Advocacy, AEBC, blindness, Blindness Narrative in Canada, Deaf-blind, Independence, Low Vision, Peer Mentoring, Personal Responsibility

“Who’s driving”, the current blindness narrative in Canada, a Triple Vision Podcast on AMI Audio

Triple Vision Podcast on AMI Audio

On Triple Vision, hosts David Best and Hanna Leavitt bring you the history of Canadians who are blind, deafblind, and partially sighted, one story at a time, illuminating the challenges of the past, present, and future.

Episode Summary

In this sixth episode of Triple Vision, we do something different. We invite six members of the community to talk about how they see the current blindness narrative in Canada.

What is wrong with the current narrative, and what should it be?

Who is controlling the current Canadian blindness story?

What should the future narrative sound like?

“The sad part is, we all look at the news as a news and information source, and it isn’t. It’s a drama. It’s a dramatic work and belongs in the arts. A lot of people go there for their information. Unfortunately if it bleeds, it leads. And when it comes to blindness, we don’t bleed so much, but my goodness the narrative is pity filled.”

Join us for this fascinating journey, exploring the dangers of the single narrative of the blindness story in Canada.

Triple Vision podcast called “Who’s driving”.  6 members of our Advisory committee talk about the current blindness narrative in Canada.

Find a link to the podcast below:

assistive technology, blindness, Canadian Council of the Blind, Deaf-blind, Get Together with Technology, Low Vision

Used Blindness Assistive Devices Wanted for Recycling Initiative

Used Assistive Devices Wanted!


Do you, or someone you know have a used VR Stream, a talking blood glucose monitor or a magnifier you’re no longer using, and if so are you willing to make it available for others to enjoy going forward?  The above are simply examples of devices that might do well to be recycled.


Some GTT members across the country are seeking donations of such devices, or at least a very low price for the re-purposing of your previously enjoyed assistive tech, so please let us know what is gathering dust in a drawer somewhere, and we’ll help you put it back into circulation.


If you have some devices available for this re-purposing initiative please let Albert Ruel know, along with the condition of said equipment and how you wish to see it re-enter circulation.  I will endeavour to put donors and recipients together for such an exchange, or facilitate the exchange as might best suit the participants.


If you have something you wish to make available, if you’re in need of something, or if you merely want to know more please contact Albert at 250-240-2343 or by email at:


Thx, Albert


Albert A. Ruel, GTT Coordinator

Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

Get Together with Technology Program (GTT)


Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968 Ext. 550

iPhone: 250-240-2343


GTT Blog:



Facebook Group:

Twitter: @GTTWest @GTTProgram @CCBNational


blindness, Canadian Council of the Blind, Disability, Get Together with Technology, Low Vision

CCB National Newsletter Special Edition: Summer 2017

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)
Program Manager
Accessible Sport & Health Education
Canadian Council of the Blind

Search us on Social Media:
Facebook & Youtube:
“CCB Trust Your Buddy”
Twitter: @TYB_CCB

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,

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!
Respectfully submitted
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:
Talent night
Tandem biking
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)
Board games
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 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

Accessible Devices++:
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.

Louise Gillis
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.

assistive technology, blindness, Disability, Independence, Low Vision, Resource

RNIB: Factsheet for employers and employment Professionals

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
5.3 Lighting
5.4 Trip hazards
5.5 Lone working
5.6 Evacuating the building
5.7 Stairs
5.8 Safe use of computer systems
5.9 Machinery
5.10 Caring for others

6. References
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:

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.

5.3 Lighting

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.

Considering risks

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.

Minimising risk

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.

5.7 Stairs

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.

5.9 Machinery

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
concealed weapons:

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.

6. References

‘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:

Web site:


Employment factsheets

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 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

RNIB Helpline

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

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 to learn more about qualifying for the scheme. Further details are also available at

7.3 Guide Dogs

The best place to find out information relating to guide dogs. Visit:

7.4 The Health and Safety Executive

HSE is responsible for enforcing health and safety at workplaces. Visit:

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

blindness, Deaf-blind, Disability, Low Vision, Notes, Resource

Let’s Get It Out There, Tele Town Hall Summary Notes, October 29, 2016

Hi everyone:
As previously promised, we are pleased to share a summary of the recently concluded tele town hall that was held on October 29.
We invite you to share your feedback with us by writing to

Please find our summary notes pasted below.

Some time in January, the Let’s get it out there tele town hall team will be convening to plan another meeting which we are hoping to host in the early spring and we will be keeping you abreast of our plans.

