Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair user in Vancouver, reminds people to ask before touching or pushing their chair.
— Read on www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/a-wheelchair-user-s-guide-to-consent-1.4982862
Barrier-Free Manitoba and partner groups have launched the “Accessibility is the Law / Participation is Your Right” public information campaign. The campaign’s goal is to promote awareness of new accessibility requirements established under the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) for all public meetings
Under the AMA, provincial government departments have been responsible to ensure the full accessibility of public meetings and events since November 1, 2016. Starting November 2017, most public sector organizations beyond government must do the same.
That means that organizations are required to ensure that:
• notices and promotions of public meetings and events are accessible to Manitobans with disabilities
• public meetings and events are held in spaces that are accessible
• Manitobans with disabilities are invited to request accommodations required for their full participation
• the physical and communication needs of persons disabled by barriers are met on request.
These organizations include:
• All government boards, commissions, associations, agencies, or similar bodies for which all board members are appointed Act of the Legislature or by the Lieutenant Governor in Council
• All colleges and universities
• All regional health authorities
• All school divisions and schools
• The cities of Brandon, Dauphin, Flin Flon, Morden, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Steinbach, Thompson, Winkler and Winnipeg.
In the past, while all Manitobans with disabilities have had the same legal right to participate as everyone else, many thousands of them, in practice, were denied their human rights to full citizenship because of barriers. The requirements established under the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act have now changed this. We think that this is wonderful news.
This campaign is intended to:
• Inform Manitobans with disabilities of the requirements removing barriers to their right to participate.
• Inform organizations what they are required to do to fulfill the requirements.
Celebrate and Exercise Your Rights
Please take every opportunity to celebrate and exercise your rights. Please become and have others you know become accessible public meeting champions who help ensure that organizations are meeting these new requirements.
If you see a notice in newspapers, online or elsewhere of public meetings and events being held by the organizations listed above, and it does not include an open and clear invitation for Manitobans with disabilities to request accommodations, call the group and express your concerns. If you want to attend and need an accommodation, request it in advance. If you see that a public meeting or event is scheduled to be held in space that you know is not fully accessible, call the group and express your concerns.
If you still have concerns after speaking with the group and/or if the group tells you that they won’t provide the requested accommodation, we strongly encourage you to work with VIRN and contact the Province’s Disability Issues Office:
Toll Free: 1-800-282-8069 (Extension 7613)
Change is hard, even a really important change like this. We expect that at least some of the organizations are going to need a little encouragement; together we can provide that encouragement. Please become and have others you know become accessible public meeting champions who help ensure that organizations are meeting these new requirements.
Finally, BFM would like to thank the partner groups that have helped organize this information campaign:
• Deaf Centre Manitoba Inc.
• Manitoba Deaf Association
• St. Amant
• Manitoba Deaf-Blind Association Inc.
• Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities,
• Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Manitoba Chapter organizations are meeting these new requirements.
On August 9, 2017 at 6:15:59 AM PDT NC-ACCESSIBLE-CANADA-GD@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca said:
Subject: Consultation Report of Canada’s Possible Accession to the Optional Protocol to the CRPD
The purpose of this e-mail is to inform you that the Consultation Report of Canada’s Possible Accession to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is now available online through the Consulting with Canadians website. To access the report, please click here.
The report is also available in other formats, including large print, braille, audio cassette, audio CD, e-text diskette, e-text CD and DAISY. To access other formats of the report, you may submit a form online, available here, or call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232). If you use a teletypewriter (TTY), call 1-800-926-910.
You may also request other formats by replying to this e-mail.
CCB National Newsletter Special Edition: Summer 2017
Message from the Editor++
Although the dog days of summer have arrived, CCB still remains very active.
Our newsletter usually breaks for the summer months, as do our chapters, but recently there have been so many positive things happening within the Council, that I felt they couldn’t wait until September!
Recent developments include:
• A new partnership between CCB and the Essilor group
• CCB’s Trust Your Buddy program going national
• GTT continuing to thrive across the country
Please read on to discover all the details of the many things CCB has recently been involved with. Enjoy the read, and have a wonderful summer—Mike Potvin, Editor.
Trust Your Buddy takes on Chronic Disease++:
As CCB’s TYB program looks to engage, educate and empower CCB members from across the country, to get up, get active and improve fitness; we are talking “chronic disease prevention”.
Has your doctor told you any of the following?
-You are at risk of heart disease?
-You are at risk of type 2 diabetes?
-Your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol may be too high?
-You are overweight or obese and need to lose body fat to help prevent the onset of various health related issues?
TYB is your resource to help address these concerns.
Ryan is a Certified Kinesiologist, which means he is a health care professional with 10+ years of experience in helping those at risk of various chronic diseases.
Take advantage of this FREE professional resource and help yourself get started or continue on that path to a healthy lifestyle.
Check out the “CCB Trust Your Buddy” page on Facebook or channel on Youtube.
Email Ryan any health and fitness related questions you may have and he can chat with you to help answer them and get you headed in the right direction!
Your body does not care that you are blind or visually impaired, it still requires the proper physical activity and nutrition to keep you healthy and steer you clear of chronic disease.
CCB is proud to offer you this ground breaking resource, in hopes that you can lead a happy and healthy long life!
