Equalize – Issue #4, Fall 2017

Welcome to the Fall 2017 issue of Equalize! In this issue, we are focussing on our inclusive neighbourhood project, ShopTalk, in Toronto, with one story profiling a resident business owner, and another story to bring you up to date with the program's progress. As well, we are looking at employment: we've included a sneak peak of the Career Support program we are preparing to launch, and a blog by one of the members of the CNIB National Youth Council who recounts her positive experience with an enlightened employer. Other articles cover an audible medicine label, the latest on accessible voting from Elections Ontario, and an update on the federal accessibility legislation currently in the works. We hope it is all "news you can use"!


Living without vision, and working in the community, Chris Chamberlin understands as well as anybody the importance of accessibility. That is why he was so excited to hear about CNIB’s ShopTalk initiative. ShopTalk is CNIB’s project to turn Toronto’s Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood into the most inclusive neighbourhood in the world. The first step is installing beacons in businesses in the area. Beacons, when paired with the BlindSquare navigation app, provide app users with important information about the location and the nature of the business.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin was born with congenital glaucoma, which is caused by the presence of elevated fluid pressure inside the eye. His sight remained intact until he was eight. While doctors tried to save his sight, he was completely blind within 48 hours.

As a young boy, Chamberlin worked with CNIB – learning life skills and navigation techniques. He gained the necessary knowledge to live an independent life and now, 52 years later, he runs his own business. Chamberlin founded Frontier Computing in 1986. It is now Canada’s leading supplier of assistive technology.

Chamberlin moved Frontier Computing to Yonge and St. Clair (1 St. Clair Avenue West) in 2014 and he was quick to sign for the "ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled" pilot project.

"I have been in the area for a few years now, but I only know maybe three or four stores," says Chamberlin. "Even if you know the names of places, it’s hard to know what products or services they provide. The beacons change that. They provide more information to the user and help make the area more accessible to anyone who visits."

It’s good to make your business more accessible, but it also makes sense from a business perspective.

"Individuals with sight loss want to participate in their community and want to be able to have the same options available to everyone else," says Chamberlin. "The ShopTalk project will open your doors to more potential customers. They may shop there or tell friends about your business. It’s a win-win!"

"We hope this idea catches on across the city and beyond," says Chamberlin. "It’s a really exciting time in terms of tech; we’ve really advanced a lot!"

To learn more about the ShopTalk initiative or to sign up your business to participate, please visit cnib.ca/ShopTalk.

2. Our Shop Talks – Does yours?

In the Spring edition of Equalize, we spoke about ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled – our advocacy campaign to make Yonge and St. Clair the most accessible neighbourhood in Toronto. With the financial support from the Rick Hansen Foundation through its Access4All Canada 150 initiative, we have hit the ground running! We are also beginning to identify other neighbourhoods around Ontario where we might take on similar projects – Brantford is the next community. Neighbourhood by neighbourhood, we will change the world!
ShopTalk Canvassing group

In May, CNIB received $26,080 from the Rick Hansen Foundation for our "ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled" initiative, which aims to place 200 BlindSquare beacons in businesses around the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood in Toronto. Through this initiative, we want to get businesses around our new GTA Community Hub thinking about how they can improve accessibility for the thousands of people with sight loss that will be visiting our neighbourhood over the next few years.

The difference between conventional GPS apps and the BlindSquare and BlindSquare Event apps is that the beacon technology provides accurate internal wayfinding information about a business. For example, conventional GPS apps can get a person as far as the front door. But for a customer who is blind or partially sighted, once you walk through the door into a store, there is no information about the internal layout of the space. A beacon that is placed in the entrance of a business can communicate with the app via low energy Bluetooth, and relay the message about the layout of the business to the app user. It's a win-win. The BlindSquare Event app, which has coverage over the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood, is completely free to the user. Thanks to our funding, the beacon is free to the business owner and will increase awareness of their services, making their business more enticing and accessible.

On August 12, more than 20 CNIB Advocates hit the streets to canvass nearly 100 business owners to talk about the initiative and encourage them to sign up to have the free beacon placed within their business. Over 30 businesses have signed up to the initiative, with more to follow very shortly.

This initiative is just the first step, and now that we have begun these conversations with local business owners, we will be continuing to work together to discuss how they can make their business fully accessible. The learnings from this accessible neighbourhood pilot will be used to create a resource guide on how to advocate for accessibility in your community.

Join the movement!

It is not too late to join our growing number of our community advocates who are breaking down barriers to neighbourhood accessibility. If you are outside of the GTA, you can also get involved via our social media campaign. For the most up-to-date information on ShopTalk, and how individuals and businesses can get involved, visit cnib.ca/shoptalk.

