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On Triple Vision, hosts David Best and Hanna Leavitt bring you the history of Canadians who are blind, deafblind, and partially sighted, one story at a time, illuminating the challenges of the past, present, and future.
Sep 13, 2022
The History of employment for Canadians who are Blind, Deafblind, and Partially Sighted: Part 4 – Do Employment programs Really Work?
In this last in a four-part series on employment, the Triple Vision team speaks to Jen Ferris and Wayne Henshall in order to answer the question: “Do employment programs for blind Canadians really work?” Jen Ferras is a "Free Agent" employed by the Government of Canada working on modernization initiatives; she has been working towards her own employment program for Canadians who are blind called “Talent Launch Consulting” on the side. The idea is to seek out gig work from established companies and then provide that work to qualified individuals looking to start their careers, or change their employment situation for the better. “What makes it unique is that it's well-established. It's legitimate companies requiring work to be done on their projects, and it's meaningful work. It’s not just tokenism.” Meanwhile, after 20 years in the corporate world, Wayne Henshall is now head of the Come to Work Program at CNIB. The program supports blind and visually impaired individuals moving along the continuum of vision loss through to the pursuit of work, careers and venture start-ups. The national program has grown from 30 participants in its first year, to now taking in 1,100. “The hard part is, how do you make the overall numbers change? We have such a high unemployment rate, it's three times the rate of the rest of Canada, and so I would say, are we making meaningful change? Two hundred and eighty of those 1,100 individuals have gotten jobs who had not been working for six months-plus, and in some cases had never worked, ever in their activities. So, that is a start. … Even if I got all 1,100 of those, that would only change the overall employment rate by less than .01%.”
Aug 30, 2022
Don't Give Me Shelter: Are we still sheltering? Part 3 of the history of employment for Canadians who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted
"In this third episode covering the unemployment story for blind Canadians, the Triple Vision team speaks with city of Winnipeg Council Member Ross Eadie. We start by going all of the way back to Episode 5, called “Cane and Ableism,” when we spoke with Gord Hudek of Ambutech Corporation. Gord told us a fascinating anecdote about when he wanted to hire a individual who was blind in his factory. He was told by the CNIB that the workplace presented some safety concerns and that the person should probably not be hired. Peter asks Ross about this, as well as his life as a City of Winnipeg municipal Council Member - all to continue our exploration of the question, ""Why is the unemployment rate so high for Canadians who are blind, deaf blind, and partially sighted?” “The City of Winnipeg takes accessibility overall quite seriously, actually. Sometimes it may not seem like that but if you look at our transit system and you look at our streets system, tell me any major city in this country right now, give me a major city, that has every signalized intersection outfitted with an audible signal. Every intersection Isn’t perfect, but every intersection has that.… My wish is that we could find more employers, and this would really help the whole cross-disability perspective, more employers who would consider positions that are more specialized that could be filled.… Again, I still don’t know to what engineer I need to refer to, to get someone to look at Ambutech’s actual workplace and not see why not to employ a person who is blind, but look at how to employ somebody who is blind in that workplace.” "
Aug 16, 2022
Don’t Give me Shelter! Part 2 of the history of employment for Canadians who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted
"Today’s episode continues Triple Vision’s deep dive into the difficult questions surrounding the employment, and unemployment rates, of blind Canadians. The team pulls together three panelists to discuss the daunting issue of why the unemployment rate for Canadians who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted so chronically high. Vic Pereira, Marcia Yale and David Best all share their views on what has, and continues to, hold employers back from hiring individuals within the sight loss community. The panel covers issues like the lack of awareness by employers regarding the capabilities of individuals who are blind, technological trends that have both supported us and held us back, and attitudes in the workplace, amongst other issues. “One of the major challenges that we face is that we are always at the trailing end of progress. Through the 1900s, sheltered workshops were quite popular because they were opportunities for people who could not get into the workforce. However, we have shifted from the labour-based economy to the knowledge-based economy and the policies and procedures have not kept up with the progress of the world when it comes to the employment environments of workplace tools and transportation. I think the reason why we have always been behind with employment is we have been left behind when advancements are made. There’s no policy to include our needs as progress moves forward.”"
