A Voice of Our Own: Spring 2011

Spring 2011

On the CCD Agenda

  • Government Tries to Silence Critic of Student Loan Discrimination
  • Fundamental Disability Rights Case Goes to Supreme Court of Canada
  • Call for Submissions for CCD Publication

CCD Member Group Updates

  • British Columbia Coalition of People with Disabilities Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD)
  • Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities
  • Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities Inc. (MLPD)
  • Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (LEO)
  • PEI Council of People with Disabilities
  • Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
  • Canadian Association of the Deaf
  • National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)
  • People First of Canada

On the CCD Agenda

Government Tries to Silence Critic of Student Loan Discrimination

June 6, 2011-Jasmin Simpson is a young deaf-blind woman with lupus. While at university, she experienced unbelievable threats to her education due to elements of the Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) that discriminate against students with disabilities. Through sheer will power and determination she overcame these challenges and completed her post-secondary education with B.S.W. and M.S.W. degrees. However, because she is disabled she graduated with 60% more student debt than would a non disabled student graduating with comparable credentials.

With help from the federally funded Court Challenges Program (CCP) she brought a Charter challenge asserting the Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) discriminates against students with disabilities by imposing higher CSLP debt on them. All subject to a confidentiality clause, the federal government quickly agreed to cancel 100% of her personal student debt and indicated that they would introduce positive changes to the student loan program. They wanted the case ended quickly and quietly.

Ms. Simpson was unwilling to accept a “sweetheart deal” or “buy a pig in a poke”. In the “conditional” agreement she reached with the government, she reserved to herself the right to review the changes and determine if they addressed her concerns about discrimination before deciding whether or not to terminate her case.

Some changes were eventually made to CSLP, but, after careful review, Ms. Simpson felt they didn’t address the discriminatory elements in the CSLP. There were actually some changes which actually made things worse for severely disabled students. After reviewing the new regulations in detail she was hesitant to agree to have her personal debt erased when another disabled student, in precisely her circumstances, wouldn’t receive a scrap of relief as a result of the changes. She was particularly concerned since the government had cancelled the CCP, meaning no one else could take up the cause if she were to bow out.

Before making her decision, and without violating the confidentiality agreement, Ms. Simpson consulted with the leadership of national disability groups, who confirmed her view that the changes did not address the discrimination in the CSLP. This confirmed her perception and she exercised her right under the “conditional” agreement to resume her case, even though it was at great cost to her personally.

The government expressed disappointment, but accepted Ms. Simpson’s decision. The government offered her more money if she would withdraw her objections and hinted that it was prepared to offer her still more. Unwilling to give in, Ms. Simpson remained resolute and turned down the government’s blandishments.

The litigation had recommenced for almost a full year when the government changed lawyers and changed its position. It now claimed that Ms. Simpson could not continue with her case because it had been finally settled by what it acknowledges was a “conditional” agreement. As a result of having brought this motion to have a Court decide that Ms. Simpson had lost her right to continue with her case, the government has put all the confidential documents and communication onto the public record.

A government motion to stop Ms. Simpson’s case will be argued in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, 393 University Avenue, Toronto, 6th floor on June 9th, commencing at 10:00 am. It is possible the case will be moved to a larger courtroom so call in advance or come early. The hearing is expected to end around 2:30 pm.

Representatives of national disability groups are available for comment now and will be at the courthouse [see contact info below]. Ms. Simpson communicates through an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. She will be available to speak to the media, with an interpreter, after the hearing.

Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities states, “Ms. Simpson’s case clearly demonstrates there are built-in headwinds for persons with disabilities in the Canada Student Loan Program. If persons with disabilities are to enjoy equal opportunity in post-secondary education this discrimination needs to end”.

Chris Kenopic is President and CEO of the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) and is himself Deaf. He states, “Unless you are disabled you can have no idea how challenging it is for us to secure the education necessary to achieve independence and dignity in this country. CHS calls on the federal government to stop litigating against Ms. Simpson and address the discrimination in the CSLP.”

Fundamental Disability Rights Case Goes to Supreme Court of Canada

May 17, 2011--On May Tuesday May 17th the Supreme Court of Canada will be asked to consider whether people with intellectual disabilities should be allowed to testify in court. Specifically, the question before the Court is whether people with intellectual disabilities are required to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of a “promise to tell the truth” in order to be permitted to testify.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) has been granted intervener status in this case. The CCD will argue that courts should not impose a test to allow people with disabilities to testify that is not imposed on others. Courts should focus scrutiny on the testimony given by individuals not the individuals themselves. “Courts do not test non-disabled persons’ ability to tell the truth, it is only biases and myths that suggest persons with disabilities have any less capacity to determine the truth than others.” said Yvonne Peters, legal advisor to CCD.

“To exclude persons with intellectual disabilities from testifying in court is profoundly discriminatory,” said Anne Levesque, Co-Chair of CCD’s Human Rights Committee. “It is ironic that we have strengthened Criminal Code protections for the assault of vulnerable persons and then we would disallow these same persons to testify in court,” stated Levesque.

CCD also seeks, for the first time, through this case, the Supreme Court’s understanding of Canada’s obligations having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is the first case where relevant sections of the CRPD are being presented as an interpretive tool.

“CCD is committed to ensuring the equal protection and benefit of the law for Canadians with disabilities. That protection includes the ability of all persons, regardless of disability, to have their day in court when their rights have been violated,” said Peters.


