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The Equalizer: May 2021

Welcome to the eleventh issue of the Equalizer!


How did you like this issue? Please send replies to newsletter@blindcanadians.ca, 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


List Of Articles

From The President’s Residence

Communications Committee Update

Toronto City Council Votes For Pedestrians By Opposing E-Scooters

Let's Play Ball!

Toronto Chapter’s COVID-19 Relief Project-November 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021

Update From The Fundraising Committee

Update From The Bylaw And Governance Committee

What Is The Value Of A Code Of Conduct?

Update From The BC Affiliate

Hello From The Government Relations Committee

Calling For New Advocacy Project Volunteers

Resolutions Revisited: Debating Priorities

Information Technology Committee Update

Membership Committee Update

Update From The CRTC/CCTS AEBC Reps

Consumer Access Group (CAG) Report

Connect With Us


From The President’s Residence

In December, I spoke at our Board meeting about a project we are supporting--the Disability Confidence in Finance project being led by CCRW. Disability confidence, with respect to that project, speaks about educating employers to treat us with respect and as equals. But does it have other meanings, on a more personal level?


I just listened to a small part of a podcast by Jonathan Mosen, who is a well-known radio station owner, company executive, tech nut and, oh yes, happens to be blind. He spoke about being proud of that characteristic, and it made me start thinking about how we all embody disability confidence.


As members of our communities, we live our lives just as the rest of our community does, though perhaps we need to accomplish tasks a bit differently. Perhaps we take advantage of technology, or have personal support systems. However, regardless of the extras, we go through life one day at a time, tackling the barriers one at a time.


Personally, I don't set out to prove anything to anyone, but sometimes the expectations of others are so low that I have to do everything I can to exceed them. At present, I'm the President of a national consumer organization, the treasurer of a theatre company, the chair of the board of a granting organization and, most recently, a member of an expert travel group and a member of a local patient advisory group. Each one of these hats I wear brings challenges, frustrations and joy. There are members of each group who, no doubt, may not think I can perform my duties adequately. On the other hand, there may be some who are "inspired" by the fact that I actually attempt anything!


So, back to the idea of disability confidence. What does it mean? To me it means that blindness is just one characteristic of who I am, and I don't let it determine what I can or cannot do. For you, it might mean that you challenge yourself to do something you were told you should not be able to do, or that you create your own opportunities in a world where few exist. Whatever it means, it is what will keep us going.


So, members of AEBC, I wish you an abundance of disability confidence. You can find the inspiration for this article here.


Marcia Yale, National President


Communications Committee Update

May 2021

By Diana Brent, Committee Chair


We have been quite busy lately; most importantly, we’d like to thank those of you who took the time to complete the recent survey jointly initiated by the Communications and Information Technology Committees, that appeared both as an email in our Announcements and in the last issue of this publication. We achieved an approximate 20% participation rate from the membership and your responses will ensure that the information we send out reaches you in your preferred medium and that you can easily reach out to us. We were pleased to note the popularity of our Announcements list and that you also find the members’ and Chapters’ discussion lists, as well as this Equalizer publication, useful and engaging.


It is gratifying to see how many members are making an appearance at the virtual national board meetings and remaining for the open discussions that follow the formal business section. We truly appreciate your continued support of, and interest in the work of AEBC.


We have submitted our draft of the national brochure to the board for discussion and final approval, and have received feedback and some revisions we will work through at our next meeting. At the end of this process, the completed brochure will be available on the web and links posted on our social media platforms. It will also be printed and available when we eventually have the opportunity to meet again face-to-face.


One of our next projects is to work with the Equalizer Committee to ensure that this publication remains timely, fresh, and relevant, highlighting the advocacy and other important work that AEBC is involved in.


Keep the discussion flowing and remember – we communicate better together.


Toronto City Council Votes For Pedestrians By Opposing E-Scooters

By John Rae

At a time when Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Windsor have gone ahead with e-scooter pilots, Toronto’s City Council unanimously reinforced the City’s commitment to safety and accessibility when it voted to not opt in to its own e-scooter pilot and continues to ban their introduction onto Toronto streets. This decision follows a strong staff report and motions from both the City’s Infrastructure and Environment and Disability Issues Committees that recommended against allowing them.


