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The Equalizer: August 2021

Welcome to the twelfth issue of the Equalizer!

How did you like this issue?

Please send replies to, along with your letters to the editor, or any other written submissions you would like us to consider publishing in a future issue.

Your Editorial Committee:

Devon Wilkins Hilton Schwartz John Rae Linda Bartram Peter Field Minette Samaroo Publisher: Marcia Yale

From The President’s Residence

I can hardly believe that the 2021 Annual General Meeting is just around the corner! It seems like just yesterday when I sent out my first message as your National President, and here we are coming up to elections again!

Yes, our AGM is in less than three weeks, from noon to 4:00 p.m. Eastern on August 28 and 29, and registration is still moving slowly. Please come join us and help shape your organization! Click here to register before 11:59 p.m. Pacific on August 21!

At last year’s AGM, members passed Resolution 2020-04—Restructuring AEBC. Although I have nothing significant to report, due to delays caused by the new normal of the pandemic, I can tell you that initial contact has been made with a group of students at Carleton University, and we are confident they will begin work on a work plan in September. If you have always wanted to play a lead role in a task such as this, stay tuned for news about a new opportunity to do just that.

There will be many exciting opportunities to revitalize AEBC in the coming months, and I will be there, working along with all of you towards a better and more sustainable organization. I look forward to the next phase of our lives and know it will be successful, as long as there is passion and the will to make a difference.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your President and I look forward to continuing to do so, at the will of the membership. Marcia Yale National President

Self-Advocacy Workshop That Everyone Has Been Looking For!

By Minette Samaroo Save the Date: Upcoming Self-Advocacy Workshops in October and November Have you always wanted to “Stand Up and Speak Out” for your rights as a person with a disability but don’t know how? In keeping with AEBC’s advocacy mandate, a series of self-advocacy workshops is scheduled for the beginning of October through to mid-November. Using the “Stand Up! Speak Out!” training document, the workshop instructor, Brandon Schiafone, will prepare and deliver four interactive advocacy workshops – which will include: break-out rooms, role playing, homework exercises between sessions and resources after each workshop.

Workshop topics include: Introduction to Self-Advocacy, Advocacy Letters, Phone Calls, and Action Plans, Effective Communication and Problem Solving and Using the Media as an Advocacy Tool. The first workshop is set to begin October 2 with the second on October 16, the third on October 30, and the final workshop on November 13, from 1-3 PM Eastern. These advocacy workshops are designed to equip our members with the tools and skills necessary to become more confident and effective in our advocacy efforts. Therefore, everyone is encouraged to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. Details on how to sign up will be sent out in September.

AEBC National Board: Are We Ready For A Federal Election?

By John Rae Federal election fever seems to be in the air. Mary Simon was installed as Canada’s 30th Governor General. The media tells us to expect the writ to be dropped soon, the act that triggers the start of the campaign.

But already federal parties are busy. They are raising money, nominating candidates, and developing their platform promises and issuing statements. This campaign will likely unfold quite differently. If the election is called soon, it will take place while the Covid-19 pandemic is still a reality in our lives. It will be far more difficult, if not impossible to hold in-person all-candidates meetings in constituencies across the country. It could make door to door canvassing more difficult. And what issues are uppermost on your minds –employment, fighting poverty, accessible and affordable housing, transportation, the environment, or something else? Are you ready to question candidates on what disability-related planks are contained in each party’s platform?

As part of the 2021 Budget speech, Finance Minister Freeland stated: “If COVID has taught us anything, it's that we're all in this together. Our country cannot prosper if we leave hundreds of thousands of Canadians behind. The world has learned the lesson of 2009 – the cost of allowing economic hardship to fester. In some countries, democracy itself has been threatened by that mistake. We will not let that happen in Canada.” Will the issues of greatest concern to blind and otherwise disabled Canadians be discussed by parties and their leaders during the upcoming campaign? Will a question on a disability-related topic be asked during leaders’ debates, or will we and our issues be largely ignored again? Be prepared to raise your concerns when candidates call seeking your vote.

