A second Disability Supports Policy Forum is expected to take place in late 2003 or early 2004, at which the results of this research will be discussed and further recommendations developed.

Nfb:ae's 2003 Conference a Big Success

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Carole Robertson is President of the NFB:AE Toronto Chapter. Images: (Left) Theresa Andrews, Paul Thiel, Richard Marion and Denise Sanders posing in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal. (Right) John Rae and Richard Marion cut the NFB:AE 10th anniversary cake while Mohammad Qurashi looks on

If enthusiasm and high spirits as shown at the NFB:AE's 2003 National Conference in Montreal, Quebec are hallmarks of success, then the NFB:AE is well on its way!

Conference attendees gathered together at the downtown Courtyard Marriott hotel on Thursday evening, May 15, for a wonderful reception hosted by the NFB:AE Montreal chapter. It was heart-warming to greet old friends from around the country and to make many new ones. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, the food was delicious, but most of all, one could feel the excitement in the air in preparation for the actual conference.

One of the evenings highlights was the presentation of Certificates of Recognition in honour of our 10th anniversary, to members who have greatly contributed to NFB:AE over its ten year history. Recipients were Sharlyn Ayotte, Don and Bubbles Jacobs, Joyce Mainland, Richard Marion, Peg Mercer, the late Alan Neville, Denise Sanders, Chris and Marie Stark, John Rae, and Ken Westlake. Congratulations to each of these outstanding individuals!

We all had the opportunity to explore a wide range of very interesting and innovative exhibits during the conference's first couple of days. The newest technologies were demonstrated, and we had the opportunity to try them.

The next morning, Friday, we enthusiastically came down for breakfast looking forward to a day of workshops, speeches and activities. We started by listening to the President's report (reprinted elsewhere in this issue). John Rae described the past year's activities, explained some of the projects we are currently working on and his hopes for the future. It was an inspiring speech. It informed us of much that is happening in our organization and how much we have progressed.

During the next two and a half days we were busy with workshops, speeches, nominations, elections, resolutions, visiting the exhibits and participating in interesting discussions.

One of the highlights of the convention was the keynote address by the Honourable Jane Stewart, the Minister of Human Resources Development Canada, whose positive remarks encouraged our delegates as she recognized the good work we are doing. She is very hopeful for our continued work.

We were very proud to give out our annual scholarships. We had many high quality applications and it was a difficult choice to make. One of the scholarship recipients, John Robert Doyle, who was present at the conference, explained how the scholarship would help him in his studies and showed his deep appreciation for his award.

Friday also saw a panel discussion on the delivery of services for persons who are blind living in Quebec. Other speakers included a representative of the Royal Bank of Canada who assured us that the bank is being proactive in installing more audible ATM's across Canada. It is also having its statements and other material made accessible in different modes.

Another interesting speaker demonstrated to us how to prepare and deliver an effective speech.

Saturday morning engaged us all when we broke into four groups to discuss membership, public relations, fund raising, and advocacy during which lively discussions occurred. Some of these workshops produced concrete ideas that will be acted upon by various committees. This brainstorming session proved very successful.

There were many resolutions adopted, including that the NFB:AE will work to reduce the travel barriers posed by the electric car, support the checkered eye initiative, attempt to overcome registration issues concerning CNIB, and investigate a possible name change for our organization.

During the election process, many new people stood for positions on our national Board of Directors. The new elected board is: President, John Rae; 1st VP, Beryl Williams; 2nd VP, Paul Thiele; Treasurer, Denise Sanders; Secretary, Marcia Cummings; and Directors Without Portfolio, Brian Moore and Linda Bartram.

Other activities included a pre-conference visit to a Montreal Rehabilitation Centre and a guided stroll through downtown Montreal. There were also many other informal get togethers.

We were all impressed with the spirit of the convention and the willingness of the delegates to work together for a successful NFB:AE year. Much appreciation for the hard work of the Montreal Chapter which organized this convention, provided door prizes, delicious food and such a positive fun loving spirit that was felt by everyone! Next year's annual general meeting will be held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We all look forward to continued success.


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