3. On the Horizon - Career Support

In 2016/17, CNIB began developing what we feel will be one of our most important Foundation programs for people with sight loss – Career Support. In our recent community consultations, the need to close the employment gap was identified as one of our most urgent advocacy priorities.
Did you know?

  • Only one-third of Canadian working-aged adults with sight loss are employed.
  • Half of Canadian working-aged adults are struggling to make ends meet with an annual income of $20,000 a year or less.
  • One-third of Canadians say they don't know how to interact appropriately with someone who is blind or partially sighted.
  • Seventy per cent of Canadians say that if they were presented with two fully qualified job candidates, they would hire the sighted candidate over the blind candidate.
CNIB's research indicates that the reasons fall into two main areas:
  • Employers have misconceptions about the abilities of people with sight loss and believe that accommodations would be complex, difficult and expensive.
  • People with sight loss do not have the opportunities that sighted people have to prepare themselves for the employment market.
    • They rarely have the "after school" jobs, summer jobs and internships that people with sight routinely have.
    • They are rarely included in the extracurricular activities that would help them gain the social skills and emotional intelligence necessary to do well in the workplace.
    • They often haven't been introduced to the assistive technologies that would allow them to work independently in the workplace.
The Career Support Program will complement the Employment Services program that we offer through Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada. Highlights of the new program include:

  • Skills training tailored to the pre-employment and re-employment needs of job seekers
  • An employment retention program for people who are employed but at risk because of sight loss
  • A paid internship program that partners with employers
  • Employer outreach, education and advocacy
We have begun to hold pilot workshops to test the effectiveness of the program. Full program roll-out is expected to happen across the country in 2018.

For more information on this program, contact Tina.Sarkar-Thompson@cnib.ca.

There are different ways to approach advocacy. Sometimes it is about fighting for what is right. However, in this blog, it is just the opposite, as Dayna Schnell praises the things her employer is doing right to ensure its employees receive the accommodations they deserve. She is using this example to challenge other employers to do the same. Dayna recently graduated from the University of Calgary's communications program. She has been an active member of the CNIB National Youth Council since its inception. For more information on the Council, visit cnib.ca/nyc/.

Dayna SchnellWhen I graduated from university and started applying for jobs, I was not aware of how much difference an employer’s attitude towards accommodation would make. I believed, like most people, that as long as my manager was generally comfortable with me and met the bare minimum of my needs, that was enough. I had not even considered the impact an institutional attitude could make. I did not know that some organizations would go so far as to hire a consultant to ensure I could access every accommodation specific to my individual needs.

When I applied to RBC, it was a revelation for me to realize that applications submitted under the “disabled new graduate” tab were not just dumped in a virtual trash bin somewhere. They were assessed along with the others submitted for the position but with an eye to accommodation during the entire application and hiring process. What could be done to make the applicant more comfortable? What could be done to ensure the fairness of the evaluation? It was this fairness that brought a new meaning to ‘inclusion’.

If I thought RBC’s application process was fair, things were only just getting started. Once I was accepted to the RBC Career Launch Program, I was encouraged to speak up at any time. Optimal solutions for accommodation, when I didn’t present them right away, were sought. If neither I nor the accommodations specialist knew what a possible adaptation could be, it was fully researched and the options presented. I actually had to be encouraged on more than one occasion to accept the better option for the help I needed because I was so used to coping with what was available at the time. All of this was done with my full participation and under strict confidentiality. Not even my manager knew anything about my disability until I showed up on my first day and told her myself. When her role changed over and she was transitioning her replacement, she needed my written consent to even address the subject with her replacement.

Once I started my position at RBC and was oriented, any time my managers heard of a presentation to do with diversity and inclusion or accessibility, I was given the option to participate. I was offered the opportunity to have a voice in conversations that affected people who were just like me.

Between the power of RBC’s attitude towards diversity and accommodation and my three managers' willingness to see me as a person not a problem, I have been blessed with all sorts of opportunities.

If you are reading this and you have a disability, I bet you think this sounds like a dream. At the very least, a minority of organizations would be willing to do this for some random contractor. Well I pose to you the question which has plagued my mind since I stopped being so utterly blown away by the experience. Why not?

Why shouldn’t I be accommodated? Sighted people get lights and computer screens. Hearing people get phones and computer speakers. What is so different in me that makes me believe that it is asking too much for me to be comfortable at work or to let my colleagues relax enough where we can joke and have open conversations about my experiences? In this one experience with RBC, I was just the same as every other applicant. Anything I needed to be successful was provided to me.