Accessible Elections? Gains in Theory, Not Necessarily in Practice - Let’s Try to Change This

By Linda Bartram We have been hearing for what seems like months now, that a federal election is imminent. On May 29th 2021, an Accessible Elections town hall was held where we heard about what disabled voters can expect. I do not plan to feature the content of this presentation as I have yet to read the report, but rather a concept I posed during the discussion, and my follow-up as a consequence of Elections Canada’s response.

I know I am not alone in experiencing less than satisfactory access to private and independent voting even though this should have been seamless given the provisions which should be in place at each polling station, at least for Braille readers. Although a tactile template and Braille list of candidates have been technically available for several years now, their availability on the day is hit and miss, as is the poll workers understanding of how to accommodate a blind voter. Due to the limited amount of time dedicated to this topic in the poll worker training, this is not surprising. We could probably fill an Equalizer issue alone sharing the frustrating voting challenges, I and others have experienced over the years. But back to the Town hall. After describing this dilemma, I posed the concept, that perhaps Elections Canada could hire blind persons to work during elections to ensure that the process that is in place in theory, would work more reliably in practice. The Elections Canada presenter stated that persons with disabilities were encouraged to apply, and I made the decision there and then to at least investigate the possibility of applying to work at the upcoming federal election.

So in the last week of July, I did just that. Low and behold, I discovered the temporary position with Elections Canada for each Returning Office entitled, “Community Relations Officer – Accessibility”. The duties of this position include assisting with training, ensuring polling stations are accessible and being available to trouble shoot accessibility issues on voting days. I wonder how many disabled persons, let alone blind persons, have ever been hired for this position? If the answer is very few, and I suspect it is, perhaps we need to try to change this.

According to the Elections Canada website, you are required to apply to the Returning Officer in your electoral district but I could not find who or where this person is. I have finally connected with someone at Elections Canada (no mean feat) who has given me an email address where I am to send my CV and cover letter.

This appears to be dedicated to recruitment of the position I described above and I was informed that the positions may have already been filled. If you think you might want to pursue the position I mentioned above in your community, or any other position described on the Elections Canada website Please contact me at: and we can support each other through this less than accessible process.

Greetings From British Columbia!

By Chantal Oakes On behalf of the BC Affiliate membership, I am happy to share news of recent developments concerning changes we have begun to implement, which will allow us to utilize our resources more efficiently. During the past several months, it became apparent that a few members serving on the BC Affiliate executive have also been performing similar duties at the chapter level. This often resulted in some of us doing double the work and straining our Human Resources unnecessarily.

To remedy this, an agreement was reached whereby the Metro Vancouver and Kelowna chapters will consolidate with the BC Affiliate as one entity. Our members will continue to advocate on behalf of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) under the authority of the BC Affiliate only, effective September 1, 2021. We are confident this will allow for better opportunities to share the workload among members, which should have a positive impact on our productivity.

I would like to thank everyone for keeping an open mind, regarding the suggestion of consolidation and hope BC members plan to attend this year’s BC Affiliate AGM scheduled for early fall. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Louise Johnson for her support throughout this process as we collaborate moving forward. The closure of the two chapters will be bittersweet for us as presidents, as well as for many members Who have contributed for a long time to much of the advocacy efforts in British Columbia over the years.

It should be noted that the decision to close the Vancouver and Kelowna Chapters was not taken lightly. We are committed to improving the structure and management of the BC Affiliate and invite anyone residing in British Columbia to join us in r future endeavors. Advocacy At The Ottawa Chapter By Wayne Antle The Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter continues to oppose the operation of e-scooters in Ottawa. We have two members on a working group led by the City to bring e-scooter concerns forward. I am also working with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance, led by David Lepofsky, concerning the operation of e-scooters in Ontario. We continue to explore other avenues to raise awareness of the threats posed by these motorized vehicles.