Aug 2, 2022
DON’T Give Me Shelter! The history of employment for Blind Canadians, Part 1
This week, the Triple Vision team starts a series on the history of employment for Canadians who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted. In today’s look back, Peter speaks with Geoffrey Reaume, Assistant Professor of Critical Disability Studies at York University, about the impacts of the industrial revolution and the development of the sheltered workshop. Starting at the turn of the century, these workshops provided a very basic form of employment for Canadians who are blind, but they were often menial jobs which did not even pay the minimum wage. Hanna then talks with Cathy Stukenberg, who managed a CNIB CaterPlan kiosk for 28 years in Vancouver selling a variety of items ranging from cigarettes to chocolate bars. CaterPlan was CNIB’s answer to the employment problem from 1928 up to the 1980s. “It was really with the industrial economy that large numbers of people in the industrial world were employed in sheltered workshops. Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Goodwill industries in Boston was founded by a philanthropist and spread throughout different parts of North America.… By the mid 20th century, there were large numbers of sheltered workshops established for people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities. People who were blind were especially put to work doing jobs that they were seen as being more capable of doing in regard to tactile work.… Of course it was very exploitative work, where they were paid very poorly and were very, very much not valued as labourers within themselves. So, people with disabilities, blind, people with physical and mental disabilities whose work had previously been more integrated into a pre-industrial economy were more segregated as the industrial revolution speeded up activity. They were considered less capable of contributing to the economy even though in many cases this was certainly not true."
Jul 19, 2022
How Was School Today: Part 5 of the History of Education for Canadians who are Blind, Deafblind and Partially Sighted
"Today, the Triple Vision team wraps up its five-part series on education by exploring how a fully-integrated education system has worked for three blind and partially sighted individuals in British Columbia. Fourteen years ago, Shawn Marsolais started Blind Beginnings, a non-profit organization committed to supporting blind children and youth through their personal and educational journeys. A driving force for Shawn’s desire to start the organization was as a result of her own lack of inclusion in the B.C. education system. Hanna and Peter talk to Shawn, as well as two of her Blind Beginnings participants Jinnie and Nika, about how Blind Beginnings helped support these students through school and now on to university. The episode caps off an exciting series where many individuals have shared their stories about how socialization, whether it be in an integrated or specialised school setting, is a critical success factor in any student’s success. “I think a big part of what I’m trying to do is realizing how much internalized ableism that I grew up feeling, and still tackle myself as a person in my 40s, it's really hard. When I think, for example, of how long it took me to feel comfortable using a white cane because of the shame I felt using it. When you are growing up in an environment where you’re the only person with a disability most of the time, it's natural that you’re going to have a lot of self-esteem issues and feel less than. So, when you are surrounded by people who are like you, you get to just focus on who you are, not this 'blind' part that you are constantly trying to over-compensate for.” "
Jul 5, 2022
How Was School Today: Part 4 of the History of Education for Canadians who are Blind, Deafblind and Partially Sighted
"In this fourth podcast in a series covering the education of Canadians who are blind, deafblind, and partially sighted, the Triple Vision team explores the history of the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Ontario. Peter speaks with Dan Maggiacomo, who has the honour of being the school’s Principal in this, its 150th anniversary. Hanna then talks to Alan Conway about his experiences there. The only remaining school for the blind in Canada, the W. Ross Macdonald School continues to evolve to provide relevant educational opportunities for children and youth with vision loss. “These days it's split about 50–50. Fifty percent of our students are blind and 50 percent of our students have low vision, and they tend to come for perhaps five years or less. We have programs that are just a year or two in duration. We have programs that are a week long several times throughout the year. We still run a robust high school program increasingly doing things like STEM - the sciences and mathematics - where these students are finding the opportunity here to participate fully in those types of programs. So, there was a time when, I think, it was the conception of the school, that we were going to become a school that was really specialized serving students with additional needs only. That period has passed and now we are a comprehensive school. Yes, we have students with all different types of needs, but I think the school now has the greatest range of learners that we have ever had, and that’s absolutely to the school’s benefit.” "
Jun 21, 2022
How Was School Today: Part 3 of the History of Education for Canadians who are Blind, Deafblind and Partially Sighted
"Today, the Triple Vision team continues its series on education by speaking with two graduates of the Jericho Hill School for the Blind in Vancouver. Diana Brent travelled from her home in William's Lake, 350 kilometres north of Vancouver, to attend the school between 1956 and 1959. Our second guest, Nora Sarsons, attended between 1949 and 1955. Both graduates had similar experiences to other graduates we previously talked to from schools in Quebec as well as Halifax. These past students recount that even attending schools for a short time helped prepare them for further education and the working world, and how they formed life-long friendships. “When I first left school, and even up until a few years ago, I really felt that the best thing for kids to have happen to them was to be integrated from the get-go. But the problem with that is there are not enough resources to be put into their education. I know this because I was a teacher for 10 years teaching kids with visual impairments. You don’t have enough time to be consistent, constantly keeping up the teaching of the blind-related skills when you’re trying to teach everything else as well....I think there has to be a combination. I never would have said that a few years ago."""
