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June 2011 Activities Report

Date: 
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

AEBC Activities Report for June 2011
In this month’s Activities Report:

  1. Announcements
  2. Reminders
  3. Updates
  4. 2011 AEBC Conference In Brantford, ON
  5. President’s Report – May 2011
  6. News Releases
  7. Presentations and Correspondence

1. ANNOUNCEMENTS

a. ANNUAL MEMBERSHIPS ARE DUE DEC. 31stFOR THE NEXT YEAR: an annual membership is $5.00 per person per year, or you can join as a lifetime member for a one-time payment of $50.00. You can pay by: PayPal account or credit card by renewing online and completing the online membership form or one of the following: 

  • Mail a cheque or money order payable to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians to our Kelowna address (PO Box 20262, RPO Town Center, Kelowna BC, V1Y 9H2);
  • Pay your membership fee to your local chapter, if you are a member of the chapter;
  • Call us at 1-800-561-4774 to pay your membership via credit card over the phone, or
  • Contact us by e-mail at info@blindcanadians.ca.

b. WELCOME: We would like to welcome all the new board members elected at the 2011 AGM & Conference:

  • President: Donna Jodhan
  • First Vice President: John Rae
  • Second Vice President: Rajesh Malik
  • Treasurer: Charles Bailey
  • Secretary: Cindy Ferguson
  • Director Without Portfolio: Amal Haddad
  • Director Without Portfolio: Marc Workman

c. On May 19, 2011, the AEBC entered into a contract with T-Base Communications concerning two matters: (a) to engage the user community to build awareness of the availability of alternative format information (banking, credit cards, telephone bills), and (b) to engage the consumer community to provide feedback on T-Base product and services offerings. A press release prepared by T-Base will be forthcoming and will be added to the AEBC’s website shortly.

2. REMINDERS

a. We are constantly updating our database. If you have an email address, please send your name, address, and email address in the body of the email to our Program Assistant, Mary at info@blindcanadians.ca. We will then send all future Activities Reports and communication to you by email.

b. The AEBC continues to recruit members for national committees addressing these issues: (1) website accessibility, (2) access to library services, and (3) access to point-of-sale devices and household products.

If you are interested in joining one of these committees, please contact these following board members:

  • Website Accessibility: Donna Jodhan
  • Library Services: Rajesh Malik
  • Point of Sale: Amal Haddad

c. THE CANADIAN BLIND MONITOR is an AEBC news magazine published annually. Its purpose is to raise and discuss issues and topics of interest to blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted persons as well as the general public. The magazine consists of original and reprinted articles, information about AEBC, and resource information. For more information, call Brenda Cooke at 1-800-561-4774 and leave a message, or email info@blindcanadians.ca.

d. SEEKING YOUR STORY OF SUCCESS: In the fall of 2010, the AEBC published a magazine focusing on what our members considered "success" in their own life. It was about any aspect of life, employment, community involvement, or conquering something important that has made your life better. We are still collecting stories to put into a new edition and posted on the AEBC web page; please submit your story to info@blindcanadians.ca, attention Denise.

e. Are you aware of our AEBC members’ listserv? We continue to offer a listserv where AEBC members can receive and discuss information relevant to the AEBC and blindness more generally. If you are not already a member, you can join on our website (www.blindcanadians.ca). If you are a member, and you would like to join our members’ listserv, contact info@blindcanadians.ca.

f. AEBC NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT: As you are aware from our financial reports at the annual general meetings, we have been running a deficit for the past four years. We need your continued financial support, and ask that you consider becoming a regular monthly contributor to AEBC. All donations are tax deductible. For more information on giving options, see http://www.blindcanadians.ca/donations. Together, we can make a real difference, and any amount you can contribute will be highly appreciated and valued.

3. UPDATES

a. CHARTER CHALLENGE UPDATE:There are no further updates since the last Activities Report.

b. LIBRARY SERVICE UPDATE:There are no further updates since the last Activities Report.

c. POINT OF SALE DEVICES - PIN AND CARD:The new AEBC contact for this initiative is Amal Haddad, who may be reached by email at: info@blindcanadians.ca, attention: Amal.

4. 2011 AEBC CONFERENCE IN BRANTFORD, ON

A number of resolutions were brought forward during the Annual General Meeting. They will be posted to the AEBC website in the coming weeks.

5. PRESIDENT’S REPORT

President's Report delivered to AEBC's 2011 Conference, Brantford, Ontario, May 20, 2011, written and presented by Robin East

MAINTAINING OUR RIGHTS IN A TIME OF VOLUNTEERISM

“A volunteer is a person who believes that people can make a difference -- and is willing to prove it.” Anonymous

Welcome!

Welcome to all of you to our 2011 Annual General Meeting in Brantford. I am sure you will enjoy your weekend and hope you gain some valuable information from the presentations and workshops to take back to your chapters.

Thanks to the 2011 AGM & Conference Committee

Please join me in thanking the organizing committee:  John Rae, Anthony Tibbs, Bob Brown, and the rest of the Brant chapter for making this conference a success. I want to express my appreciation as it takes a lot of time and energy to make all the arrangements for a conference of this size.

Reflection On and Moment of Silence For Those Who Have Passed

It is time to reflect on those that have passed since we met last. This could be a loved one, a friend, and of course, even your guide dog. Let us have a moment of silence and remember those that have meant so much to us.

Vince Lombardi quoted: “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual."

Thanks to National Board, Chapter Executives, Staff, and National committees

I would like to thank the 2010-2011 board of directors for their commitment of valuable time and hard work to the AEBC. Each national board member volunteers countless hours working on issues to improve the lives of Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted. I would be remiss if I did not give special mention to Denise Sanders, for her advice and support through my term as President has been invaluable.

Two board members left in the summer, Nancy Riley as Treasurer and Marc Workman as Secretary. Nancy, good luck with your future endeavours. Marc, I would like to thank you for all your work as national secretary, and your participation on the Library and Coalition committees, along with your involvement in, and submissions to rounds of CRTC hearings.

I would like to welcome all the new members that have joined AEBC during the past year. To all the chapter executives, I thank all of you for your commitment to the work of AEBC. Also, I would like to thank the Affiliate for all their hard work in BC. Their annual general meeting is scheduled for June 4that 2:00 PM in Vancouver.

I would be remiss if I did not thank our dedicated staff for their hard work to our organization: Mary Potter, Sara Bennett, Lois Benko, and Joanne Hlina. Joanne left us at the end of December and Lois has returned as our bookkeeper.

AEBC has several national committees: scholarship, finance/fundraising, and human resources. We created committees to work on the three priority issues that we identified to focus on in 2010, library services, accessible websites, and accessible point of sale devices.

We awarded two scholarships this year. We wish these students all the best in their studies and future plans.