Submit Now!
Call for Submissions for CCD Publication
Building An Inclusive and Accessible Canada
30 Accomplishments
To Be Published for End Exclusion 2011
Deadline 15 September 2011

The work of the disability community has led to many significant changes in Canada, all of which have contributed to increased inclusion and access for persons with disabilities.

For End Exclusion 2011, CCD will publish a booklet sharing the viewpoints of members of the disability community on what they believe to be the most important accomplishments that have taken place over the last 30 years. CCD considers an accomplishment something which has contributed to the equality, participation and citizenship of people with disabilities.See below a sample list of 30 accomplishments put together by CCD’s volunteers and staff. CCD invites members of the disability community to submit a one page article (400 words) about an event/an accomplishment that has contributed to an inclusive and accessible Canada. Some points to keep in mind as you develop your piece:
• What has been achieved?
• What existed 30 years ago? What was the situation 30 years ago?
• What exists now? What has changed?
• How has the disability community /the wider community benefitted from the achievement?

An editorial panel will review the submissions and select those that will be included in this CCD publication. CCD will be using a cross disability lens when compiling this booklet and also will consider gender balance and if possible geographical distribution. Each author included in the booklet will receive a hardcopy of the publication, so please include a mailing address when you make your submission.
Email submissions to ccd@ccdonline.ca
The deadline for submissions is 15 September 2011.

Some Accomplishments We Brainstormed. What Would You Add?
1. Charter Inclusion
2. Human Rights Protection
3. Self-Managed Attendant Care
4. IL Philosophy
5. Captioning/Broadcast
6. Sign Language Interpretation/Eldridge
7. Urban Transportation Access
8. Inclusive Education
9. Federal Transport Access
10. Election Access
11. Deinstitutionalization/Community Living
12. RDSP
13. CRPD
14. Obstacles Report
15. National Strategy for Integration of PWDs
16. Copyright/Access to Print
17. Home Care
18. Individualized Funding
19. Technical Aids
20. Building Code/Access Standards
21. Employment Equity
22. Website Access Standards
23. Landmine Treaty Ban
24. Grismer/Duty to Accommodate
25. Housing Options
26. Data Collection
27. More Accessible Women’s Shelters
28. Case of Eve/ Prohibition of Non Therapeutic Sterilization
29. Telecom/Telephone Access
30. Homelessness Initiatives
31. Awareness Campaigns.
32. Jordan’s Principle
33. Funding of the Voice of People with Disabilities

CCD Member Group Updates

British Columbia Coalition of People with Disabilities

The BCCPD’s CARMA Project

Community and Residents Mentors Association–was inspired by the experience of people with disabilities who left care facilities and established their lives in the community. In the process of making this transition, they learned how to plan, where to go for information and who to ask for support. Most often, they relied on other people with disabilities who had taken a similar path. CARMA identifies this network of peer support to facilitate building relationships between mentors in the community and residents of the George Pearson Centre.

One of CARMA’s grassroots projects is the Able Community Kitchen which meets once a month at the George Pearson Centre care. The community kitchen brings together Pearson residents and community members to share food knowledge and meal preparation skills. For residents at George Pearson, it offers a rare opportunity to participate in the planning and preparation of their own meals and to experience the joy of sharing a meal. Apart from the community kitchen, Pearson residents’ daily meals are mass produced by the company contracted to provide food services to the facility, so residents have limited food style choices and solitary dining experiences.

During the growing season, the Able Community Kitchen receives fresh produce from the gardens just outside the building. This bounty of organic fruit and vegetables is provided by another CARMA project: Farmers on 57th project, an urban agriculture initiative which includes accessible community gardens.

CARMA continues to be one of BCCPD’s most creative, peer-centred programs.

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD)

No Act of Mercy

On October 24, 1993, Robert Latimer wrapped his daughter Tracy in a blanket and placed her in the cab of his pick-up truck. He connected a hose to the truck’s exhaust pipe, ran it through the window, and filled the cab with carbon monoxide. Tracy died from asphyxiation at the age of 14.

When the description of Robert Latimer’s deed is phrased in this way, without mention of Tracy’s severe disabilities, the act of murdering a child sounds as it should: horrific. But various media stories focused on Tracy’s disabilities and to many, Latimer was seen to have committed an “act of mercy” rather than murder. The resulting public dialogue largely took a similar tone. Latimer’s supporters insisted that Tracy’s murder was committed out of mercy for a child with no quality of life, since Tracy – who couldn’t speak, walk, or perform any of the tasks that many of us take for granted – was said to be in constant and terrible pain. At odds with this summary of Tracy’s lived experience were the opinions of educators and caregivers who actually worked with her. They described her as a young girl who loved many things, including music, and who showed great joy at the sight of horses, despite her constant physical pain.

The Latimer case sparked an intense debate in this country regarding euthanasia and the way in which Canadians see and value the lives of those who have a disability. Calls for leniency and even absolution for Robert Latimer belied a deep ignorance of the frightening precedent such actions would create. Wisely, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that treating Latimer’s crime as anything less than murder would have essentially shown that a different set of rules were in place for those who choose to end the life of a person with a disability. Robert Latimer was charged with second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

On December 6, 2010, Robert Latimer was granted full parole. As news of Latimer’s parole made headlines, pockets of sympathetic public dialogue resurfaced, casting Latimer as the victim of an insensitive justice system. This should cause us to pause and reflect. How has our society’s view of people with disabilities changed 18 years after the murder of Tracy Latimer, if at all?

The Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities believes that the life of each person with a disability has as much value as any other person. Canada’s laws are in place to protect each of us from the kind of fate that Tracy Latimer suffered. We must be unbending in the universal application of these laws, especially when the victim is unable to defend him- or herself, as was the case with Tracy Latimer. “If we choose to extend this courtesy of forgiving crimes committed by parents only to parents of children with disabilities,” says University of Alberta professor Dick Sobsey, “we increase the danger to the most vulnerable group of children.” Canada’s justice system exposed Robert Latimer’s crime for what it was, and he has served his time for the murder of his daughter. Moving forward, we must never cast him as the victim. Tracy Latimer was the victim, and her murder was, by no measure, a merciful act.

Alberta Aids to Daily Living Program

When the Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) program began offering its services in 1980, a major commitment to the lives of many Albertans with disabilities began. The original purpose and intent of the program was to assist those of us who were unable to cover the costs of necessary aids to daily living and to help make society more equitable and accessible to people with disabilities. 31 years later, the program continues to offer services that have an important impact on our lives by helping us maintain our independence at home and in the community, and by providing financial assistance to buy medical equipment and supplies.

AADL is primarily a cost-sharing program. Clients cover 25% of the benefit cost, to a maximum of $500 per year; however, low-income Albertans and those who are on income supports are not required to pay. The supplies and equipment that people receive through this program are determined through an assessment process conducted by a health care professional.

People with disabilities of all ages – from children to seniors – can apply to the program to have crucial needs met that many take for granted; it is difficult to overstate the overwhelming impact this can have on our lives.

The program is open to people of all ages and represents a wide range of disabilities. Some receive help with the cost of mobility aids, like walkers and wheelchairs; others access the program to help with the cost of incontinence supplies, like colostomy bags and catheters; still others use it for items ranging from specialized paediatric equipment to respiratory equipment to homecare accessories. Within the AADL program, we can also access RAMP: the Residential Access Modification Program. Through RAMP, eligible wheelchair users can receive up to $5,000 in accessible home modifications so that they do not have to move from our current residences in the hopes of finding a place that meets our accessibility needs.

The Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities is guided by three principles : equity, accessibility, and full participation – principles which can be upheld by the AADL program. Many of us have the potential to be active members of our communities because we can apply for AADL benefits. The aids and equipment offered by the program can enable us to attend school, go to work, cultivate social lives, and live in our own homes. By providing supports to accomplish daily routines that we would not be able to accomplish otherwise, AADL has the potential to make our society more equitable, accessible, and accommodating of our full participation.

ACCD encourages the Government of Alberta to continue improving and investing in this critical program, and to engage the disability community in a dialogue that examines our diverse needs as people with disabilities. Doing so will protect the freedom that we as Albertans with disabilities have to make choices, live independently, and manage our daily lives.

Our Role in a Changing Political Landscape

Alberta Politics are about to change, as members of the Conservative, Liberal, and Alberta Parties go to the voting booth to choose new leaders. A provincial election is also coming soon. What is our role in the election process? First, we must ask ourselves: what do we want from our elected officials? What are the issues that are important to us? How will each candidate impact these issues? It is a good idea to research what politicians stand for and the issues they plan to address in the legislature if they are elected. By understanding each campaign, we will be able to determine which candidate best represents our vision for the province’s future.

Alberta’s political parties have their own rules regarding membership and voter eligibility for party leadership elections. Memberships cost between $5 and $10, and they allow people some involvement in a party’s decision-making processes. To learn more about the province’s political party leadership races and voter eligibility, visit the following websites:

• Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta - www.albertapc.ab.ca
• Alberta Liberal Party - www.albertaliberal.com
• Alberta Party - www.albertaparty.ca

As party leadership campaigns develop, a provincial election is also building. The proposed date for the provincial election is March 2012, with some suggesting that it could occur earlier. It is important that the disability community learns about all of the parties that are seeking leadership of the province. We encourage people with disabilities and their families to speak with candidates who want to represent the communities where we live. In order for our voices to be heard by those whose decisions impact our lives, we must talk to candidates and let them know our vision for Alberta’s future. After all, the voice of an elected official is the voice of the people whom he or she represents. In this way, politicians come to understand our unique perspectives on a variety of important issues that affect our lives.

In Alberta, every person of legal voting age has a say, and we express our views by voting. So let us educate ourselves and take an interest in the political process by casting a vote for the person with a strong vision for Alberta.

CCD Award 2010

In a unanimous decision, ACCD’s board of directors have chosen this year’s recipient of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities Award: Lois Hardy. Lois is a long-time educator, and she is currently the Superintendent of Student Services with the Lloydminster Public School Division. Throughout her career, she has been dedicated to the removal of barriers that prevent children with disabilities from accessing educational opportunities. Lois believes that learning leads to independence and that all children can grow to be as independent as they are able to be. Lois also believes that all students can learn and that each child deserves to be treated with dignity. Lois’ s life work embodies the spirit of the CCD Award, and ACCD’s board of directors and staff are thrilled to announce her as this year’s recipient!

Certificate of Recognition for Academic Effort and Achievement

At the beginning of 2010, ACCD developed the Certificate of Recognition for Academic Effort and Achievement, and the first students to receive the award did so that spring. Now in its second year, the Certificate of Recognition’s purpose remains the same: to celebrate the effort and academic achievement of students with disabilities. The program, which is available in all Alberta’s post-secondary institutions and open to all full- and part-time students with disabilities, enables faculty and staff to honour students who work hard to fulfill their educational goals. ACCD would like to extend congratulations to all of the recipients for the 2010 fall semester.