Jun 7, 2022
How Was School Today: Part two of the History of Education for Canadians who are Blind, Deafblind and Partially Sighted
Today the Triple Vision team continues with the series on education. In this series we are tracing the history of Canada’s schools for the blind and exploring some key themes around how effective these schools, as well as Canadian schools which undertook the integration of students who were blind and partially sighted, prepared these students for post-secondary study and beyond. In this second episode we talk to two past students of one of Canada’s oldest schools for the blind in Halifax. Terry Kelly attended the Halifax School for the Blind and started his music career in high school, and in 2003, he was appointed to the Order of Canada. Robert Mercer attended the School for the Blind in Halifax, and went on to get a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Mary’s University, and at the age of thirty, he was appointed National President and CEO for the CNIB. "One other thing about the school is that it taught me to be competitive. It's hard to create a full education platform for young children who are blind in a regular school. You can provide the itinerant teaching, and watch over to make sure that if you don't understand the mathematics that we can teach it in a different way, but all of the other skills are difficult. You can't teach people to play football in the backyard when they can't participate. But we played football, baseball, and we played soccer, and we did all kinds of things as blind children that we couldn't have done with children in a sighted school, for example. We changed the rules and we adapted the game to our own circumstance, but those things happened very naturally."
May 24, 2022
How Was School Today: Part One of the History of Education for Canadians who are Blind, Deafblind and Partially Sighted
Today the Triple Vision team starts a series on education. In this series we will be tracing the history of Canada’s schools for the blind and exploring some key themes around how effective these schools, as well as Canadian schools which undertook the integration of students who were blind and partially sighted, prepared these students for post-secondary study and beyond. In this first episode we talk to two past students of two of Canada’s oldest schools for the blind in Quebec. Chantal Oakes attended the Nazareth School for the Blind in Montreal, and then Jerico Hill school in Vancouver, before completing her education at an integrated school in Surry British Columbia. Leo Bissonnette began his education at the Montreal Association School for the blind, later renamed the Phillip E. Layton School. Leo then went on to Loyola College and eventually completed a master’s and a PhD. “Certainly, I would hope that what we are getting today is the student who has been supported in recent years with a teacher for the visually impaired who is layering on in stages what is needed as a student goes through the school so that it is not just one big shock thrown at them at once. It has to be an evolutionary development of a skill set that goes along with what is happening at the school at the level that the student is at.” Listen in as these individuals relate their stories about their experiences in the education system and what worked well, and what they may have left behind.