Council’s decision applies to both shared and privately-owned e-scooters and means that e-scooters will remain prohibited on public streets, bike lanes, sidewalks, pathways, trails and other public spaces.


A Report from Toronto’s transportation staff concluded "there are not adequate protections for e-scooter riders and non-riders.”. The staff Report cited problems related to accessibility, safety and insurance posed by e-scooters and said solutions to them proposed by the e-scooter industry "are not satisfactory.”


A News Release from the City following Council’s decision stated “City staff conducted a review of injury studies related to e-scooters in other jurisdictions. In reviewing hospital studies from cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Austin, Paris and Tel Aviv, as well as cities in Australia and New Zealand, it was determined, in consultation with Toronto Public Health, that passing on the e-scooter pilot would help prevent potentially serious injuries on Toronto streets and sidewalks during a time when hospitals and City resources are already both burdened and strained in response to COVID-19.”


This decision is a clear victory for safety and accessibility for all pedestrians, especially seniors and those living with disabilities.


Let's Play Ball!

By John Rae

When spring arrives, baseball fans eagerly await the beginning of a new season, which began on April Fool’s Day this year.

Much is on the minds of Toronto Blue jays’ fans as Canada’s team opened the new season against the Bronx Bombers at Yankee Stadium in New York.

If the Blue Jays can avoid more than their share of injuries, and if the pitching staff holds together, many predict that Canada’s team can contend for a spot in the post-season in October.

The Jays will start another season as nomads. They will use their spring training locale in Dunedin, Florida for their first several home stands. Thereafter, they may extend their stay in Dunedin, return to Buffalo where they played home games last year, and if all goes well and Covid vaccinations continue, there is hope that, by mid-season or a bit later, they may be playing home games back in the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

For some blind fans, there is a new wrinkle that has spawned some controversy, the Jays decision to simulcast their games. This year, whether you watch the games on TV or listen on radio, you will be receiving the same level of audio description.

A number of long-time blind baseball fans came together, and issued a March 8, 2021 News Release entitled, “BLIND FANS OUTRAGED BY DECISION TO SIMULCAST BLUE JAYS GAMES THIS SEASON,” and the News Release was picked up by several CBC shows and AMI’s “The Neutral Zone.”

The needs and expectations of radio listeners and TV baseball fans are simply very different.

“TV broadcasters do not provide detailed description of the action on the field, and often talk over some of the play that is going on.” said John Rae of Toronto in the News Release. “Viewers can watch what’s happening on the field, and need and want less description, whereas radio listeners need more in-depth description, which they had come to expect from the Fan-590 over the past 44 seasons.”

“Simulcasting the games is unlikely to satisfy the different expectations of either audience,” said Marcia Yale, President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians from her home in Huntsville, Ontario. “And this move is likely to take away some of the enjoyment that blind fans have come to anticipate,” added Yale.

“In an era where organizations are expected to reduce barriers and prevent the introduction of new barriers, this move will definitely create a new barrier,” says Dean Steacy of Gatineau, Quebec. “This move flies in the face of the Accessible Canada Act and will have a disproportionately negative impact on blind fans,” added Steacy.

In addition to speaking out in hopes of reversing Rogers’ decision, we were trying to prevent this approach from being copied by other teams.

Rogers responded: “The Toronto Blue Jays are the only major-league baseball team that has to plan their season around a closed international border, and Sportsnet is the only broadcaster separated from the team we cover by that same closed border. As a result, Sportsnet had to develop a new approach to covering the Blue Jays season, while maintaining the health and safety of our employees, which is our top priority.”

We were not convinced, but by the time we got involved, Rogers’ decision already seemed like a fait accompli for this season.

Blue Jays fans who enjoy following their favourite team on radio will hear the games described by a combination of Dan Shulman, Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler, but will this simulcast approach satisfy radio listeners, including blind fans. Those of us who tune in regularly will be in a position to answer this question as the season moves along.

Good luck to the Toronto Blue Jays throughout the 2021 season.


