top of page

The Equalizer: December 2022

Welcome to the fifteenth issue of the Equalizer, December 2022!

There are several ways to navigate this newsletter. Each of the links in the List Of Articles will take you to the beginning of that article. You can also use heading navigation to move from article to article. You can also move from the end of an article back to the list of articles using the “Back To Top” link provided. Although heading navigation should work for everyone, one reader has reported not being able to use the links with JAWS and Outlook. How are they working for you? And how did you like this issue, and the various available formats (Braille, Word, Daisy, and audio)? 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:

Ryan Fleury

Devon Wilkins

Peter Field

Minette Samaroo

Braille Editor: Diana Brent

Publisher: Marcia Yale

List of Articles

From The President's Residence

Is it December already? Another year gone, with another new one just around the corner!

It was certainly a busy one, with human rights, e-scooter perils and fighting poverty keeping us writing letters and attending meetings.

It was our thirtieth anniversary, and I believe we celebrated it in style with a trivia afternoon/evening, and an afternoon/evening of presentations from influential Canadians ranging from our government's Chief Accessibility Officer to our organization's founders. We even opened our Annual General Meeting with a presentation by the CEO of the World Blind Union, who is also a long-time member of AEBC. However, the celebration was bittersweet, due to the loss back in April of one of the members who had participated in the majority of those thirty years, John Rae. I hope he was watching and that he approved of our efforts.

At that AGM, we welcomed three new members to the National Board — Diana Brent as Second Vice-President, Peg Mercer as Treasurer and Ryan Fleury as Director — and we said fond farewells to Minette Samaroo (off to make her name at York University), Peter Field (who is off to try to find more hours in a day), and Hilton Schwartz (who will still be helping us to think outside the box).

Looking ahead to the beginning of our next thirty years, there is a lot of work to be done and I know we will find something for everyone to sink their teeth into! Before we get back to work, though, let's take some time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Good times will regenerate our personal energy so we can move forward personally and organizationally.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!

Marcia Yale, National President

News from our chapters

BC Affiliate

Seasons Greetings from the BC Affiliate:

Already a few days into December, a perfect time to reflect on what we have accomplished throughout the year. Our Annual General Meeting was held November 12, 2022, and I am delighted to report there were 23 of us in attendance. Many of us took the opportunity to meet in person, as well as several members who joined us via Zoom. It was sure nice to see some of the folks we hadn’t made contact with other than on the phone for so long and to end the day, 20 of us gathered for dinner afterwards. At this meeting we elected the following executive, to which we welcome two new members:

Vice-President Louise Johnson,

Secretary Mary Brunner,

Treasurer Peg Mercer,

Directors Cathy Stuckenberg, Rob Ponto, Lisa Lawson and Sue McAndrew.

I was elected President and I look forward to a busy year ahead. I want to convey my sincere gratitude to Betty Nobel and Rita Dilek for serving as executive members for the past year, we appreciate the time you give so generously to help with all the work we do.

BC Accessibility Act

Members of the BC Affiliate have been busy keeping track of developments regarding the BC Accessibility Act and how we can be involved when the opportunity presents itself. Several of our members regularly attend our meetings to learn how we can continue advocating for persons who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted as it relates to matters regarding Accessibility and inclusion for everyone in British Columbia. This might include discussions on BC Elections, the debate over e-scooters, Pharma Care support for new medications or participating in focus groups to contribute vital information on the subject of the built environment in BC for example. We invite guest speakers when requested and members usually respond well to these invitations.

Regarding the BC Accessibility Act, members for the first two Accessible Standards committees have been selected by the province and are comprised of persons with disabilities to develop accessibility standards in the areas of Employment and Accessible Service Delivery. We are proud to announce that among other familiar faces, Linda Bartram has been selected to serve on the Accessible Service Delivery Committee. The province made this announcement last week and we look forward to future requests from the Provincial Accessibility Committee as they move forward with developing additional standards to advance the BC Accessibility Act.