Project Update: Barrier-free Health and Medical Services in Alberta

For many years now, ACCD has heard from people with various disabilities who have had issues accessing Alberta’s health and medical services in a variety of situations. Because of these stories, we decided to take a closer look at the issue, to determine the specific barriers to health and medical services that people with disabilities experience.

In February of 2009, ACCD received a grant from the Government of Alberta’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund for a project titled Barrier-free Health and Medical Services in Alberta. Since that time, we have completed an extensive literature review, distributed surveys to people with disabilities and medical professionals, and conducted site audits.

Overall, we found that people with disabilities are happy with their access to the province’s health and medical services; however, many people who took part in our project noted similar barriers occurring throughout the province, in rural and urban settings.

The biggest transportation barriers were cost, coordination of schedules, and arranging transportation following discharge from emergency rooms. For example, some of the study’s participants talked about the strict pick-up and drop-off schedule of specialized transit systems, such as DATS and how they do not work with doctors’ appointments that run late. There were also concerns about being dropped off at an emergency room by an ambulance and having to find a way home after being released. Often times, the only option for people who find themselves in this situation is to take a cab, which is expensive, especially if a person is on income supports.

A lack of communications services is a common barrier. People who are deaf and hard of hearing said that their access to health and medical services in the province would improve if interpretive services were available. People felt that written instructions were not good enough, since communication barriers still existed when patients wanted to ask their doctors questions. Those who are blind and visually impaired said a lack of Braille on written materials and signage was a major barrier.

One-Issue Appointments
Doctors are not able to spend as much time with patients as they used to. Many doctors’ offices have a one-issue-per-appointment policy in place, to ensure that the largest possible number of patients can be seen. For some, this might not be problem, but for people with disabilities who have complex health issues, one-issue appointments are not enough. ACCD’s study discovered a need for a greater amount of appointment time for people with disabilities.

Access to Physicians
With a shortage of doctors (especially in rural areas), getting a doctor is hard enough. But for people with disabilities, the problem is even harder, since doctors are not always willing to take on the added work of complex health issues that people with disabilities sometimes have.

Physical Accessibility
Finally, physical barriers often prevent access to health and medical services. ACCD’s study found a variety of barriers, ranging from the design of parking areas, paths of travel, and washrooms; to inaccessible medical equipment, like exam tables that cannot be lowered and scales that cannot accommodate wheelchairs.
Based on the project’s findings, ACCD developed a list of recommendations which is included in our final report. We are currently meeting with interested parties – including elected officials, professionals who work in the health system, and various organizations – to discuss the findings and to determine ways in which we can work together to improve access to health and medical services in the Alberta.

For more information on ACCD’s Barrier-free Health and Medical Services in Alberta project, contact our Edmonton office at 780-488-9088 or toll free at 1-800-387-2514.

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities (SVOPD)

International Women’s Day

The Voice was pleased to be involved for the 11th year in the Women with Disabilities Luncheon in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 9th in Saskatoon. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other organizations and hear some very positive speeches from some very inspiring young women.

Voice Works with DISC

The voice continues to work on the Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) committee to lobby government for increases to the SAID (Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability) program. On an optimistic note in the recent budget, $50 to each SAID participant for personal use was approved.

Reducing Barriers in the Education System

In addition, a committee, Disability Education Support Kommittee (DESK) was recently created to look at how the education system views children with disabilities. This is in hopes of bettering the view of these individuals in the eyes of the education system as well as creating a better rapport for the children themselves and their educators.
Executive Director Retires

At the end of May our Executive Director, Bev Duncan, will be retiring after 25 years of service to the organization. She enjoyed the work, the challenges and the victories that accompanied her time with the Voice. Her hard work and dedication to serving people with disabilities and the community will be greatly missed.

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities Inc. (MLPD)

International Women’s Day Focuses on Women with Disabilities

On March 8, 2011, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s day was celebrated at the Manitoba Legislature. This year’s theme was the accomplishments of women with disabilities in Manitoba. The Honorable Jennifer Howard, Minster of Persons with Disabilities and Minister of the Status of Women hosted a 600 person luncheon and programme. The Minister invited Diane Driedger, Provincial Coordinator, to speak about the importance of the government’s new resource guide, Living in Manitoba: A Guide for Women with Disabilities in Manitoba. She focused on how important it was to have all of this information in once place. It is the first guide of its kind for people with disabilities in Manitoba. Diane was part of the Advisory Committee that worked on the Guide. Yvonne Peters also spoke concerning the rights of women with disabilities in Canada. MLPD was most encouraged by the large turnout at the Legislature.

Living in Manitoba: A Resource Guide for Women with Disabilities

Status of Women, Manitoba released its new guide for women with disabilities in March. The Guide has various sections with information about how to access services, resources, grants and information regarding being a woman and living with a disability in the province. The sections include: Education and Training, Employment and Volunteering, Income Benefit Programmes, Health and Well-Being, Human Rights, Violence and Abuse, Tools for Independent Living, Parenting and Family Life, Housing and Transportation and Travel. The Government has distributed copies of the Guide to community organizations, including MLPD.

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (LEO)

30th Anniversary Celebration

In November, NS LEO celebrated its 30th anniversary and had a day of workshops focusing on “Participation in Public and Political Life”.
Access to Political and Public Life: A Key to Inclusion
NS LEO’s annual project, Partnership for Access Awareness Nova Scotia (PAANS), is now being worked on. This years’ theme is: Access to Political and Public Life: A Key to Inclusion. PAANS ran from May 29th to June 4th with various events happening throughout the province.
People can check out our website www.paans.ca for the latest information and a schedule of events.

