Insight January 2017

1/23/2017

The new year makes it feel like anything's possible, doesn't it? Like we can reinvent ourselves, start fresh, and take on the world with a brand new attitude. So let's get started with these five NEW stories…   


New Travels

Tips for travelling with vision loss

Losing your sight doesn't mean vacations have to be a thing of the past. But booking hotels, finding your baggage or travelling to new destinations can be a challenge at the best of times. That's why we've put together some tips to help make your next trip a little smoother…

• Booking your accommodations

Brightly lit resort hotel room

When booking a hotel be sure to request a room with easy access. The majority of large hotel chains offer accessible rooms that are close to braille elevators and offer a wheelchair accessible lobby and washrooms. Book an accessible room in advance – especially if you're travelling during peak seasons like summer. If you need alternative-format materials (like a braille or large-print menu), let the hotel know at least two months in advance so they have lots of time to make sure they accommodate you properly. Lastly, make sure you take advantage of your hotel's concierge service! They're usually a wealth of local information and can help with recommendations on everything from nearby restaurants to navigating public transit.

• Packing your bag

Suit Case

Seasoned travellers with vision loss recommend you pack light and use carry-on luggage. Fold outfits you plan to wear together and store in large Ziploc bags or use safety pins to group outfits. If you do check a bag, make finding it on the baggage carrousel a little easier with an audible luggage locator (available from US$14.95 at amazon.com). When you press the button, it will activate a beeping sound for you to follow and locate your luggage. A cheaper option is to stick brightly coloured tape on your suitcase or tie a large ribbon to the handle. For travellers with low vision, you may want to consider packing some of these items:

    • A small flashlight.
    • Elastic bands, which are useful to keep items together or to place on your hotel room door and help you find your room easier.
    • A shelf liner in a bright, solid colour (you can also pack a scarf or tea towel) to line a draw or shelf and help provide colour contrast when finding smaller items.

• Taking a cruise

Cruise ship on the water

Why not plan to spend 2017 touring the Bahamas or Cuba? Royal Caribbean International offer cruises with onboard accessibility. Their cruise ships have braille incorporated in public areas and elevators, offer large-print menus and orientation tours, and can customize your cruise accommodations to meet your needs. Royal Caribbean International is also guide dog friendly and ships are equipped with a relief area.


• Joining a tour

Group of travellers smiling

Since 2004, Traveleyes International have designed tours especially for travellers who are blind or have vision loss to destinations around-the-world, including Australia, Texas, and China. Sighted travellers can also join a tour and help guide and describe sights to blind travellers. In return, sighted travellers receive a discounted rate. Traveleyes say their itineraries are carefully chosen to stimulate all the senses, whether it's smelling spices in an Indian spice garden, dancing to live Salsa music in Cuba, or taking an Italian cooking class.

• Destinations not to miss

Signpost featuring several different destinations

Lonely Planet has released its list of destinations not to miss for 2017. Number one? Canada! Celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of confederation as the country prepares to celebrate coast-to-coast. Or check out Lisbon, Portugal for the city's mix of sights, culture and great food. Soak up the sun on South Australia's deserted beaches and sample their world-class wineries. Finally, take a road trip to northern Michigan with its historic lighthouses, forests and quaint Mackinac Island.


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New Books

5 fantastic new reads available through CELA

With a new year comes a list of new resolutions. If you've resolved to read more this year, our friends over at CELA (Centre for Equitable Library Access) have given us their top 5 list of must-read books to help you check off that resolution…  

1. "The Chemist" by Stephenie MeyerCover image of The Chemist, featuring a syringe against a blank background

In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life. She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn't even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning. 

2. "Do Not Say We Have Nothing" by Madeleine ThienCover image of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, featuring a black bird on a red twig

Winner of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, this extraordinary novel tells the story of three musicians in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate.

3. "No Man's Land" by David BaldacciCover image of No Man's Land, featuring a man standing in front of a stormy sky

Two men. Thirty years. John Puller's mother, Jackie, vanished thirty years ago from Fort Monroe, Virginia, when Puller was just a boy. Paul Rogers has been in prison for ten years. But twenty years before that, he was at Fort Monroe. One night three decades ago, Puller's and Rogers' worlds collided with devastating results, and the truth has been buried ever since. Until now. Special Agent John Puller, combat veteran and the army's most tenacious investigator, is back in this action-packed thriller from worldwide #1 bestselling author David Baldacci.

4. "Canada" by Mike MyersCover image of Mike Myer's Canada, featuring Mike Myers next to two Mounties

Mike Myers is a world-renowned actor, director and writer, and the man behind some of the most memorable comic characters of our time. But as he says: "no description of me is truly complete without saying I'm a Canadian." He has often winked and nodded to Canada in his outrageously accomplished body of work, but now he turns the spotlight full-beam on his homeland. In this instant national bestseller, comedy superstar Mike Myers writes from the (true patriot) heart about his 53-year relationship with his beloved Canada. 

