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December 01
Izzy’s Tips For Independent Living

Dear Izzy is an anonymous advice column that offers solutions to everyday challenges for people with sight loss.

Dear Izzy,

In preparation for the holidays, I spend most of my weekends baking delectable treats. I enjoy sharing my Christmas baking with family and friends. As my vision slowly deteriorates, I find it more and more difficult to measure liquid ingredients like oils, milk and water, using a glass measuring cup. I am no longer able to see the measurements on the cup unless I use a magnification aid. Do you have any ideas that will make this task easier?

Mismeasures In Mississauga

Dear Mismeasures In Mississauga,

In the past you probably used a glass Pyrex measuring cup when measuring liquid ingredients. In fact, your home economics teacher most likely told you that this was essential when measuring liquid ingredients. The problem is that It is virtually impossible to use glass measuring cups if you are unable to see the level of the liquid in the measuring cup or the markings on the glass.

Nested measuring cups can be used for both liquid and dry ingredients. With nested measuring cups, the cups stack on top of each other making it easy to identify the different sizes.

When using nested measuring cups to measure liquids, place the appropriate measuring cup in a bowl. Rest your finger at the top of the cup when pouring the liquid. When the liquid touches your finger, stop pouring. The bowl will catch any overflow.

If the bowl is a contrasting colour to the measuring cup (e.g. white bowl and black measuring cup), it will be easier to see the cup in the bowl. You may like to refrigerate your cooking oils so you can feel the liquid more easily when pouring.

If you would like to learn additional adaptive kitchen skills, contact your local CNIB office. Happy baking!

If you would like to submit an independent living skills question to Izzy, please send an email to dear.izzy@cnib.ca. Your question may be answered in a future CNIB blog.

November 28
Overview of the Doro 824C accessible phone from Bell

Introduction

I have recently had the opportunity to test the Doro 824C phone from Bell. The phone has many features that make it fully accessible for someone with vision loss. This phone is ideal for seniors and for anyone not wanting the complexity and learning curve that comes with using a standard Android or Apple device. That being said, the phone contains many of the features that one would associate with an Android or Apple phone.

The phone runs Android 5.1 (KitKat). As is standard on most mobile phones today, the phone uses a touch screen. However, the included tactile overlay makes it easy to perform all the various functions of the phone.

The accessibility on the phone is provided by software from Claria.

All of the functions on the phone are presented in a standard menu structure. Once a person learns the basic interface, they are able to use all of the apps on the phone.

Availability

The Doro 824C is sold exclusively by Bell Mobility. The phone can be ordered in any Bell store or over the phone. For more information, please contact the Bell Accessibility Services Centre.

Standard phone functions

The Doro contains all the functions you would expect from a mobile phone. This includes making and receiving calls with talking Caller ID as well as sending and receiving text messages. Typing a text message is accomplished via the keypad section of the overlay. You need to press a number key up to three times to enter a particular letter. For example, to enter the letter C, you would press the number two, three times. This method of text entry was very common on phones prior to touch screens.
Additionally, the phone includes a fully accessible web browser and email client.

Safety feature

The Doro 824C includes a dedicated button on the back of the phone that can be used to request assistance. Through the settings on the phone, you are able to set up a phone number to call and a text message recipient. When you press the assistance button twice, call is placed, and a text message is sent.

Built-in applications

In addition to the standard phone functions, the Doro contains several additional applications that are of particular use to someone with vision loss. These include:

  • Fully accessible GPS navigation
  • DAISY book reader
  • Colour identifier
  • OCR (optical character recognition) app for reading printed text
  • Light detector

In addition to these applications, the phone contains a podcast and Internet radio player.

Android apps from the Google Play Store

In addition to the many apps that the Claria software provides, you are able to exit out of the Claria interface and use the phone as a standard Android device. When you do this, the standard Android screen reader called Talkback will take over. You are then able to install any accessible app from the Google Play store. These apps will not have the standardized interface that is provided by the Claria software. It is generally advisable to remove the tactile overlay when using the phone with apps from the Play Store.

Conclusion

The Doro 824C is ideal for seniors, children, or anyone who cannot or does not wish the complexity of a standard touch screen phone. The tactile overlay and standardized menu structure makes the phone extremely easy to use.

Please note

It has come to our attention that the Claria software that provides the accessibility on this phone is no longer being developed. The company is no longer in business. Everything on the phone works as expected. However, there will not be any further updates to the Claria software.

Bell is continuing to sell the phone and has assured us that they will continue to provide support. The phone is fully covered under warranty.

