Equalize - Issue #1, Fall 2016

Welcome to the launch of Equalize, our very first CNIB Ontario advocacy e-newsletter! As a trusted member of our advocacy community, we wanted you to be one of the first people to receive this pilot e-newsletter, so we could hear your feedback as we grow our advocacy community in our province. In this edition, we are focusing on all things employment. Let us know what you think by emailing us at advocacy@cnib.ca. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did creating it!

Kat and the CNIB Advocacy Team

1. Point of View – Guest Blog

Yin Brown in a black blazer and white shirt stands in front of a wall with the CNIB logo repeated, while holding a white cane.Blog provided by Yin Brown, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) Toronto Chapter President

At job interviews, recruiters say "Your resume is very impressive" and "You have great work experience," only to follow it up with, "But we have found someone else more suited for the position".

Finding employment has become very difficult since I became blind. Even as a person with low vision, I was able to get jobs easily thanks to my education, skills and experience. This raises the question: Is my blindness the barrier to employment, or are employers blind to my abilities?

Having worked since age 14, being gainfully employed is a priority for me. Employment means self-sufficiency, self-worth, and the ability to contribute to others. These may be achieved without a job, but not 'working' leads to even more exclusion from society – further isolation and shame.

That is why more than other issues, I advocate for employment of people who are blind and partially sighted. Many of us are well-educated, driven and hard-working. And yes, we are self-starters, resourceful, with important soft skills like communication, problem-solving and teamwork. Our survival depends on those skills!

Only 30 per cent of us who are blind or partially sighted are employed, and the stats have not moved in years. While accommodations for those with mobility and mental health challenges are increasing, workplace accommodation for people with sight loss is still not understood, let alone incorporated into the workspace. Many losing their eyesight are facing unjust layoffs because employers are not willing to make adjustments for their continued employment despite many years of service.

After losing my previous job, I led the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) proposed an Inclusive Employment Advocacy Project to the City of Toronto. Out of 139 projects, 34 are being recommended. AEBC's project is one of them. Details on are available at AEBC Project.

To participate, email us at aebctoronto@gmail.com or phone 647-947-9022. It's time we speak up for employment for people who are blind or partially sighted and address the issues with government, agencies and businesses. We must lead in advocacy for our livelihood. On December 3, you are invited to our event at Metro Hall, Toronto as we advocate for equal employment opportunities. Visit the AEBC webpage for more info https://goo.gl/7eOKy8

Have you been advocating on an issue in your community? Do you have a story to share about an issue that affects people who are blind or partially sighted? Let us know by emailing advocacy@cnib.ca and you could give your 'Point of View' in the next edition.

2. Many Canadians blind to talents and abilities of job seekers with vision loss

A man in a suit uses a white cane as he walks into a building through revolving doors.
In honour of October's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, CNIB launched the EmployAbility campaign, calling on employers to look past misconceptions about hiring people who are blind or partially sighted.

According to a recent Ipsos survey, 70 per cent of Canadians said, if faced with two fully qualified candidates, they would hire a sighted job candidate over a blind one. This inequity is rooted in widely held misconceptions and stigmas about the perceived abilities of people who are blind. Barriers to employment are rooted in lack of experience working with an individual with vision loss, as well as lack of understanding about how someone with vision loss performs their job.

Today, working with a colleague who is blind or partially sighted is really no different than working with anyone else. People with vision loss successfully perform a wide range of careers, including in areas such as science, law and technology.

CNIB's EmployAbility campaign featured a series of public service announcements challenging misconceptions about what it's like to work with someone with vision loss. The PSAs, made possible by Government of Canada funding, featured real people who are blind playing the roles, not actors, and were produced by creatively acclaimed, internationally recognized marketing communications agency DDB Canada. Through an extensive audition process, Fred LeBlanc, a former firefighter who lost his vision in his 40s and now uses a white cane, and Shelby Travers, a public relations student who uses a guide dog, were cast in the English TV spots.