PREP, Personal Response to Emergencies Project

In keeping with positive news, I am pleased to share that our most recent efforts to obtain funding for a specific project which will benefit blind, deafblind and partially sighted individuals in British Columbia have been rewarded. In early October, we submitted an application for funding to Disability Alliance BC, proposing a project which will serve to provide some much-needed information with respect to Emergency Preparedness. This project is called PREP, Personal Response to Emergencies Project. As referenced in our proposal, the ever-growing number of emergencies in the Province of British Columbia have given us serious cause for concern regarding emergency preparedness and it is imperative that we empower persons who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted to confidently and safely manage under various emergency situations. This project will get under way at the beginning of the new year and conclude by end of January 2024. We will keep in touch, making sure those interested and wishing to participate have the necessary information to join us in learning how to confidently be as prepared and safe as possible.

On this note, I want to wish everyone well, as we prepare to enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer. May the new year bring you peace, joy and happiness.

Chantal Oakes, President, BC Affiliate.

Ottawa Gatineau Chapter

Recently the chapter had their elections, and we want to say welcome to the new board.

Yes, Pierre Castagné is our Vice-president, Shelley-Anne Morris is our secretary and Lourdes Rojas is our treasurer. Wayne Antle was elected to the position of Director at large.

The Ottawa-Gatineau chapter held its first meeting since the municipal elections in Ontario last Tuesday night. The main topic of discussion involved the election results, which mean that Ottawa has a new mayor and a city council with many new faces. The topic of E-scooters took up most of the discussion. We will have to do a lot of work to make sure the new council is aware of our concerns. The new mayor, Mark Sutcliff, was very noncommittal when I wrote to him asking if he would support a ban on these vehicles.

After Christmas, we plan to meet with potential members living in Gatineau to determine if we have some common priorities. We have a critical mass of members who speak French, so such a meeting is definitely possible and mutually beneficial, since we will be able to discuss common problems regarding such things as hospital experiences.

Alan Conway, President, Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter

Halifax Chapter

The AEBC Halifax chapter has been busy since September with various programs and partnerships as noted below.

Weekly Events

Our weekly book club continues each Monday. We host our monthly discussion on the first Wednesday of the month called the "Mid-Week Meltdown." In the new year, we will explore bringing back our Manic Mondays and the Weekend Wind Downs (Saturday evenings). Our Atlantic Fitness Program for the Blind will re-start in the new year on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 9 a.m. which is great fun when tackling a hard work-out.

Town Hall Meetings

We held 3 Town Hall meetings to discuss the following:

• The Canada Disability Benefit Program - After the chapter met, Mac Field attended the meeting with Marcia and the chapter presidents and provided feedback that was discussed at the Town Hall the chapter held to discuss the CDB program.

• Nova Scotia Health Authority’s public consultation to improve accessibility for disabled persons - The Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK hospital is currently hosting public consultations regarding accessible health to develop a shared Accessibility Action Plan by spring of 2023. This is to improve the experience of patients, families, employees, physicians, volunteers, learners, and community members with physical, mental, learning, or sensory disabilities. Our chapter provided our responses to their questions.

• Survey questions from national - to assist chapter members provide their input, the chapter met and provided their feedback that will be sent to national.


Nova Scotia Health Authority

In collaboration with the NSHA, we have reviewed and revised our brochure "How to help blind, deafblind and partially sighted.” The NSHA keeps this brochure on their website with all other brochures for staff and patients. This brochure must be revised every three years. It was our understanding that we were no longer partnered with them as they partnered with another non-profit charity, but this is not the case.

Nova Scotia Provincial Museums

In February of 2021, members of the Halifax Chapter visited the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History to explore the museum and address any barriers for blind, deafblind, and partially sighted visitors. After the two-and-a-half-hour tour, we had an opportunity to provide feedback on how to make further improvements as the Nova Scotia government wishes to have the province barrier-free by 2030. We also discussed different options for those visiting who use smart phones and we provided a demonstration of Aira. After putting them in touch with Aira, the NS government announced last year that all Nova Scotia museums are Aira access points, which is exciting news. We were happy that the provincial government heard our request and followed through with it.