May 10, 2022
From the Charter to the Accessible Canada Act: Canada’s Slow March to Equality
"In this third episode on advocacy, the Triple Vision team connects the dots between the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 and the passage of the Accessible Canada Act in 2019. And who better to tell this story than two of Canada’s strongest advocates, who have been on the ground for many years making change happen? In this, our 16th podcast episode, the team interviews Order of Canada and Order of Ontario recipient David Lapofsky about his contributions to advocacy in Ontario and across Canada. We also speak to Yvonne Peters, who has been an advocate since kindergarten! Both these individuals were instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the Charter. In this episode you will hear an excerpt from David Lapofsky’s presentation to the House of Commons committee reviewing the draft Constitution in 1980, available on his own Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance (AODA) website. Meanwhile, Yvonne Peters talks candidly about the pros an cons of the 2019 Accessible Canada Act and her concerns that Canada is implementing a “two-tiered” rights system where Canadians without disabilities may go to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, while those with disabilities will need to seek re-dress elsewhere first. “That’s the way it happens for us, always. The barriers that we face aren’t because someone sat down and calculated them. The cost of including us for the most part is negligible. Where there is a cost it’s a cost worth paying. But the cost of not including and providing inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities, that is much, much higher.”"
Apr 26, 2022
John’s Bark: We need a BOOST!
"In this second podcast series on the history of advocacy in Canada, the Triple Vision team covers the years between 1974 and 1982. We were fortunate to record this episode with John Rae just before his sudden death earlier this month. In this episode, John describes almost 50 years of tireless advocacy, beginning with the formation of the “Blind Organization of Ontario with Selfhelp Tactics,” or BOOST, in 1974. John also touches on a piece of Canadiana, describing the reaction of the blind community to the arrest and sentencing of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones in 1979. Richards was ordered to play a benefit concert for the CNIB and the reaction of the blind community was, well, mixed! Finally, John brings this episode to the point where disability was enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. “We were an organization of blind people who came together to speak for ourselves. An important part about that is that we employed what is called a mass-based appr…
Apr 12, 2022
From Advocacy to Legacy: The Layton Family and the Founding of the Montreal Association for the Blind
"In the early 1900s a young man arrived in Canada, ready to start a job as an organist for a Montreal church. But when the church discovered he was blind, they rescinded the job offer and, really, the rest was history! This week, the Triple Vision team starts a new series on advocacy in Canada. This first episode begins with the story of Philip E. Layton, the founder of the Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB). Our story is told through posthumous recordings with former NDP leader Jack Layton, and former MAB Board member Nancy Layton. It is a compelling history of one prominent Canadian families' indelible mark on the lives of blind Canadians. “Had penicillin been invented, my great grandpa, who knows, maybe never would have come to Canada because he would have kept his sight. But with no penicillin, the infection in his eye nerve moved from the one eye to the other and he was totally blinded. So here you have a blind teenager who was taught to play the piano, was quite profic…
Mar 29, 2022
Not yet the final Chapter: The History of Library Services for Canadians Who are Blind, Deafblind and Partially Sighted
"The story on accessible books and libraries is still being written. In this third chapter in this series, the Triple Vision team speaks with George Kerscher, Chief Innovation Officer of the DAISY Consortium and senior officer of global literacy with the Benetech corporation of Bookshare, and Kieran LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Book Publishers Association of Alberta. Involved in accessible book publishing since 1988, George Kerscher talks about the kinds of standards which exist to assist publishers in producing accessible books without having to go through a third party. “You want to get to the place where you’re getting materials from the commercial outlets and not necessarily have to go through a service like NNELS or CNIB or CELA. All of these are great services, but my vision of the world is where they’d be born accessible right out of the box and we wouldn’t have to go through a service,” her says. But Kieran Leblanc is clear that the Canadian publishing indus…
Mar 15, 2022
Putting the “You” Back in Eugenics: Part 3
In this third episode of a series on the history of the practice of eugenics in Canada, Peter Field speaks with Associate Professor Geoffrey Reaume of York University. Peter and Geoffrey discuss documents obtained from Library and Archives Canada, which show that the CNIB played an active role in the sterilization of Canadians who are blind in the late 1930s. The discussion begins with a letter from A. R. Caufman of the Kaufman Rubber Factory in Kitchener, Ontario. Kaufman writes to the CNIB’s Managing Director, Edwin Baker, making the case that more blind Canadians should be sterilized under the direction of his “Parent Information Bureau.” While Baker disagrees with some of Kaufman’s ideas, records demonstrate that, a year later, the CNIB paid for the costs of the sterilization of four blind men. Peter and Geoffrey discuss ideas about how we can react to this kind of history. What do we do about individuals who were so instrumental in improving the lives of blind Canadians,…
Mar 1, 2022
Putting the “You” Back in Eugenics: Part 2