In the meantime, may we take this opportunity to once again thank you for your continuing interest and to wish you the very best for the holiday season. May 2017 be a bright and prosperous year for you.

Yours sincerely,
The Let’s get it out there tele town hall team

Summary of Proceedings: Let’s Get it Out There Teleconference Town Hall October 29th, 2016, 1pm – 3:30pm Eastern

Moderator: Jane Blaine of Canadian Blind Sports

Special thanks to Louise Gillis of Canadian Council of the Blind, Pat Seed of Citizens with Disabilities – Ontario, and Robin East for their behind-the-scenes work on this teleconference session. CCB generously provided teleconferencing services for the call.


– Richard Marion (British Columbia) – He has been involved in blindness
and cross-disability advocacy for over 25 years. Richard has seen many improvements in accessibility over the years but at the same time, he feels that the issue of accessibility for people who are blind still needs to gain greater attention by society and decision makers.
– Albert Ruel (British Columbia) – A 60 year old totally blind father,
grandfather, and brother, as well as a partner for life to Brenda Forbes. He worked for 19 years in the forest industry when the visual world was available to him, and in the not-for-profit rehabilitation and consumer sectors since 1992 when his vision was perfected to total blindness.
– Melanie Marsden (Ontario) – Has been an advocate for over 30 years.
She has a degree in social work which she obtained while raising two boys.
She is the mother of three. Personally and professionally, Melanie advocates for safe, effective parenting and believes that when we all work together, acknowledging that each person has a voice, we accomplish more.
– Anthony Tibbs (Quebec) – Has more than six years of experience on the
national board of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, as treasurer and then president, and has served on a number of other boards over the years including Guide Dog Users of Canada and Media Access Canada. With a business and law background, Anthony’s day to day job is as a litigation lawyer, but he continues to support the charitable and not-for-profit organizations that play such an important role to the community.
– Paul Edwards (Florida) – Was born in San Francisco and has lived in
Canada and Trinidad. Currently living in the U.S., Paul is a father and grandfather and has been a teacher, rehab counsellor, and administrator.
Retired now, Paul derives much pleasure as a volunteer advocate at the local, state, and national levels. Paul is proud of what every blind person everywhere accomplishes every day.

Notice to Readers

The notes below represent a summary of the comments, positions, and anecdotes which were made during the course of the town hall teleconference call. They are not attributed to any particular participant. While the comments have been paraphrased and edited for duplication and redundancy, a conscious effort has been made in the preparation of these notes to ensure that all perspectives on the issues raised have been acknowledged. All views are those of the speakers alone and do not necessarily represent the views or positions taken by any of the panelists, organizers of the teleconference call, or any organizations that any participant or organizer may represent or be involved with.

Question 1: In order to ensure that people who are blind, partially sighted, or deaf-blind continue to have a strong voice in Canada, what do you think the national consumer movement should look like in the future?

Panel Comments
– All consumers organizations need to actively engage with youth to
introduce them to advocacy, and give them the tools, networks, and experiences to engage in advocacy
– Many basic needs now better met (thanks in part to technology), so need
to determine the burning issues for the next generation
– Need to recognize and acknowledge the history and move on, albeit hard.
But as people who are blind and visually impaired, we need to be at the table in a united front and a united voice.
– Find consensus on issues between organizations. United voice is
important because when there are disagreements within the community, government and others do not take us seriously or choose to do nothing rather than choose one competing view.
– Organizations must provide some personal benefit to members in addition
to advocacy activities
– Must remain independent (acknowledge difference between a service
provider and a consumer organization) and have respectful relationships
– Collaboration does not mean uniting into a single organization