-Ryan Van Praet (Reg. Kinesiologist)
“TRUST YOUR BUDDY”
Accessible Sport & Health Education
Canadian Council of the Blind
Search us on Social Media:
Facebook & Youtube:
“CCB Trust Your Buddy”
GTT Support Email Discussion List++:
GTT is an exciting initiative of the CCB, founded in 2011 by Kim Kilpatrick and Ellen Goodman. GTT aims to help people who are blind or have low vision in their exploration of low vision and blindness related access technology. Through involvement with GTT participants can learn from and discuss assistive technology with others walking the same path of discovery.
GTT is made up of blindness related assistive technology users, and those who have an interest in using assistive technology designed to help blind and vision impaired people level the playing field. GTT groups interact through social media, and periodically meet in-person or by teleconference to share their passions for assistive technology and to learn what others can offer from their individual perspectives.
The CCB’s Get Together with Technology program now offers an email discussion list for blind, deafblind and partially sighted Canadians. This GTT Support email list is a good tool through which members can share their assistive technology discoveries, make comments, and ask questions about assistive technology.
To subscribe send an email to the following address.
1. Put the word “subscribe” in the subject line and leave the body of the email message empty.
2. You will get a return email to confirm your subscription. Simply reply to that email to confirm.
3. You will get a second email returned to you that welcomes you as a list member. It will give instructions on how to post messages to the list.
For questions about the list contact its moderators, Brenda Bush, Kim Kilpatrick or Albert Ruel by sending an email to, GTTsupportemail@example.com
For more information please contact your GTT Coordinators:
Albert Ruel or Kim Kilpatrick
1-877-304-0968 ext 550 or 1-877-304-0968, ext 513
We are happy to announce that Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) has won an FCC Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility. AMI collected their award in Washington DC for their Integrated Described Video Best Practices Guide.
Jim Tokos has represented the CCB in this descriptive video advisory group, providing valuable input on behalf of our members for many years, so we are especially happy for this accomplishment!
A sincere thank you to all the members of the DVBP for your efforts in advancing accessibility and inclusion. AMI were one of four winners, and other recipients included Facebook and Amazon. A truly wonderful accomplishment for our group.
CCB Atlantic Sports Weekend++:
CCB Bathurst Chapter hosted the Atlantic Sports and Recreation weekend, which was held from May 19th to 21st, 2017. At the same time they celebrated the 40th anniversary of their chapter. Many members won ribbons and medals, 8 members from Bathurst took part in the events. 5 of these members won first place in darts and also finished third place in bowling. Chapters attended from PEI, Nova Scotia, St-Jean Terre-Neuve, New Brunswick. Thank you to all the organizations that donated to this great event.
Submitted by Anita Boudreau
Announcement from the CCB Windsor Essex Low Vision Social & Support Group++:
Congratulations to the Windsor Essex Low Vision Social & Support Group, who just celebrated their 15th Anniversary!
The group commemorated the day with a special Canada Day themed meeting, celebrating our country’s 150th birthday.
Following the luncheon, the program was turned over to the vice president Christine Copeland, who read aloud the names of twenty-seven members who are no longer with us.
Ken continued the program with the presentation of gifts to Christine Copeland and Jeanie Krigel, recognizing them as charter members, along with Shauna Bogheen who contributed greatly to the existence of our group through the CNIB. Also recognized with a gift, along with a life time membership, was Ben Vincent representing the only member with close to fifteen years of service to the group.
The meeting concluded with closing words from Jim Tokos along with our president Tom Bannister.
In addition, Emanuel Blaeyoet. Gave a report on the Windsor tandem bicycle group, how it first originated with the help of our group and how well it has done in such a short time. Good news to hear!
Ken Christie – secretary
Happenings at Camp Bowen++:
April, May and June were more busy months here at Camp Bowen. We have been working with our local library to improve access to information, launched a survey to help us kickstart our independent living skills training initiative, and continue to plan for adult camp 2017, which has been moved to run from Monday, August 21st. to Friday, August 25th this year due to matters outside of our control (see below for details on changes to this year’s camp).
Working in a community that has supported us with open hearts throughout the past seven years has been rewarding. The generosity of Bowen Islanders is what has allowed us to remain on island as long as we have and to continue to rebuild the Camp Bowen programs. However, we’ve always felt that we should do more to give back to the island community that has given so much to us. The project outlined here marks the first public step in that direction, a step that we hope will be the first of many to come.
Back in February, we approached the Bowen Island Public Library to see if it would be feasible to make the public access computers in the library accessible for blind and partially sighted patrons. The enthusiasm from library staff has been wonderful through the entire time we have worked together on this project.
We’re very pleased to announce today that both of the public computers in the library now run NVDA, an open-source screen reader that reads out the computer screen to blind and partially sighted computer users. Information is so important in this day and age and we recognize that libraries are an important conduit to the world for many people. We at Camp Bowen are glad to have played a part in making some of that information more accessible to Bowen Islanders with disabilities and we would like to take this opportunity to thank Leo and the rest of the team at the Bowen Island Public Library for working with us to make this project a reality. We couldn’t have done it without you.