Toronto Chapter’s COVID-19 Relief Project-November 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021

In the fall of 2020, the Toronto Chapter was delighted to be successful in receiving its second funding opportunity with the City of Toronto. The three main objectives and goals for the COVID-19 Relief Project were: conduct a consultation and needs assessment with the disability and marginalized communities on the impact of COVID-19, provide assistive devices to assist the most vulnerable to stay connected and access information during these challenging times, and provide accessibility training to businesses and organizations on web accessibility, accessible customer service, develop an accessibility action plan and an emergency plan for people with disabilities. All three objectives were met and completed by April 30, 2021.


The project started on November 1st with recruitment and hiring of staff, preparing pre-screening questionnaire and outreach script, developing a timeline for consultations and workshops, and setting specific goals for meeting project objectives. AEBC Toronto held their fifth annual International day for Persons with Disabilities Event on December 5, 2020 with a specific emphasis on the challenges for the disability community during COVID-19. The theme of this event was “Together one voice more choices-Don’t Leave us Behind.” There were over 80 participants and many more participated as the event was streamed live on Accessible Media Inc.


Two needs assessment consultations were held on December 8 and 10, 2020 with the disability and marginalized communities to gather data on barriers to social activities, communication and accessing COVID-19 related information, and to provide solutions for addressing these barriers. The consultations represent an intersectional lens and participants from wide range of disabilities, ages, backgrounds, diverse ethnic backgrounds, and diverse neighbourhoods across the city Of Toronto who have experienced social isolation and anxiety and have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of these consultations, several workshops and resources were identified to reduce the barriers that the participants were facing. These services include delivering: mindfulness workshops on February 5, two technology ZOOM training workshop on January 26th and March 11, sharing information on COVID-19 – on mental health resources, COVID-19 testing sites for persons with disabilities, and mobile foodbank information. In addition, two accessibility training workshops were delivered to businesses and organizations in February. In April, two accessible education workshops were delivered to students and educators to raise awareness for the need for accessible, universal design learning for students of all levels of education. Also in April, a consultation with businesses and organizations to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on their hiring and employing persons with disabilities was held. There were pre survey and post survey evaluations for every workshop and information session to determine the value impact and participant feedback from the workshops.

In the winter months of January and February, twenty assistive devices were provided to the most vulnerable mostly in the visual impaired community to increase social communication and information access. AEBC provided basic training to recipients of devices after which they were connected with CNIB or Balance to receive continuous training. At this time, a comprehensive report is being prepared which will be shared in June. In addition, our training workshops will be shared as YouTube links for those who wish to access them.


Update From The Fundraising Committee

By Chantal Oakes

Fundraising Committee Chair


The committee is working diligently to implement effective strategies which will hopefully allow us to increase our revenue this year. The fundraising committee is: Marcia Yale, Maria Kovacks, Hilton Schwartz, Devon Wilkins, Linda Bartram, Darren Gilchrist and Chantal Oakes.


We continue to take advantage of fundraising opportunities offered by CanadaHelps, such as the great Canadian giving challenge beginning June 1 again this year and giving Tuesday, usually scheduled for the first Tuesday in December. We will send reminders via social media, as well as to our members, to encourage participation in these fundraising campaigns. For folks who may not be aware, contributions can be made through CanadaHelps anytime during the year. Tax receipts are issued by them and donations received are monitored regularly by Linda Bartram, (National Treasurer) and myself as fundraising committee chair. Recently, I gained access to a program, which houses information from a variety of foundations/organizations throughout the country Who offer grants and contributions to charitable organizations. So far, we have determined the research itself will require much dedication in order to identify the most appropriate funding sources. Looking back on the new donors we were able to acquire last year, we are hopeful that they will continue to support our efforts and that they will encourage family and friends to do the same. The committee is determined to approach its requests for funding with a positive attitude explaining why we need help, outlining our accomplishments and Expressing how we would like to continue our work given the opportunity. Stay tuned as this is a work in progress. We will keep in touch. Don’t forget, the Great Canadian Giving Challenge will begin June 1, ending June 30. Every dollar counts, as each donation allows us one entry towards the $20,000 award from Canada helps to be announced July 1, 2021.