– Major challenge is to ensure we can obtain enough financial funding to
carry out the organization’s activities. In order to do so, we have to ensure our organizations’ respective mandates are strong enough to put forward to potential funders
o How do we fund what is seen by many as an “intangible” (advocacy)?
Organizations have to find creative ways to raise funds, perhaps by providing value-added consumables or services, because the reality is that advocacy is what we do today to improve the situation five or ten years down the road – the results are not immediately measurable.
o Pursuing funding opportunities requires a specific goal. For example,
many people with physical disabilities are eligible for direct funding (attendant care), and that program has just been given a significant funding increase. Establishing projects and programs to support blind and visually impaired people may be one way to attract funding
– Question: How have ACB and NFB worked together in the U.S.?
o ACB and NFB in the U.S. are not necessarily a great example to follow
because while they sometimes work together and are strong when they do, information exchange, collaboration, and communication do not happen (at the national level at least) nearly as much as they should. At the local and state level there are some stronger ties.
o Setting up systems for continuing sharing of points of view and
building consensus is a key to success.
– How do we include youth from various backgrounds (sighted youth/blind
parent, blind parent/sighted youth, etc.)?
o With respect to the college and university population, many of our
organizations offer scholarships or other programs that touch this population, but we do not offer much beyond that to keep them connected.
Need to look at what we can offer these future leaders: networking?
– Need to look at other countries and other communities (e.g. women’s
movement) where organizations are operating effectively: how did they do it and what can we learn?
o Consider whether this research is itself a fundable (capacity-building)
o In the UK, there is a model whereby consumers have “taken over” what
was originally a service provider organization. How can we move from a “for-the-blind” service agency to an “of-the-blind” service agency?
o In Australia, there is a very strong single consumer organization that
provides input at the state and federal level
o In New Zealand, there is a hybrid model
– Multiple Canadian organizations should join together to establish an
arms-length advocacy entity to pursue common issues
o CNIB has a new more proactive advocacy program that may help to unite,
but in the end advocacy must be consumer-led
– Must recognize and, without judgment, accommodate stratification and
the multiple dimensions within the “blind” community:
o vision level (low vision, legally blind, totally blind, deaf-blind)
o newly blinded/experienced blinded/congenitally blind
o retired vs working vs unemployed vs student
o anglophone vs francophone
o independent travellers vs those who rely on other means (ParaTransit,
o technologically equipped and literate vs others

Question 2: Canada is a small country in population; however, it is geographically quite large. Would it be better in Canada to ensure that, on a national level, there is one organization of blind working on projects and advocacy to help strengthen community activities provincially and locally?

Panel Comments
– The answer is not “one organization” as each organization may be
meeting different needs within the community. Working together in a cooperative and collaborative way is more important than the form it takes.
– Each organization should allocate resources (people, etc.) to
developing joint position papers that could then be supported by all the organizations that exist in Canada
– Need to strengthen existing coalition-building activities to ensure
these can withstand changes in personalities at the coalition table
– Funding and granting organizations are often pleased to see strategic
partnerships and collaborative relationships, so there may actually be an advantage to presenting a “united front” across several organizations when applying for such funds

– There are different organizations but there aren’t so many that we
cannot work together, and each organization has a very different focus so that there is little overlap.
– The specialization of certain organizations on can be a valuable
resource that others can utilize and build upon where needed for advocacy initiatives (e.g. Guide Dog Users of Canada, Braille Literacy Canada)
– For unity to work, each of us must be respectful and non-judgmental
about the differing needs of others. Society has imputed an implied belief that in order to be ‘independent’ or ‘successful’ you must do X, Y, or Z perfectly, but as a community we must recognize that we don’t need to be a “perfect blind person” to be deserving of respect and inclusion in the community
o “We must see every person for who they are, and where they are. We
cannot judge people by what they can do; we have to judge them instead by what they do every day. Being blind every day can be hard, but it is also something we can be immensely proud of, and we must come to a point where every person who is blind is equally respected and valued where they are, not where some of us think they need to be.”
o Example: not everyone has the same ability (or interest or motivation
to develop the ability) to travel wholly independently, or to use a computer for advanced work, and we need to be willing to work with these different skill sets.
o Example: not everyone needs or wants to receive the same type of
service in a restaurant setting.
– Education needed about the difference between a consumer organization
and a service provider.
o This education has to happen in the blind community, but also needs to
involve decision-makers at all levels, so that they understand the very different messages that come from the blind and those who speak on our behalf
o Whenever the issue of the service provider (CNIB) is raised, it is
difficult to address because community members seem to be afraid of conflict, punishment. As a community we do not feel empowered.
o Need to be careful about this “consumer organization” vs “service
provider” distinction: consumer organizations could very well become service providers
– A service provider has no place doing advocacy and would have no place
being a part of any kind of coalition or network of consumer groups.
o On the other hand, the support services that a service provider can
offer to a coalition can be very helpful: preparing research documents, secretarial/admin support, funding support
o Ideally we should be sufficiently resourced to not require their
– Any single national organization will need to recognize our linguistic
duality which may be difficult. Many years ago, the federal government funded more translation projects that helped national organizations become more bilingual but this has not been a governmental priority for some time.
– Recognize that a national organization cannot meaningfully address
local issues. National bodies should focus on national issues (telecom, interprovincial transportation, etc.). However, national organizations should facilitate networking between local cross-organizational groups to advocate on specific local issues (e.g. LRT in Ottawa). At the same time, local experiences should be documented and communicated nationally because issues arising in one city are bound to arise elsewhere, too.
– Public and organizational awareness about the fact that there are
multiple consumer organizations within the blind community, and that no single person can speak for all (multiple opinions matter) is required.
Organizations which require input from the blind community need to be educated about the array of organizations with which they could consult and the need to consider input from more than one source.
– Grassroots: Any national organization must be respectful of the
grassroots and people’s local needs, which might be delivered through chapters and personal advocacy, in collaboration with whomever the local service providers might be
– Education of and to the public sector is an important starting point
toward larger changes

