Message from the President: AEBC's Human Rights Saga
By Marcia Yale
As you are all aware, AEBC has been involved in a human rights complaint with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) for five years. In 2018, we attempted to apply for core funding and, during this process, we were faced with multiple barriers while accessing the website and the application form. As a result, we filed a human rights complaint in 2019. ESDC objected to our complaint and the Canadian Human Rights Commission conducted a preliminary assessment in accordance with Section 41 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Commission dismissed our complaint in July of 2020 because it determined that the complaint had been filed by a corporation and not by an individual. We asked the federal court to judicially review the Commission's decision. In August of 2021 we learned that Justice Andrew Little had ruled against us. Our lawyer, Anne Levesque, encouraged us to appeal this decision to the federal court of appeal. On February 8, 2023, our case was heard and, in a very unusual and rare occurrence, the three justices ruled from the bench, without even listening to the Department of Justice's presentation. Unfortunately, they sided with the previous decision, and used a technicality to dismiss our appeal. They stated that the Commission's decision to dismiss our complaint fell within the boundaries of reasonableness. The court chose not to pursue our lawyer's position that the victims of discrimination were the volunteers using the website and filling out the application form, as well as those who would have ultimately benefited from the funding. In the Justices' ruling, they acknowledged that this was a very complicated case, yet they still ruled against us. On our lawyer's advice, we will not be asking for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
AEBC sincerely thanks Chantal Oakes, Dean Steacy and David Best for launching the original complaint and working through the very long process which ensued. We could not have gone as far as we did without our lawyer, Anne Levesque, and her law students. They put in countless pro bono hours of work towards the cause. We are eternally grateful for Anne's encouragement and support throughout the many phases of the process. We also wish to thank M. Alyssa Holland who intervened in the case on behalf of the First Nations Child And Family Caring Society Of Canada. Her presentation was excellent.
Have Cane Will Travel
Each year the first full week in February is White Cane Week. The white cane is a symbol that many use for every day independent travel.
Over the years we have had companies offer colored canes which have become popular. These canes are slimmer than the traditional white cane but people purchase them because they can be customized to their individual needs and some people like to coordinate their cane with their clothing. Yes, your cane can become part of your fashion statement.
Here are some stories from users of the cane. We hope you find them informative.
Many thanks for the opportunity to share my various activities using the white cane. I started using a cane in 1961, when I enrolled in a travel training program at the old Halifax School for the Blind. For two school years the travel training was under the tutelage of social workers. My first instructor, Mr. Leclerc (I do not know his first name) was a fine instructor and I looked forward to the weekly sessions, as did the other members of the group. It did not take me long to get confident to travel independently with my cane. I remember one instruction Mr. Leclerc gave us and that was never to slide the cane along while walking. As he put it, “Never use the cane as a pirogue, but as a bumper.” The first year’s instruction began in January and went to the end of April. I was in Grade Eight at the time. At the end of the school year prizes were awarded for travel training.
The following year our training began near Christmas and our instructor this time was the late Norman Doucette, also a social worker. As was the case with the first year, this period went to the end of April. I well remember one Saturday afternoon when the group went out on an exercise with Mr. Doucette as our instructor. As a reward he treated us to a snack at a restaurant.
I continued to put what I had learned into practice by taking my cane and walking around my neighborhood. This first cane lasted me a little better than three years. One afternoon, after completing a walk, when I tried to fold up my cane, the elastic gave way and I had to replace the cane. I have lost count of the number of canes I have used over the years, but my present cane is still standing up to a lot of wear and tear. I got it for Christmas about seven years ago and it continues to serve me well. I had the ball replaced last fall and I wouldn’t be without it. Even when I go to the property office or somewhere else in the building, my trusty cane always accompanies me.