2010 AEBC Scholarship Winners

The AEBC Rick Oakes Scholarship for the Arts:

Mr. Tommy Leung

Post-secondary Institution: Trinity Western University

Vocational Goal/Academic Program: Disability/Crisis Counselor

Major: Master’s Program – entering in January

 

The Alan H. Neville Memorial Scholarship 

Mr. Daniel Huang

Post-secondary Institution: University of Northern British Columbia

Vocational Goal/Academic Program: Develop a career in the field of Human Rights and the Duty to Accommodate

Major: Master of Arts, Disability Management

 

Congratulations and our best wishes to the winners.

Robert F. Kennedy quoted: "Few people will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation." 

Establishment of the Coalition of Blind Rights Holder Organizations of Canada (CBRC)

On May 1-2, 2010, all of the national blindness related organizations in Canada met to discuss next steps for our national library and to discuss the possibility of forming a coalition. This will be the first time in Canada where all the national voices have come together and have worked out an agreement on how to work together to bring one voice to our issues.

In September 2010, the Coalition of Blind Rights Holder Organizations of Canada (CBRC) was officially formed with the following members: 

  • Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
  • Canadian Blind Sports Association
  • Canadian Council of the Blind
  • Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind
  • Guide Dog Users of Canada

I was honoured to be elected for a one-year term as the Coalition's first Chair. The coalition will be made up of rights holder organizations and each organization will have two representatives. CNIB is not a rights holder organization, but the CNIB will be part of this coalition and will not have voting rights. However, all organizations agree that CNIB is an important partner.

The purpose of this coalition is to:

  1. Bring organizations of blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted people together to speak with a unified voice;
  2. Create a strong and collective voice of blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted rights holders of Canada;
  3. Advocate on issues of common concern to blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted people of all ages;
  4. Communicate within the coalition the issues brought forward by the member and associate organizations of the Coalition; and
  5. Develop and implement a plan of action on issues chosen by the coalition.

We have agreed to speak with one voice on two important issues: (1) Library, and (2) PIN/Card Point of Sale.

AEBC is the organization in this coalition that can steer and power this coalition but we cannot do it without each of the other organizations. We have the experience of true advocacy and it is what AEBC is all about. So, be ready for the fight of our lives in 2011 and 2012 on the one issue that is so important to all of us: that is a publicly funded non-charitable library!

We as consumers and right holders must put our voices together on this issue and we must strategize like we have never done so before. We are going to need to convince a government that does not want to get into the library business that it is the right thing to do. We will need to convince our provincial and territorial governments the same in that although it is their responsibility and obligation they need to partner with the federal government to make this a reality. CNIB still maintains that the library should be run and administered by government and not by a charity.

I believe this coalition is very important as it speaks with one unified national voice -- our voice!! 

Just a few weeks ago, in early May, the coalition re-elected me for another one year term as their Chair. Again this is indeed a great honour to be able to volunteer with these rights holder organizations and continue to raise our unified voices.

Update on National Library Services

At our last AGM, I reported that discussions had taken place between representatives of consumer organizations of blind Canadians, CNIB, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities on how a new network hub responsible for coordinating access to library services for print-disabled Canadians should be designed and operated. These recommendations were submitted to Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

In the fall of 2010, John Rafferty reported that the CNIB national board of directors would not close the library if there is not another entity in place, and will continue to seek funding. CNIB would like to move away from the charitable sector, however, they will keep the library for print-disabled Canadians open as they consider it an essential public service. 

Since we did not receive any responses to our inquiries or any detailed feedback for nearly a year from Library and Archives Canada, the National Coalition of Blind, Deaf-blind, and Partially Sighted Rights Holder Organizations of Canada (CBRC) decided to take this important issue directly to our Members of Parliament. In January 2011, the Coalition sent a letter to all levels of government demanding a publicly funded library system for blind, partially-sighted, and print-disabled persons. We will continue to advocate that the government create a sustainable and fully publicly-funded equitable library network for the over three million Canadians with a print disability.

Golda Meir, Israel's first woman prime minister, quoted: "Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."

Update on Charter Challenge

Over four years ago, Donna Jodhan, our Second Vice-President, launched a Charter case in which she challenged the Canadian government over inaccessible websites and unequal access to information. 

On September 21 to 23, Donna was in federal court along with her legal team and many supporters defending the right of blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted Canadians to access federal government websites. Donna's team did an excellent job in preparing and arguing her case and seeking systemic redress.

The team thanked all of those AEBC supporters who attended court. The Judge acknowledged AEBC’s supporters in court, which is rare indeed.

Donna believes it was our fight and we did it for ourselves, for each other, and for the kids of the future who are depending on us to help make a better future for everyone. Let us keep believing in ourselves! Let us all work towards a future where equal access will be a part of it

Many AEBC members and other supporters attended. Our First Vice-President was honoured to have been present at what we consider to have been an historic event for all blind Canadians, regardless of the result, which we hope will be positive. We also hope that Donna's perseverance will encourage others to seek redress in instances where you feel you have suffered discrimination. Our community fought hard to achieve the legal provisions we currently have; we also need to use them to enforce our rights or try to expand them. Congratulations Donna for taking this case on behalf of all of us; that's exactly what she is doing, fighting for all of us, and not just herself.

This case received tremendous attention from media from coast to coast including many in the United States, Britain, and Europe, and even as far away as India.

On November 29, Justice Michael Kelyn delivered a landmark decision when he ruled in favour of our charter challenge. As part of his ruling, he mandated the Canadian government make all of their websites accessible; that is, those that fall under the common look and feel category. He also retained jurisdiction to monitor the government's progress and gave them 15 months to make these websites accessible.

In December the Canadian Government submitted an order for reconsideration. That is, they wanted Judge Kelyn to reconsider his decision and the hearing for this order was held on February 08. The judge did not change his mind; however the following should be noted: 

  1. The government withdrew their objection to being monitored; and
  2. The judge amended his order to state that the number of websites that needed to be made accessible should be 106 and not 146 as was noted in his previous ruling. This was an error.

Finally, the Canadian government has served notice that it intends to launch an appeal to object to the judge's entire decision.

This appeal has been launched and we await a date to head to the Federal Court of Appeal to maintain our rights.

It should be noted that the following groups have decided to seek intervention status in this case: the AEBC, the CCD, and the CNIB. In addition, Donna recently received an email from a teacher of a grade one class at Grove Community School. The teacher told her that these grade one students managed to convince their parents to take our cause to a Labour of Congress conference in Vancouver and that over one thousand delegates have passed a motion asking their two million members to write to Prime Minister Harper demanding that he drop his government’s appeal against Donna’s case. Donna had previously visited these students last November at their invitation and was extremely touched and humbled by their enthusiasm.