In the coming weeks we will be providing more information about how to access NVDA at the library and where one can go to find additional resources on this great tool.
In other news, the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired is currently undertaking work to help create an independent living skills training centre for blind and partially sighted Canadians. To help build a case demonstrating the need for such a centre, the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired is currently running a survey to collect information on the levels of independent living skills training available in Canada. The survey is intended to be completed by blind and partially sighted Canadians who are 18 years of age or older before September 30, 2017.
The survey has both an online and phone in option. If you prefer not to fill out the survey online, you can complete the survey over the phone by calling +1 (604) 947-0021 extension 7 or toll free at +1 (844) MYBOWEN (692-6936) extension 7. To take the survey online, please visit:
For more information on the training centre initiative or to find out how you can help make a Canadian independent living skills training centre a reality, please visit:
For any questions or comments regarding the initiative, please call +1 (604) 947-0021 extension 7 or +1 (844) MYBOWEN (692-6936) extension 7. You can find additional ways to contact us at:
And now for an update on Adult Camp 2017.
The Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired regrets that due to safety work that will not be completed at Bowen Island Lodge in time for our retreat this summer, we have had to book an alternate venue on Bowen Island: The Lodge at the Old Dorm. This is a one year stopgap measure and we will be back at the Bowen Island Lodge next summer.
“Purpose built in 1941 by the Union SteamShip Company aka USSC to provide thirteen rooms for staff residences; it was a key part of the old resort. Purchased 25 years ago, and extensively renovated, thanks to Dan’s “hands-on” attention to detail, today, The Lodge at the Old Dorm delivers that old world feel with today’s charm.” (From the website of The Lodge at the Old Dorm)
The dates the Lodge at the Old Dorm has available are August 21-25 – Monday to Friday. We have already booked these dates. This facility is smaller than Bowen island Lodge so has a more limited capacity so we encourage everyone to get their registration in as soon as possible.
Activities we will plan during the time include:
Bus trip to a public beach for swimming
Group walk to the village
Group hike and/or nature walk
A demo day with Canadian Assistive Technologies
Basic and/or advanced sessions on assistive technologies
Water taxi tour (would be a charge per person)
Basic and/or intermediate self-defence workshop.
Note: The above activities will run if there is sufficient interest. Further, some activities will only run if our partners are available for these dates. We are working on this now.
The costs for camp this year have not changed from our previously advertized 2017 rates. The below costs are based on having all meals at camp. However, we are once again allowing campers to opt-out of meals at camp. Should campers choose to eat at some of the amazing restaurants on Bowen Island instead of having meals at camp, they will receive some money off their camp fees to help with the expense. We would also like to remind campers that there is $200 worth of available funding from the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation for BC residents who receive Persons with Disability (PWD) benefits. The cost of accommodation and all meals will be $450 per person based on double occupancy for the four nights. Cost for single occupancy would be $700.
The menu for the retreat will be posted on the Camp Bowen website as part of the registration form.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause you. We look forward to a number of you joining us. For those of you who can’t make it this year, we look forward to seeing you next year back at the Bowen Island Lodge.
For more information or to register, please visit https://campbowen.ca/camps/adult/ or call +1 (844) MYBOWEN (692-6936) extension 2.
We look forward to welcoming many new and returning guests for a fun-filled and relaxing getaway this summer.
The Camp Bowen Team
Accessible Canada – Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians++:
Message from the Minister:
As Canada’s first-ever Minister responsible for persons with disabilities, I had the honour of leading Canada’s largest and most accessible consultation on disability issues ever.
In the summer of 2016, I began asking Canadians all across the country, “What does an accessible Canada mean to you?” What we learned, summarized in this report, will help us create new federal accessibility legislation.
I’m proud to say more than 6,000 Canadians participated in person and online. Throughout the consultation, I held 18 in-person public meetings across the country that were supported by local leaders from the disability community. These meetings were made fully accessible for a range of disabilities and included English and French real-time captioning, American Sign Language and Langue des signes québécoise, and intervenor services for participants who are deaf-blind. In northern Canada, Inuit sign language was also provided.
The online consultation set equally high standards of accessibility.
Consultation questions were available in Braille, large print, e-text, audio and sign language. Participants were also invited to share their ideas by email, phone or TTY or by sending audio or video recordings.
I also worked hand-in-hand with disability organizations and national Indigenous organizations across Canada to ensure that everyone who wanted to participate had the opportunity to do so.
Through the consultations, Canadians from across our country shared their personal stories—their challenges, successes, hopes and aspirations. I heard from youth who wanted equal access to education, I heard from parents with dreams of their children being self-sufficient and I heard from young adults frustrated with their ability to access public services. Yet there was one common theme: They each faced a barrier that limited their ability to be fully included.
I recognize that new federal legislation will not address every barrier that Canadians with disabilities face. In fact, many issues raised were beyond the reach of federal jurisdiction. I do, however, share the same hope and optimism of the thousands of those who participated on how the Government of Canada can be a leader with this new legislation and how this new legislation can bring about real change for Canadians with disabilities.
Moving forward, we’re going to take what we learned through this historic consultation process to develop new federal accessibility legislation that will provide all Canadians a better chance to succeed in their local communities and workplaces. We will also share what we learned with all levels of government and encourage them to join us in our journey to make a more accessible Canada.