I have thought about this long and hard and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn all of these neat things about my own preconceptions about disability and accommodation. I have come to the realization that there is no reason not to support me so that I can do my job to the best of my ability. That way I can be great at my job, not because of my disability, but because of my personal capabilities. I would like to recognize RBC for the phenomenal support. I am so lucky to work with this organization. I would also like to put forward a challenge to anyone with a disability who is willing to settle for anything less than exactly what they need. Why? Or why not?

Share your story!

If you have an advocacy success or story to tell, then we would love to feature your blog in a future edition. Please email advocacy@cnib.ca with your contact details and suggested topic.

Reading or understanding the contents and instructions of labels on medicines is a source of problems and frustration for many people, particularly for individuals with sight loss. The small print and similar packaging of medicinal containers can lead to confusion and mistakes.

There is now a solution, called the ScripTalk Station. It reads the details of the medicine label aloud. 


EnVision America is working with Shoppers Drug Marts in Ontario to provide ScripTalk Station devices to anyone who would like one. If this product would be of benefit to you or a loved one, we encourage you to speak to your Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist, who can help guide you through the process. Don't hesitate to speak up for what you need and consider changing pharmacies if your current pharmacy can't help.

More information on the ScripTalk technology can be found at envisionamerica.com/products/scripability/scriptalk/.

As part of an ongoing engagement strategy, CNIB attended an Elections Ontario’s Community Consultation in June for its Multi-Year Accessibility Plan. This was the third meeting with stakeholders held by Elections Ontario, and was focused on accessibility.

Before the meeting, Elections Ontario met separately with CNIB representatives so regular users of Zoomtext, JAWS and Voiceover could test the new voter registration website. Elections Ontario collected their feedback, along with additional advice provided by other stakeholders, to ensure its website is as accessible as possible.

Assistive Voting Today

  • The next provincial election in Ontario will be in June 2018.
  • The assistive voting technology that is in place now will not be changing for the upcoming election.
    • People with sight loss can use the Audio Tactile Interface or ATI controller. It includes large raised buttons and bright colours and has braille inscriptions. The controller is also described by audio.
    • Elections Ontario also provides magnifiers and ballot templates with braille numbers and cut-outs.
    • You are permitted to bring a friend or support person to assist you with marking your ballot.
    • You can book an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter from the Canadian Hearing Society to accompany you to vote. Elections Ontario will cover the cost of the interpreter.

Possible Changes

  • The policy providing personal support workers (currently just interpreters) may be changed. Elections Ontario would like to add intervenors to the list of reimbursable services, while representatives from the Canadian Hearing Society have requested deaf interpreters be included as well.
  • Elections Ontario is considering allowing individuals with disabilities to use their phones to assist in voting, provided they do not use their camera or record any video. Meeting attendees discussed difficulties that might arise through the implementation of this process, including people who might pretend to have a disability so they can use their phones, the potential for resentment towards people with disabilities, and the fact that many helpful apps for people with sight loss involve using the camera to take a picture and/or magnify images or text. However, Elections Ontario pledged to take the feedback from the meeting and incorporate it into a policy to be ready in time for the provincial 2018 election.
About Elections Ontario

Elections Ontario is the arm of the government that makes sure Ontario provincial elections are properly and fairly run. It also provides Ontarians with information about the election process and how we can take part.

Elections Ontario is governed by rules and regulations, including the Elections Act, the Elections Finance Act and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). AODA includes the Customer Service Standard and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, which covers:
  • Employment Standard
  • Information and Communications Standard
  • Public Spaces Standard
  • Transportation Standard
The next consultation meeting will be held in November; date, location, and time to be determined.

Elections Ontario is committed to working with CNIB and other community groups to ensure the word gets out about its assistive voting offerings and the message is delivered in a manner that is effective and accessible for every party involved.

To learn more about Accessible Voting, please visit Elections Canada's website

7. Federal Accessibility Legislation Taking Shape

If you've been following the various consultations for the federal accessibility legislation, this will give you the latest information, as well as a link to an online survey so you can add your thoughts to the national consultations.

On August 8, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, released "Accessible Canada - Creating new federal accessibility legislation: What we learned".

From August 2016 through February 2017, in-person and online consultations were held across Canada, inviting Canadians to provide the federal government with suggestions on what accessibility legislation should look like; 6,000 individuals and 90 organizations provided their suggestions.