Point of Sale Devices – Pin and Card

New Point of Sale (POS) devices are useless to blind, deaf-blind, or partially-sighted individuals as they do not currently have voice output. Some handheld units may have tactile numbers with a raised dot on the number five, and one might be able to enter his or her Personal Information Number (PIN), but the individual has no idea what is being agreed to or what has been accepted as there is no other accessibility built into the device. The industry is not making corrections to these devices in a manner acceptable to those with sight loss.

Blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted individuals in Canada are unable to protect themselves with new chip technology, unlike everyone else who simply takes their privacy for granted!

Are you aware that the banks and credit card companies void all protection from the card if the user gives the PIN to another individual so as to use a bank machine? Even family members are not exempt. If the transaction is entered incorrectly, there is no one with whom the user can contact to address the concern, which can lead to loss of funds and privacy.

In the fall, we sent a letter to the Canadian Banking Association expressing our concern for many blind Canadians about the increased use of touch screen point-of-sale devices. Because touch screen POS devices do not provide tactile or audio feedback to blind Canadians, it leaves one with several unacceptable options such as giving your PIN to a family member or friend or salesclerk to have it entered. 

Also, use of a credit card, which did not require entering a PIN and was thus a reasonably accessible alternative to debit, will no longer be a useable option as credit cards begin requiring PIN numbers to be entered at the time of purchase. Soon, all non-cash in-person transactions will require the customer to use a POS device, and unless these devices are accessible to blind citizens, such Canadians will be forced into making use of one of the unacceptable options listed above.

In this letter, we asked several questions such as

  • What is the Canadian Banking Association (CBA) currently doing to address this issue;
  • Is the CBA prepared to work with its members, manufacturers, and blind Canadians to ensure that all Canadians can take advantage of the convenience and security offered by the use of POS devices; and
  • What is the standard POS that CBA advises its members to use that addresses accessibility and usability of these devices as noted above?

There are two committees working on these concerns. AEBC has an internal committee headed by Charles Bailey, who gathers information and works in conjunction with another group headed by Jeff Stark in Ottawa. As this report is being prepared, a meeting will have been held, all the information consolidated, and a number of priority actions will have been agreed upon and initiated. Both committees addressing these concerns are fully supported by the AEBC and the National Coalition of Blind Rights Holder Organizations of Canada (CBRC).

You are asked to review the correspondence on our website concerning this issue and contact your bank, stores, MP, or anywhere that you are forced to give up your protection and privacy, by giving your PIN to another person or otherwise cannot complete a transaction independently! You are asked to take at least one independent action and let the AEBC know what you have done. If each one does this, it will make a difference, and that is how the AEBC can advocate and get accessibility and usability into point of sale devices.

CRTC

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians has been working closely with Media Access Canada, a non-profit organization, and Access 2020, a coalition of associations, organizations, producers, and individuals towards a 100-percent accessible content broadcast day by 2020. This means an incremental increase in described programming.

Over the past year, AEBC representatives participated at three separate CRTC hearings: 

  1. On September 22, 2010 in Calgary, Marc Workman represented AEBC at a CRTC hearing to consider Shaw Communications’ $2 billion bid to buy Canwest Global Communications Corp. The takeover would make Shaw Communications one of the largest companies in the telecommunications and broadcasting industries in Canada. Led by Media Access Canada, a non-profit organization, the AEBC, along with the CNIB, the Canadian Hearing Society, and the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, presented concerns over Shaw's failure to include increased access in its purchase proposal.
  2. Hearings in February, 2011 concerning BCE's proposed takeover of CTV, led to the establishment of a $5.7 million fund, and CRTC Chairman Conrad von Finckenstein directed BCE to come up with a clear plan to address the proposal of the Access 2020 Coalition for independent administration of this fund whose engineering, research, and educational work will ensure complete access by persons with disabilities to broadcasting and telecommunications by the year 2020.
  3. An area that continues to present great challenges to Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted is gaining full access to television broadcasting. In February 2011, John Rae appeared at the hearings in Gatineau, Quebec, on behalf of AEBC concerning license renewal applications from several of Canada's largest broadcasters. We again worked closely with the Access 2020 Coalition and CCD. All three organizations called for 100% access to television by the year 2020. We await the CRTC's decision on these license renewal applications which should be released within the next couple of weeks.

More CRTC work is ahead. The AEBC currently serves on committees that are examining other access issues such as access to television listings, flow through of described programming from the U.S., and ways to make it easier to access the described programming that is currently available. Additional license renewal applications are also expected later this year.

As an organization of rights holders, the AEBC believes in MAC's approach of an independent fund controlled by accessibility organizations, including strong participation from rights holder organizations like the AEBC, rather than a process run by the broadcasting sector alone. BCE was given a month to submit its proposal; however, its plan would see the establishment of a structure under Bell Canada. The CRTC will establish a process to provide the community with an opportunity to comment on Bell's proposal before a final decision is rendered.

AEBC supports an independent trust, controlled by organizations with disabilities, not BCE. We strongly request that if the CRTC decides to grant BCE's application to acquire CTV, at least $5.7 million be allocated to the Accessibility Initiative and not to a BCE broadcast fund.

Mobile Services and Technology - Bell

Bell has struck an advisory committee to develop a plan to increase the accessibility of mobile services and technology. The AEBC, represented by Marc Workman and several other disability advocacy organizations will sit on this committee. The first meeting is scheduled for the week of June 13, and at this meeting, the committee will agree on terms of reference, an action plan, and a consulting firm to do the bulk of the work in accordance with the direction set by the advisory committee. The committee will submit its plan to the CRTC by October 3.

Ghandi quoted: “If you want to change the world, be that change.”

Activities

We continue to submit briefs, make presentations, and raise our voices as we advocate and partner with our community and rights Holders. Our voice is being heard and we are recognized by all levels of government. 

More details can be found by visiting our web site: www.blindcanadians.ca

Communications

We have been talking at some length about communications and how we get information out to people. During 2010 we, with the leadership of Anthony Tibbs,  completely redesigned and re-launched our web site, blindcanadians.ca, making it much, much easier to find information you are looking for. Updates are now much easier. The site is integrated with a Twitter feed that people can follow to keep up to date on the latest changes. Members can receive updates by email whenever new content is posted. You can easily share interesting pages and articles through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

We are in the process of creating user accounts for everyone who is a member. If you haven't received a password yet you will, or you can create your own account in the meantime. Just send us an email at info@blindcanadians.ca to let us know you've done that so we can update your membership information. AEBC still needs help from you though. We'll talk about this some more in the social media workshop, but we need to know what is going on. If you're in a chapter, we need to know what your chapter is doing so we can post that and tell the world. Your chapter has a place on the website to post information, too. Get in touch with us for more information.

Becoming Focused

At the 2010 AGM, our members decided that AEBC should become more focused in regards to advocacy issues. You, our members, chose three main areas: (1) Website access; (2) Point of Sale (PIN and Card); and (3) Library.