In 1991, through BALANCE, I embarked on more instruction. The term “travel training”, by this time, had been replaced by “orientation and mobility”. I was working as a medical typist at Sunnybrook Hospital at the time. Let me backtrack here for just a moment if I might. When I came to Toronto from Halifax to embark on my Dictaphone course in 1976, travel training or orientation and mobility, call it what you will, was an integral part of the program and I picked up a great many invaluable pointers. However, in certain situations, there can be challenges to good use of the cane. One of the most significant challenges occurs when there is deep snow. If the snow is very deep after a storm, the use of the cane becomes very limited, if not impossible in some situations. The instructors at BALANCE taught me a technique they call “shorelining.” This involves arcing the cane from side to side so the cane, not the body, will meet objects in one’s path. The touch and drag technique was also a part of their instructional program, involving sliding the cane to the left (if the cane is in the right hand, as is the case with me). This way the traveler discovers grass or an open driveway.
Happy white cane travels!
Some years ago, way back before Covid, I had to go to my local Emergency room. My cane was folded beside me on the stretcher and the nurse who was caring for me, (blood pressure etc.) asked me what it was and why I used/needed it. It seems I "don't look blind," whatever that means.
That was a silly thing to happen I think; I did get a small chuckle about that.
I carry a big stick!! It just happens to be white, rigid and very long. And I refer to it as a cane, not a stick. It has been mistaken for a fishing pole, a ski pole and a support pole on the bus.
Actually, as I am totally blind, I don’t really carry it, rather I tap or drag it from side to side depending on how familiar I am with the route and the potential hazards I am watching out for. The technique is to step forward with one foot while tapping to the opposite side, the theory being that you will discover what is on the cane side before you step forward with that foot.
About seven or eight years ago I joined the staff of the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind, then located in Victoria. As it appeared that I had reasonable cane skills, I was asked to assist with the centre’s travel training. The centre provides the students with a NFB long rigid white cane, and they learn under blindfold, if they have any remaining vision. I soon found myself taking charge of the training sessions and more recently augmented the centre’s orientation and mobility training for students staying in my home.
There is often resistance to the cane at first. It is much longer than students are used to, and it doesn’t fold. But it isn’t long before they recognize the benefits of this style of cane. Firstly, they are very light and if you are going to use the tap-tap technique, it needs to be light. Secondly, they are very long, mine comes up to the top of my nose, enabling me to detect hazards that are further away. This allows me to walk faster as I have more time to react before I take out that parking pole.
So, the long white cane is the winner as far as I am concerned, although there is a place for my shorter, heavier canes which do fold. By the way, the NFB cane does come in a folding model but because of the joints, it is quite a bit heavier than the rigid style. I use the folding NFB cane when I am travelling on a long distance bus, the ferry, an airplane, or riding on a tandem or in a sportscar. OK, I only rode in a sportscar once, but I can dream! It is then convenient or even necessary to tuck it away in a small space. But for my day trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or downtown on the bus, it’s the long rigid white cane every time.
From Ruth: Busted in Boquete
During the winter months of 2015/16 I decided to try wintering in Panama. I was living in Kelowna BC at the time, and not looking forward to another cold Canadian winter, and yes, believe me Kelowna gets full-on winter. Boquete Panama seemed a destination. In spite of my Spanish lessons, it also seemed prudent to start somewhere with plenty of expats. Having traveled worldwide, I have learned to start any relocation by finding my people, which turns out to be a moving target. When I lived in New York, my people were folks from the blind community. In Boquete Panama I dare say there were few other blind people to be found, and none of them local, but I slightly digress. In Boquete, my people were artists, and art enthusiasts. While there, I offered workshops in drama and the visual arts - too much fun, really.
In January of 2016 I traveled with friends to a nearby town which was hosting a jazz concert. I love jazz! So, there I was, sitting at a table with my pals, grooving to the music, looking pretty cool with my sunglasses. I don’t need to tell anyone from the blind community about light sensitivity, but at a jazz concert in a small town in Panama, I guess I just looked really into the scene. Having lived in New York, where I listened to a lot of really great jazz, I learned to just listen, rather than chat with tablemates. All this to say, apparently, I had been staring at a very interested man all evening! I learned later, he could see I was really into the music, but he also assumed I was really into him! At least that was what he thought, until at evening’s end when I stood up, whipped out my white cane and exited with my friends. Busted! Said man, Mike, noticed me a few days later at an arts event, and decided to tell me the whole story. We both had a good laugh and enjoyed the final six weeks of my time in Panama together.
Most people in my area are very aware of what a white cane represents. Many ask if I require assistance and often they direct me by saying for example ‘over left.”