This consultation process was a very important step forward towards inclusion, but it is only the beginning of a journey to reach our goal of a truly inclusive Canada. Thank you to all who participated.
Together, we are making history.
– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
Philips offers a line of accessible TV and Video Players for blind and low vision users.
The entire line of 2017 Philips brand televisions and video players now offers Enhanced Accessibility to allow blind and visually impaired users to control the devices’ functions. Adding Enhanced Accessibility to products entails the addition of voice guide descriptive menus, easy to read user interface, guide dots on remote controls, easy access to closed captioning/subtitles and secondary audio, easy access to support, and an easy way to identify these products with the help of an Enhanced Accessibility logo.
Remote controls on the affected Philips products feature guide dots so that users can easily control key functions, such as power on/off, volume adjustment and mute, channel selection, playback functions, input selection, and other important functions.
Philips groups these new capabilities under its Enhanced Accessibility feature set, which also includes an easy-to-read and navigate user interface, large format support information, and closed captioning, a long-mandated requirement for assisting the hearing impaired.
The user interface voice guide and other features are new requirements established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as part of the Twenty-First
Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The new rules mandate that certain built-in functions in TVs, Blu-ray players, and DVD players, among other consumer electronics products, be usable by individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The deadline for meeting the new requirements was December 20, 2016.
The new rules mandate that any key functions available only via an on-screen menu must offer user interface voice guides, with the menu options spoken and user selections audibly confirmed.
“The FCC regulations on Enhanced Accessibility allow us to design our products so they can be enjoyed by more consumers,” said Karl Bearnarth, executive
vice president, sales and marketing, PF USA, Inc., the exclusive North American licensee for Philips consumer televisions and home video products.
“We took this initiative very seriously and were determined to ensure that our entire line of TVs and video players, including basic DVD players, met the requirements and that they were as intuitive as possible to use for those who are visually impaired.”
Greetings from the President++:
I would like to wish everyone a happy summer as we spend time relaxing with family and friends and enjoying the wonderful weather. This newsletter contains a lot of exciting news and activities that many chapters are involved with. Thank you to all the volunteers who help us all year who sometimes may get forgotten but who do a tremendous amount of work to help us all reach our goals and improve our lives.
Keep safe, enjoy summer and be alert especially right now in BC during this time of extreme danger due to fire.
A Note from the National Office++:
On March 4th, there was a horrible flood in our offices. A water main leak gushed through our floors, buckling the concrete floors and bending the walls. Over 3 feet of water filled our office space. We cleaned and moved as fast as we could into temporary space on the third floor of our building. All the staff has continued to work very hard, even on folding tables and chairs. Since then workers have been repairing everything, the floor and most of the walls are now done. The water main has been fixed and the elevator is almost ready to go. We have been working hard to replace our furniture, and have received several wonderful in-kind donations, as well as keeping everything running as smoothly as possible. We are now reaching the point that we can move back into our offices, and expect to be there in the beginning of September. Everyone is looking forward to getting back into our routines.
August 1, 2017
Gord Johns, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. Johns:
Re: Draft Service Dog Standards Now Before the Canadian General Standards Board
I am writing to you as a concerned citizen with a vision-related disability and as a former guide dog user.
Several years ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs requested that training standards be implemented before they allocated $75,000 towards lifetime training and care for each service dog provided to our Canadian veterans.
Public Works Canada, through the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) formed a committee that has now drafted standards not just for veterans’ dogs, but standards to be applied to every service dog and guide dog in Canada.
In reviewing the draft standards, it is obvious that the CGSB has completely ignored the existing standards followed in over 40 countries, including Canada, as written by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). These excellent standards are followed and committed to by 93 guide dog schools in 32 countries.
Further, rather than ensuring that any proposed standards were consistent with current human rights legislation, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the CGSB has drafted standards that are completely contrary to any of them.
It should also be noted that Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, is currently drafting a Canadians with Disabilities Act, which will certainly take into account all the documents mentioned above.
If guide dog users do not get an exemption from these draft standards, for our dogs from schools here, the USA, and elsewhere, we will be subject to regulations that degrade us, demean us, and take away our basic human rights as citizens of Canada, as well as tourists with vision loss who might visit our beautiful country from other nations.
Here are some examples drawn from the draft standards, which are very long and very, very detailed:
· Our guide dogs would, regardless of which IGDF-compliant school they’re from, have to be retested by government inspectors.
· Inspectors would have the right to visit our homes at any time, demand financial records, obtain veterinarians’ records, etc.
· Our guide dogs would be required to perform obedience drills out of harness and off-leash – things that they are simply never expected to do.
· We would also be required to carry an identification kit containing a photograph, full name, address, name of the guide dog school, and other personal information to be presented on demand to members of the public to prove the dog’s certification.
To see what a coalition of Dog Guide users across Canada are saying about this travesty,
Please visit our Blog Hands Off Our Harnesses at,
Follow us on Twitter with the Hashtags, #HOOH or #IGDFFreeChoice
Check us out on Facebook at,
I am asking you, as my Member of Parliament, to support me and all vision-impaired people in Canada, by making your voice heard to
a) Ask that all guide dogs from IGDF-compliant schools be exempted from the draft standards now under consideration by the CGSB, or
b) Simply see that the entire draft standard is scrapped.