Our focus has been narrowed and our advocacy continues. Your active volunteerism is important on each of these focused areas and only with your voice and activism can we expect great changes.

“An active Volunteer is like a catalyst that mixes with their community and inspires empowerment.” Robin East

Conclusion

Maintaining our rights in a time of volunteerism is becoming more and more difficult. As we consider the systemic barriers and issues that plague our everyday lives it is hard to decide which battle to choose. As we juggle family, work, and play we find that some of the issues we battled a decade or two or three ago keep coming back. It seems sometimes that we have not gained any ground and that the advocacy we have done has failed.

In fact, from time to time this may seem what is occurring but in reality changes have been made. If you review our web site you will find a number of ways of which one can communicate messages via Twitter or blogs. Technology in itself has changed our lives. If you consider the struggles students were faced with twenty, thirty, and forty years ago to the struggles now, some of the issues remain the same like access to books in a timely manner. However, the overall access to information is overwhelming.

If you consider gaining access to government programs and services there have been changes from the old style of communication of paper pamphlets and telephone services to now a wealth of information on web sites. This with international accessibility and usability guidelines and our own Donna Jodhan’s court case we find that government information, programs, and services will become more accessible and useable than ever before.

Consider the stigma of the white cane and how the attitude has changed from pity to indifference from the public. This is because more and more we are in the public face by doing our own shopping, travelling, participating in community, working, and volunteering. We in fact, are becoming more and more visible and as such, are becoming more invisible to negative attitudes. Please review the collection of Personal Successes: Unlimited Potential stories we have compiled found on our web site www.blindcanadians.ca.

How would you define success in your own life? This is a very individual question, and there are many different answers, both large and small.

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians collected success stories from blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted Canadians. These success stories were on any topic, whether on employment, community involvement or conquering your own personal goals. Most importantly, these success stories differ from others that tend to reinforce the "superhero" notion of disability by highlighting the often simple and realistic techniques we employ to complete everyday tasks and achieve our goals.

First published in fall 2010, we hope that this collection of stories will, on the one hand, educate the public by painting a more realistic image of blindness, and on the other, encourage those who have recently experienced vision loss to work towards their goals.

It is each of you that speak out to gain or maintain a right that has helped foster this change not only in the attitudes of the public towards persons that are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted but our own attitudes about us.

We cannot expect government to assist us in maintaining our rights. We must do it ourselves. They are our rights and we must use our voice and our collective voices to maintain and gain rights. We must continue to do this in our everyday actions and in our active role of being a volunteer. Last year at our AGM you would have heard the following: “An AEBC member is a rights-holder that 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, in 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 that we face.

Our rights and our future are in your hands. What have you done personally to help maintain or move disability rights forward? Only you can answer this truthfully and it is my hope and desire that each of you has raised your hand and made a difference.

Indeed our rights and our future are in your hands! It is you, through volunteerism, who will maintain and grow our rights. So continue to be an active volunteer and continue to encourage others to become an advocate. Your voice is our voice and through this collective, we can affect change by maintaining our rights in this time of volunteerism.

Robin East

National President

6. NEWS RELEASES

a. ALLIANCE FOR EQUALITY OF BLIND CANADIANS ELECTS FIRST WOMAN AS ITS NEW NATIONAL PRESIDENT

June 1, 2011

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), a national organization of Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted has elected Donna Jodhan as its new National President in this, its nineteenth year as an advocacy organization.

"This is humbling and a great honor for me," says Jodhan, who brings to this new office a wealth of experience as a fighter for human rights and recently the Right Holder who has taken the Government down and won her case on government website accessibility.

“We are in good hands”, says Robin East, Past President, “and I have full confidence in Jodhan's abilities to lead our organization.”

Some of the priorities Jodhan sees for the organization over the next two years are:

  • Work to increase advocacy and make the voice of blind, deaf blind and visually impaired Canadians heard;
  • Increase communication between our National board, local chapters, and AEBC members;
  • Work to establish new local chapters across Canada;
  • Cooperate and collaborate with other advocacy organizations to guarantee equal opportunities for all Canadians;
  • Ensure Point of Sale devices are accessible to all Canadians;
  • Increase web site accessibility both Federally and Provincially;
  • Continue to work with the Provinces and Elections Canada to improve election access for blind, deaf blind and visually impaired Canadians; and
  • Encourage young blind, deaf blind and visually impaired Canadians to participate in the advocacy work of AEBC .

"As rights holders, we seek participation in the development and delivery of all programs and services that affect our lives," said Jodhan.

b. BLIND OUTRAGED OVER GOVERNMENT APPEAL OF ACCESS DECISION

January 17, 2011

Blind Canadians are outraged over the federal government's decision to file an appeal regarding the federal court decision that was handed down by Justice Kelen on November 29, 2010 regarding a charter challenge filed by Donna Jodhan of Toronto.

"I and other blind Canadians were elated by the ruling in this important access decision," said Robin East, President of the nationwide Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. "But now we are outraged by the government's decision to appeal this landmark decision," added East.

The court found in favor of Ms. Jodhan and gave the government 15 months to meet its legal responsibilities to make its websites accessible.  The court also took the unusual, though not unprecedented, and unfortunately all too necessary step of including a provision in the decision whereby the court would monitor the Government's compliance with the ruling.

"Why is the federal government that talks a lot about improving access and helping to bring Canadians with disabilities into the mainstream about to waste additional thousands of dollars of taxpayers dollars fighting against that same access that was ordered in the Jodhan case?" asks East. "Why isn't it going to use this money to make access to government information a reality for all, as was ordered by the court decision?

c. BLIND CANADIANS TO MEET IN BRANTFORD, MAY 20-22

May 6, 2011

The national conference of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) will take place this year at the Best Western Brant Park Conference Centre, 19 Holiday Drive, in Brantford, Ontario, May 20-22, 2011.

"We are excited the AEBC chose Brantford for this year's meeting," says Bob brown, President of AEBC's Brant Chapter.

This year's conference will include displays of technology on Friday afternoon, a President's Report on the past year's activities, and discussions of Election access, Filing Human Rights Complaints, the use of social media by blind persons, working with the CRTC to increase television access, and the election of a new Board.

"These days, we continue to work on removing old barriers to our participation in all aspects of community life, like the recent federal election," says John Rae, the AEBC's First Vice President, "but a growing amount of our work must focus on preventing the introduction of new ones in the areas of access to websites, television, and household products.

7. PRESENTATIONS AND CORRESPONDENCE

a. LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA – PUBLICLY FUNDED LIBRARY SYSTEM

When no response was received from Michel Grenier, Director General of Library and Archives Canada regarding publicly funded library system for the blind and print-disabled communities, a letter was prepared by Robin East on behalf of the Coalition of Organizations of Blind, Deaf-Blind, and Partially-Sighted Rights Holders of Canada. The following is excerpts from that letter dated March 17, 2011 that was emailed to the Prime Minister, all MPs, and all disability offices for which the AEBC has contact information.