Update From The Bylaw And Governance Committee

By Dean Steacy & Linda Bartram


This newly formed committee is diving right into its work, drafting its Terms of Reference and forming four subcommittees.


The Resolutions Review Subcommittee is working on resolution 2020-12. The Bylaws Subcommittee will be reviewing specific bylaws which have been flagged by the Board. The Policy and Procedure Subcommittee will be drafting or reviewing policies which the Board feels would assist in addressing issues which have arisen during its 8 month mandate. Finally, the Code of Conduct Subcommittee has been working diligently over the last month or so putting together a document containing what the subcommittee feels are core values and principles of AEBC. Once this document is completed, it is the subcommittee’s intent to let all AEBC members have a chance to review it and provide their feedback.


What Is The Value Of A Code Of Conduct?

By Peter Field


It seems these days that everyone is doing a Code of Conduct and going through the exercise of making sure that the organization they belong to understands its values and principles. Is this just some kind of fashion, or is there value in these documents? My short answer is, yes, there is lots of value in this.


At the moment AEBC does not have a code of conduct, and while probably every member can name some values and principles that it believes we subscribe to, we have not actually articulated them, written them down, and said, as an organization, these are the values we believe in and practice. But this is about to change. In another article in this month’s Equalizer, readers will find an update from the Bylaws and Governance committee about its efforts to develop a Code of Conduct which includes values and principles for the organization.


But Why is a Code of Conduct Important?

Think of it as a map, or your favourite GPS App. Especially in times of difficulty a Code of Conduct guides the organization, and more specifically, the members of the organization, as to what behaviour is or is not expected of them. With a code of conduct that everyone subscribes to, no one can say, “Oh, I didn’t know we weren’t supposed to do that”. And more than just the hard and fast rules, a Code of Conduct helps the organization’s members determine how its members relate to one another; for example, often, the value of respect is found in a document like this. If everyone agrees to treat each other with respect, the organization is stronger. It also allows members to exercise self-empowerment. If everyone knows what behavior is expected of them than we can say to each other, with legitimacy, “When you said that to me I did not feel respected”.


Building a positive Culture

When an organization knows what values it subscribes to, it can start to create a culture around those values, values like integrity, honesty, fairness, and empathy. Everyone wants to be treated that way, and I think everyone wants to participate in a culture where these values are lived and respected.


The Way Forward

At last year’s AGM a draft Code of Conduct was put forward as a resolution. I’m not sure why it was removed from consideration, but I am hopeful that at our upcoming AGM, the code of Conduct now being developed will be given some consideration. I think it is the way to go. I think we need to build a culture based on positive values, rather than relying on some form of discipline procedures in our bylaws that kick in when something negative happens. I am certainly looking forward to reading what the Governance and Bylaws Committee comes up with, and by the way, I am not on the committee!


Update From The BC Affiliate

By Linda Bartram

Recently, the BC Affiliate met with Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal critic for Gender Equity, Accessibility & Inclusion. Stephanie explained her role with regards to the tabling of the Accessible British Columbia Act, Bill 6. She will have an opportunity to ask specific questions and raise concerns with the current wording. She shared her concerns regarding lack of timelines and enforcement mechanisms. She feels the Act does not give enough detail and therefore will not have the “teeth” we all are hoping for. Disability Alliance BC also agrees that the Bill is not as strong as other provincial legislation or the Accessible Canada Act and is calling for further consultation. Stephanie said that the Act is supported by all parties in the Legislature and will no doubt pass with very few if any changes but she will try.


Stephanie uses a wheelchair and was a disability advocate prior to going into politics. She appeared to understand many of the blindness related issues we raised and invited us to write to her personally.


The other advocacy issue the Affiliate has been working on is the change to the Save-on-Foods website which used to be accessible and now is not. One Affiliate member has been very persistent and finally received a phone call from Darrel, the CEO, who said they are putting supports in place to assist blind shoppers order online. There will be someone available to help with the completion of the online order. Not as good as being able to browse the shelves as before, but this will be a satisfactory interim measure. The Affiliate members are encouraged to continue to advocate for the return of an accessible online ordering process.