October 27
Izzy's Tips For Independent Living

Dear Izzy is an anonymous advice column that offers solutions to everyday challenges for people with vision loss.

Dear Izzy,

I recently moved into a new home with a digital thermostat. It is programmed to automatically lower the temperature each evening and increase the temperature in the morning. Unfortunately, I am unable to make changes to the program because I cannot see the print display. In addition, I would like to be able to identify the current temperature in the room. Can you help me?

The Heat Is On

Dear Heat Is On,

It can be very frustrating to operate a digital thermostat if you are unable to see the print display. One of my favourite gadgets is my Kelvin talking thermostat. You can operate the thermostat in two ways, by push-buttons or by voice. The buttons are marked with raised arrows that are easy to feel. When you push the up-arrow or down-arrow once, the thermostat will identify the current time, the current room temperature, and the current temperature-setting. For example, "11:36 a.m., the temperature is 20, the temperature-setting is 20". You can adjust the temperature-setting by pressing the up or down arrows, as desired.

To operate the thermostat using voice, I simply click my tongue twice (or clap my hands twice) and say the word, "thermostat". This verbal command will activate the voice output. If I want to increase the temperature, I say the word "raise" for each degree that I want to increase the temperature. If I want to lower the temperature, I say the word "lower" for each degree change.

This thermostat is easily programmed with voice output to guide you through the process. You can purchase the Kelvin thermostat on-line. Another option is the VIP series of talking thermostats that are also available on-line. I hope this helps! If you would like to learn additional home management skills, contact your local CNIB office. Keep warm!

If you would like to submit an independent living skills question to Izzy, please send an email to dear.izzy@cnib.ca. Your question may be answered in a future CNIB blog.

​​
September 25
Being A Puppy Raiser

I heard about the CNIB Guide Dog program through my husband, Scott. CNIB is one of his clients. His contact there had known him for years and knew that dogs had always been a part of our lives. She encouraged us to apply to raise a puppy. I've always loved dogs, so it wasn't a hard decision to make. And what a pleasure it has been!

Our puppy Ulysses, or "Uly" for short, is the easiest pup we've ever had. He's our fifth dog. He's intelligent, quick to learn, gentle in nature, and calm enough for people to notice. He has integrated easily into our home among two other dogs. They have taught him lessons that I can't teach about appropriate dog behaviour, correcting him as necessary.

As a puppy raiser, it is our job to socialize the dog, and to teach him basic commands such as come, sit, down, stand, stay, off, and to walk nicely at our left side. We are encouraged to expose him to all sorts of social experiences. So far he has been to work, to bible study, shopping, fine dining, fast food, a train station, a fishing lodge, in a canoe, and in a kayak.

I had forgotten what a people magnet puppies are. When he has his 'Future Guide Dog' vest on, everyone wants to talk to you. What a great way to advertise the Guide Dog program!

Now before everyone rushes to sign up, I should mention the other side of the story. To be a puppy raiser is a huge time commitment. You basically need to be able to have your pup with you all day. Other than a few hours here or there, if you go somewhere, he goes with you. And it takes lots of intentional time to train a dog to respond to commands.

When I speak to people about being a puppy raiser, one question always comes up. "How are you going to give him up?" It's a great question. I tell them that I'm willing to donate a few tears for a great cause. As much as I love Uly, he doesn't belong to me. He has a very special future purpose. Someday he is going to completely change someone's life for the better, and I just thank God that I've been able to play a small part.

By, Sharon MacMurchy

Puppy Raiser

September 19
Training Guide Dogs in Canada

Before I began to work with guide dogs back in 1988, I, like most people, never really put much thought into what is involved in preparing a dog for a career as a guide dog. I had seen them working on occasion, but never knew how a dog learned the skills they need​ to take on the job of safely guiding a person with sight loss as they walk from place to place. How doe​s a dog know when to cross a road? How do they learn to walk around obstacles and locate places? What else do they need to know before they can become a guide dog? Now, having worked with guide dogs for many years, I have the answers.

After spending their first year with a volunteer CNIB Guide Dogs Puppy Raiser, the young dog is ready to begin their formal guide dog training which usually takes 4-6 months, depending on how quickly the dog learns. Like children, they all learn at different rates, so this is taken i​nto account as they progress through their training.

Each day, the dog will head off to work with their Guide Dog Trainer or Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. They will have two training sessions in a variety of environments, before being returned to their volunteer boarder's home for the night. Only positive training methods are used, with patient, consistent handling to ensure the dog develops into a happy, confident guide for their future owner. Tasks are repeated often until the dog understands what is expected in each situation.