SUBJECT:     PUBLICLY-FUNDED LIBRARY SYSTEM FOR THE BLIND, DEAF-BLIND, PARTIALLY-SIGHTED, AND PRINT-DISABLED COMMUNITY

This follow-up letter is being sent on behalf of the Coalition of Organizations of Blind, Deaf-Blind, and Partially-Sighted Rights Holders of Canada (CBRC). The CBRC is comprised of several national organizations that advocate for the full inclusion and equal participation of all blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted Canadians.

We are writing to you with respect to the announcement that was made on February 23, 2011 in which the CNIB announced that they had received interim funding from the Federal Government for the sum of 7 million dollars. Whereas this announcement signified that the CNIB would have enough funds to keep its library open for at least the next year, it certainly did not address the matter of having the library fall under the umbrella of a non-governmental organization.

We are openly shocked at this latest action on the part of the Government and are most confused as to what it plans to do in the long run with regard to the provision of library services to print disabled Canadians.

As stated in our previous letter of January 27, a great deal of effort was carried out by member organizations of CBRC with respect to the development of a report that detailed how a non-governmental organization would function in the framework of providing library services to the print disabled. We are now demanding that you provide us with details on how much was spent on the development and completion of this report. It is clear that you and the Cabinet have rejected this report for unknown reasons or rationale.

Further, we would appreciate a copy of this report at your earliest convenience. The member organizations of CBRC have worked long and hard in providing critical information in the development of a publically funded library system. We will point out to you once again that we are the only G8 country not to have this vitally important publically run and administered library system in place for persons with print disabilities.

We do not want to beg for books from a charity. We do expect though, to be respected and to be dignified with equal provisions of library services that the vast majority of Canadians take for granted.

We are certain that we do not have to remind you that we are to be acknowledged as full and equal citizens and that the Government of Canada has a duty and an obligation to address systemic barriers to ensure that we are indeed, treated equally under the Constitution of Canada. The library system we have been working on would have seen this through partnerships throughout the different levels of government.

It is time to put in place an appropriate publically funded library system so we can hold our heads high when we borrow a book instead of constantly being reminded that we are not equal and full citizens of Canada every time we read a book. It is time to do the right thing and create a publically funded library system that we, persons with print disabilities, should take for granted.

Sincerely,

Coalition of Organizations of Blind, Deaf-Blind, and Partially-Sighted Rights Holders of Canada

Robin East, Chair

Member Organizations:

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

Canadian Blind Sports Association

Canadian Council of the Blind

Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind

Guide Dog Users of Canada

cc Mr. Stuart Campbell, Director General, IELA, Library and Archives Canada

All Canadian Members of Parliament

The Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper

b. BELL CANADA’S DEFERRAL ACCOUNT PROPOSAL

Communication is ongoing with Robin Morin, Secretary General of CRTC concerning a number of issues. Following is a brief submitted by Robin East in response to Bell Canada’s deferral account proposal to improve the accessibility of mobile devices and services sent March 3, 2011.

BRIEF (March 7, 2011):

BELL CANADA: 8678-B2-201100594 - BELL CANADA'S DEFERRAL ACCOUNT PROPOSAL TO IMPROVE THE ACCESSIBILITY OF MOBILE DEVICES AND SERVICES

I am writing on behalf of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians in connection with Bell Canada's proposal to use deferral account funds to improve the accessibility of Bell's mobile devices and services (the mobility proposal). The AEBC is a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted whose work involves improving attitudes and providing input on public policy issues that are of importance to members of our community. As such, Bell Canada's proposal is of considerable interest to our membership.

Representatives of the AEBC met with Mr. Bill Abbott and colleagues on December 10, 2010 to discuss the proposal, and were subsequently provided with a written outline of the proposal for our review. We have received the documents concerning a variety of questions that were posed to Bell, and are pleased to provide our comments.

We believe the involvement of key stakeholders and accessibility experts in the ongoing activities of the mobility proposal will help to ensure that it results in ongoing improvements to accessibility within Bell. This can best be achieved by

  1. Ensuring meaningful involvement of organizations of rights holders like the AEBC, that are made up of persons with disabilities who know best our own needs and aspirations, and who have the right to speak on our behalf; and
  2. By expanding the number of persons with disabilities working for Bell, so that the company develops an increased range of ongoing and internal expertise that will better support ongoing work on accessibility.

The applicant proposes extensive expenditures, including contracting with some external consultants. We believe some funds must be set aside to assist rights holder organizations to provide the level of ongoing input and consultations that are expected during this project. It is not reasonable for Bell to pay external consultants to perform some of the needed work, and expect ongoing free consulting services from the disabled community.

The AEBC believes that all requests for proposals to help with the work outlined in the proposal must not only expect demonstrable knowledge about accessibility for persons with disabilities, but in addition, each bidder should be required to include as part of its team one or more individuals who have a disability, so that some members of the disability community gain employment from these initiatives.

The AEBC believes that the focus on web tools, marketing, life cycle management, procurement, and needs assessment can be useful. We are particularly interested in the applicant's plan to develop a new method for Bell staff to assist customers in determining which products will best meet their needs. This aspect sounds innovative and is designed to improve customer service and customer satisfaction. However, at the same time, we are concerned by the length of time the applicant believes is required to develop and implement this new approach which sounds overly lengthy and costly.

The second part of Bell Canada's proposal, provided in the appendices, contains the detailed estimated costs associated with the introduction of these products and services and is being filed in confidence, pursuant to section 39 of the Telecommunications Act. As a result, the AEBC is unable to comment in detail on this aspect, but we are concerned by both the length of time involved and the amount of funds that will be used internally by the applicant.

In conclusion, the AEBC commends Bell Canada for its proposal, and, at the same time, we wish to remind the applicant that persons with disabilities are customers and, as such, we have the right to expect significant moves towards full access of all telecommunication services and programming. The AEBC looks forward to continuing to collaborate on these and other initiatives that Bell Canada may propose that will expand access to their products and services for Canadians with various disabilities.

cc Bill Abbott, Senior Counsel - Regulatory Law, Bell Canada

Bell Canada responded to Robert Morin of the CRTC on March 23, 2011 with the following letter sent to all who communicated with them concerning this issue:

1. On 18 January 2011, Bell Canada (or the Company) filed a deferral account proposal with the Commission to improve the accessibility of mobile devices and services. A key part of that proposal was the creation of an Advisory Committee. The Terms of Reference of the Advisory Committee accompanied the Company’s proposal.