I completed the O & M Immersion course provided by Guide Dogs for the Blind or GDB for short. I generally walk up the middle of the sidewalk and sweep my cane equally on either side of my body. I also sweep it equally on either side when crossing streets and this helps to keep me straight.
I find that many say hello to me when using my cane as opposed to when I use a dog. I think people know that they cannot interact with me when using a dog, but they’re more comfortable with speaking or interacting when they see a cane.
Here is a short story where using a mobility cane helped. Some time back when I lived in Calgary, I went to a movie with a group of friends. This was a common occurrence. After the movie, everyone was getting ready to leave the theatre. It was rather crowded since it was a popular movie and near the beginning of its run. I decided to consider taking a shortcut to get out into one of the main aisles. To this day I still seem to have a reputation of being somewhat reckless. This time I decided to err on the side of caution. After all, I had my cane with me; again, not uncommon.
Before I vaulted over the half wall, sometimes referred to as a pony wall, I reached over with my cane to see exactly where the floor of the isle was to help gauge my landing. It is important to appear graceful. I was surprised to find my cane didn’t touch the floor. I bent over and reached down as far as I could. My cane never found the floor of the isle.
Leaving with the rest of the theatre goers I realized the venue was tiered rather steeply and where we were sitting was directly over the stairs that continued to go down beneath us toward the lobby and eventually the exit. If I had not used my cane to check to see if I would be safe first, my leap over the wall would have sent me straight down a few meters onto the stairs where I might have continued to tumble to the bottom. Although it was a shortcut, I am not sure if I would have been able to stand up and walk out under my own steam.
AEBC Halifax Chapter Report
Submitted by Dar Wournell, President
This will be a shorter report than usual.
In January, members of the AEBC Halifax Chapter attended an in-person meeting with Atlantic Accessibility in Bedford, Nova Scotia. We have agreed to partner with them moving forward. they asked for our assistance on improving accessibility in air Travel when travelling at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport as a blind person who uses either a white cane and/or a guide dog. Our feedback will help remove accessibility barriers and ensure that we can travel safely and independently. In the future, our chapter members will be providing a tour of the Halifax airport, which will allow them to view first-hand how we navigate the airport, and the barriers we face.
In other partnership news, I am very pleased to report that we have renewed our partnership with the Alderney Gate Public Library. The library has purchased the license again to allow us to show movies with described video services free of charge. With recent renovations at the library, the accessible games purchased unfortunately went missing. The library has since purchased a number of new accessible games to replace them. We will be setting up an accessible games afternoon for anyone interested. Our thanks goes out to the staff at the Alderney Gate Public Library for their continued support.
In Advocacy News, our chapter recently wrote a letter to the Halifax Municipal Taxi and Limousine Services. The letter highlighted a serious concern for blind, deafblind, and partially sighted passengers regarding inaccessible and unusable point-of-sale devices installed in taxis and limousines operating in Halifax.
One of our deafblind members took a taxi and his trip was satisfactory; however, when he arrived at his destination, he was surprised to find out that the point-of-sale device was not accessible for him to use - - it had a touch-screen, with no tactile overlay or text-to-speech option. Since the machine also did not allow tap, he had to disclose his access pin of his debit card to the taxi driver. In our opinion, this is a breach of privacy, confidentiality and security disclosing personal sensitive banking information that should not be given to anyone, including a taxi driver.
We are also aware that this is not the first time that this has happened to someone who is blind, deafblind or partially sighted. Rather than having to hand over our private, confidential and sensitive information to strangers, we are requesting their immediate attention to this matter, and that they fix this undue obstacle to ensure that all taxis and limousines in operation are equipped with point-of-sale devices accessible for all. There are multiple ways of paying for taxi and limousine services in HRM; however, as other passengers have a choice on how they pay for services, we expect the same.
Lastly, I would like to announce that we will cross another milestone in the history of AEBC. The late Richard Quan, Second Vice President of AEBC, visited Halifax from his hometown of Toronto on February 29, 2008 and helped establish the AEBC Halifax Chapter. We will be celebrating 15 years of our establishment over the next few weeks. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of my chapter members, both past and present in Nova Scotia and abroad, for their continued support, playing an important role in the advocacy work we do. Cheers!