"In this second episode of a three-part series on eugenics, the Triple Vision team talks to Brian Moore, Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai and Marc Workman. Brian shares his experience with discrimination during a pre-natal class involving the birth of his son. Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai explains the origins of eugenics, as well as the difference between the science of genetics and the practice of eugenics. And Marc Workman, current Chief Executive Officer of the World Blind Union, expands on the past practice of eugenics in Canada, particularly in Alberta. He proposes the alternative that if the environment a child with disabilities is born into was more inclusive, it may be easier for parents to make difficult decisions during a pregnancy about whether or not to bring their child, determined to have a disability, to term. “One thing that I think we can do, that I think we could do a lot better at, is helping present the whole picture when someone is faced with making what is, let’s face it, a tremendo…
Feb 15, 2022
Putting the “You” Back in Eugenics: Part 1
In this first episode in a new podcast series, the Triple Vision team tackles the difficult issue of eugenics. Eugenics as it was practiced in Second World War Germany is very well known, but in today’s podcast Triple Vision starts to peel back the layers of how eugenics was practiced in Canada from its very origins until today. You will hear stories from three blind and visually impaired women about their own experiences, where they were subjected to the practice of eugenics by the medical profession. Then, we talk to Dr. Bonnie Lashewicz, of the University of Calgary, about the links between colonialism and eugenics. She will present you with some surprising examples of eugenics thinking of today. “We went for genetic counselling, not really questioning what was really going on there. This counsellor told us, without ever taking any samples from us at all, that if we were to have a child, it would probably come out like 'The Elephant Man,' all distorted and disabled. As a resu…
Feb 1, 2022
The Politics of Puppy Love
In this, our Valentine’s Day episode, the Triple Vision team takes a look at “puppy love” by tracing the history of guide dogs and issues related to public access and certification for our favourite furry workers. Hanna and David talk to Steven Doucette, the Client Services Administrator of Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, about guide dog history, and the history of this Canadian training facility. Irene Lambert recounts her own story of arriving back in Montreal in 1969, to a less than warm reception, with her husband, two sons, and their two owner-trained retriever guide dogs. Finally, Alan Conway of Guide Dog Users of Canada discusses the thorny issue of recent Canadian efforts to have guide dogs meet new standards when they are already certified under the International Guide Dog Federation. “We were all gung-ho to join this new culture, however, we were often refused access to restaurants and to theatres, especially the Place des Arts. We looked into the Proof of Law…
Jan 18, 2022
The Next Chapter: The History of Library Services for Canadians who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted
In the last podcast episode, The Opening Chapter, the Triple Vision team traced the history of library services for blind Canadians from the 19th century to 2014. In this Next Chapter the team brings us up to date with interviews with representatives of the Centre for Equitable Library Access and the National Network for Equitable Library Services. David and Hanna explore how these public library systems are enhancing library access to Canadians with print disabilities. They also start asking key questions about why publishers themselves are not taking more of a leadership role in this area. “In Canada, our public libraries are public service institutions. At their heart, they are meant to be inclusive and to provide equitable access to reading for all their users, including those with disabilities. I think that, historically, public libraries felt that that the services they were providing weren’t adequate and that they needed to be revisioned. This new approach is necessary to…
Jan 4, 2022
The Opening Chapter: the history of library services for Canadians who are blind, deafblind, and partially sighted
In Canada, public libraries have been around in one form or another for about 200 years. On January 4, we celebrate the birthday of Louis Braille. Born in 1809, Louis Braille invented his famous system of reading 400 years after the invention of the printing press. In this first episode on the evolution of library services, the Triple Vision team talks to CNIB archivist Jane Beaumont about the founding of the Free Library for the Blind. This service eventually became the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s library until it evolved into the Centre for Equitable Library Access. Joining Jane on this podcast is library user Albert Ruel, who talks about the variety of methods he uses to access his books. “I had done some research on audiobooks. It was fascinating to me to see that really this has just come full circle. We’ve come back to the way humankind was before the Gutenberg press. We are back to storytelling, the oral traditions. That’s part of our DNA that hasn’t…
Dec 21, 2021
“Who’s Driving?” Reclaiming the narrative of blindness in Canada
In this sixth episode of Triple Vision, we do something different. We invite six members of the community to talk about how they see the current blindness narrative in Canada. What is wrong with the current narrative, and what should it be? Who is controlling the current Canadian blindness story? “The sad part is, we all look at the news as a news and information source, and it isn’t. It’s a drama. It’s a dramatic work and belongs in the arts. A lot of people go there for their information. Unfortunately if it bleeds, it leads. And when it comes to blindness, we don’t bleed so much, but my goodness the narrative is pity filled.” Join us for this fascinating journey, exploring the dangers of the single narrative of the blindness story in Canada.