2. The Company indicated to Commission staff that it would provide a list of groups that have agreed to participate on the Advisory Committee. The list of groups that have confirmed their participation, together with the proposed representative, is set out below:

Alliance for Equality for Blind Canadians Marc Workman

Canadian Association of the Deaf TBD

Canadian Hard of Hearing Association Dr. Charles Laszlo

Canadian Hearing Society Jim Hardman

Canadian National Institute of the Blind Bill McKeown

Centre québécois de la déficience auditive Monique Therrien

Media Access Canada TBD

Neil Squire Society Gary Birch

Ontario Association of the Deaf Dean Walker

3. The Company would like to thank the groups listed above for agreeing to participate on the Advisory Committee. Bell Canada looks forward to working collaboratively with the Advisory Committee if and when the proposal is approved by the Commission.

Yours truly,

Bill Abbott

Senior Counsel - Regulatory Law

c.c.: Mary-Louise Hayward, CRTC

Martine Vallee, CRTC

Distribution list as per CRTC letter dated 8 February 2011

 

c. TERMINATION OF THE TALKING YELLOW PAGES SERVICE IN TORONTO

On March 16, 2011, Richard Quan, President of the Toronto Chapter of AEBC sent the following letter to Marc Tellier, President, Yellow Pages Group:

I am writing to you as President of the Toronto Chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, (AEBC), concerning a distressing matter which has been brought to our attention on a number of occasions. As a means of introduction, the AEBC is a community driven consumer-based advocacy organization that strives to give a voice to those individuals who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted on issues relating to access and inclusion.

Over the past several months, we have received a number of telephone inquiries from upset individuals in the Toronto area about the cancellation of the “Talking Yellow Pages” service. It is our understanding that, when the service was up and running, individuals could call without charge (416) 310 (YELO) to access yellow page information. An individual, for example, could be given a list including the contact information for local plumbers if he/she did not know them by name by simply stating the desired service sought. In this way, your service gave people who otherwise could not have read your publication, in print or on the computer over the internet, the same or similar access to useful information. Without your service, apparently there is no way of accessing a random search for listings of interest by telephone.

When you terminated your telephone service in Toronto, we believe that an important segment of society was abandoned. Individuals who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted who do not use a computer are obviously and immediately affected. With an aging population and a corresponding increase in vision loss, this group is conceivably larger than what one can surmise from a cursory glance. The effect of the service cancellation goes beyond the obvious however; as it was a service that provided access by voice and not through the printed medium, its cessation affected, without a doubt, people who have literacy difficulties as well.

On behalf of those people who relied on your “Talking Yellow Pages” service, I urge you to reconsider your decision prompting its cancellation. From the inquiries that we have received, it played an important role in people’s lives. Not everyone has access to the printed word; others do not know how to use a computer; sadly enough, there are many who do not have access to either. It is for all of these people who found your service useful and necessary that I am asking you to reconsider your decision and reinstate the service. It would seem odd for a company whose goal it is to find new markets for its subscribers to consciously shut out a whole segment of society.

Thank you in advance for considering the concerns that we have raised herein. I hope to hear from you soon about a possible solution. If you need any further information or wish to discuss this matter further, feel free to contact me at any time

Yours truly,

Richard Quan

[Chapter] President

cc: Ivana Petriccone, Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre

d. ONTARIO MINISTRY OF COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES RE: CUTS TO INTERVENER SERVICES

On March 18, 2011, John Rae sent a letter to Madeleine Meilleur, the Minister of Community and Social Services concerning proposed cuts to intervener services for deaf-blind Ontarians. Please find the letter below:

SUBJECT: PROPOSED CUTS TO INTERVENER SERVICES FOR DEAF-BLIND ONTARIANS

I am writing on behalf of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted, to express our deep shock and full opposition to any proposed cuts to intervener services for deaf-blind Ontarians. These services are critical for their participation in all aspects of life, and rather than imposing cuts, the Ontario Government should be increasing the availability of these services which are truly "essential services" for this group of Ontarians.

Interveners help individuals who are deaf-blind to communicate, at a doctor's office, at a bank, in a restaurant, and at home.

Intervener services are one of the most critical services the Ontario Government offers. Consider what your life would be like if you could neither hear or see! Your life would be quite different.

It is for these reasons the AEBC demands the Ontario Government reconsider any cuts to this critical service, and ensure current levels are either maintained or increased.

Please respond via e-mail, text, not PDF, as I am blind and use a screen reader.

Sincerely,

John Rae

First Vice President

cc Michael Prue

Joe Fiorita

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario

e. ONTARIO MINISTRY OF COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES RE: STRENGTHENING THE PROPOSED INTEGRATED ACCESSIBILTY REGULATION UNDER THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT 2005

John Rae submitted this brief March 23, 2011 to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Please find the details of the brief below.

A Brief Submitted to the Ministry of Community and Social Services

Submitted by: Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour l'Égalité des Personnes Aveugles du Canada (AEBC)

March 2011

INTRODUCTION

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is pleased to provide feedback on the Ontario Government's February 1, 2011 draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation, which is designed to remove old barriers and prevent the introduction of new ones facing people with disabilities in transportation, employment, and in information and communications. In preparing this submission, the AEBC is proud to have worked closely with the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance (the AODA Alliance) and with Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO). We have also reviewed the submission from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), and the AEBC endorses generally the submissions of these three organizations for amendments to the draft Regulation which we believe are needed to strengthen it. We will, therefore, focus our comments on a number of issues that are of particular importance to the blind and deaf-blind communities.

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted, who have come together to speak for ourselves. Our work focuses on improving public attitudes, and to influence the direction of legislation, programs, and public policy across Canada. The AEBC is active in Ontario. For background on the work and philosophy of the AEBC, please visit our improved website, www.blindcanadians.ca.

MAKING THE REGULATION MORE EFFECTIVE

In summary, there are some useful provisions in this regulation. However, it is too weak, its proposed time lines are far too long, and it desperately needs substantial amendment and strengthening, as it falls very far short of existing requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC), and where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as provisions contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), which we believe must also be considered in drafting this Regulation.

The AODA was enacted to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible by the year 2025. At the time it was enacted, many groups including the AEBC stated this timeline was far too long, and we hold to that belief.

The Act was expressly designed to take a very different approach, to bring together representatives from the disabled community, obligated sectors and governments to work collaboratively to achieve the Act's goals. This Act was, and still is, intended to result in proactive and wide-ranging systemic change, to alleviate the past and present need for the disabled community to approach organizations from the various obligated sectors one by one, or take complaints to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal one at a time. As presently written, we do not believe this Regulation will achieve the legislated goal of ensuring Ontario is fully accessible by 2025.