Our chapter is also looking at how we can reach health care professionals in our major health care institutions about how they should interact with blind, partially sighted, and deafblind people in these settings. We have built on work done by the Halifax chapter in this area.

Finally, we continue ongoing engagement with the City in collaboration with the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) so that we speak with one voice.

Tune In To Paralympic Update

By Devon Wilkins

If the inferior coverage of the Paralympic Games as compared to that provided for the Olympics irks you as much as it does me, not to worry. Paralympic Update is at hand. A few sets of games ago, I approached The Global Voice, the same internet radio station in London, England that airs my Spotlight on Assistance Dogs, to ask if I could do a show during the Paralympics in an attempt to equalize the coverage. The powers that be suggested that because each installment of the show might vary in time, all depending on the amount of material I had, it might be better to do a podcast instead.

Never having listened to a podcast before, I soldiered on, and received positive feedback. As of August 23, Paralympic Update will be back for yet another set of games. We’ll begin with a history of the Paralympics which I produced a number of years ago. After that, I’ll be recording articles about athletes for broadcast, and providing daily medal counts. With any luck, I’ll be able to provide the odd interview as well.

You’ll be able to tune in either by going to: and clicking on the link to the program gallery.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to Paralympic Update with your podcatching software of choice, and each episode will go straight into your inbox. I do hope you’ll be able to join me as we support our hard-working and dedicated athletes in their search for Paralympic glory.

Universal Design: Who Benefits From Universal Design?

By Sarah Syed – Volunteer Student for Toronto Chapter

Our world is constantly evolving in respective terms of design in certain aspects such as the design of buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability or other factors. People must understand that universal design is about providing these necessary amenities to the disabled without segregating them from the norm of society. Universal Design creates inclusive design solutions and promotes accessibility and usability, allowing people with all levels of ability to live independently which as we know is influenced by how accessible and usable products, services and environments are.

Universal design is a broad term that can encompass multiple infrastructures, whether physically or socially. An example would be the learning environment of a school. It is important to address individual differences in students’ recognition or strategies thus providing the best possible support by individualizing pathways to learning through Universal Design. Students are thus learning through the representation in options for language. Furthermore, representation provides options for comprehension, activates or supplies background knowledge, highlights patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships, guides information processing, visualization and manipulation, maximizes transfer and generalization. Hence the introduction of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which is a design for learning that is used to make material accessible for all students. An example would be to make the presentation more accessible, two screens with the webpage on one and PowerPoint on the other are shown. In addition, there is increased font size on the webpage and large font on the PowerPoint with a high contrast in both so it would be easier to read for those in the front and the back of the room. Many websites have adapted to this system as well in which there is a navigation tool that lays out all the different pages and their organization for quick access to many features to help those who are visually impaired. Technological advances have helped allow for alternatives to "one-size-fits-all'' academic materials. Access to computers was becoming more common in schools, and assistive technologies that allowed educators and students to manipulate text resulted in the availability of flexible instructional options. Now, text could be easily enlarged, simplified, summarized, highlighted, translated, converted to speech, graphically represented, and supported through accessible, digital materials. Captions are necessary for individuals with hearing impairments in order to access information presented by audio. English language learners may also have an increased comprehension of the information where captions are provided. This is just another example of how products have adapted to universal design for a particular group of people but yields benefits for many.