PEI Council of People with Disabilities

The PEI Council of People with Disabilities remains busy as we prepare for our Summer Tutoring Program. Funding proposals have been completed and now the search begins for the 16 Instructional Assistants we will hire to tutor over 160 youth with disabilities. The program is built on a learning retention model and each youth meets with their tutor once a week to have fun and learn. The program ensures that the participants retain prior learning so they are ready for the new school grade in the fall. We are also wrapping up the tenth year of the Around the Block Theater Program – and we are pleased to say that the program won a national award this year for being the most innovative program for youth in Canada. The performers have just completed their V.I.P. show and have started their provincial tour to spread the message of inclusion and nonviolence in our schools and communities.

We have also been active educating our community members on the benefits of the RDSP. Fourteen information sessions were held across the Island to promote this program and all were well attended. Our staff is currently busy assisting people with Disability Tax Credit applications so they are eligible for RDSPs. We also plan to continue to host information sessions over the next year to spread the work of this important program.

Over the last couple of months we have also been partnering with the Office of Public Safety as they prepare for Emergency Preparedness Week. The focus this year is on preparedness for people with disabilities, seniors and their care givers. The launch will be May 2nd and the week promises to be full of activities that will educate us all on how to be ready when disaster strikes.

Working to ensure there is Accessible Housing:

The Council attended Spot Light on Housing hosted by CMHC. An in-depth analysis was provided by CMHC around housing market trends. Also provided was the number of new apartments being constructed on PEI. This information re-enforced the importance of municipalities having a By-Laws stating that a certain ratio of new apartments need to be based on universal design as this will assist in addressing the housing needs of Islanders with disabilities. The Council continues to work with municipalities to ensure that such By-Laws are written, enacted and enforced. Currently such a By-Law has been passed in Summerside and the Town of Stratford is planning on passing such a By-Law at their next meeting. The City of Charlottetown is still reviewing various options of a By-Law. We are pleased to announce that the City of Charlottetown has passed a resolution to use a Disability Lens Tool as a guiding principle when developing new programs and initiatives.

Partnering to create Poverty Reduction:

Poverty is the one all-encompassing issue that people living with disabilities on PEI face. Sixty-five percent of all households living on income support are headed by an Islander living with a disability. We are a founding member of the PEI Working Group for Livable Income and continue to be active on this working group. In the last couple of months we presented to Wes Sheridan, Minister of Finance and Municipal Affairs, about disability poverty and the need for an increase in basic living allowances in the Social Services Program. We also met with the Honourable Steven Fletcher, Member of Parliament for Charleswood – St. James – Assiniboia to talk about democratic reform and to again voice our concerns about disability poverty.

Marcia Carroll, executive director of the PEI Council of People with Disabilities continues to Chair the Disability Action Council (DAC). Over the last year the DAC has identified priorities, created a work plan, and assigned working groups for the areas of housing, employment, education and communications. These working groups will spend the next year focusing on recommendations of the Disabilities Services Review – Final Report and will be advising the provincial Government on how best to move the recommendations forward. In the past year the DAC has been successful in addressing 17 of the 45 recommendations and plans are underway to ensure that this momentum will continue.


AEBC Objects to Proposed Cuts to Essential Intervenor Services

March 16, 2011

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur
Minister of Community and Social Services, Hepburn Block Queen's Park Toronto, ON M7A 1E9

Dear Minister:

Re: Proposed Cuts to Intervenor Services for Deaf-Blind Ontarians

I am writing on behalf of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted, to express our deep shock and full opposition to any proposed cuts to intervenor services for deaf-blind Ontarians. These services are critical for their participation in all aspects of life, and rather than imposing cuts, the Ontario Government should be increasing the availability of these services which are truly "essential services" for this group of Ontarians.

Intervenors help individuals who are deaf-blind to communicate, at a doctor's office, at a bank, in a restaurant and at home.

Intervenor services are one of the most critical services the Ontario Government offers. Consider what your life would be like if you could neither hear or see! Your life would be quite different.

It is for these reasons the AEBC demands the Ontario Government reconsider any cuts to this critical service, and ensure current levels are either maintained or increased.

Please respond via e-mail, text, not pdf, as I am blind and use a screen reader.


John Rae
1st Vice President
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians www.blindcanadians.ca

Michael Prue
Joe Fiorito
Citizens With Disabilities Ontario

AEBC Comments on Next Issue of Canadian Currency


Bank of Canada
234 Wellington Street, 2W
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G9
Attention: Marc Charron, Program Manager
Email: mcharron@bankofcanada.ca
Tel: 613-782-7678 | M 613-296-3511

Dear Sir:


I am writing to you on behalf of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), a nationwide organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted.

During consultations that resulted in Canada's present paper bank notes, members of our organization, then known as the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality participated, and made a number of recommendations that still hold true today. We believe the bank notes should have a full set of accessibility features as its priority and that the bank note reader be available to blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted Canadians through any financial institution as opposed to a service organization for the blind.

As the Bank of Canada develops Canada's next brand of bank notes, the following represent some of our priorities:

1. Denominations of bills should have different sizes, or at least
different lengths;
2. There should be a full set of accessible features on the bank notes;
3. The tactile markings (Braille) to be sharper or at least as sharp as
the current paper bank notes;
4. There should be a clipped corner nearest the tactile marking, to
assist with locating the first tactile marking (Braille cell) for location purposes;
5. Area surrounding the tactile marking (Braille cell) should be
reinforced so there is less possibility of confusing the tactile marking
(Braille) with raised wrinkling of the bank notes. New polymer bank notes will still wrinkle thus the area around the tactile markings needs to be re-enforced or the issue confusing the tactile marking (Braille) with raised wrinkling of the bank notes will still exist;
6. Electronic scanners, provided by the Bank of Canada, should
recognize and read the bank notes regardless of the orientation of the bank note (all four possibilities); and
7. The note reader supplied by the Bank of Canada should be available
at any financial institution at no charge.