We start with the basics: walking down the centre of the sidewalk, on the left side and slightly ahead of the handler, a position that is ideal for guiding. Once they have that, they can be introduced to the harness and handle, the physical link between the dog and the handler. Over the 4-6 months that they are in training, they will learn how to walk around obstacles on the sidewalk, leaving enough room for the handler to get past without bumping into them. They learn to stop at curbs so that the person they are guiding knows that they are at a road and that they must take the time to assess the traffic so they can cross over safely. The responsibility for deciding when to cross lies with the Guide Dog User, not the dog.

Using their initiative, memory and sight, the dogs learn how to find locations for their handler. They will stop for steps, doors and wait patiently for clear gaps along crowded sidewalks. Although guide dogs are taught to be obedient and respectful of their owners, they sometimes must override what they are being asked to do if the handler hasn't detected a potential hazard such as a car crossing their path. That takes a lot of concentration and confidence.  Unlike most other types of working dogs, they must learn to ignore some very strong instincts such as sniffing and other potential distractions like birds and cats.

Once they have reached their destination, it's break time for the dog. They've done their job and now they can play, rest and just be a normal dog. They certainly deserve that!

Nearing the end of their training, they are matched with a blind or partially sighted person and their career as a qualified guide dog begins.

Karen Hanlon

Manager, Canine Development and Training

September 12
Blindness Isn’t All Black & White

I never really put much thought into it, but when I was young I thought you either had perfect vision or no vision at all. I didn't realize there was a huge grey area.

Did you know that most people with vision loss have some useable sight? Imagine vision on a continuum in which you have perfect vision at one extreme and absolutely no vision or "no light perception (NLP)" at the other end. Most people lie somewhere between these two extremes. In fact, 90% of clients at CNIB have some sight. This can range from being able to read large print to being able to detect only whether a light is on or off.

There are two measurements that are used to evaluate a person's vision: visual acuity and visual field. Let's take a closer look at these two measurements:

1. Visual Acuity. This measurement refers to your central vision or reading vision. A person with perfect vision has 20/20 vision. In the visual acuity measurement, as the number in the denominator increases (e.g., 20/200, 20/400, 20/800), vision decreases. What does this mean? Someone with 20/200 vision needs to be 20 feet away from an object to identify it. A person with perfect vision would be able to identify this same object from 200 feet away.

2. Visual Field. This measurement of the degrees of vision refers to peripheral vision. A person with perfect vision has 180 degrees of vision in the horizontal plane.

It is important to note that these two measurements (visual acuity and visual field) are determined with the best possible correction (i.e. prescription lenses) in the better seeing eye.

What a person is able to see will depend on whether the sight loss is a central vision loss, a peripheral vision loss or both.

Central vision is your detailed vision and colour vision. People with central vision loss will have trouble reading fine print or identifying details like faces, stairs, curbs or uneven pavement. Macular degeneration is an example of a central vision loss. A central vision loss can be simulated by smearing Vaseline on your eye-glasses.

Peripheral vision is your travelling vision. People with a peripheral vision loss may have problems navigating their environment (e.g. bumping into door frames, people, or other obstacles). Glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa are examples of peripheral vision loss.

A visual field loss can be replicated by holding two toilet paper rolls up to your eyes.

Blindness is often misunderstood by the general public, but it makes more sense if you take into account the type of vision loss that the person is experiencing. For example, people with central vision loss may not be able to see a pin on the floor if they stare straight at it. But they may be able to see the same pin on the ground in their peripheral vision if the pin reflects sunlight. Similarly, people with peripheral vision loss may require a white mobility cane or guide dog to get around but the same people may be able to read the newspaper if they have good central vision.

If you would like to get an idea of what it would be like to look through the eyes of someone with a central or peripheral vision loss, you can download the app called, "iSimulator", for free on iTunes.

Do you know what legally blind means? Legally blind is a term that is often misunderstood. It is simply a point on the vision continuum described earlier. It is denoted by a visual acuity of 20/200 or a visual field of 20 degrees. A person who is legally blind has vision of 20/200 or worse or less than 20 degrees of vision. If you can see only the E at the top of the Snellen eye chart, you have 20/200 vision and you are considered legally blind.

I hope this has brought some clarity to blindness. After all, it's not all black and white!