Albert A. Ruel
702 Ironwood Ave
Parksville BC V9P 2S2
Factsheet for employers and employment
Blind and partially sighted people at work
– Guidance and good practice for Risk
About this factsheet
This factsheet is for anyone who needs help with safety management in a place where blind or partially sighted people work. Blind and partially sighted people compete for, perform and succeed in a wide range of jobs. Many need little or no adjustment to their workplace or to working practices, and yet many employers worry about employing blind and partially sighted people, sometimes having concerns for their safety and for the safety of others.
This guidance has been compiled in consultation with: health and safety professionals; people in the workplace who assess the risks to employees; employers; and with blind and partially sighted people. We aim to help risk assessors by providing the information they need to reach decisions, and ensure a safe environment with safe working guidelines.
1. The need for Guidance
2. Blind and partially sighted people at work
3. The process of Risk Assessment
4. Key points for Risk Assessment
5. Common issues
5.1 Dealing with Guide Dogs
5.2 Mobility and travel
5.4 Trip hazards
5.5 Lone working
5.6 Evacuating the building
5.8 Safe use of computer systems
5.10 Caring for others
7. Sources of help and further information
1. The need for guidance
Carrying out a risk assessment of the workplace or an activity for blind or partially sighted people doesn’t have to be difficult, but it can sometimes be a daunting prospect. If you haven’t worked with blind people before, it can be very easy to over-estimate risks or make assumptions about what blind people can or can’t do.
People who risk assess the workplaces and activities of blind and partially sighted people, looking for advice, often approach RNIB. While we are aware that mistakes can be made, we also know that risks can be managed successfully and we want to share good practice.
This guidance has been produced to highlight some of the things that we’re often asked about, share examples of successful risk management and suggest sources of help.
We are also aware that risk assessment, or health and safety in general, has been used as an excuse not to employ blind and partially sighted people (Hurstfield et al, 2003). We hope that the guidance we have put together will help to overcome unnecessary barriers.
Most importantly, we hope that this guidance helps you to reach informed decisions and, in so doing, ensures that blind and partially sighted people can continue to work effectively and safely.
2. Blind and partially sighted people at work
In the middle of the last century, blind people were encouraged to work in specific occupations. These included jobs as switchboard operators, masseurs, piano tuners and even basket weavers.
Things have changed quite considerably and blind and partially sighted people now succeed in a range of jobs across different sectors. “This IS Working 2” (RNIB, 2009), gave examples of ten people working as: a company director, senior physiotherapist, sales and marketing manager, shop owner, policy officer, development and funding officer, teacher, administrative assistant, and outreach worker. A copy of this document, which includes testimonials from employers, can be fond here: http://www.rnib.org.uk/livingwithsightloss/working/successstories/Pages/success_stories.aspx
Blind people do succeed at work. When safety management works well, we know that all employees, including blind and partially sighted people, can work safely.
3. The process of risk assessment
Employers are required by law to manage health and safety in the workplace. Each organisation will have their own ways of doing this and the roles of individual risk assessors can be different.
This document does not deal with the mechanics of undertaking and recording risk assessments. The principles are the same for everyone, but guidance is already available on dealing with “disability” in relation to safety management. See, for example, ‘Health and Safety for Disabled People and Their Employers (Health and Safety Executive and DRC).
IOSH, the Chartered body for health and safety professionals, offers advice on their website about the responsibilities that the Equality Act imposes on those who manage safety.
They specifically suggest that:
• the Equality Act has an effect on the way you
• manage safety.
• while you may be able to use health and safety issues related to disability as a reason not to employ someone – or to refuse a service to someone – you can only do so if certain conditions are met.
• if the safety of a task may be affected by someone’s disability, then a risk assessment should be carried out for everyone, not just for disabled employees.
• if you don’t document the steps you’ve taken to consult disabled workers or customers, and to make reasonable adjustments, your organisation could be involved in an expensive tribunal case.
This factsheet will focus on how risk assessment can affect blind and partially sighted people at work.
4. Key points for risk assessment
In general, the following points will help to shape your risk assessments:
4.1 Risk assessments should address a task and everyone
Whilst the legislation requires employers to identify groups that might be at risk of harm, telling someone that “you must be risk assessed” sends out a negative message. In a way, it suggests that the individual is the issue, when this is clearly not the case. It sounds much more positive to tell someone that activities are being assessed.
4.2 The individuals involved must be consulted
The Health and Safety Executive’s “Five Steps to Risk Assessment” recommends that: ‘In all cases, you should make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. They will have useful information about how the work is done that will make your assessment of the risk more thorough and effective.’
Your blind or partially sighted employee is usually the best person to describe how their sight loss affects them and you should be able to tap in to that knowledge. Risk assessments carried out without the involvement of blind and partially sighted employees are significantly more likely to be inaccurate.
4.3 “Adjustments” must be considered as part of the process
Employers have a responsibility to make “reasonable adjustments” to working practices and physical features. This is likely to include the provision of auxiliary aids. While this might be beyond your area of responsibility as a risk assessor, you must be prepared to take proposed changes into account.