This fall, Dar was appointed to the Nova Scotia Museums Accessibility Advisory Committee to represent our chapter on barriers for blind, deafblind, and partially sighted visitors. Shortly afterwards, we were contacted by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. One of the heritage interpreters, Jacqueline, was working towards a national certification. For this, she had to create a new program and have it filmed. She always wanted the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to offer more programs for blind, deafblind, or partially sighted visitors. She created a descriptive experience for one of the Museum's more historic galleries that we visited on November 30, 2022. Dar with her guide dog Demetris, Yvon with his white cane, and Michelle with her wheelchair and her attendant, Donna, were happy to be involved. We were followed by staff with cameras and video cameras. This tour was great because not only did Jacqueline provide a description of what was around us, but she also provided many stories about the history behind each artifact we were near. And it gets even better! Throughout the tour, we were also able to hold many of the artifacts in our hands to provide even more information when you are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted. After the tour ended, we went into the board room and Jacqueline handed us several artifacts that she wanted feedback on. Some items we were able to identify; however, others, we could not. Having that "hands-on" approach provided us with a lot of information, but we were also able to use our sense of smell as some of the items used certain types of oil to keep the ropes and netting upon the ships maintained. In the end, it was a wonderful experience for the staff of the museum, and we plan to visit again in the future. Our next tour, though, is expected in January or February at Pier 21. We thank Jacqueline, Amy, and the staff of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic for a very informative, interesting, and exciting tour, and we are very proud partners of the Nova Scotia provincial Museums.

Alderney Public Library

Our partnership with the Alderney Gate Public Library has rekindled after Covid-19 restrictions has lifted. We are currently re-starting our described movie matinees which was very popular before the restrictions came into place. The library also has several accessible games for patrons who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted — games are both in large print and in braille. You can sign them out for two weeks at a time.

Dar Wournell, Chapter President

AEBC Committee News

Advocacy And Outreach Committee

Well, we started this year right out of the gate. However, before I get into what we’ve been doing, I would like to introduce the committee for this year.

Chair: Dean Steacy

Secretary: Louise Johnson

Board liaison: Marcia Yale

Member: Hilton Schwartz

Member: Peter Quaiattini

Member: Lou Pereux

Since the AGM, we have met a couple of times, and have written a submission concerning bill C 22, attended a couple of meetings with the Rick Hansen Foundation and its technical committee, and written letters to Health Canada and Procurement Canada concerning prescription labels and ScripTalk. As well, the committee decided to approach big manufacturers to see if we could get them to think about making their appliances accessible and in that light, we’ve written our first letter to Keurig and hopefully, will get a response from them soon. Finally, we are working hard on putting together a submission on the built environment for Accessible Standards Canada.

If anyone would like to join us, or has any pressing issues that they believe we need to address, please contact me at

Dean Steacy, Advocacy and Outreach Chair

Student and Education Committee

This past year, the Student and Education Committee had a work plan that included:

• Revising the scholarship application,

• Preparing and circulating the scholarship announcement,

• Reviewing scholarship applications,

• Contacting the winners and arranging for some of the successful candidates to speak at the AGM.

We sincerely appreciate the support of our donors, without whom no scholarships could be awarded. Anyone can contribute to a scholarship or set up a new one. Prospective donors are encouraged to contact either Marcia Yale or Betty Nobel, co-chairs of the committee, for further information. We also want to be certain that our contact lists for sending out application information are current and would be grateful for emails of any organizations that we should add to our email blast list.

It is always wonderful to hear what goals and dreams students share. They often have major obstacles to overcome but they show grace and perseverance as they forge ahead with their education. It is our hope that some of the students will become new advocates. Whatever they decide to do with their lives, it is a joy and a pleasure to provide them with some financial support.

Betty Nobel, Student and Education Committee Co-Chair

Fundraising Committee Work in 2021 – 2022

We raised $8,742 between Giving Tuesday, the Great Canadian Giving Challenge and the CCRW banking project. We also sponsored a successful fundraising campaign for Ukraine Relief in March. We submitted a year end funding request to ESDC upon their suggestion but were not successful. We then submitted an Operational Funding Request to ESDC in May and are still waiting to hear if we have been successful. We did receive a $20,000 grant through Disability Confidence in Finance CCRW sub-project grant funding for the AEBC Banking Project. We approached four corporate donors and seven family foundations but have received no funding through these sources.