5. "All The Little Liars" by Charlaine Harris Cover image of All the Little Liars, featuring a forest filled with gravestones

The #1 "New York Times" bestseller Charlaine Harris finally returns to her fan-favourite Aurora Teagarden series with "All the Little Liars", a fabulously fun new mystery. Aurora Teagarden is basking in the news of her pregnancy when disaster strikes her small Georgia town: four kids vanish from the school soccer field in an afternoon. Aurora's 15-year-old brother Phillip is one of them. Also gone are two of his friends, and an 11-year-old girl who was just hoping to get a ride home from soccer practice. And then there's an even worse discovery—at the kids' last known destination, a dead body.

Not sure how to access books from the CELA library? It's easy! Click here to visit CELA's "Five steps to get started" webpage.

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New Love

Blind dating in a digital world

For lots of people, ringing in the new year feels like the perfect time to fall in love. Think about it. The ball drops and everybody's grabbing that special someone for a celebratory New Year's kiss. It really makes you want to find Mr. or Ms. Right for yourself, doesn't it?

Fortunately, in this digital age of ours, finding that special someone is easier than ever. In fact, Mr. or Ms. Right might only be a few clicks away. So here are some tried-and-true tips for finding love online…

Choosing your dating site

Dog wearing glasses, sitting at laptop   If you're interested in stepping into the online dating world, the first thing you need to do is decide which dating site you want to try first. Luckily, there are hundreds of sites to choose from – it's just a matter of what feels right to you.

JAWS users report that both match.ca and Plenty of Fish work well with screen readers, so either might be a good place to start. (Note that Plenty of Fish is completely free. And while it's free to surf on match.ca, if you want to reach out to someone and email them, you have to pay for a subscription which can cost between $16.99 and $35 per month, depending on how many months you sign up for.)   

If you'd like to meet someone who also has sight loss or another disability, there are dozens of dating websites you can try that are tailored specifically for people with sight loss or a disability, like visuallyimpairedsingles.com, dating4disabled.com, disableddatingcanada.com or whispers4u.com.

Writing your profile

Profile of a dog on a dating website The key to successful online dating is writing a strong profile that captures the essence of who you are and what you're all about. Easier said than done though, right? A lot of people have trouble writing about themselves, but try not to overthink it too much. Just be honest and write from the heart. If you're not sure how to get started, ask and answer the following questions:

  • What's my favourite thing to do in my free time?
  • What's the best thing about me?
  • How do my friends describe me?
  • What makes me laugh? How would I describe my sense of humour?
  • What am I looking for? Marriage, a fun flirtation, a long-term relationship, or just whatever comes my way?
  • What kind of person do I want to meet?

Here's one last tip for writing your profile: Consider being upfront about your sight loss or blindness. You don't want to meet someone who has hang-ups about sight loss, right? So think about mentioning it in your profile. That way you know that anyone who shows interest in you is accepting of your blindness – just as they should be – and they won't be wasting your valuable time.     

Setting yourself up for a good first date

Dogs from the Lady and the Tramp movie eating spaghetti   So let's fast forward a bit. You've met someone online. You like them and they seem to like you too. Congrats! Now it's time to take the big step and meet them for a first date. Here are a few tips for making that first meeting go well:

  • Make it a quick date. Avoid committing yourself to a long date like dinner and a movie. Instead, plan to grab a coffee or a quick lunch. This way you don't have to spend several hours on the date if it isn't going well. And if it IS going well, you can always extend the date by suggesting another activity afterwards – like going for a walk or doing some window shopping.
  • Pick a place you're comfortable with. If you're blind or have low vision, you know that sometimes going to a new place can be a bit of a challenge – and that can be even more disconcerting if you've already got those first date jitters. You probably don't want to be worried about logistical problems like finding a new place, locating the bathrooms, figuring out how to read the menu, etc. when you're trying to focus on this new (and hopefully fantastic!) person you're meeting. So if possible, try to suggest a meeting place for your first date that you're familiar with, like a favourite coffee shop or restaurant.   
  • Think about conversation topics ahead of time. You definitely don't want to have a scripted conversation on your first date, and hopefully the conversation runs smoothly on its own. But let's face it: it can sometimes be tough to chat away with someone you've never met before, and there may be times when those awkward silences start to creep in. That's why it's a good idea to think about a couple of easy talking points you can turn to if the conversation runs dry. For starters, try asking them to tell you more about something they wrote in their profile, like their job or their hobbies.
  • Be yourself! Remember, this person wanted to go on date with you because they liked what you said in your profile and they liked chatting with you online. Point being, they like you! So don't try to be someone else. Just be yourself – your regular, amazing, oh-so-lovable self!

