Guest Post: Please Submit Your Access Stories Related to the British Columbia Guide and Service Dog Act, Canadian Federation of the Blind

Access Stories Related to the British Columbia Guide and Service Dog Act


From the time when the province of British Columbia first introduced Bill 17, which has now become the British Columbia Guide and Service Dog Act, the Canadian Federation of the Blind (along with other rights holders) has warned that some of its provisions would create access problems.  In particular, we warned that the emphasis on stopping members of the public from claiming that their pets are service dogs could lead to increased scrutiny of legitimate guide and service dog handlers.  We feared that the portion of the definition of “guide dog” that defines a guide dog as one that has been certified by the province would lead to a two tier system that would leave those from outside British Columbia unprotected.  We also raised the alarm about the stated intention to use a “graduated enforcement” strategy rather than a stringent implementation of applicable fines in cases of access denial.


This is a request for those of you who live in British Columbia, have visited the province, or know someone who has had difficulty because of the BC guide and service dog law.


We need your stories.  Because the provincial system for handling access issues has been so ineffective, government officials who need to know about problems with the new law aren’t being made aware of them.  If you’ve been asked to present identification before being allowed to access a public place or had service or access refusals, we need to know what happened, when it happened, and the end result.  Even if you were able to negotiate the issues successfully, the fact that you faced issues is extremely significant.  If you are from outside of British Columbia and were denied enforcement because you lack BC certification, we need to know that, too.  Your experience could help educate lawmakers about the unintended consequences of the British Columbia law.


You can write me at with your story.  If you have questions, phone me toll-free at (866) 670-0052.


Mary Ellen Gabias, President

Canadian Federation of the Blind



GTT Edmonton Summary Notes, All About Games, October 16, 2017

Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting October 16, 2017


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held October 16at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

17 people attended.

Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.


October Topic – Gaming Apps


Blindfold Games Apps

Blindfold Games is an organization offering 71 games but the list keeps growing. There are card games, word games, adventure games, action games memory games and more. Some are familiar like solitaire, poker, Blackjack, Sudoku, a Scrabble variant, a Monopoly variant, a variant of the JEOPARDY TV show, action games like battleship, car racing, horse racing, bowling, football and more. The complete list is on the Blindfold Games web site. They run only on iOS Apple devices such as iPhone and iPad. All the games are free to download from the App store and try but they have limited play time. If you like a game there is an in-app purchase option to buy the game for a few dollars which gives you unlimited use thereafter. The games are 100% accessible audio based designed specifically for blind people.

Audio Game Hub

Audio Game Hub is a set of eight experimental arcade video games that use audio as their primary interface – making them accessible for both sighted and non-sighted users.


RS Games

RS Games is a web site hosting accessible games for the blind where you play online with other gamers using your web browser.


Resource – Audio Games Web Portal

is a web site that exists as a community portal for all things to do with audio games for the visually impaired. Here you will find news, articles, an active community forum and a database of over 500 titles on platforms from Microsoft Windows to iOS.


Resource – AppleVIS Web Site

The AppleVIS iOS games page has a list of 408 accessible games and growing for iPhone and iPad and you may also want to review the AppleVis list of accessible games for the Mac.


Resource – AbleGamers

AbleGamers proclaims to be the world’s largest charity set up to serve as a resource for gamers with any type of disability.


Next Meeting (Monday November 13at 7pm)

  • Eric has offered to demo the Amazon Echo which is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, make calls, provide information, news, weather, sports scores and more. All you do is ask it.
  • As usual, we will provide one-on-one training especially iPhone and DAISY players. If you have other training requests email your interests to us so we can try to accommodate you.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.


Meeting Location and Logistics

  • Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton.
  • We meet in the basement hall. There is elevator access.
  • Enter the church from the back door. There is parking at the back and drop off space for taxis, DATS.
  • Meetings are every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
  • If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.


GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

[End of Document]

GTT Edmonton Summary Notes, Identification and Reading Apps, September 11, 2017

Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting September 11, 2017


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held September 11 at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

17 people attended.