Misconceptions around the abilities of people with vision loss may be rooted in a lack of experience working with an employee or colleague who is blind. Canadians are still holding onto outdated perceptions on what type of job someone with vision loss can perform. In the Ipsos survey, Canadians cited more traditional roles for people with vision loss as the top jobs this sector can perform as well as someone with good eyesight, such as massage therapist and piano tuner. Most do not believe that someone with vision loss can perform technical roles such as scientist, engineer, or machinist as well as someone with good eyesight. Surprisingly, Millennials are by far the least positive about blind or partially sighted people's ability to perform these jobs.
You can learn more about the campaign by visiting cnib.ca/employability.

3. Sneak Peek - The Advocacy Toolkit

A woman speaks into a blue and white megaphone.So many of us are already advocating in our communities, whether it's letting our municipality know about an inaccessible crossing in our neighbourhood, or asking organizations to make their information accessible. We can go through the same process again and again. Over time, this type of self-advocacy can start to become second nature. But what if you had to stop and teach someone else how to do it? What steps would you advise them to take?

Regardless of whether someone is a seasoned advocate or new to advocating for themselves, we can always learn new approaches on how to advocate better as individuals and collectively.

We wanted to give you a sneak peek at some of the items we are developing for our "Advocacy Toolkit", which will be made up of different advocacy how-to guides. No matter what the issue, you will have the resources at hand that you can use to advocate for an accessible and barrier-free society. Some of these guides will include advice on how to:

  • Understand government
  • Meet with your MP
  • Speak publically on an advocacy issue
  • Advocate via social media
  • And much more!

Ahead of the full launch of all of these resources, we want to give you a sneak peak of what is to come. The first guide in our toolkit will be how to create a winning advocacy strategy because, as the saying goes, you need to plan for success!

This how-to guide takes you through the logical steps of putting together a campaign plan, from narrowing down the problem from the broader issue and then looking at the best approach to tackle that issue. This tried and tested method can be applied to many different types of advocacy needs, taking you through the planning process each step of the way.  

We've been writing these resources alongside a group of our advocacy volunteers, but if you have any suggestions for future resources, then please let us know by emailing advocacy@cnib.ca .

4. Accessible Health Consultation

An female optometrist examines a female patient’s eyes.In July, the Ontario government invited CNIB, along with other organizations, to give feedback on how the government can make health care in Ontario more accessible. This was so they could identify and address accessibility barriers to health care services through the creation of a new standard for health care under the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005).

To find out formally what barriers individuals with vision loss face when accessing health-care services in Ontario, we launched a survey to get some feedback that we could submit to the government. Thank you to everyone who took part! We had 80 responses to our survey, revealing many common themes of accessibility issues across the province.

We gathered together the results in the report below and submitted them to the Government of Ontario as part of their consultation process.

Some of the issues highlighted in the report include:

  • The need for better disability awareness training (including sighted guide) for medical staff
  • A lack of a 'patient centered approach' of dealing directly with the patient and asking their needs
  • Inaccessible medical information and the need for a centralized and standardized system
  • Problems with navigating the built environment

To read the full report, you can read a Word or PDF version by visiting: http://www.cnib.ca/en/news/Pages/Barriers-to-accessing-healthcare-in-Ontario-revealed.aspx  

5. Upcoming Advocacy Events

A large group of people standing in a circle
November 12
from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.: AODA Alliance Accessibility Forum 10am-12pm. Abilities Centre 55 Gordon Street, Whitby

November 30 from 4 p.m. to 7:30pm: Canadians with Disabilities Act Public Consultations Event, Ottawa. Canadian War Museum 1 Vimy Place (LeBreton Flats), Ottawa, ON K1A 0M8. http://www.esdc.gc.ca/en/consultations/disability/legislation/index.page

December 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  – International Day of Persons with Disabilities – Metro Hall, 55 John St. Room 308 and 309. https://goo.gl/7eOKy8

In future editions of Equalize we will be letting you know about our featured advocacy campaigns and how you can get involved. In the meantime, do you know someone who might be interested in receiving this e-newsletter? Please forward Equalize to them, and let them know they can sign up to receive future editions directly here.