4.4 It is important that you do not make assumptions about
the level of someone’s functional vision
Most blind people have some useful vision. Some people will be able to see fine detail, while some may have very good peripheral vision. Even people with the same eye condition can have widely different levels of useful sight.
Employers often ask for medical guidance to help understand what people can or can’t see. However, this is often presented in medical terms and is usually lacking an occupational focus.
Asking the individual to describe their sight is often the best way to gather information to assess risk. Professionals who work with blind and partially sighted people at work can be another source of information. Making assumptions about what people can and can’t see will produce flawed risk assessments.
5. Common issues
Employers often contact RNIB to ask for advice about specific worries they have about the safety of a blind or partially sighted colleague. Things we have been asked about include:
5.1 Guide Dogs at work
Guide dogs are one example of an aid to mobility. However, it has been estimated that as few as one or two per cent of blind or partially sighted people use guide dogs to get around. It is therefore important that you don’t assume that people either use guide dogs, or choose to bring them to work.
Having said that, if an employee brings a guide dog to work, proper planning is required to ensure that things run smoothly.
We have been asked about accommodating guide dogs at work and, in most cases, working practices can be adopted to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment.
Some of the common questions revolve around:
Toileting – a suitable area must be identified for the guide dog. While in some places there are very obvious locations for this, some companies (particularly in town centres) find this difficult.
Moving around building – the extent to which a blind person uses a guide dog once at their workstation will vary, depending on the person’s other mobility skills and knowledge of the environment. It is important that the guide dog user is aware of his or her responsibilities. Working rules should be established. These could include where the dog goes when not “on harness” or how often breaks are required.
Induction/emergency procedures – it may be necessary to review your evacuation plans. There may already be a structure in place (such as personal emergency evacuation plans) to facilitate this within your organisation. Standard instructions, such as those issued during induction should be available in the correct format for the employee to read.
Colleagues – the extent to which colleagues interact with guide dog users is likely to vary. There are both positive and negatives to this. For example, colleagues can distract a working dog, or alternatively can assist with “walking” the dog. Colleagues may need to be told of their responsibilities. For example, they may need to know when it might be appropriate to play with or to walk the dog, or to know when the dog is working.
Allergy/Fear of dogs/cultural influences – Some thought may need to be given to where guide dogs are based while people are working to allay concerns.
If in any doubt about any aspect of working with Guide Dogs, representatives from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association will want to help you with this.
5.2 Mobility and travel
When considering potential risks involved in travelling, it is important to bear in mind that most blind or partially sighted people will travel easily with no problems. Some may need support.
Blind and partially sighted people have varying levels of sight and particular eye conditions affect sight in different ways. We can’t assume that people with the same eye condition are affected in the same way, as people with the same eye condition often see the world in entirely different ways. Familiarity with the area and environmental factors, such as lighting, are other things that can affect someone’s mobility.
Additionally, people adjust to sight loss in different ways. It is safe to say that the mobility skills of blind and partially sighted people vary considerably. Some people travel independently, while others use mobility aids or support from others to travel.
It probably goes without saying that an individual should be consulted when considering potential risks with travel. It is also good practice to ensure that any concerns about mobility are kept in perspective – issues should not be allowed to be blown out of proportion.
If an individual is looking for mobility support for specific parts of their travel, two agencies might be able to help.
In each local authority area, there are mobility specialists, sometimes known as rehabilitation workers, who can teach people how to use mobility aids and help them learn to navigate routes. They either work for the local authority social work team, or the organisation that holds the register of blind and partially sighted people.
The Access to Work programme supports people at work and individuals can apply for financial assistance to travel to and from work and within work. The Access to Work programme can only cover the additional costs of travelling to meet disability-related and it is not intended to replace the standard costs involved in business use.
Both the quality and quantity of lighting has a significant impact on all working environments. For some people, it can help to create a comfortable workplace. For others, lighting can pose a barrier to effective working.
Guidance on lighting levels tends to be either general, aimed at a technical audience, or individual, based on one person’s experience. For example, Building Site (1995), suggests that light levels are crucial. It suggests that lux levels (a measure of luminance) for blind and partially sighted people should be 25 per cent to 50 per cent above the “general” level.
The difficulty with such generalised recommendations is that individual blind and partially sighted people have very different needs. Increasing the general “background” lighting levels might not necessarily make a working environment safer or more comfortable.
For some people, increasing background light would be helpful. But it might be more effective to introduce additional light sources, rather than make the existing fittings brighter. This is particularly true if units can be switched on and off to allow more control over lux levels.
Other people find it difficult to work with high levels of lighting and prefer a darker working environment.
As well as the amount of light, the source of light is also an important factor. Many people find that natural light is best. This can mean that making the best of light from windows is preferable to using electric lighting. Similarly, some people find that light fittings emulating natural light (daylight bulbs) are very effective.
The key to resolving lighting issues is to talk to the people involved and call in specialists where necessary. Sometimes simple changes can make a huge difference to a working environment. At other times, more work is required to strike a balance between the needs of one individual among a group of other employees.