The AEBC also believes the principles of universal design must guide the development of all facets of this Regulation. This is particularly important in the areas of procurement of goods, equipment, and technology, and the setting of World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for websites. Based on the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AEBC believes that all new equipment, including kiosks, must be usable by all, and that the Ontario government must set WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the standard, so that organizations will advance quicker towards accessibility of websites, and avoid needless OHRT complaints and training of their staff twice on different levels of accessibility.

What we continue to see, however, is push back from obligated sectors. Too often they contend the AODA imposes significant new requirements on them. But they are wrong!

What they seem to have forgotten, or are choosing to ignore altogether is that, while the AODA may spell out more specifics, the legal obligation to provide "equal treatment: in the provision of goods, services, employment and accommodations short of undue hardship” is contained in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which has covered persons with a wide range of disabilities since way back in the early 1980s. The AODA also expressly states that the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code prevail, as they must, since that statute includes primacy over all other statutes unless an exception is included. To give lengthy time lines to comply, in our view, takes away from existing OHRC requirements and thus contravenes the Code.

In short, if any of the obligated sectors have failed to respond to their requirements, it is not our fault, and it is time they stopped blaming us. It is time obligated sectors stopped making excuses, acknowledged their legal, moral, and business obligations, and got on with the job of making Ontario truly accessible. It is also time for the Ontario Government to step up its educational and information programs concerning the development and statutory requirements of the AODA. Achieving the elusive goal of full access is a move that would make this Province the envy of persons with disabilities worldwide, and will enable Ontario's private sector to create many new opportunities, both within Ontario and abroad.

BUSINESS BENEFITS OF ACCESSIBILITY

If ever any of the obligated sectors truly doubted the benefits of implementing true accessibility, the case was made yet again, this time by the Martin Prosperity Institute In June 2010, when it issued a report called, "Releasing Constraints: Projecting the Economic Impacts of Increased Accessibility in Ontario.” It outlined the enormous potential for economic growth if accessibility is addressed:

  1. An accessible Ontario attracts more tourism, more business and becomes a destination of choice for business, commerce, residents, and travelers; 
  2. Accessible businesses have an edge over their competition, claiming higher market shares; and
  3. Accessible workplaces mean more people will be able to work, return to work or continue working. This means fewer people will need to rely on public financial aid (such as the Ontario Disability Support Program) and will be able to pay a higher share of taxes as wage earners.

With the above clearly in mind, the AEBC fully supports the framework for strengthening this Standard in the AODA Alliance's brief:

  1. Strengthening the actions that organizations must take to become accessible;
  2. Shortening time lines;
  3. Reducing overbroad exemptions and exceptions from providing accessibility; and
  4. Ensuring that people with disabilities have a voice in proceedings taken to enforce this regulation.

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES

Setting the threshold within the private sector at fifty (50) employees excludes a very large percentage of Ontario organizations. We therefore recommend that an additional level be set of twenty-five (25) employees; and when calculating the number of employees in an organization, it must include the number of full time employees in that organization as well as consultants and those working in related, jointly operated, or co-managed organizations.

EFFECTIVENESS OF ACCESSIBILITY PLANS

The Regulation must make it crystal clear that an organization that is required to develop an accessibility plan must not merely develop a plan, but must also take concrete steps to implement its content, review and update it on a regular basis, and to demonstrate the organization is making real progress towards achieving full accessibility.

We therefore recommend that: Section 4(1)(c) be amended to read: "Review and update the accessibility plan at least once every three years and thereafter to implement, maintain and document it as updated."

ACCESSIBLE WEBSITES AND WEB CONTENT

The AEBC believes that, in this technological age, it is critical for all Ontarians to be able to access information independently and in the timeliest manner. For computer users, this is most usually achieved via the internet. Therefore, the AEBC believes that obligated organizations must make their websites fully accessible and usable as soon as possible through WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards at Level AA.

14 (1.) Obligated organizations shall make their internet and intranet websites and web content conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, at Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this Regulation.

Some of the timelines under Section 14 for making new and existing websites and their content accessible are much too long, given the fast-paced change of technology. For example, by the time organizations that have ten (10) years to implement WCAG 2.0 Level AA accessibility, the world of technology will be far different than it is in 2011, and this Regulation must provide for these future changes and advances in technology.

Lengthy timelines are also inconsistent with the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and with the November 2010 Federal Court decision in Jodhan vs. Canada, which called for website accessibility compliance for federal government departments "within 15 months.”

While organizations do refresh their websites at different times, the timeline should also apply within the same fifteen (15) month period to new websites or refresh of existing websites, as well as new content and software applications posted to websites. This will further the elimination of old barriers, and will help prevent the development of new ones.

The AEBC does not support any two-staged approach that would mandate Level A for a period of time, then moving to Level AA later on, as this would require organizations to conduct different kinds of training twice.

KIOSKS

We are currently seeing a proliferation of the range and number of devices that can be lumped under the terms "kiosks" or "point of sale" devices. They include machines in museums where information is provided to visitors, ticket outlets, and to expedite the check-in process at airport terminals, in addition to a growing number of other point-of-sale devices where patrons purchase a variety of products.

These devices often create new barriers, as they are too often operated by flat screen, touch pads that do not provide tactile access or voice output. Thus, a blind patron must often provide their PIN number to a staff member; and contracts with most financial institutions provide that the customer is fully responsible for any such charges that may appear on their statements.

The AEBC therefore recommends that:

  1. The definition of "kiosk" under section 6.5 must be expanded to clarify that it includes a broad range of devices such as point-of-sale technology;
  2. Section 5 require the Government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly, and designated public sector organizations to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services, or facilities and that Section 6 sets out additional requirements for self-service kiosks; and
  3. All requirements under Sections 5 and 6 should apply to all classes of organizations including large and small private organizations, on a phased in schedule if necessary. Otherwise, weak or non-existent procurement requirements will only create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones.

EMPLOYMENT

Despite the OHRC's “Duty to Accommodate Policy,” issued many years ago, and reinforced numerous times in Canadian jurisprudence, the overall unemployment rate for persons with disabilities, including Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted has improved only slightly over the past twenty years.

The world of work has changed dramatically over that time, and is likely to continue to change. The current prediction is that most workers will hold several jobs, or even pursue several careers during their working lifetime poses a new barrier on persons with any disability, as on average, it takes us longer to obtain employment in the first place.

About 20 years ago, technology was expected to become our great leveller, and while it has made it possible for persons with disabilities to pursue some jobs that were previously unattainable, attitudes, the built environment, and new barriers in technology still prevent the vast majority of Ontarians with disabilities from achieving full-time, gainful employment.

Thus, it is imperative that this Regulation reinforce existing policies and law, and not denigrate in any way from what is currently required by the Ontario Human Rights Code.