Linda Bartram, Fundraising Chair

Bylaws and Governance Committee Work in 2021 – 2022

We drafted the Media Policy and amendments to Bylaw 17 Absentee Voting and created an Absentee Voting Policy. The latter took several months as the Board was split regarding proxy voting. A membership poll was taken to help determine the final policy draft which was adopted at the AGM. The committee has also reviewed the chapter bylaws to ensure they are in sync with the National bylaws.

Linda Bartram, Bylaws And Governance Chair

Communications Committee

Over the past year, the majority of AEBC’s Communications Committee activities have involved working jointly with the Information Technology Committee to completely redesign and upgrade our Website. We began by putting out a call for proposals, and from the list of submissions we received, we contracted a web designer who has just recently provided us with a first draft of our new site for us to begin accessibility testing and to add content to its pages. The work has been very time-consuming, but it is also very exciting and rewarding to see the new site taking shape. We are hoping to launch some time in early spring. As the work continues, we may be on the lookout for extra testers who use a variety of mobile or desktop devices and assistive technology, or who are deafblind or have varying degrees of low vision to ensure the new site meets the unique needs of our diverse membership, so stay tuned!

Simultaneous with the launch, for those who would find it helpful, we will also provide website navigation and training using various assistive technologies and mobile and desktop platforms to familiarize you with the new site, and help you thoroughly explore its content. In terms of communications, we anticipate that our new site will become your new “go-to” for Canadian advocacy and blindness-related resources. We will be sure to keep you posted as the work progresses, so that you will be as excited as your committee worker bees are when the new site comes online.

In other areas, we are working to develop an overall Communications plan for beginning to look at ways to enhance AEBC’s presence on social media and YouTube, and this work will take more prominence once our new website is up and running.

Diana Brent, Communications Committee Chair


Kiosks -- Barrier or open gate

A colleague of mine recently reported that they arrived at a medical clinic for a blood test, however, there was no person or desk available for them to register. Instead, they had to ask for sighted help, and were directed to a self-service kiosk, where they were expected to be able to use it, enter the information, find the slot for their medical card, and a few other pieces of information. Another colleague reported arriving at a Canadian airport and having to make their customs declaration at a self-service kiosk which was impossible to use. Eventually, they had to visit a customs agent and fill out a paper form but left with a huge frown. These experiences have become more and more common, and I'm sure many of our members have similar horror stories.

From an industry perspective, the goal of these kiosks is to improve customer service and cut costs. However, sadly, they are often designed with no thought to our particular situation.

As with other barriers, we are attacking this from a few different angles. We are members of a coalition focussed on the rights of our community, called the Consumer Access Group. This summer, the issue of kiosks was initiated. There are two plans ongoing.

The first plan is to create a survey, hosted by CNIB, to hear from as many from our community as possible about their experiences when accessing a self service kiosk. It will ask basically whether you have encountered a self-service kiosk, whether your experience was satisfactory or not, and where you encountered that Kiosk. The idea is, from knowing where these kiosks left a bad experience, to go visit those particular retailers if possible, point out the deficiencies, and give as positive examples those places where our members left with a smile. We have had a few meetings about the wording of the survey, and I hope for this to be resolved shortly.

The second plan involves an American organization, the Kiosk Manufacturers Association. We are a member of their accessibility advisory committee. So far, the main activity has been for us to comment upon kiosk usability and accessibility based on a set of questions put forward by the US Access board, which is a standard-setting body. Our responses were submitted to meet their deadline of November 21, and we are following up on the next steps.

It comes as no surprise that fighting for accessibility is a marathon, not a sprint, so I feel that this particular issue will be occupying us for some time to come. If you have had a negative or positive experience with a self-service kiosk, could you please send a short email with a description to

Hilton Schwartz, CAG/AEBC Member

Pandora Project

The Triple Vision podcast is bringing to light the history of blindness in Canada and, though some of the information is difficult to listen to, it reminds us of how far we've come and how much more there is still to do. And speaking of moving forward, the Triple Vision team is planning its second season, expected to start in January 2023. In this new season the team is taking a fresh look at the history of our community by telling the “danger of a single story.” So, while you wait for that, follow the link above to tune into the 26 episodes of its first season.