The report summarizes the comments the government received under the following themes:
  • Canadians with disabilities never again want to be excluded from decisions that impact their lives
  • Every participant was clear: It is not acceptable for Canadians with disabilities to be excluded from any aspect of life
  • The new legislation should be ambitious and bold
  • The new legislation should lead to more consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada
  • The new legislation should apply to all areas under the control of the Government of Canada
  • The Government of Canada should be a leader in accessibility
  • No organization should be excluded from the new legislation
These comments are expanded upon in more detail in the report, see the above link.

When participants were asked to choose one area of accessibility for the federal government to focus on, the top six priorities were:
  1. Employment
  2. Access to buildings and other public spaces through a built environment
  3. Transportation by air, train, ferry and buses
  4. Program and service delivery
  5. Information and communications
  6. Procurement of goods and services
CNIB not only participated in these consultations, but partnered with other coalitions such as the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada (AIAC) and the Canadian Accessible and Inclusion Partnership (CAIP).

While the federal consultations are now concluded, both the AIAC and CAIP are continuing to gather comments from Canadians which will be forwarded to the Minister.

AIAC has conducted numerous public and roundtable consultations across the country. The initiative is led by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and CNIB continues to work alongside the numerous other organizations in gathering and compiling our reports which will be submitted to the Ministry.

CNIB’s responses to the initial consultation paper can be found here. These possible responses were provided as possible thematic responses to the questions contained in the consultation paper.

What’s next?

We know that the government is, to use Minister Qualtrough’s words, “putting pen to paper” as this article is being prepared. The Liberal government's cabinet was recently shuffled, with Calgary's Kent Hehr being named the new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. CNIB does not expect the cabinet shift to affect the drafting of the legislation. While no date has been set as to when the first draft legislation will be released for further public comments, we are reasonably confident that this will take place before March 31, 2018.

For any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact Lui Greco, National Manager of Advocacy with CNIB. Lui may be reached by phone at 403-261-7234 or email at advocacy@cnib.ca

Get involved!

If you are interested in becoming an advocate volunteer, then please look at our position description and complete our short onboarding questionnaire. By becoming an advocate you will not only have access to our advocate resources, but will also be invited to specialized training sessions to help you advocate in your community. Join us today and become part of the movement! 

8. Events

1. October 14, 12 noon - Author Donna Jodhan and the Tele-town Hall group are hosting a phone-in opportunity to get the latest on consumer advocacy and how consumer advocacy is carried out in New Zealand and Australia.

If you wish to participate, email teletownhall1@gmail.com. You will receive an email confirming your registration. During the week of Oct. 9th, you will receive an email with details of the call-in info along with the rules of engagement. Registration will close October 12 at 12:00 pm. (This event was sent to CNIB by the Canadian Council of the Blind.)

2. October 27 & 28: 2017 CNIB National Braille Conference - CNIB has been hosting its braille conference for more than 40 years. The first conference was a half-day event for Toronto braille volunteers that discussed braille best practice and has grown over the years to be a gathering of people from the vision loss, technology and braille communities covering braille advancements, education and teaching tools.

This year’s conference, which will have ACVREP​ continuing education credits available, will focus on a Century of Change - Inspired by BRAILLE, a salute to CNIB as it celebrates its 100th year.

Guests will hear session presentations from independent living skills specialists, educators, volunteer braille transcribers, and CELA (Centre for Equitable Library Access.)

Visit the Braille Conference page for more information.
3. November 13 & 20 – Yin Brown of Disabled Women’s Network, Canada (DAWN) is inviting interested people to give input on a response framework on Violence Against Women with Disabilities and Deaf Women. Advisory Teams in Toronto and Hamilton are gathering local responses on necessary changes in policy and practice to ensure Ontario and Canada’s strategy for violence against women includes women with disabilities and deaf women.

Toronto Meeting: Nov. 13, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm.
ARCH Disability Law Centre, 55 University Avenue, 15th Floor. 

Hamilton Meeting: Nov. 20, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm.
YWCA Hamilton, 75 MacNab Street South

For more information, email yin.brown@dawncanada.net.

4. November 29, 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm - Join us at City Hall as we lobby the municpal goverment to make sure that our city streets are accessible and that we have #SidewalksForAll. Visit sidewalksforall.ca for more information and email ray.smith@cnib.ca to participate.

5. December 2, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. - Annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities. An opportunity for job seekers to listen to and network with disability-related organizations, employment agencies and employers that promote the hiring of persons with disabilities. ASL, captioning, personal support workers, volunteers and refreshments will be provided.

Location; Metro Hall, 55 John St., Rooms 308 and 309, Toronto