PLAIN LANGUAGE VERSION OF THE REGULATION

It is critical that all Ontarians, whether community members or employed in an obligated sector, have a version of the Regulation that is clear and fully understandable. This is essential so there will be no misunderstanding of its requirements, and so community members will be clear on what recourse exists when, and if, an organization fails to take concrete steps to make its operations fully accessible.

CONCLUSION

The purpose of any Regulation is to support the statutory requirements contained in the Act under which it is issued. The Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act was designed to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, and if this Regulation is to significantly advance that goal, it must be strengthened and its requirements made clearer.

f. ACCESSIBILITY CONCERNS IN ESQUIMALT, BC

On April 13, 2011, Charles Bailey, President of the AEBC – BC Affiliate wrote to Ms. Emese Szucs, Manager of Accessibility Programs, SPARC BC regarding the AEBC’s ongoing concerns over accessibility in Esquimalt, BC. Please see the details of this letter below:

Thank you once again for your prompt response to our concerns over some accessibility issues in the Esquimalt area, where blind and partially sighted persons are concerned. In reviewing your initial report, and your reply to our concerns, we have concluded that it would be best for our organization, the AEBC, to address these few issues with the parties in question, rather than again involving SPARC BC.

I would like to once again offer our assistance with respect to assessments of accessibility, concerning the blind and partially sighted, should you wish it.

Regards,

Charles Bailey

President

AEBC-BC Affiliate

g. TACTILE MARKINGS ON PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS

John Rae contacted Universal Braille Dots Inc. on April 25, 2011 in response to their request for support from the AEBC concerning tactile markings on pharmaceutical products across Canada. Please find a summary of the communication below.

We in the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour l'égalité des personnes aveugles du Canada (AEBC) are pleased to join in calling for the introduction of tactile markings on pharmaceutical products across Canada.

The AEBC is a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted who have come together to speak for ourselves. The work of the AEBC focuses on improving public attitudes and providing input on public policy issues affecting members of our community. For further background on the philosophy and work of the AEBC, please visit our website at: www.blindcanadians.ca.

As a 2002 article from the Korea Herald (reproduced below), "Braille medicine labels introduced in Korea," indicates such an approach was being introduced in that nation back in 2002.

The AEBC believes in measures that will enhance the independence and quality of life of all Canadians, including those of us who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted, and we believe that tactile markings on pharmaceutical products would increase the independence and safety of all of us who cannot read the small print on medicine labels.

John Rae

1st Vice President

BRAILLE MEDICINE LABELS INTRODUCED IN KOREA

Korea Herald, February 2, 2002

Two pharmaceutical firms will begin selling medicines with Braille labels for the first time in Korea, officials with the Ministry of Health and Welfare said yesterday.

Officials said Aronamin Gold, a multivitamin, and Optgent, a brand of eye drops, will be available with the Braille labels at the end of the month.

Ildong Pharmaceutical Co. and Samil Pharm. Co., the manufactures of Aronamin Gold and Optgent, respectively, will bear the between 9 and 30 won in additional costs for the use of Braille. In the case of Ildong Pharm., the new packaging is expected to cost the firm about 60 million won per year.

The adoption of Braille by the pharmaceutical firms came about as the ministry and organizations for visually handicapped people sought cooperation from the pharmaceutical industry.

According to the Korea Blind Union, which represents 250,000 visually handicapped people in Korea, misuse of medicines among visually disabled people is prevalent.

The organization's survey of 324 visually handicapped people in 2000 showed that 27.6 percent had misused medicines due to inability to read the labels, and 4.3 percent of those had to be hospitalized.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it is determined to make efforts to encourage pharmaceutical firms to expand the use of Braille on medicine labels, not only those frequently used by visually handicapped people such as eye drops and insulin, but also more common medicines, such as those used in the treatment of inflammations and ulcers.

The ministry recently implemented a revised pharmaceutical law that includes a clause encouraging the use of Braille on the labels of medicinal products.

An official of the Korea Blind Union said the adoption of Braille by pharmaceutical firms will do more than help blind people in everyday life.

"We expect the occasion to help the general public gain deeper understanding for visually handicapped people by coming across Braille letters," the official said.

h. PURSUING EQUAL RIGHTS

This article is reprinted with permission after appearing in the May 22, 2011 issue of Brant News concerning Robin East, former president of the AEBC.

National Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians president Robin East.

Photographer: Jason Teakle

by Jason Teakle

Brant News, May 22, 2011

Pursuing more rights for visually impaired Canadians was the focus of a conference held in Brantford over the weekend.

The national conference of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians took place at the Best Western Brant Park Inn, bringing members from across the country to the city.

"We're making sure the rights that we don't have get put in place," alliance president Robin East said during an interview. "We are celebrating the fact that when we advocate, it is for members of the community as well as ourselves."

East said there are several goals left to achieve that will improve the rights of blind Canadians.

"Things people take for granted every day are a challenge for us," he said.

East said one concern is blind pedestrians crossing streets without audible walk signals.

"We need sound signals at all crosswalks," he said. "When you are only using your ears to cross, it is important to have a sound signal."

East said another priority is to have publicly funded library services that are accessible to the visually impaired. He said the Canadian National Institute for the Blind currently funds accessible library services.

"We want a publicly funded library so we have the same rights as everyone else," he said.

Local Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians chapter president Bob Brown said the weekend conference brought people who share common concerns together.

"This weekend is about bringing people together to further the aims and directions of those who are blind, have low-vision or are deaf-blind," Brown said.

The conference included displays of technology, a president's report on alliance activities, discussions about elections access, filing human rights complaints, the use of social media by the visually impaired, working with the CRTC to increase television access and the election of a new board.

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians is a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind and partially-sighted. The organization focuses on public awareness and providing input on the development of new products, programs, and legislation.

http://www.brantnews.com/news.cfm?page=news&section=read&articleId=10611

 i. ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY AND PRODUCTS

This letter was sent to the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture) and the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario) from newly-elected President, Donna Jodhan, on May 30, 2011. Following is the details of that communication.

As the newly elected President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), I would like to begin by congratulating you on your appointment to Canada's new Cabinet.

The AEBC is a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted, who have joined together to work together to improve our overall quality of life, and to remove existing barriers and prevent the introduction of new ones.

Two areas of great importance to members of the AEBC are access to technology and products.

Today, the pace of technological change moves at an ever quickening pace, and too often the needs of blind persons are overlooked or ignored. More products are now operated by digital menus or flat screens, which are difficult or impossible for a person who cannot see to independently operate.

The Canadian economy needs to include all individuals, including members of the disabled community.

The AEBC believes that much more needs to be done to encourage developers and manufacturers of new technology and products to include the needs of all Canadians, including those of us who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted.

The AEBC would appreciate the opportunity to participate in dialogues with you or your officials on these subjects, which directly impact the independence of members of our community.

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Sincerely,

Donna Jodhan

President

END of June 2011 Activity Report