Enjoying the ride 

Dog with its head out a car window  They say you've got to kiss a lot of frogs before you'll find your prince (or princess). And although some people find love on their first go around the online dating game, most people have to wait a while for that special someone to come along. Don't get discouraged! According to Statistics Canada, there are more than 14.5 million single Canadians out there, playing the dating game. And chances are, one of them is just perfect for you. Until you meet them, enjoy the ride – get out there, have a few dates, have a few laughs and maybe you'll even make a few friends along the way.


Want more dating talk? Take a listen…

While we're on the topic of dating, take a listen to "Dating with a Disability", a fantastic new episode of the Open Dialogue show from AMI-Audio…

Screenshot of Dating with a Disability video

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New Adventures

What it was like when I tried something crazy and new…Diane Bergeron with her guide dog

The new year is the perfect time to try your hand at a new hobby – maybe even something a little daring and scary. Here are a few folks with vision loss who did just that…

• Stand-up comedy
"They called my name and up the stairs to the stage I went. I starting talking about my life and what it is like to be blind. I realized in that moment that I always used humour to manage the crazy things that a blind person deals with every day. The audience laughed and clapped and I was asked back. After my daughter was born I decided to leave the comedy world… besides, I realized that changing diapers didn't make me very funny!" -Diane Bergeron 

• Sailing Jason Fayre
"I've always loved the water. I was introduced to blind sailing back in 2010 and now I make a point to go on as many sails as I can throughout the season. There is something very relaxing about moving through the water in a boat with no engine. I love being able to experience the sound of the lake and the wind. Blind participants are also given the opportunity to steer the boat. You are able to hold a course by feeling the direction of the wind." -Jason Fayre

• Axe throwing Christine Malec poses next to an axe throwing target board

"Until a few months ago I'd never even heard of axe throwing, except in the context of Viking invasions. I like learning new physical skills, and it just sounded like such an improbable idea, I wanted to try it. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is that it's more of a whole-body skill than you might think. You've got to aim your body at the target, plant your feet firmly, centre your stance, swing the axe double-handed behind your head, then, using your core, swing it forward, releasing at exactly the right time. I also discovered that accompanying my swing with a hearty grunting sound greatly improved my aim. Axe throwing combined brutality, skill, and brute force in a way unlike anything I'd done before." -Christine Malec

• Surfing Molly Burke sits on a surfboard in the water
"Recently I was in Southern California having my first ever surfing lesson. I'm not going to lie; it was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. I got up, I fell, I got up, I fell. But I knew I couldn't go back to the beach until I got one good ride in. I told myself, 'Just one more try,' and I rode that wave into the shore, falling off right at the end. It might not have been perfect, but that wasn't the point – I didn't give up on myself." -Molly Burke


• SnowboardingAshley Nemeth stands next to her snowboard and guide dog
"I started snowboarding when I was 12. I started because my brother was snowboarding and I wanted to try it. My parents, after some convincing, said yes. I have been hooked ever since. I love the freedom, speed and adrenaline of snowboarding. It is something that I love to do and I can do with my friends, sighted or blind, and that is amazing." -Ashley Nemeth

 

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"Wow!" of the month

Meet CNIB's NEW Honorary Chair, Carrie Anton

Carrie Anton, smilingCarrie Anton has had her fair share of adventures in life. There was the time she drove a race car down a high-speed NASCAR track. Or the time she went careening down the slopes on a mono ski. Not to be outdone by the many times when she stood centre stage as a motivational speaker, a technology guru and an on-air reporter for AMI TV. Oh, and we can't forget the time she graced the highest podium at the Paralympic Games in Sydney, winning her gold medal in goalball.

Now we're proud to welcome Carrie into her next adventure as she takes on the role of Honorary Chair at CNIB.

"I think it's important for me to be involved with CNIB [as Honorary Chair] because I want people with vision loss to be mentors and peers for each other," says Carrie, adding, "because going it alone with vison loss isn't easy. It's not easy for parents, for teens, for older people. It's not easy for anyone."  

Carrie should know. She's been connected to CNIB for most of her life. She was born with a condition called retinopathy of prematurity, and had only a tiny portion of vision to guide her way through the ups and downs of childhood. As a teen, Carrie took part in CNIB's summer camps, and that's where she first discovered goalball – the sport that would later bring her Paralympic glory with a gold medal win in 2000.

Suffice it to say, Carrie has never let sight loss hold her back. Since her days as a CNIB camper, she's gone on to become not only a gold medalist, but a sought-after public speaker, a television reporter and one of Canada's leading experts in assistive technology, serving as the resident Assistive Technologist at Alberta's Athabasca University.

For Carrie, the joys of life are found in pushing herself to do better, to meet and surpass her own goals, and to live life on her own terms.

"It's about challenging myself," she says. "I really thrive on being competitive with myself and pushing myself to my personal best."

We're honoured to welcome Carrie to the CNIB team! Check out the video below to get to know her even better:

Screenshot of Carrie Anton video 

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