BC Affiliate news!
February is half over and we are well on our way to a busy year. Some of us aren’t done with the snow just yet, however, I have placed some less bulky footwear by my door, ready for when sunnier days arrive.
What’s happening with our Personal Response to Emergency Preparedness Project?
A steering committee has been convened to oversee the project and we have now hired a manager, who will hopefully begin the work by the beginning of March. This person will be tasked with researching, planning, delivering and documenting up-to-date practical and accessible information related to emergency preparedness. Our goal is to assemble tools to be made available online, designed to assist individuals to better prepare for emergency situations and to also educate the general public on how to best meet the needs of persons who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted in the event of an emergency. As we move forward, we will be seeking assistance from interested participants from British Columbia to discover what level of preparedness is needed in order to provide comprehensive resources which will address the needs of the blind community. This project will also promote the design of personal plans for those who will take part in the workshops where they will learn how to confidently prepare for potential emergencies.
The BC Affiliate would like to introduce the person the Steering Committee has hired for the position of Manager for the Personal Response to Emergency Preparedness project. Her name is Laura Mackenrot and she is from Richmond, BC. Among her qualifications, Laura comes to us with extensive experience having served the City of Vancouver as co-chair of the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee for many years. Also, she is currently part of the Mobility Justice Community Equity Advisory Table where she represents persons with disabilities. Laura has facilitated over 100 National Teleconferences and Webinars, which tells us she is very comfortable taking on this virtual project and she is looking forward to your participation. Please join me in welcoming Laura as she finds her way through planning this project, and stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
The BC Affiliate is gearing up for the first fundraiser of the year. On March 25, 2023, we will be hosting a “Blossom into Spring with Trivia” virtual event. We will advise when tickets will be available for purchase through Eventbrite very soon. As a reminder, all funds raised at this particular event will be designated to support the National scholarship program. We graciously recognize the Vancouver Renfrew Lions Club for their generous financial contribution towards this event, as well as for inviting their members to serve as team leaders to join in the fun. Save the date! We look forward to another successful event and we welcome everyone to join us to support post-secondary students as they further their studies.
We remain committed to keeping up with current events and to help where we may be able to make a difference. This may involve completing a survey to assist TransLink’s Advisory Committee with opinions and vital information on floating bus stops, discovering the benefits of a way-finding app like NaviLens currently being tested in a few BC lower Mainland locations, or ensuring our presence when appropriate during consultations. Many of our members as they are able, get involved with the above mentioned and more on behalf of AEBC and we are grateful for their participation as we are very much aware of the time commitment required to do so.
Let’s keep in touch. If you require further information regarding how the BC Affiliate stays busy, do not hesitate to reach out to me.
President, BC Affiliate
Update from the Toronto Chapter
First, I want to wish everyone the very best for 2023 and hope you achieve your resolutions. The Toronto Chapter in partnership with national and partner organizations held their 6th annual International Day for Persons with Disabilities Conference December 3, 2022. The theme was “Empowering We: Thriving in This New Reality.” Speakers included our own David Lepofsky and our first international speaker, Sandhya Rao from iBUG Today among other professionals in the disability community. Each year the conference seems to get bigger and better, so let’s wait to see what this year brings. We also had elections for president, secretary and member-at-large. I am in for another two-year term, Ari was re-elected for member-at-large, and we welcomed a new member to the executive who is Jonathan Virtue as secretary. We are in the process of reforming committees and hope to get them up and running by this month end. I must also mention we lost a dear friend and tireless advocate in John Rae. John was my mentor and was always there to support me when needed. I miss him greatly and will treasure the relationship I had with John. To conclude, except for February, when we are having our monthly meeting on the 21st, the Toronto Chapter monthly meeting will be on the Second Tuesday of each month and any of you can attend if you wish. I will provide the zoom link to Ryan who can share it with you. Until the next Equalizer when I hope to share more, bye for now.
President, AEBC Toronto Chapter
The Fundraising Committee will be revisiting next steps once the ESDC funding is in place. It will be necessary to determine where we should be putting our efforts as we no longer need to be looking for operating funding.