Question 3: National, provincial, and local organizations have tried working in coalitions. Are you aware of any activities that these coalitions have done? Would you support a more formal working relationship between the existing national organizations of the blind?

Panel Comments
– There are rooms for coalitions at all levels of advocacy (local,
provincial, and federal – e.g. government contacts).
– Experience in the US has shown that bringing everyone into the room,
including any proverbial elephants, works best in the long run. But for this to work effectively, the service provider must be a true member of the coalition and be committed to standing united with the coalition viewpoint.
This is particularly true where a service provider has a powerful voice to decision-makers and a powerful voice to the public.
– A formal working relationship and agreement to participate in a
coalition on a specific issue works best to ensuring continued success even as representatives and personalities change
– Active participation and support of cross-disability initiatives and
undertakings can help to foster supportive networks that we can then call upon when advocating for the blind community

– Common issues that we can likely all agree need to be addressed:
o Employment, whether that is being trained, skilled, employed,
self-employed, entrepreneurship – there are great opportunities to forge collaboration. Universities do not necessarily prepare the blind for employment. In the US there are dozens of organizations with the overlapping goal of facilitating employment and entrepreneurship for the blind. Why not here?
o Rehabilitation service delivery models. DASM (Developing Alternative
Service Models) was a report done by BOOST many years ago. If we want to change how rehabilitation services are provided in Canada, we need to present viable alternatives and working together to consider what those models may look like would be a first step forward and may dovetail with defining the future role of the consumer movement.
– Benefits of coalitions (uni-disability and cross-disability):
o Enabling organizations to come together over clearly defined issues
o Develop goals and objectives in the advocacy sphere
o In a cross-disability context, this also helps different communities
learn about the needs of others (so that advocacy initiatives intended to help one community do not inadvertently undermine accessibility for another)
o Differences between organizations and viewpoints can be worked out
behind closed doors, away from the public eye
o Organizations can then speak as one unified voice
– Cross-disability coalitions can be powerful provided that (1) the blind
community is prepared to effectively present our positions and needs, and
(2) the blind representatives are willing to fight and stand up to have our needs given the same priority as others. If we are to be expected to support other groups, they must support us.
– Networking (meeting to discuss and propose solutions to specific
issues) solves problems when we are working with other entities and are not at cross purposes, without losing any individual autonomy in the process.
Example: When the Ontario government cut funding for the O&M training program at Mohawk College, BOOST initiated a meeting with all the different organizations and proceeded to network (which was the word used with the media and the service provider). The result was a continuation and extension of the funding.
– Question: Should a blindness-specific coalition be restricted to member
organizations that have at least 80% of their governing body be blind or partially sighted individuals?
o Regardless of the number chosen, in a coalition of consumer groups, by
definition most consumer organizations will meet such a requirement.
However, there can also be a need for expertise, resources, and information from outside of our own sphere of what we have and can provide to such an initiative. Cutting out organizations by bright line rules risks losing out on expertise and feedback.
o This would be nice to have, but it isn’t necessarily a requirement
particularly on an issue-specific coalition. There are a lot of cross-disability networks and coalitions which have been very successful (e.g. AODA Alliance and Barrier Free Canada, each of which have a mixture of consumer organizations, service groups, etc.). Service organizations do have a level of expertise they can bring to that, as well as administrative resources that the consumer groups may not have.
o Bringing on board other professionals and entities in the blindness or
disability field, even though they do not meet the criteria as indicated, may be important on specific issues.
o Being a ‘member’ and ‘involved’ in a coalition does not necessarily
make one a ‘voting’ member: service providers could participate and support without setting coalition direction

Question 4: Why do you think the blindness community is so fragmented in its approach to advocacy and community activities?