We maintain our view that any system of tactile markings is far inferior to bank notes of different lengths and/or sizes, as the tactile markings simply do not hold up, even after fairly minimal circulation. Tactile markings as part of accessible features can be an added benefit to the different lengths of bank notes.

In many other countries around the world, notes are of different lengths. We have been told it would be too costly to create notes of different lengths, as this would require changes in vending and bank machines and cash registers. However, Canada already dealt successfully with a similar issue when the $1 and $2 bills were discontinued and new coins replaced these notes. Presumably, this required significant changes in coin-operated vending machines.

Making bank notes different lengths would not cause nearly as much distress and cost as the changeover of cash registers (tills) when the GST was introduced. Further, other countries that have implemented the different lengths of notes already use bank machines so this issue has already been resolved. Banking machines, like wallets and tills, may already have the capacity to work with differing lengths of bank notes. If not, the Bank of Canada can start suggesting that these machines be readied for the possibility of bank notes of different lengths.

The AEBC looks forward to participating actively with representatives from the Bank of Canada in all future consultations concerning developments in Canadian currency.


Robin East

cc Greg Kealey, Analyst, Currency Development
Email: gkealey@bankofcanada.ca
Tel: 613-782-8608

AEBC Supports Full Television Accessibility

This is a busy year, responding to CRTC Public Notices on various aspects of broadcasting access, but the most important is the proposed license renewals for a number of Canada's largest broadcasters. The AEBC submitted the following intervention, and appeared in person before the CRTC on April 8, 2011, in support of this position:

Television License Renewal and Amendments

A Brief Submitted to the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

Submitted by: Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour
l'Égalité des Personnes Aveugles du Canada (AEBC)

RE: Licence Renewals and Amendments from:

1. CTV Globemedia Inc. 2010-1261-6
2. Shaw Media Inc. 2010-1307-8
3. Corus Entertainment Inc. 2010-1350-8
4. Shaw Cablesystems Limited 2010-1306-0
5. Rogers Broadcasting Limited 2010-1253-3

As contained in Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2010-952-1.

February 2011


The applicants to this proceeding are many of Canada’s largest communications companies. As such, they must be leaders in promoting and delivering full accessibility for all Canadians, including Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, or partially sighted. While these applicants have built various plans for expanding audio description into their proposals, the AEBC believes the CRTC must require more be done, and we request the opportunity to appear at the public hearing to further outline our position.


The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians / L'Alliance pour l'Égalité des Personnes Aveugles du Canada (AEBC) is a national organization of rights holders who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted who have come together to speak for ourselves. The work of the AEBC focuses on improving public attitudes and providing input on public policy issues affecting members of our community. For further background on the philosophy and work of the AEBC, please visit our website at: www.blindcanadians.ca.


Audio Description (AD) is verbal narration which explains what is happening visually on screen in television, movies, DVDs, or live performances. Delivered during gaps in the dialogue, this can include description of scenes, settings, costumes, body language, facial expressions, and ‘sight gags’ – anything that is important to a more complete appreciation of what is happening in the performance. With AD, a person who has significant vision loss gains a greater appreciation of a show's content, and can share entertainment experiences with family and friends, without having to ask ‘What happened?’


Persons with disabilities believe we are our own best spokespersons, as we who live our own disability know our needs and aspirations best. The current television industry working groups do not contain a majority of people with disabilities, or experts who are mandated to properly represent our interests. As a result, we are often forced to fight hard to get our point of view heard and incorporated. The process is not collaborative or consistent with the priorities of the disabled community or the coalition being spearheaded by Access 2020 of which AEBC is a participant.

The AEBC believes going forward, that the work of standards and best practices should NOT be led by the television industry, but rather, by a more collaborative process involving rights holder organizations and Media Access Canada (MAC), whose sub-committees are currently collaborating with the television industry.

AEBC currently participates on their Descriptive Video (DV) Production and Presentation Best Practices Sub-committee, and expects this Sub-Committee will publish a draft DV best practices document by the end of May 2011. Further, once the MAC sub-committees are fully funded, AEBC would be able to participate more fully on additional sub-committees that will impact 100% accessibility for blind Canadians by 2020.


Back in 1981, the United Nations spearheaded the International Year of the Disabled Person (IYDP) under the forward-looking theme of "full participation and equality." Even a cursory examination of the history of Canadians with disabilities - and Canadians with disabilities do have a history – reveals clearly that reliance upon the voluntary approach and the marketplace has failed us and our needs, continues to fail us and, thus, there is no reason for us to expect a miraculous turnaround to this ongoing trend. This is partly due to the industry's refusal to work collaboratively with the disabled community. As a result, we are forced to turn to, and rely upon the CRTC and other regulatory bodies to help us achieve the elusive goal contained in the motto of the IYPD.


The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian Human Rights Act all support full and equitable access to Canadian society for individuals with various disabilities. As such, the AEBC believes the CRTC must take a more proactive approach and make increased use of its regulatory authority to help make all telecommunications programming and services fully accessible, including audio description of all television programming, whether over-the-air, by satellite or online regardless of the financial circumstances of the licensee or its licensed undertakings. This must be accomplished within a specified period of time not to exceed 10 years.