Peter Field, AEBC Member

Eyes on Your Money

As a result of a grant from the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) and the federal government, AEBC received some funding to launch a new podcast called Eyes on Your Money with Ryan and Becky. Developed to respond to CCRW’s “Disability Confidence in Finance” project, the podcast guides its audience into the world of financial matters, making finance easy for all listeners, including those with disabilities. Podcast hosts, Ryan Chin and Becky Armstrong, who are themselves visually impaired, will answer your questions about personal finances. The “Disability Confidence in Finance” project is designed to provide the financial sector with tools and resources to better serve their customers with disabilities. The Eyes on Your Money podcast is expected to be one of these tools.

Peter Field, AEBC Member

Banking project Videos

We also developed some videos on how to use Excel for creating a budget, Amazon shopping, ordering from Uber Eats and more, all from an accessibility point of view. Thank you to everyone who contributed their time and talents to put this together.

Peter Field, AEBC Member

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians’ 30th Anniversary

Theme: "Our history, our vision, our guide; forging the roadmap into our future."

The 30th Anniversary Organizing Committee included Chantal Oakes, Chair; Louise Johnson; Maryse Glaude-Beaulieu; Devon Wilkins; and Diana Brent. Our special ceremony opened this year’s AGM festivities and included door prizes and very inspiring presentations from the following guest speakers:

· Richard Marion, singing O Canada and providing the land acknowledgement;

· David Lepofsky;

· Ms. Stephanie Cadieux, Chief Accessibility Officer;

· Dr. Paul Gabias and Mrs. Mary Ellen Gabias, AEBC founders;

· Irene Lambert; and

· Albert Ruel.

A Brief Romp Through AEBC’s History

How old were you when AEBC was born?

In 1992, when Paul and Mary Ellen Gabias successfully birthed the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality, which was modeled after the National Federation of the Blind in the US, I was married with two preteen girls. My husband and I were both working full-time, and I was volunteering for a provincial cross-disability advocacy group in Alberta. The articles of incorporation for this fledgling organization were signed in June of that year.

For Paul and Mary Ellen, bringing their dream to fruition was analogous to building a house from the ground up, requiring a plan, a strong foundation, bricks and mortar for building, and resources to make NFB:AE a sustainable reality. The plan was the NFB model, and the philosophy of the consumer driven movement -- that we must have access to, and control over, the goods and services we require that allow us to live productive and independent lives.

The foundation was advocacy and public education, which remains our focus today. The bricks and mortar is the membership that grew slowly at first, blossoming over time, and at its highest, included 16 chapters across the country, with our membership peaking at 268 in 2008. Today, we have more than 180 members, and our numbers are beginning to increase again.. If you follow the themes and discussion threads in the conference programs over the years, you can clearly see how the organization has steadily grown and evolved, training our members to become stronger and better advocates.

Can you imagine a time before email?

By 1996, email became a game-changer connecting members across the country, allowing for almost real-time collaboration and ideas exchange. Since then, technology and the growth of the Internet has helped us to include listserv, website, social media, video and podcasting, teleconferencing, and most recently the use of the Zoom platform to improve connection and communication with our membership, bureaucrats and ministers at all levels of government, and the general public. Also, as our skills and our use of technology grew, and the technology itself improved, we could work faster and more efficiently to produce more papers, briefs and letters for submission to government departments and anyone else who would listen.

Were you part of the action? …

· 1998: First Canadian NFB:AE conference hosted in Vancouver, and Richard Marion is elected as the second president ending Paul Gabias' 6-year presidency.

· 1999: The second Canadian conference is in Victoria. Robert Fenton is elected president, a post he holds for two years. A push towards a more Canadian philosophy and structure causes a split within the membership, forming a new organization, the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB).