Universal design is a way of thinking about how people experience their environment. The following guiding Principles of Universal Design, developed in 1997 by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, address the design fundamentals for making spaces and products universally friendly including to those who are visually impaired. Universal design is also about creating a space that can withstand multiple environments as a timeless architectural piece. The bottom up theory is looked at by many designers when establishing universal space is “it works on the premise that the building users, the architect is serving Include those with disabilities.” Universal design has been outlined and defined into seven principles that can be applied to a wide range of areas including architectural spaces to product design. 1. Equitable use 2. Flexibility in use 3. Simple and intuitive 4. Perceptible information 5. Tolerance for error 6. Low physical effort 7. Size and space for approach and use It is important to ensure that facilities, activities, materials, and equipment are physically accessible to and usable by all and are addressed in safety considerations such as safety procedures including those who are blind, deaf, or wheelchair users. Some more relevant examples that we can see daily are the entrance of a building that are separated by two sets of sliding doors that open directly off the sidewalk. These doors have a wide opening of sixty inches to allow for easy mobility or two wheelchairs in passing.

Universal design can benefit seniors as well. Implementing universal design could enable individuals to continue to complete activities of daily living independently. It provides seniors with a safer environment to perform their daily schedule. The concept of universal design proves to be timely, as it complements the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. However, it must be noted that the AODA does not mandate universal design for residential buildings. The flexibility of use accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities such as automated teller machines' buttons that are placed on certain machines in a designated area helping one press the button more accurately or providing furniture assembly instructions in a series of clear illustrations instead of text to help the elderly follow instruction better.

Universal design can benefit individuals with physical and mobility disabilities. Wall mounted components that are visible, easy to reach, and easy for all hand sizes to use is an example. Another important aspect is known as tolerance for error which means that the implementation of universal design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. Hallways that return to common areas rather than stop in dead ends is an example. Universal design principles will help to combat physical inactivity and reduce disparities by facilitating movement for all. Universal design benefits a wide range of people with varying learning styles, preferences and abilities. Universal design is the way to create a more inclusive and sustainable world where we all can have access to make our everyday chores easier and accessible. Universal design creates a welcoming world for all.

A Busy Year In Review Of The Government Relations Committee

By Dean Steacy, committee Chair Hello AEBC Members, it is unbelievable how fast the year has gone by! As we are about to head off to our Annual General Meeting at the end of August, I thought it would be appropriate to update everyone on what the Government Relations Committee has done this year.

First, I would really like to thank all the members of the committee for their hard work during the year. The members of the committee are as follows: Dean Steacy, Chairperson; Alan Conway, Co-chair; John Rae; Marcia Yale; Hilton Schwartz; Louise Johnson; Peter Field and Peter Quaiattini. Here is the list of the projects we tackled during the year, some of which are still ongoing:

  1. We wrote Rexall pharmacies, in conjunction with Script Talk – envision America, to see if we could get Rexall to start supplying prescription readers to its blind clients. Unfortunately, Rexall has not been very cooperative in this matter; in fact, they have been non-communicative.

  2. We provided a submission to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), concerning the proposed regulations for the accessible Canada act. I would like to thank all AEBC members who took the time to provide their feedback and suggestions to this submission. I believe that it helped us produce an extremely good submission. I would also like to thank the drafting team for all the time and effort they took to put together such a great document.

  3. We lobbied the Quebec Government to provide Photo ID for members of the community of blind and persons with disabilities in the province. We contacted the Minister of Transportation to explore the possibility of getting this very important piece of ID, currently unavailable to these communities in Quebec. From the responses we received from government officials, it was very clear that they did not understand the issue; therefore, we contacted the leadership of the official opposition and ask them to raise the issue in the Québec Assembly. We have been in contact with Jennifer Maccarone of the Liberal party and we were able to secure her commitment to work with us and to be our voice in the Assembly. This project will continue in the fall when the Assembly reconvenes.

  4. We also sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s office concerning Bill C213 (The National Pharma Care Act). At this point, we have only received an acknowledgement from the Prime Minister’s office. Unfortunately, there has been no further action by the government on Bill C213. The bill will most likely die on the floor, as there is the possibility of an election this fall.

  5. We sent out several letters in support of our Toronto chapter requesting a ban on E-scooters. The city of Toronto has now agreed to ban E-scooters. We are quite proud of this collaborative advocacy result, and John Rae’s exceptional work in this file.