1. The CRTC require as a condition of licence for each applicant an
increase in accessibility to all its programs and services in an incremental manner to guarantee the achievement of 100% accessibility, including full audio description, by 2020 on all stations and in all programming, both regular and specialty channels;
2. Provide fully accessible web sites including television programs
that are fully described and captioned;
3. The CRTC require as a condition of licence the submission of annual
report cards on increased accessibility, that will include annual monitoring of quality and levels of accessible program content;
4. Improve accessible content production technology to reduce
accessibility costs;
5. Increase Curriculum development for students who want to learn how
to closed caption or audio describe programs, including with digital environments;
6. Establish an Accessibility Trust Fund run by the accessibility
community and accessibility experts. The Fund's income would be specifically dedicated to accessibility activities; and
7. The CRTC require as a condition of licence that broadcasters work
collaboratively with the disabled community, especially rights holder organizations such as the AEBC in the implementation of full accessibility within the next 10 years.


The broadcasting industry, including all regulatory bodies, has had many, many years to make television fully accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with disabilities. Existing approaches haven’t worked. Canada’s disability community believes it is time the broadcasting sector stopped making excuses for its failure to discharge its moral and legal obligations, and work with us in a fully collaborative manner to bring about full accessibility within a specified period of time, not to exceed 10 years. We must accelerate the pace moving more quickly towards attaining full inclusion, so that 100% access, including full audio description, is in place no later than 2020. We call upon the CRTC to use its regulatory authority to help make this a reality. Our time has come!

Copies to:

CTV Globemedia Inc.
299 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 2Z5
E-mail: david.spodek@ctv.ca

Shaw Media Inc.
121 Bloor Street East
Suite 1500
Toronto, ON M4W 3M5
E-Mail: cbell@canwest.com

Corus Entertainment Inc.
Corus Quay
25 Dockside Drive
Toronto, ON M5A 0B5
E-Mail: sylvie.courtemanche@corusent.com

5125 Steeles Avenue West
Toronto, ON M9L 1R5
E-Mail: aldo@tlntv.com and sylvie.courtemanche@corusent.com

Shaw Cablesystems Limited
102- 10th Street
Keewatin, ON P9X 1C0
E-Mail: kyle.glieheisen@cjrb.ca

Rogers Broadcasting Limited
333 Bloor Street East
7th floor
Toronto, ON M4W 1G9
E-Mail: susan.wheeler@rci.rogers.com

Fighting New Barriers

As strange as it often sounds, in 2011, as we attempt to remove old barriers in our path to full inclusion into all aspects of Canadian society, new barriers are put in our path. One such example, which may sound small on the surface, the cancellation of the Talking Yellow Pages services, makes finding commercial telephone listings more difficult for persons who cannot read a phone book, and AEBC's Toronto Chapter is attempting to help rectify this problem:

Richard Quan

March 16, 2011

Mr. Marc Tellier
Yellow Pages Group
16 Place du Commerce
Nun’s Island, Verdun, QC
H3E 2A5

Dear Mr. Tellier,

Re: Termination of the Talking Yellow Pages Service

I am writing to you as President of the Toronto Chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, (AEBC), concerning a distressing matter which has been brought to our attention on a number of occasions. As a means of introduction, the AEBC is a community driven consumer-based advocacy organization that strives to give a voice to those individuals who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted on issues relating to access and inclusion.

Over the past several months, we have received a number of telephone inquiries from upset individuals in the Toronto area about the cancellation of the “Talking Yellow Pages” service. It is our understanding that, when the service was up and running, individuals could call without charge (416)
310 (YELO) to access yellow page information. An individual, for example, could be given a list including the contact information for local plumbers if he/she did not know them by name by simply stating the desired service sought. In this way, your service gave people who otherwise could not have read your publication, in print or on the computer over the internet, the same or similar access to useful information. Without your service, apparently there is no way of accessing a random search for listings of interest by telephone.

When you terminated your telephone service in Toronto, we believe that an important segment of society was abandoned. Individuals who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted who do not use a computer are obviously and immediately affected. With an aging population and a corresponding increase in vision loss, this group is conceivably larger than what one can surmise from a cursory glance. The effect of the service cancellation goes beyond the obvious however; as it was a service that provided access by voice and not through the printed medium, its cessation affected, without a doubt, people who have literacy difficulties as well.

On behalf of those people who relied on your “Talking Yellow Pages” service, I urge you to reconsider your decision prompting its cancellation. From the inquiries that we have received, it played an important role in people’s lives. Not everyone has access to the printed word; others do not know how to use a computer; sadly enough, there are many who do not have access to either. It is for all of these people who found your service useful and necessary that I am asking you to reconsider your decision and reinstate the service. It would seem odd for a company whose goal it is to find new markets for its subscribers to consciously shut out a whole segment of society.

Thank you in advance for considering the concerns that we have raised herein. I hope to hear from you soon about a possible solution. If you need any further information or wish to discuss this matter further, feel free to contact me at any time. I can be reached by:

Telephone: (416) 590-7035
Email: r.quan@rogers.com


Yours truly,


Richard Quan
Valentina Gal

On Behalf of the

AEBC Toronto Chapter
CC.: Ivana Petricone
ARCH Disability Law Centre

Note: The AEBC is delighted that ARCH Disability Law Centre is currently supporting a Toronto resident in a case at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on this same issue.

Canadian Association of the Deaf

Winter 2010-11 Report

By Doug Momotiuk, President

We received a donation of 150 Blackberry devices from RIM and 6 months free service from Telus, which we distributed to the Deaf Community through the affiliates.