Bylaws and Governance Committee
This committee has been looking at both the Chapter and National bylaws to ensure they are in sync. It will be one of the Executive Director’s responsibilities to work with the committee to overhaul the National bylaws with the goal of making them more concise and easier to read and understand using plain language.
Accessible BC Act News from Rob Sleath
British Columbia’s Accessible B.C. Act became law in June 2021. It was a wonderful day for British Columbia! Finally, there was a legal framework in place for government, people with disabilities and the broader community to work together to identify, remove and prevent barriers that people with disabilities face in B.C.
As a person with sight loss and in my role as President and Chair of Advocates for Sight Impaired Consumers (ASIC), I sat on the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s Accessible Legislation Consultation and Advisory Committee and COVID-19 working group for just over one year.
After the legislation came into force, the ministry asked for applications from those interested to sit on the inaugural Provincial Accessibility Committee. I was honoured to be chosen as one of the 11 members. I along with my other Committee members were formally appointed December 3rd, 2021. The majority of committee members have experience facing barriers in our society. Many have worked to ensure that government upholds its commitment to align with the principle of “nothing about us without us.” I was glad to see it was included in the Act, though it is equally important that the public would be consulted on the standards to make sure other thoughts and experiences were included.
The committee provides advice and recommendations to the Minister and is overseeing the development of accessibility standards which I’m looking forward to starting in 2023.
Outlining the work accomplished in 2022, the province:
· released Accessible, a three-year plan that sets out cross-government accessibility priorities.
· Issued the Accessible BC Regulation, which requires over 750 public sector organizations, including local governments, to establish accessibility committees, accessibility plans and public feedback tools in place by Sept. 2023.
· Launched its own accessibility feedback tool to receive feedback from the public on the accessibility of government services. A link to it is on the bottom of every government web-page, or can be accessed directly: gov.bc.ca/accessibility feedback
· Formed two new technical committees to support development of the first two accessibility standards: the Accessible Service Delivery Standard and the Employment Accessibility Standard.
In December 2022, Sheila Malcolmson became the Minister of Social Development and Susie Chant became Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility. I look forward to working with them and the Ministry at our Provincial Accessibility Committee meetings. I also am looking forward to seeing the work of the Accessible Service Delivery and Employment Accessibility Technical Committee as the year goes on. I’m honoured to play a part in implementing the Accessible B.C. Act and building a more inclusive society.
Splitting your Screen Reader and Zoom Speech Sources when Using the Zoom Desktop Client
By Diana Brent
This topic has come up from time to time, and I apologize if it has been addressed before. Yes, it is possible to have your screen reader set to be heard through headphones or a headset, while Zoom comes through your computer speakers. I have JAWS coming through my headphones and Zoom speech coming through my speakers. This should work with either Bluetooth headsets or plug-in headsets. You just need to make the correct choice from within the Zoom settings.
1. Open the Zoom Client on your desktop computer and make sure you are in the home tab. You will probably be focused on the search field.
2. Press Tab twice, past your name, and your focus should be on a Settings button. Press Enter or Space to open it.
3. Press Tab once which brings you to a list of settings, General is the first item in the list.
4. Press down-arrow twice, and press Enter or Space on Audio. At this point I would suggest you have headphones plugged in so that your screen reader speech can be heard through them and so that your computer recognizes the headphones are there.
5. Press Tab once to Click “Test Speaker button” to make sure you can hear others. Press Space or Enter to hear sound coming through them. Press Space or Enter again to make it stop.
6. Press Tab again and you are in a combo box that is a list of speakers that are connected to your computer and your headphones should be included in the list. Use Up and Down arrows and choose your speakers as the sound source. Press Space or Enter on your choice.
7. You should then press Shift-Tab back to the test speaker button, and press Space or Enter again to see where the Zoom sound will be coming from. Your screen reader should be speaking in your ears, and the test speaker sound should be heard through your computer speakers. If you have several speakers in your list, you will need to play a bit to get the ones you want.
8. When you are happy with your settings, press Escape to close this window. You don’t seem to need to tab to an OK button.
Some other notes:
The “Same as System” option in the Speakers list seems to make Zoom speech come through the same source as your headphones when they are plugged in, so that is probably not ideal if your aim is to separate Zoom from your screen reader source.