  6. We also provided a letter of support to the Ottawa chapter to have the city of Ottawa reconsider its pilot project on E-scooters. As a result, two members of the Ottawa Chapter are now part of the city advisory board on E-scooters. We will follow this file closely.

  7. We sent several letters to Minister Qualtrough concerning ESDC‘s continued inability to make their website and platforms accessible to the blind community. Because this exercise was unrelated to our human rights complaint, we had the chance to meet with representatives of the Treasury Board of Canada to explain the barriers we are facing with some of the government of Canada‘s websites and platforms. This file is on-going and will continue to be a priority in the coming year.

  8. We attended a roundtable discussion hosted by the CNIB concerning insulin pumps. The issue is that neither of the pumps that are manufactured nor the ones supplied in Canada are accessible to Canadians who are blind. We signed a letter of intent that would encourage insulin pump manufacturers and Health Canada to take action to ensure these medical devices be made accessible to our community.

  9. We sent a letter to the Minister of Health, Ms. Patty Hajdu, requesting that accessibility be part of the approval process when companies are submitting their request for certification and approval of medical devices. We are awaiting her response.

  10. We wrote a letter to Abbott laboratories, requesting that they make their glucometers accessible to persons who are blind. We indicated that they should not just have the accessibility features on smart devices. Abbott indicated that they would consider our request when they start developing the next version of their sensors.

  11. We wrote a letter to Minister Freeland after the budget was introduced asking her to ensure that blind Canadians are not left behind during the rollout of the budget. We have not heard back from Minister Freeland.

  12. Hilton is spearheading an interesting consultation and advocacy project. Several members will engage with the banking community to position AEBC, as an organization, that the banks will consult with us when they are developing there accessibility plans. These plans are required by the Accessible Canada Act.

  13. We drafted a submission to the CRTC concerning their regulations under the Accessible Canada Act. WE also wrote to every major broadcaster requesting that AEBC be contacted when they develop their accessibility plans. We are encouraged by the fact that several of them have responded positively.

  14. We are also in the process of looking at drafting letters concerning B C 35 related to the reduction of poverty and disability income to both the federal and provincial levels.

  15. Finally, should there be an election, we are planning to draft questions to be sent to all parties and candidates concerning their positions on how they will reduce barriers for our community.

As you can see this committee has been very busy this year, so busy that I may have forgotten something, or someone, in this list. If I have, I apologize. We are always looking for members to join the committee or to provide us with suggestions or topics for engagement. Although it is a lot of work, this important advocacy work can also be a lot of fun! Thank you for your confidence in this committee, we are looking forward to this coming year, a year that we are sure will bring its own set of new challenges and opportunities.

Summary Of Activities Of The AEBC Scholarship Committee

By Betty Nobel The committee was co-chaired by Marcia Yale and Betty Nobel. We were pleased to welcome some new members this year. Our accomplishments include:

  • Reviewing and changing the committee’s Terms Of Reference

  • Reviewing and revising the Scholarship Application form

  • Adjudicating 16 scholarship applications

  • Awarding 5 scholarships

One of our donors has dropped from the program due to a misunderstanding about why the scholarship she sponsored was not provided to a student in 2019. Despite repeated efforts to explain that she had not actually provided funding that year, we were not successful in getting her to continue to provide a scholarship.

However, it would seem that the BC Affiliate may take her place in funding scholarships, as they joined the program this year and have expressed their intent to sponsor a scholarship next year as well.

Outreach Access Update By Hilton Schwartz Started in June of this year, with openings for more volunteers, this project has found some interesting barriers for advocacy.

