Insight E-Newsletter - October 2011

Welcome to the October edition of “Insight”! This month, we focus on what’s new in the world of accessible banking, including a look at a new series of accessible banknotes to be released this November. Next, we profile an award-winning photographer who, because of his mother’s sight loss, was compelled to “ignite the senses” at CNIB. As always, we welcome your feedback at

Photo of Canadian banknotesNew banknotes to include durable tactile features

This past June, Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty and RCMP Commissioner William J. S. Elliott were on-hand with Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney to introduce two bills from the new series of accessible banknotes set to circulate this November.

The announcement comes after two years of collaboration between the Bank of Canada, CNIB and other advocates for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted who have been working together to ensure the new series would be accessible to all Canadians.

Julie Girard, Bank of Canada’s Senior Analyst for the Currency Department, stated: “As part of its commitment to providing Canadians who are blind or partially sighted with barrier-free access to banknotes and to continuously improve their quality, the Bank has made two key enhancements to the Polymer series, including durable tactile features and bills that can be read on both short ends using the banknote reader.”

Developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia in 1988, Polymer currency is now circulated in 30 countries worldwide. These hardy notes will eventually phase out the circulation of the current cotton-paper bills, starting with the wide-spread availability of $100 notes this fall. The $50 notes will begin circulation in March 2012, and the remaining bills in the series ($20, $10 and $5) are scheduled for release by the end of 2013.

CNIB Accessibility Consultant Debbie Gillespie had the chance to test out the bills, and says the Bank of Canada has made great strides towards increasing accessibility.

“When you have vision loss, knowing what each bill is [in your wallet] can be a bit of a process,” says Gillespie. “The new bills will make it easier to determine what is in their wallet. The current series has a tactile feature allowing you to see which bills you have. With the new notes, those tactile markings won't fade away.”

Though the new notes’ longevity serves several purposes, Gillespie feels that people who are blind or partially sighted will find the bills are a significant improvement.

“The Bank of Canada has made a good idea even better,” she says.

Click here for more information about the new Polymer bank notes.


Photo of someone using a bank machineAccessible dollars and cents: Tips for an easier banking experience

Accessible banking has come a long way since braille statements were introduced in the 1990s. Special ATM features, such as a braille keyboard and audio outlet for plugging in headphones, also provide a more accessible banking experience to Canadians who are blind and partially sighted than ever before.

But if you’re new to accessible banking, you may just be learning about what’s available to you.

Here are a few tips that can make banking that much easier for people who are blind or partially sighted...

Go digital

Today, every large Canadian bank offers an online money management system to its customers. By banking online, you’ll not only benefit from being able to use any assistive technologies you may own — whether that’s a screen reader or large-print magnifying program like ZoomText – but you’ll also avoid having to deal with traditional print paperwork that can so often come with working through a teller.

Grab the phone

Telephone banking is a good alternative to online banking, especially if you don’t have a computer handy. All financial institutions provide a 1-800 number to access their telephone banking service and you’re good to go after setting it up with a PIN. Using the verbal prompts, you can check your balance, pay bills and transfer funds. All you need is a cell phone or landline to connect to your bank.

Get the app

These days, there’s an “app” (i.e., application software) for just about everything. Smartphones make using apps a snap because they have built-in features that allow you to use a “voiceover” option that offers audio prompts, as well as a “zoom” option to enlarge the print on your screen. If you’re using an iPhone, for example, simply go into your “settings” options, click on “general” and then select “accessibility” to find these functions.

Find the right ATM

Often the biggest banking challenge is knowing which bank branches offer accessible ATMs. If you need help finding one, refer to an accessiblity website like this one, which lists the locations of several accessible ATMs across Canada. Many banks, such as RBC and CIBC, also provide ATM locators on their website so that customers can search for ATM locations that offer the audio feature.


Photo of Eric KruszewskiAward-winning photographer captures the senses at CNIB

This past spring, an unlikely visitor came to CNIB.

Eric Kruszewski is a mechanical engineer, but also an award-winning photographer. It’s an odd combination, but it seems to be working: the Baltimore native has received many awards for his work, including the Travel Photographer of the Year New Talent award in 2010.

“I enjoy taking pictures most when I’m around people – when I have that human interaction, and I’m able to tell a story,” says Kruszewski.

Kruszewski’s love for photography came quite out-of-the-blue. After years travelling and working overseas, he realized he wanted to share his experience with family and friends back home. So he started taking pictures, sending them over email and Flickr. So in 2008, he signed up for a “National Geographic” expedition to India where he learned from three of the magazine’s photographers.

“Day one I didn’t know how to turn on my camera, and by the end of the trip I had taken a picture that won me a photo contest with ‘National Geographic,’” he says.

Then in 2011, as part of the Magnum Photos Workshops held in conjunction with the Contact Photography Festival in Toronto, Kruszewski was tasked to pick a theme for his upcoming body of work, so he chose one close to his heart: the senses.

“I wanted it to be something that’s meaningful to me,” says Kruszewski. “My mother has gone all of her life with sight in only one eye. She does extraordinarily well; she would be the one to find the needle in the haystack. It’s always fascinated me how she’s been able to manage so well.”

In order to capture his chosen theme on film, Kruszewski came to the CNIB Centre, CNIB’s national headquarters in Toronto, every day to photograph clients receiving personalized rehabilitation support directly from CNIB’s team of specialists.

“It is an immaculate facility... It was fantastic,” he says.

When the opportunity came up for Kruszewski to take photos at CNIB’s Visions Gala, a fundraising and awareness-raising event that’s all about “igniting your senses,” he was thrilled to be the evening’s photographer of choice.

Featuring tactile installation art that participants could touch, as well as “art in the dark” and “dessert in the dark” activities that allowed blindfolded participants to focus on their senses of smell, taste and touch, the event was a perfect fit for Kruszewski’s project theme.

After the event was over, he generously donated the images to CNIB. To view them, visit CNIB’s Facebook page.


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Photo of a woman hugging a young childMonthly Giving - Become a Partner in Vision

Researchers estimate that more than one million Canadians are living with vision loss today, and that number is growing all the time. By giving as little as $10 a month, you can help Canadians who are blind or partially sighted build the skills, confidence and independence to enjoy life again – to see beyond vision loss. Become a Partner in Vision today

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