5.4 Trip hazards
Research suggests that blind and partially sighted people are more likely to trip than sighted people (Legood et al, 2009). Yet, when we introduce controls to reduce risk, it is very important to keep a sense of perspective. Introducing “no-go” areas, such as stairs or in specific areas you perceive as dangerous, can be discriminatory. It is very unlikely that the only way to manage potential trip hazards is to exclude people from certain areas, as other alternative steps can be taken to reduce risk. Most blind and partially sighted people can navigate around buildings and other workplaces. If you feel strongly that there are parts of a workplace that are not safe, you should seek advice.
5.5 Lone working
Working alone is an integral part of many jobs. Whether this involves visiting customers at home, working from other premises, travelling either locally or more widely or working at home.
Lone working is an area that often raises concerns for employers. But while there may be occasions when a blind or partially sighted person is exposed to risk, these risks are often no greater than a sighted colleague would face.
It is very easy to make assumptions about potential dangers and introduce unnecessary risk controls. And yet, very many blind or partially sighted people work successfully and safely on their own, sometimes in challenging environments.
It is important to consider how an individual is affected by sight loss. Some people travel independently and confidently. Others look for support, particularly in unfamiliar environments.
Some employers have found it helpful to consider the extent of an individual’s sight loss. Having an understanding of what a person can or cannot see can make it easier to discuss risks. Medical “evidence” is not likely to help with this. A diagnosis does not usually describe the extent of functional vision. Most of the time, your blind or partially sighted employee is the best person to describe this to you.
Your starting point for managing risks should be the systems you already have in place for your lone workers. Your local working practices must be robust and comprehensive, so that the work of all of your lone-working employees is covered. Your blind or partially sighted employee is no different in this respect.
5.6 Evacuating the building
Most blind and partially sighted people will understand the need for plans to deal with unexpected evacuations, for example, in the case of fire. Employers generally deal with evacuation routes, procedures and assembly points during an employee’s induction period.
It is important to ensure that written evacuation procedures are available in different formats during induction. For example, having a Word version of the procedures available will allow most users of access technology to read them.
Some blind or partially sighted people would welcome the chance to familiarise themselves with the main routes and practise leaving the building by emergency exits. This could be arranged with their line manager when starting work.
If a blind or partially sighted person is finding it difficult to learn routes and needs some support, it may be appropriate to allocate a “buddy” to assist with evacuation until routes are learned.
Further information can be found in the publication “Fire Safety Risk Assessment: Means of Escape for Disabled People”, Department of Communities and Local Government, 2007.
While risk assessing the use of stairs, your starting point should be to assume that blind and partially sighted people are subject to the same risks as any other employee. Therefore, any steps you might take to reduce risk apply to all employees.
If you believe that there are risks to stair users, you may want to consider the following extracts form Building Sight:
“Lighting on stairs should be sufficient to highlight any obstructions on the flight of the stairs, but should highlight the treads as opposed to the risers to emphasise each step. It is very important that ceiling-mounted luminaires do not become a glare source – they should be well shielded. Alternatively, large-area, low-brightness sources can be mounted on a side or facing wall.”
“The stair covering should not have a pattern that can cause confusion between tread and riser or between one tread and another.”
It is worth pointing out that making physical changes of this type may be the responsibility of your landlord, but this does not mean that you shouldn’t raise the issues with them.
5.8 Safe use of computer systems
Employers are required to “analyse workstations, and assess and reduce risks. Employers need to look at the whole workstation including equipment, furniture, and the work environment; the job being done; and any special needs of individual staff. The regulations apply where staff habitually use display screen equipment as a significant part of their normal work.” (HSE, 2006).
It is entirely likely, then, that the needs of blind and partially sighted people will be highlighted as part of a general risk assessment of display screen equipment.
In addition to this, employees will often highlight difficulties in using computer systems related to their sight. Unless the individual has a good idea of their requirements, it is usually a good idea to seek specialist advice. RNIB or Action for Blind People offices will be able to recommend ways to make it easier to change the way screens look, or alternative ways of accessing screen content.
Employers often have legitimate concerns about blind or partially sighted people operating power tools, hand tools or other machinery such as grass cutting or gardening power tools.
There will be times when you will need to eliminate risk by specifying tools that should not be used at work.
However, it is very important to discuss with an individual exactly how their sight restricts them and how real the risks are. Bear in mind that some new employees may underplay any difficulties as they may have had negative experiences with past employers.
Another factor to take into account is the environment in which people will be working. If you can control the immediate work area, machinery can be made safe to use. For example, in a factory, machines can be fitted with guards and walkways restricted to improve the safety of the work environment. If you are in doubt, ask for advice.
5.10 Caring for others
Many blind and partially sighted people work in jobs where they provide social care services. This can include working in nurseries, care homes and delivering community services.
As you would expect, the generic risk assessments carried out to cover the working routines of care workers are often sufficient to ensure a safe working environment for blind and partially sighted people.
However, employers sometimes have concerns about certain aspects of working that could be perceived as dangerous. These could include, for example:
Reading facial expressions to predict behaviour:
This is a contentious issue. The vast majority of blind or partially sighted people will be able to read facial expressions, but some will find it difficult or impossible. Logically, this could suggest that a blind person may be at higher risk of sudden changes in behaviour.