I attended the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)’s National Council Meeting as CAD representative. CCD reported on its “Evolution of Access” project, which identifies new barriers and emerging access issues for Canadians with disabilities; Deaf participants identified issues regarding communication, video accessibility, and education. The CCD Council members also discussed a proposed federal income program that would replace provincial/territorial social assistance and welfare programs for most working-age persons who have severe disabilities.

The CAD was one of 150 organizations that signed an open letter calling upon governments to implement and monitor the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The letter also called for a national plan to focus on poverty, disability supports, employment, and accessibility.

We made progress at improving internal and external communications and public relations. Scott Wood and Jim Roots have made improvements to the website design, vlogs, and advertisements. We began sending regular video emails to the affiliates to keep the Deaf Community informed.

The CAD continues to advocate on the issue of Deaf education in Newfoundland following the closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf. We helped set-up the Committee For Deaf Education (Newfoundland and Labrador), which collected funds to pay for advertisement that challenged the Minister of Education on a number of points.

Students at Centre Jules Léger (CJL, the Deaf French Provincial School in Ottawa) walked out of classes in protest in February 2011. Their three demands were: open-up registration to new students, hire a competent director with proven knowledge of the Deaf and hard of hearing community as a linguistic and cultural minority, and provide quality Deaf education that respects the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing Franco Ontarian students. The CAD wrote a letter of support and also attempted to generate media coverage in support of the students. Jim Roots participated in a meeting with school administration, student leaders, and four other associations in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. At this time (April 2011) there is still no satisfactory agreement to resolve the issues.

CAD representatives participated in Bell Canada’s VRS Feasibility Study Advisory Committee. Jim Roots attended the first session on March 3rd. Frank Folino and I attended the second session on March 18th. All three of us participate in an ongoing closed on-line discussion group, too. Bell contracted with Mission Consulting of California to do this feasibility study. The CAD and other Deaf organizations provided their feedback on the project scope, technologies, ASL & LSQ interpreters, and quality of services. It should be noted that Jim was successful in stubbornly insisting that for the first time ever, the Deaf organizations will receive a donation from Bell for their time and expertise. From now on, Deaf associations should demand to be paid for their expertise and not taken for granted by large corporations like Bell.

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NEADS' Financial Aid Portal: www.disabilityawards.ca

In the fall of 2010 the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) launched the first financial aid portal dedicated to post-secondary education funding for persons with disabilities. The bilingual web site, disabilityawards.ca/prixacces.ca was funded jointly by the Canada Student Loans Program and the Social Development Partnerships Program (HRSDC). It features comprehensive information on financial aid available from the federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as over 300 awards, bursaries, scholarships available from post-secondary institutions, private sector companies and non-governmental organizations.

DisabilityAwards.ca allows detailed searches based on criteria such as province of residence/study, field of study, post-secondary institution and type of disability. Students and others can create a user account customized to their experience. This allows for notification of upcoming deadlines for funding and new awards, bookmarking awards for future visits, and sharing of award information with friends by email, Facebook or Twitter. There is also a Suggest An Award feature which allows administrators of financial aid programs to submit details on a financial aid program that can be added to disabilityawards.ca.

Videos of Conference Presentations on NEADS Site

The entire national conference “Learning Today: Leading Tomorrow”, which was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba in November, 2010, is now available on the NEADS website. Twenty-six workshop presentations, plenaries and speeches by distinguished guests are available in captioned video format. Check it out!

Repaying Your Student Loans

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada message:

Are you graduating or leaving school?

Your government student loan(s) may come from the federal government and or your provincial/territorial government. This means you could have more than one loan to pay back.

The National Student Loan Service Centre (NSLSC) will send your Consolidation Agreement by mail before you are required to start making payments.

The Agreement sets the terms for the repayment of your Canada Student Loan; this is the federal portion of your loan. You’ll have to make a number of decisions, including the type of interest rate and how long you’ll take to repay your loan. Depending on your situation, you might also receive another Consolidation Agreement by mail for your provincial or territorial student loan.

You don’t have to make any payments on your student loan(s) for the first six months after you leave school; however, interest will be added to your Canada Student Loan during these six months.

Campus Groups and Access Committees

Does your school have a Campus Group of students with disabilities or an Access Committee? If so, we would like the information on our website. All you have to do is select "Add A Group or Committee" on the following page. Fill out the form on the NEADS website and submit it:

Also, if your group/committee is listed, but the information is not up-to-date, please complete a new form and we'll replace the old entry.

NEADS Online Calendar

The National Educational Association of Disabled Students has an Online Calendar on the website.
It's easy to Add an Event; just fill-out the form and submit a conference or meeting to:

We want events in the calendar that are happening on your campus, in your community, in your province, or anywhere in Canada that visitors to our website might be interested in.

People First Canada

People First of Canada Celebrates 20 Years!

People First of Canada is pleased to announce its 20th Anniversary of promoting a vision of equality for all Canadians labelled with an intellectual disability.

People First of Canada is a national body of dedicated individuals with a federation of 10 provincial and 3 territorial groups representing over 110 local chapters throughout communities all over the country. We are proud to provide a strong voice in society by assisting in building a better future for Canadians labelled with an intellectual disability. Come join us for a celebration and look back at the past 20 years of activism and activities and meet some of the members who made it happen. Our celebration will take place at the Annual General Meeting, October 15, 2011, at the Inn at the Forks. Everyone is welcome to attend, please check our website for details (www.peoplefirstofcanada.ca).