Panel Comments
– “Fragmentation” is likely not real when it is applied to specific
issues. If we coalesce around making change and building coalition as core values, the fragmentation that exists across organizations will become irrelevant.
– As discussed above, accessibility needs across the “blind” population
vary considerably (to say nothing of those who may have additional needs beyond blindness). In a group of ten blind restaurant patrons, one might well need a sighted reader as well as large print, high contrast, braille, audio, and e-Text menus to accommodate everyone’s abilities or information access preferences.
– We lack the singular community identity of “blind”: we use many
different euphemisms to describe “blindness” (blind, visually impaired, partially sighted, etc.). Should we refer to it as the ‘blindness spectrum’
– “When two blind folks get angry with each other, a new organization is
born.” We lose focus and get tied up in ego and mistrust and we see disagreements on issues as an ending place. We need to view our disagreements as a starting place to find common ground, build trust and respect, and check our egos at the door.
– Funders want people who present a united front, who will be working
together with other organizations to achieve more.

– Is there really fragmentation? To be sure, we are diverse and have
diverse needs, but perhaps the community is not truly fragmented.
– New communication mechanisms offer new opportunities to overcome
geographic fragmentation, if we are willing to work with it and make an effort to make it work for us
o Online streams (e.g. ACB Radio) and podcasts represent a new frontier
that we could use to build consensus in Canada if organizations can work collaboratively together to create programming
o E-mail has sometimes not served us well as a community, as it is too
easy to put a literal understanding on the written words and adopt contrary positions (or the mistaken belief that there are contrary positions), rather than working through to find commonality
– We need to build more “blind pride” into the very core of our being,
and more use of the word “blind” (to include the various levels of visual
impairment) so that we do try to unify ourselves.
– This may be a difficult sell to older individuals who are losing their
vision. Education is needed on the range and the spectrum, but whether describing everyone as ‘blind’ will succeed at uniting us.
– In 1975, the Cuban government said to the disability community, “this
is your revolution so get organized”. As a result, the president of each national disability group has a seat in the national assembly, and blind people are integrated in every level of society as a result. The Canadian disability act consultations represent the closest chance we’ve ever had to a revolution of our own in Canada.
– Some years ago, there was the formation of the Consumer Access Group
(CAG), which was hoped to bring, particularly, consumer organizations closer together. What CAG doesn’t appear to have found is the one burning issue that will motivate all these organizations to move in a single direction
– We need to get away from the “shackles” that prevent forward progress:
the one agency (CNIB) that is perceived as being “in charge” of all the names and addresses of blind people all over Canada.
o Federal government dollars flowing to CNIB for its Ottawa office, which
has no business “advocating” for the blind, really ought to have gone to consumers to make resources happen to the consumer movement
o In order to get funds from the federal government, it should put in
place programs that demonstrate its attempts to reach out and include the consumer organizations and consumers.
o The perception that the ‘service provider’ is a risk or fragmenting
force varies by province. In Quebec, where rehabilitation services are provided by the government, there is less of a divisive stance
– Fragmentation, if it exists at all, can be overcome by inclusive
advocacy that is done for all, with the whole community in mind, including those with other disabilities
– Important to recognize that we are not all, individually, experts on
everything – network is important to have individuals we can refer to for specific situations and needs (overcomes fragmentation)
– Egoism, lack of respect and unprofessional behaviour between advocates
limits our ability to move forward, and it is time for the community as a whole to step in and implement zero-tolerance policies toward that behaviour.
– Inclusion and universal design must be accomplished within our
organizations. People have different styles of approaching advocacy and different skill sets, and we have not (as a community) necessarily been very accepting of different approaches.
– Must recognize that people who are newly blinded often feel a great
deal of shame about their vision loss, thanks to the prejudice that courses through our society about blindness. If we can help to make it “ok” to be visually impaired, “ok” to be blind, in the eyes of the greater community, and begin to collect those people into our group rather than having them hide in the closest by themselves (unaware of resources and possibilities), this could help to unify and grow our advocacy community.
– Peer support activities, such as GTT-style groups, bring together a
diverse group of individuals with varying skill sets and backgrounds over a common uniting theme (technology) to allow information sharing and learning, which should help to narrow technological gaps in the community
– A coalition can be a coalition of three people. We need to build the
organizations just the way they are for now, and once we have a critical mass of people in the organizations, then the organizations can get together and work.
– Some fragmentation exists in that there is a gap in service and
attention to those between perhaps 25 and 60 who fall above the reach of “children and youth” programs and below the reach of “seniors” programs, but who nonetheless have a wealth of information, experience, and skills to contribute