However, there is a considerable body of research that shows how people are able to perceive mood or feelings from verbal communication only. So the extent of the risk involved is not at all clear.
Reducing risk in this situation calls for a balanced judgement based on an understanding of an individual’s sight and the requirements of the job.
Missing visual cues, such as evidence of substance misuse or
Potential hazards of this kind could be addressed by adopting working practices that apply to all employees. This could include ensuring that thorough background information is obtained with referrals. Additionally, initial assessments of the individual customers should cover the likelihood of issues arising. There may be situations where it is safer for people to work in pairs.
Reading correspondence while visiting customers:
In some jobs, workers may be required to read forms or letters when visiting people in their homes or other settings. Generally, this can be overcome by using access technology, such as portable video magnifiers or scanners.
Perceived difficulties dealing with children:
Nurseries, after school clubs and similar establishments that provide childcare services have well-developed risk management systems in place. If a blind or partially sighted person starts work, the working practices in place are often robust enough to ensure safe working.
Occasionally, parents have concerns about blind or partially sighted people caring for their children. Concerns could include tripping, not seeing children putting things in their mouths, escorting children in the local area or identifying parents when children are collected.
In your role as a risk assessor, you should discuss concerns with the individual to establish whether any of these concerns are genuine and if so how they could be minimised. For example, another worker could check the identity of parents collecting children.
It is really important that the concerns of parents are not confused with actual risk.
‘Building Sight: A handbook of building and interior design solutions to include the needs of visually impaired people’, P Barker, J Barrick and R Wilson, London HMSO in Association with RNIB, 1995
‘Fire Safety Risk Assessment: Means of Escape for Disabled People’, Department of Communities and Local Government, 2007
‘Five Steps to Risk Assessment’, Health and Safety Executive
‘Health and Safety for Disabled People and Their Employers’, HSE and DRC
J Hurstfield et al, ‘The extent of use of health and safety as a false excuse for not employing sick or disabled persons’, research report 167, HRC/DRC, 2003
JMU Access Partnership, Fact Sheet 24 – Lighting
Legood R, Scuffham PA and Cryer C, “Are we blind to injuries in the visually impaired? A review of the literature”, June 2009
RNIB and Thomas Pocklington Trust, ‘Make the most of your sight, Improve the lighting in your home”, RNIB and Thomas Pocklington Trust, 2009
‘This is Working 2’, RNIB, October 2009
‘Working with VDUs’, HSE leaflet INDG36(rev3), revised 12/06
7. Sources of help and further information
7.1 RNIB and Action for Blind People
Employment services for employers
We can help you retain a current employee who is losing their sight, and we can help you to take on someone who is visually impaired.
Advances in technology mean that visually impaired people can now overcome many of the barriers to work that they faced in the past, and government schemes like Access to Work mean that many of the costs can be met.
We provide a number of services that can be directly commissioned by employers. These include:
• Work-based assessments – a visit to a workplace, by one of our specialists, to evaluate the potential for equipment, software, and adjustments that would better allow an employee to fulfil their role.
• 1 to 1 access technology training. Our technology specialists can visit your workplace and provide training tailored to suit your employee’s needs.
• Visual and disability awareness training.
For further information about any of these services, please contact us via our website or directly via our employment services mailbox:
We currently produce the following factsheets for employers and employment professionals:
• Access to Work
• RNIB work-based assessment services
• Blind and partially sighted people at work – Guidance and good practice for Risk Assessors
• Testing the compatibility of access software and IT applications
• Guidelines on meeting the needs of visually impaired delegates on training courses
In addition to this you may like to check out our ‘This IS Working’ documents, which showcase blind and partially sighted people working in a range of occupations, and include testimonials from employers, as well as our ‘Vocational rehabilitation’ document, which sets out the business case for retaining newly disabled staff.
All of these factsheets and documents can be found in the employment professionals section of our website http://www.rnib.org.uk/employmentservices which also contains the latest research in the field, as well as information on IT and accessibility, the Equality Act, success stories, and more.
We also produce a number of factsheets aimed at blind and partially sighted people, on a range of employment related issues. These can be found at http://www.rnib.org.uk/employment
The RNIB Helpline can refer you to an employment specialist for further advice and guidance. RNIB Helpline can also help you by providing information and advice on a range of topics, such as eye health, the latest products, leisure opportunities, benefits advice and emotional support.
Call the Helpline team on 0303 123 9999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
7.2 Access to Work
Access to Work is a scheme run by Jobcentre Plus. The scheme provides advice, grant funding, and practical support to disabled people and employers to help overcome work related obstacles resulting from a disability. Read our Access to Work factsheet, or visit the Access to Work pages at http://www.rnib.org.uk/employmentservices to learn more about qualifying for the scheme. Further details are also available at http://www.directgov.uk
7.3 Guide Dogs
The best place to find out information relating to guide dogs. Visit: http://www.guidedogs.org.uk
7.4 The Health and Safety Executive
HSE is responsible for enforcing health and safety at workplaces. Visit: http://www.hse.gov.uk
7.5 Equality and Human Rights Commission
The Equality and Human Rights commission have a statutory remit to promote and monitor human rights; and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the nine “protected” grounds – age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. The website includes a section on employment.
Factsheet updated: April 2013