Hello From The Government Relations Committee

By Dean Steacy , Committee Chair


After putting the submission to the accessible Canada act to bed, we continue to be very busy. We sent a letter to the minister of transport for the province of Quebec concerning The issuance a photo ID to Quebeckers who are not able to obtain a driver’s license. We received an entirely unsatisfactory response from the Quebec minister of transport. So, we have written a letter to the three other parties in the Quebec legislature asking them to raise the issue in the assembly.


We have also written a letter to the Minister of health requesting that Health Canada, when it approves any medical device for importation and or sale in Canada that As part of the approval process, the device must be made accessible.


We are also looking into ways and means to support are Calgary members so that Calgary‘s new light rail system will be accessible to the blind when it comes online.


We will be starting a review of the accessible British Columbia act, to determine if AEBC Will make a submission. If any of our British Columbia members want to be and or get involved in this please let Peter Field or Louise Johnson know.


Calling For New Advocacy Pilot Project Volunteers

Hello readers, in this article I am introducing you to a new pilot project that is aimed at satisfying both a long-standing request of members, as well as an initiative from the Government Relations committee. Under this initiative, you will be trained in advocacy in order to assist the government Relations Committee to increase AEBC’s footprint across corporations and government institutions at all levels.

Background

As you know, in June 2019 Canada passed the Accessible Canada Act, and recently the AEBC responded to its request for consultations on the Regulations. These regulations call for most companies and federal organizations to put together a plan as to how they will remove internal and external barriers in their organizations. When putting together their Accessibility plans, these organizations must consult with disability groups. These plans must be ready within the next year or two.

Action

My idea is that, instead of waiting for individual corporations to call us for our expertise, we will reach out and call them first.

This pilot project has three simple parts:

The first is to create a list of 10 to 30 companies or organizations which are most likely to accept our offer of help.

The second is to actually call or email those companies, and work through their internal bureaucracies, until we find the decision maker.

The third is that, once these organizations have agreed to accept our offer of consultation, we will have two or three AEBC members provide them with the consultations they require, namely, which barriers exist, how to identify new barriers, and proposals of solutions to eliminate and remove those barriers.

For those interested in participating, I am offering to mentor anybody in how to do any of these three actions, at your convenience. I can provide one on one instruction, with simulated practice sessions followed by a pop quiz. Once we are all feeling comfortable, we will start the calling.


Question from the mashup

At the last Public Board meeting, in the mashup section, one of the members asked how we would get enough members to actually execute this, especially if we are accepted at several organizations at once. This is a valid point. I would answer this by saying that I hope this will be resolved as we get closer, and that by having members who want to become engaged, enlarge our footprint, and undertake to do really interesting advocacy activities.

Call for volunteers

For anyone wishing to volunteer for this project, please contact us. You can participate in any of these parts, either one part at a time, or all together. I look forward to supporting and working with you on this very worthwhile initiative!


Resolutions Revisited: Debating Priorities

By John Rae


Over several years, spirited discussions have taken place among AEBC members concerning whether the AEBC should develop a more focused agenda, and set a list of priority issues to work on, that would last for at least one year.


These attempts have included a question on the members’ listserv “what is the burning question” that needs action, to Town Halls, to members’ discussions and Resolutions passed at Annual General Meetings.


Proponents of prioritizing have argued that the AEBC is spread too thinly and needs to become more focused to have greater impact and to Make more productive use of the energy and resources of AEBC members. Others, however, argue that focusing to three or at most five priority issues could result in members who are not particularly interested in those issues becoming less involved. And how, if asked, which issues do you consider most important and which would you set aside? How should AEBC deal with new and important issues that crop up during the year?


These are just some of the points that have been raised when this topic has been discussed and debated by AEBC’s membership. This is a topic that I suspect will reappear in years to come.


What do you think? Contribute your thoughts by writing to The Equalizer’s Letters to the Editor: newsletter@blindcanadians.ca.


Information Technology Committee Update

By Amanda Cape


Your IT committee has delivered Zoom training sessions to the membership. We hope that you found them informative and beneficial. For those of you who did not attend, they were interactive in nature. Most recently, we decided to provide weekly tech tips via the announcement list and Equalizer on problems that people are facing with their technology when it comes to communicating with or participating in AEBC activities, primarily. We invite members to email us with their suggestions for tech tip topics. So far, we have covered preventing emails from specific email addresses from being filtered into spam automatically and how to create an email signature. Stay tuned for future tech tips and keep those ideas coming!