My speaker list has only three options including my headphones, but my computer is fairly new and I have only ever used its built-in speakers. Your list may have many more items in it, so test each one.
The Audio Settings tab within Zoom settings has a lot of options including testing your microphone and sync settings for headset buttons. This is also where you set the audio settings for Zoom when you enter a meeting. Do not be afraid to explore. Just keep tabbing around.
Hable 1 Review
I Love the Hable One
By Betty Nobel
The Hable One is a very small and lightweight Bluetooth braille keyboard that can be used with IOS and Android phones. If you can’t afford a braille display to use with your phone, this is a great device to own. Even if you already have a braille display, the Hable One is a great piece of technology to use. It only has eight keys. The larger keys on each end are backspace on the left and space on the right. Much like cording on a braille display, you press one of the large buttons on the left or right along with different combinations on the braille keyboard to perform functions like swiping right or left, up or down, etc. You can open or close programs. You can write in contracted or uncontracted braille. You can edit text. You just press the two large buttons at the same time to double tap. Any task in any app that you need to perform using your phone, you can do with the Hable One. When you use this device to key in text, the keyboard on the phone is hidden, but you can make it visible if you prefer to do that.
I rarely touch my phone anymore. So, if you are a technology geek like I am, buy a Hable One. You won’t regret it.
Triple Vision is Back with “The Danger of a Single Story”
By Peter Field
In February and March Triple Vision is back with new episodes on the theme of “The Danger of a Single Story.” The idea of the single story is what happens when a group of people tell the story of another group of people without really having any idea about those they are talking about. Sound familiar? As the Triple Vision team explores the history of blind, deafblind, and partially sighted Canadians, the idea of the single story keeps coming up repeatedly. Really, it means that blind Canadians themselves, until now, have not been involved in telling their own story.
In January the podcast’s first episode on what the single story is emerged from a Ted Talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie who found out very early in her life what happens when other people were telling her story and the story of life in Nigeria. Episode 2 then featured American author M. Leona Godin who wrote the book, “There Plant Eyes: A personal and Cultural history of Blindness.” The single story is no stranger to Ms Godin as her book traces the history of blindness from the time of the writing of the Iliad by Homer to the present day. As Ms Godin will tell you, most of the time this history was related by people other than those who are living it.
In February the podcasts began a 5-part series on the history of governance at the CNIB. Episode 1 featured Jane Beaumont and Kevin Burns, each of whom served on CNIB’s National Board, with Jane Beaumont involved in library services and Kevin Burns in governance itself. The podcast tells the history of CNIB governance from its origins to the present, including how and why it divided into three separate organizations.
On its second February podcast, the team heard from two prominent Canadian blindness advocates, Mary Ellen Gabias and Albert Ruel. These consumers reacted to what they had heard from Jane and Kevin on the previous podcast calling into question CNIB’s claim of representation in the organization. On March 7 the podcast will continue its portrait of CNIB governance by speaking with the organizations Chief Operating Officer, Angela Bonfanti, and its new National Board Chair, Robert Fenton, a former President of AEBC. The team plans two more episodes on this theme of CNIB governance before we turn to other issues. To tune into the podcast, check out the following Triple Vision on Simplecast link and scroll down through all of the episodes. As always, if you have any comments or questions about the podcast, simply write us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!
The Latest on Eyes on Your Money with Ryan and Becky
By Peter Field
In February and March Ryan and Becky are back with new podcast episodes. Eyes on Your Money is a podcast on financial literacy, targeted at the community of Canadians who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted; however, in this podcast the two hosts provide sound financial advice to everybody! February’s podcast featured the theme “Start the Savings” as the show delves into the world of registered savings. In March the podcast will continue talking about savings as it covers off vehicles like Tax Free Savings Accounts and Registered Retirement Savings Plans. The Eyes on Your Money podcast is funded by Employment and Social Development Canada as well as the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work as part of the Disability Confidence in Finance project championed by AEBC. To tune into Eyes on your Money follow the Eyes on Your Money with Ryan and Becky on Simplecast . To reach out to the podcast, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy listening!
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