​​
August 31
High Contrast in Windows 10

As promised since before its release in 2015, Microsoft has issued periodic updates to the Windows 10 operating system. With these updates, we have seen steady progress in the refinement of essential accessibility tools included with the OS.

In a recent update, the high contrast settings received a terrific new upgrade. Read on to learn more on this but first, let me introduce the high contrast feature to you.

The High Contrast Settings allow computer users who require better contrast or different colours than those in the standard Windows colour themes to pick from a few schemes that have either dark print on a light foreground or light print on a dark background. The feature also allows customisation of colours for specific screen items such as links or selected text, etc. Unlike many other options that enhance contrast, the High Contrast Settings in Windows 10 do not generally affect images. This means that photographs, videos and logos will retain their standard colouring.

The Windows High Contrast Setting replaces colours rather than inverting colours, as other solutions do. The problem with inverting colours is that if you start with two colours that are low in contrast, such as yellow on blue, and invert them, the contrast is still low. It's just that the colours are reversed.

So, what is this hot new enhancement to Windows High Contrast Settings? Now the individual colours are infinitely variable through the use of the new colour picker tool. As mentioned, High Contrast already offered some customizable colours but now there is much more flexibility. This is useful in several ways. Although more contrast is often thought to be preferable, many people find pure white on black hard to look at. Instead, one might choose a pale yellow on a dark gray background or black text on an off-white background. It also gives computer users options for trying to create schemes to deal with problematic environments, for instance websites that do not show well with the preset colour combinations in the High Contrast Settings. It is easy to create several variants of a preferred set of colours to suit different lighting conditions or eyes that fatigue after some screen time.

Figure 1 images shows the Windows 10 High Contrast Settings dialog with the colour picker display option opened

To get an idea of the results possible through the high contrast settings, here are three images that show the Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada site. First in the standard colours, then in a standard high contrast preset and lastly with a set of colours modified using the colour picker. While not everyone will choose the same colours, the key here is that each colour is highly variable so with a bit of experimentation, each person should be able to find a colour set that works.

Figure 2 Screen shot of the Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada website in its standard colours

 

Figure 3 Screen shot of the Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada website using a Windows High Contrast Setting preset

 

Figure 4 Screen shot of the Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada website using a Windows High Contrast Setting modified using the colour picker tool

One last piece of information: you can quickly switch in and out of whichever high contrast setup you last used by using the keyboard command left alt, left shift + print screen (sometimes displayed as PS).

Enjoy tweaking those colours to your heart's content!

 

August 29
CNIB Youth Advocate shares experience with a company that embraces accessibility

Dayna is a recent graduate in communications from the University of Calgary. She has been an active member of the CNIB National Youth Council since its inception. In this blog, she shares her experiences applying, interviewing and working for a company as an individual with sight loss.
For more information on the council, visit www.cnib.ca/nyc/

When 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 out. 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 the strictest 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 in, 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 and not as 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? To let my colleagues relax enough where we can 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?

August 28
Izzy's Tips For Independent Living

Dear Izzy is an anonymous advice column that offers solutions to everyday challenges for people with vision loss.

Dear Izzy,

Last week, I purchased some electronics from a big box store in Winnipeg only to discover that the credit card keypad was touch-screen and totally inaccessible to a person with no sight. My accompanying friend offered to put the purchase on his credit card, but I was extremely embarrassed. Do you have any advice?

Credit Fret-It

Dear Credit Fret-It,

Many touch-screen point of sale terminals are totally inaccessible to customers who are blind or partially sighted. For this reason, you may want to contact your credit card company to request a "chip and signature" card. This type of card functions like a credit card prior to the implementation of the "chip and PIN" card.

At the time of purchase, the receipt is signed to confirm the transaction. The cashier will verify the signature on the receipt with the signature on the back of the credit card. It is important to note that some retailers may request picture identification at the time of purchase to verify the cards owner. Be sure to carry valid picture identification with your signature on it.

When using a signature card, the cashier will need to press "enter" (or "OK") when it prompts the customer for the PIN. This will bypass the PIN field and activate the payment terminal to print a signature receipt.

If you would like to learn additional money management skills, please contact your local CNIB office. Keep shopping!

If you would like to submit an independent living skills question to Izzy, please send an email to dear.izzy@cnib.ca Your question may be answered in a future CNIB blog.

August 23
The Blind Triathlete: The end of the journey...or is it?

I can’t believe that it's over. Two years of sweat and tears, training and racing, pain and suffering; all to get me to that one big race...Ironman Mont Tremblant 2017...and suddenly it's here.