The project has two objectives. The first is for volunteers to learn how to do advocacy through research, communication, dialoguing, and listening skills. The second objective is to actually do advocacy. It involves the accessible Canada act of 2019, where every federal organization has to put together a plan identifying barriers, and what they will do about it. In order to do this plan, each organization has to have at least one disability group as part of the meetings, although it is not clear which group, or if there could be more than one. Nevertheless, we thought that instead of waiting for companies to call us as their disability organization partner, we could call the companies, promoting our ability to identify barriers and find solutions, in preparation of this plan. The timeline is a year or two, so time is of the essence, and there is no time to waste.

The first industry the committee decided on was the banking industry, and identified a list of 33 banks under federal regulation. The group split up this 33 banks, each volunteer taking two banks, at the beginning, with the task of finding out a contact email or phone number to identify the appropriate person to speak with. This turned out to be next to impossible. The banks identified so far using their website, have this information well hidden. If you want to open an account, or get a Visa card, or a loan or a mortgage, then it is really easy to connect with them. But finding the human resources department or the legal department is next to impossible.

Two techniques were developed which are currently in progress. The first was to use Google, with the name of the bank, and the word accessibility, to try to break through this barrier, or to use as a search term, the name of the bank and the word contact. The second technique involves finding the phone numbers of the branches for those banks that have physical addresses, asking for the branch manager, and hoping that that person will be compassionate enough to give us the internal phone numbers that we need to reach. In addition, one of the volunteers has some contacts in the banking industry and has developed a few of these, and we will be following these up shortly.

Learning these advocacy skills so far has been done in group meetings, but can also be done individually. The chairman, Hilton Schwartz, is available for any volunteer that would like one on one mentoring. Volunteers are still needed, so if you find this project interesting, send an email to

Follow-Up Of Resolution 2020-12

By Linda Bartram One of the tasks a subcommittee of the Bylaws and Governance Committee took on over the past six months was to carry out the mandate outlined by resolution 2020-12 – Resolutions Review. Not a task for the faint-hearted!! Nevertheless, John Rae and I took on the rather daunting endeavour of reviewing the 196 resolutions the AEBC membership has passed since 1995.

My motivation was not purely altruistic. As a new member of the National Board, I found myself needing to reference both the AEBC Bylaws and resolutions on a regular basis. When it came to the resolutions, this was a very time consuming and tiresome exercise. The resolutions are currently listed in reverse chronological order on the AEBC website, and it was often necessary to read through much of the list and open several links before I found the resolution I was looking for. It became evident that for me, and probably for many others, the resolutions would be much easier to reference if they were categorized. Several hours of focused work on this task would then save me and hopefully others many more hours of searching in the future. As I read each resolution, I determine some general categories and then found a home for each resolution as it was reviewed.

Resolution 2020-12 directed a review of all resolutions to date with the goal of determining which resolutions were still relevant and which could be removed from the AEBC records. This was kept in mind as both John and I read through each resolution. Although we found many resolutions which were no longer current as they had been repealed and/or replaced, we, and subsequently the Bylaws and Governance Committee as a whole, as well as the National Board, agreed that these were relevant from an historical perspective. The second part of resolution 2020-12 was to hold a member meeting to vote on the removal of recommended resolutions and as we were not recommending the expunging of any resolutions, the Board determined that no meeting was required.

John and I made several recommendations, however, with the aim of making the AEBC’s listing of the resolutions more user-friendly, including a categorized listing of the resolutions, accessible to all AEBC members. It will be up to the new National Board to determine if they wish to carry out these recommendations.

The ABC’s of AEBC: Please Use The Tool

By Devon Wilkins On August 9, our secretary and Membership Committee Chair, Amanda Cape distributed a brochure called The ABC’s of AEBC. So now, what do you do with it? It’s for that old schoolmate that you think of every now and again, that person you know who’s always advocating for this or that cause, or the person who keeps asking you: “What goes on at those AEBC meetings that you keep going to.”

We most definitely value the members we have, and the contributions they make. Recruiting new members is very important, too, though. It’s like giving AEBC a fresh blood transfusion. After all, we all have new ideas to offer.