Dec 7, 2021
Cane and Ableism
While people who are blind have used some sort of cane to navigate the world over the centuries, the white cane became a standard mobility device in the 1900s. But, in recent history, attitudes towards the white cane have shifted. In this episode, David and Hanna take a world tour from Winnipeg to Zanzibar and the United States to explore the issues associated with white vs. coloured canes. Is it time for the white cane to have a make over? “I have never had an issue using a cane other than white. The general public seems to understand that they are there for help. They offer their elbow, or they guide me to their vehicle, and they have never said, 'Why is your cane that colour?'”
Nov 23, 2021
Colonialism: Challenging the Rules at the Ontario School for the Blind
Join us on this week’s Triple Vision podcast, where Doreen Demas talks with us about the impacts of colonialism on her life as a First Nations woman from Manitoba living with vision loss. Doreen traces her life, from attending the residential school for the blind in Brantford, Ontario, to a regular school, to an Indigenous residential school in Brandon. She speaks openly about the duality of service provision she experienced from the CNIB as a First Nations person. Listen as she talks about her work at the United Nations and her optimistic hope for the future. “My family always allowed me and my siblings free to go about our community. We were able to go and visit friends, we were able to play in the back of our house. We had trees and could climb them. We could pick berries. We could do whatever made us happy and that is what we did. But when I got to Brantford, I found out I could never do those things. Everything I did was pretty much dictated either by the house parents or th…
Nov 9, 2021
CNIB history with James Sanders
In this episode, David and Hanna speak with Jim Sanders, former Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Jim traces the history of the institute from its founding to its need to change in the current digital era. "Some of the strongest advocates in Canada have come out of the concern of CNIB, in the 70s and 80s and 90s, that they considered the organization as paternalistic and patronizing. These advocates, in fact, have had very positive influences on the CNIB opening up from what it was."
Oct 26, 2021
The Legacy of Blinded War Veterans
This week, Hanna Leavitt and David Best speak with Dr. Serge Durflinger, a professor of history at the University of Ottawa. Serge penned a book called, "Veterans With A Vision: Canada's War Blinded in Peace and War," about how First World War wounded were the first advocates in canada to establish reshaped the way Canadians and successive governments perceived war disability and, in particular, blindness.
Oct 12, 2021
The team behind The Pandora Project
In the first episode of Triple Vision, the team behind the Pandora Project introduces themselves and the goals of the Pandora Project. David Best, Hanna Leavitt, Charlie Ayotte, Peter Field and John Rae all speak to the motivations of the project and team members, alike.
Oct 7, 2021
Triple Vision Launches October 12th
From the AEBC's Pandora Project and AMI-audio comes a new podcast that aims to tell the history and stories of blind Canadians. Join co-hosts David Best and Hanna Leavitt as they speak to historians, community members and those who were there for the moments that shaped the lives of blind Canadians for generations. Podcasts are released bi-weekly starting October 12th. Subscribe on your podcast platform of choice today.