Membership Committee Update

By Amanda Cape


The membership committee has been working over the past couple of months to create a document that can be shared with current members in order to try to recruit new members to the AEBC. This piece, currently referred to as the ABC’s of AEBC, is an alphabetical list of the benefits of being part of our organization. We hope to be able to share this list with our current membership shortly to see what they think of our ideas. Based on their feedback, we will make any changes that are required, following which we will distribute the document once again and request that members use it as a way of advertising what we do to their friends and acquaintances who may be interested in our cause but are not currently members. Our goal is to recruit more members to join us in our mission of advocacy. We hope to find diverse new members through this initiative. In addition, the committee has also begun to discuss the idea of creating a welcome email that can be sent to new members upon joining AEBC. This could include a list of the committees that we have and a summary of each one’s goals and a call to members if they wish to join one or a few of them. An introduction to our National Board could also be provided and we are trying to think of what else would make members feel welcome as they join a new organization. The committee would welcome ideas from the membership on this. Suggestions can be sent to Amanda Cape and Lisa Lawson, the membership committee co-chairs at secretary@blindcanadians.ca and lottosnowball73@shaw.ca


Update From The CRTC/CCTS AEBC Reps

By Dean Steacy & John Rae


We have been busy writing letters to all the major broadcasters concerning their development of accessibility plans/feedback mechanisms/reports as required under the Accessible Canada act. So far, we have written to Bell Media, Rogers Communications, Corus, Shaw, and Telus. At the time of writing this note, we have received responses from Bell media and Rogers Communications and both organizations have indicated that they are willing to contact us when they start this process. We are in the process of drafting a similar letter to the Canadian broadcasters Association.


Once we get this finished, we intend to start reviewing the new communications Act to see if we will be sending in a submission.


Consumer Access Group (CAG) Report

By Darren Gilchrist


The Consumer Access Group (CAG) held its most recent meeting at 4:00 PM Eastern on Tuesday, March 16. As the primary representative, I attended this meeting on behalf of AEBC.


At this meeting, the coalition discussed the following:

  • eScooter—The position document on eScooters was approved pending some minor changes to be forwarded by GDUC.

  • Point of Sale (PoS) terminals—Darren Gilchrist asked the CNIB representatives about the project between the federal government, Moneris, CNIB, and a few other stakeholders to develop accessible PoS terminals for deployment among merchants in Canada. The terminals are manufactured by third parties, where Moneris develop the software for the user interface. A partnership was formed with Moneris, because they are currently the largest vendor for supplying these terminals in Canada. I mentioned several AEBC members have reported using accessible PoS terminals. At the request of the CNIB representatives, I have forwarded two businesses in Halifax where accessible terminals have been used. If any AEBC members have encountered accessible PoS terminals, please inform me of the location.



Several attendees discussed how such terminals could be made accessible to blind and partially sighted people with a hearing disability. I suggested that the terminals should support Bluetooth LE or NFC, but one of the CNIB representatives reported that Moneris has indicated that Bluetooth would be insecure. However, the CNIB representative will bring it back to the project stakeholders for further review.

  • Clearing Our Path—One of the CNIB representatives will be completing a rewrite of this position document. It will be reviewed by the rest of CAG at a later date.

  • Warning Signs—A CNIB representative presented a position document on signs warning drivers about the possibility of blind people (especially children) crossing the street at the posted location. They are looking for feedback on the document.

  • Possible Future Position Documents—I put forward transit hubs, bicycle lanes, universal basic income, and pharmacare as possibilities for future position documents.

The next CAG meeting is scheduled for 4:00 PM Eastern on Tuesday, May 18. The chair will be a representative from AEBC.


The web site for CAG can be found at:

www.cag-tccdv.ca


Connect With Us

Contact your Board: secretary@blindcanadians.ca

AEBC Website: www.blindcanadians.ca

Toll-Free: 800-561-4774

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