So send this alphabet soup of legitimate reasons to join AEBC to anyone and everyone you can think of who is blind, Deafblind, or partially sighted. Who knows? The member you recruit might someday become president.

AEBC Members Rally to the Call By Linda Bartram This June AEBC Members embraced the Great Canadian Giving Challenge in a way that vastly exceeded the Fundraising Committee’s expectations. Most of the donations received through Canada Helps were made by AEBC members themselves and the committee wishes to thank each and every one of you. We raised over $3,500, more than was raised in both campaigns in 2020.

A special thanks goes out to the three generous anonymous donors and to those of you who gave twice in order to ensure the membership met the $500 challenge which was matched by one of the anonymous donors. “We’re almost there” the health experts say And we’re all looking forward to the day When we can leave our masks at home And are safe to roam.

“Just a little bit longer” Once our immunity is stronger Then we can put away the arrows and lines and the posted signs

But how will we pay for the enormous debt? How will we make sure government’s promises are met? To ensure equal access to the necessities of life That were made to the blind before this pandemic strife?”

The funds raised through the Great Canadian Giving Challenge 2021 will go a long way towards ensuring we can continue this vital advocacy work. Again, thank you!!

Resolutions Revisited: Fighting Poverty

By John Rae Too many blind, deafblind, partially sighted and otherwise disabled Canadians are forced to subsist in chronic poverty. The lack of an adequate income greatly restricts an individual’s options in such areas as housing, transportation, access to needed technology and obtaining an adequate diet. In 2007, AEBC members ado

pted Resolution 2007-09: Fighting Poverty, which provided an extensive blueprint for future actions in the critical area of fighting poverty.

“Now Therefore be it Resolved, that, the AEBC advocate to all levels of Government for the introduction of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, that will include the needs of unemployed Canadians as well as those employed at low-paying jobs; And be it further resolved, that such a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy should include the following basic principles:

A. Income support programs must reflect the real cost of living; B. Income support programs must provide adequately for the cost of disability itself; C. Income support programs must provide to individuals and families the basic income necessary to promote good health and nutrition, adequate and safe housing tied to market rent rates, and an additional allowance to cover clothing, utilities, transportation and incidentals necessary to ensure a reasonable quality of life standard; D. Income support programs must be at an adequate level to promote and encourage individuals to participate with dignity in the life of their communities and provide the resources necessary to re-enter the work force if and when possible; E. Disincentives to employment should be reduced with the long term goal of their eventual elimination.

Be it further resolved that the AEBC join with other social justice organizations and action coalitions advocating for such goals and principles across Canada.” Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, all Canadians have been forced to live their lives in different ways, and this has included incurring additional costs in an effort to remain healthy and safe. Many have been assisted by up to $2,000 a month through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), while Canadians with disabilities have only been offered a one-time $600 benefit, and this benefit was only available to those disabled individuals who hold the Disability Tax Credit.

As part of the 2021 Budget speech, Minister Freeland stated: “If COVID has taught us anything, it's that we're all in this together. Our country cannot prosper if we leave hundreds of thousands of Canadians behind. The world has learned the lesson of 2009 – the cost of allowing economic hardship to fester. In some countries, democracy itself has been threatened by that mistake. We will not let that happen in Canada.” The federal government doesn’t appear to have learned this lesson, as it continues to extend benefits to many Canadians, and ignores the needs of the disabled.

Shortly before the House of Commons rose for its summer break, which may lead to the next federal election, the Government introduced Bill C-35: An Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities by establishing the Canada disability benefit and making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act, If passed, this Bill would create a framework for a future disability benefit for employable-aged Canadians with disabilities, but reports indicate the Government plans a three-year consultation period before enacting such a program. After all the discussions about reducing poverty, why are three more years of consultations necessary before long overdue actions are taken to assist the disability community in a more meaningful manner?

Blind and otherwise disabled Canadians deserve and need better from all levels of government!

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