Ironman events are more than just one race day; they are about four days of preparation, bike and transition bag drop-off, and far too much money spent at the expo. On Friday evening there's an athlete’s dinner and mandatory race briefing followed by the opening ceremonies with fireworks and music and for some too much beerJ then before we know it...race morning dawns.

The morning of the race was lovely. My guide Kory and I were up by 4:00 a.m. getting ourselves ready. Before the sun was up we were checking our bike for the last time and adding food to our transition bags. Then we were off for the long walk down to the beach and a quick dip in the lake to prepare ourselves for what was about to come.

Oh Canada was sung, fireworks exploded, a fighter jet did a flyby and the race began. We entered the water with over 1900 other people all there for the same reason - to get to the finish line and become an ironman. The lake that just moments before was still as glass suddenly resembled the water in your washing machine with what seemed to be millions of arms and legs everywhere. Thanks to Kory we made our way through only being kicked in the head a couple of times, and managed to complete the 4km swim in 1:47:49. We came out of the water and ran directly to the wetsuit strippers (they only take off the wetsuit; not sure what you were thinking), then we were off to the first transition to get ready for the long bike ride.

We ran our lovely tandem (her name is Black Beauty, by the way) out to the mount line and we were off on our 180km ride in the mountains. Mont Tremblant is known for having one of the hardest bike courses in Ironman and I can tell you that they are right. It is a 90km loop that you need to do twice with rolling hills along with a long stretch of a moderately steep hill mid-way through the loop that gets your legs burning. Then at the 74km mark you reach Mont Duplessis - a 7km stretch with climbs that caused many participants to get off their bikes and walk up the hills. Kory and I however were determined to complete the bike without having to walk so we buckled down and dug deep and got Black Beauty up that mountain. The second loop was tiring and the sun was beginning to heat up but, we kept pushing forward. Then we faced Mont Duplessis for the second time. We managed to conquer the beast of a mountain and rolled into second transition with a bike time of 7:27:17.

We were now facing our last leg of the journey. Only 42.2km to go. Unfortunately we had to do that part on our own two legs and they weren’t feeling quite ready to go run a full marathon after the bike ride. We faced the challenge and off we went. We walked up the hills, ran down letting gravity help us along, and we ran walked the flats. The goal was to get to the finish line alive and well so we were careful not to over task ourselves in the run. When I was feeling tired and fed up, my friend Cheryl would pop out of nowhere and play a voice memo from one of our friends cheering me on and it would give me the motivation to keep going. With only 1km to go Kory’s daughter played a voice memo from my own fantastic daughter, Summer. She reminded me that all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and I would soon be over the finish line. Her words telling me that she was so proud of me gave my feet wings and I managed to run down the finishing shoot with Kory by my side to that final finish line through cheering crowds, friends, and family to hear the announcer say “Diane Bergeron you are an ironman!” We completed the race with a finishing time of 16:15:57.

I could not believe that I was done! All the hard work came down to just this moment. I was so honored to have the race Director himself give me my medal. The emotion was high with many tears of joy and relief that I was still alive. After returning to the hotel, drinking some chocolate milk for recovery, and a hot bath, I dropped into bed and was out like a light.

Monday morning there was a brunch celebration where the awards were presented. I won first place in the physically challenged category. Doesn’t matter that I was the only athlete in the category; I’m gonna take it anywaysJ The awards over, the expo closed, and we were off heading back home; leaving Mont Tremblant behind us. But, the memory of this special place will stay with me forever.

Now it is over and I've had a couple of days to recover. I'm thankful that I have no injuries and I feel only slight discomfort in my muscles. I feel so much emotion around what I just managed to do. I'm so thankful for Cheryl for convincing me five years ago that I could do a triathlon; for my husband Blaine who sat back and didn’t complain when camping and fishing trips didn’t happen so I could spend the time training; and all the people who took me out for training runs or swims to help me get ready. Most of all, I'm thankful for having a friend like Kory who would give so much of herself to get me to that finish line. She gave up time with her family to take me training or to do practice races. I'm so privileged and honored to know this fantastic lady! None of this would be possible for me without all of their help and understanding.

Now the race is over and the equipment is packed away. I plan to spend the next few weeks with my feet up and a glass of wine in my hand. After that, the training will begin again. This time it's training for a trail run. In 2018 we will be bringing a relay team to the Canadian Death Race - a team of all blind and visually impaired runners. So the Journey to Ironman Mont Tremblant may be completed, but the adventure continues.

Questions? Comments? Email Diane at theblindtriathlete@outlook.com

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