· October 16, 2004: A special meeting membership vote finally agrees on our name change: The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), which we have proudly kept to this day.

· March 17, 2005: Our new name takes effect, and is first used at the Ottawa conference in April of that year.

Did you know? …

· John Rae was our longest serving national board member, holding every position except secretary for over 14 years. He held the position of President for just over 4 years between 2002-06. Robin East is his successor.

· There have been 12 presidents throughout our history, 4 women and 8 men.

· The 2014 AGM/conference launches a national strategy for AEBC. Anthony Tibbs, who was president at this time explains it this way: “The work we do must not only focus on advocacy, but on supporting our advocates. We are a collective of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians working together with those who support us to improve our lives, and to create opportunities for our community to succeed in all aspects of life.”

Many of the advocacy issues we raised in the early ‘90s are still ongoing today and we continually add to the list …

· Delivery of specialized library services for the blind. AEBC has always had difficulty having its voice heard at the consultation table.

· Continue to lobby for copyright and publisher/published material to be in accessible formats.

· Monitoring the designation of suitable definitions for and the standards that govern service animals and assistance dogs.

· Monitoring progress as our access to point of sale terminals improves.

· Continuing as part of a joint committee to advocate for accessible kiosk services in grocery and department stores; ordering in from fast food and other restaurants; ticket sales in movie theatres, airports, bus and train terminals.

· Monitoring affordable accessible housing in local, provincial and national jurisdictions.

· Ongoing, constant conversations around improving access to employment and training opportunities.

· Since the Accessible Canada Act (Bill C 81) was proclaimed in July 2019, AEBC remains actively committed to providing input ensuring that we have a voice in the development and adoption of standards that must include us – Nothing about us without us. We also follow the progress of provincial disability strategies as they become legislated.

The individuals highlighted above, and oh so many more like them, have spent their lives focusing on removing barriers for those of us who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted, increasing our confidence and showing us that we are rightsholders, not stakeholders in society and always promoting our ability over disability. Consider that we, the members of AEBC, are the present. Who are your mentors and heroes, walking hand in hand navigating your roadmap into our future?

Diana Brent, on behalf of the 30th Anniversary Organizing Committee

Social Media

Yes, we are on Facebook and Twitter.

We have also started to post to our social media accounts more often so we hope you will take time to visit them and leave a comment or like the post as doing so will help expand the reach of AEBC.

• Visit Twitter: @Blindcanadians


Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Yep, we do. We have started to get as much of our content uploaded to our AEBC YouTube channel as possible. There is a lot of content there, so head on over to to see what's there.

Holiday Trivia for you

The holiday decoration tinsel was originally made from strands of what metal?

Answer: Silver. Once a display of wealth, it was tradition in Germany to hang tinsel ("estincele,” or sparkle in Old French, or “lametta,” meaning tiny blade in Italian) made of thin strips of silver on a Christmas tree to reflect candlelight. But since silver has a hefty price tag, cheaper alternatives have been made since the early 20th century.

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” what is Scrooge’s first name?

Answer: Ebenezer. First published as a novella in 1843, the book commonly known as A Christmas Carol tells the story of an elderly grouch who is transformed into a kinder man following visits from the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and several impactful spirits. An instant success, the holiday staple has never been out of print.

What country has a tradition of eating KFC on Christmas day?

Answer: Japan! Aptly nicknamed "Kentucky Fried Christmas," what began as a cheeky gimmick in the mid-1980s has evolved into a more widespread justification for locals to bring home a festive feast of KFC to share with family the week of Christmas. A “party barrel” bucket filled with fried chicken, coleslaw and cake makes for an annual holiday treat that many Japanese families enjoy, year after year.

Christmas Carol Reference

Did you know that an early reference to guide dogs appears in the Charles Dickens’ classic, “A Christmas Carol”? Yes, early in the book Dickens describes the crusty and ill-tempered nature of Scrooge in the following quotation: “Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and, when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

Wishing you all the best this holiday season and a very happy new year.

The Equalizer Committee

Connect With Us

Contact your Board:

AEBC Website:

Toll-Free: 800-561-4774


bottom of page