Reading Tips: These summary notes apply Microsoft Word headings to help navigate the document. With JAWS, you may press the JAWS key +F6 to bring up a list of the headings in the document. Then you can arrow up and down this list of headings and press ENTER on any heading to jump to its location in the document.


September Topic – Identification and Reading Apps


Thanks to Carrie and Russel for demonstrating the following apps and providing the summary notes.


Seeing AI App

Russel demoed the free Microsoft Seeing AI app on his iPhone. He talked about the different channels available: short text, Document, Product, Person, and Scene Beta.


Russell then explained how the Short Text channel reads text automatically as you point the iPhone camera at text. He uses it to read things like business cards, CCB membership cards, etc. The Short Text channel can also be used to scan and read things like signs.


Russell then showed how the Document channel guides you to move the iPhone camera over a page of text, and then, after guiding the user to hold the iPhone with the page in view, advises the user to “hold steady”, and then automatically takes a picture of the page. The text can then be read by VoiceOver using the appropriate gestures. The document can then be shared by email, or text message.


Russell then ran into some issues when demoing the Product channel feature which is used to identify bar codes. The bar code was found and scanned, but the app was not able to identify the product. Upon further investigation at home, Russell found that the app worked better in the Product channel with VoiceOver turned off. This also helped answer the question Gerry asked at the GTT meeting about whether or not the Seeing AI app had a self-voicing feature. It does, and in some instances, like the Product channel, it seems to work better with VoiceOver turned off.


Russell then briefly showed the Person channel by taking a picture of Carrie. The app identified Carrie as a 36-year-old blonde lady who seems to be very happy! Carrie and Russell then attempted to do face recognition, but were not able to get this to work. If people are interested, this feature can be further researched and demoed at a later meeting.


Russell then switched to the Scene channel which is still in beta test mode. He pointed his iPhone at the members in attendance. The app announced “Group of people sitting on a chair”.


The Seeing AI app is new, but already has some great features available. It will most likely get better as time goes on.


You can learn more about this app on the iTunes website at the following URL…


You can learn more about Seeing AI and watch some video tutorials on the Microsoft page at…


Carrie demoed the following iOS apps.



This is an app for iPhone/iPad. It uses your Apple devices camera to view information and interpret what it is. Created at MIT,  VisionEyes proprietary algorithm can read text, recognize objects, detect logos, and observe facial expressions, ALL in less than 3 seconds! Unlike other applications, with confusing buttons and modes, VocalEyes has one button. One button for everything! Text, Facial, Object, and Logo, all in one so it’s easy.


Requires iOS 9.2 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.


More information:


iTunes Store to get it:



VocalEyes – Talking AI Camera for the Blind on the App Store

Read reviews, compare customer ratings, see screenshots and learn more about VocalEyes – Talking AI Camera for the Blind. Download VocalEyes – Talking AI Camera for the Blind and enjoy it on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.


Be My Eyes app for iPhones/iPads. Soon to be for Android.

Be My Eyes is a FREE mobile app designed to bring sight to the blind and visually impaired. With the press of a button, the app establishes a live video connection between blind and visually impaired users and sighted volunteers


Requires iOS 10.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.


More info:


iTunes Store to get it:

Be My Eyes – Helping blind see on the App Store

Read reviews, compare customer ratings, see screenshots, and learn more about Be My Eyes – Helping blind see. Download Be My Eyes – Helping blind see and enjoy it …


Near Sighted VR Augmented Aid for Apple and Android Smart Phones

These apps are used with a virtual reality goggle like the inexpensive Google Cardboard ($17). It can give you a sort of electronic monocular. You must cut out a piece of the Google cardboard box so the camera can view outside of the box, attach the head straps to hold it on your head, and get the free app which controls the zoom of the camera in a stereoscopic manner. You need to take the phone out of the Google cardboard box to adjust the zoom. But for the $17 cost of the VR goggles I think it a viable low vision hands free viewing option. The one I showed was cardboard so not real rain friendly. A couple of down sides is the apps zoom is not huge and when viewing a television, I need to have a light on near the tv so the image is not washed out. Otherwise, I’m impressed for the price of this hands free and relatively light weight, clear magnified image. If you want to try it again ask me to bring it to GTT.


Get it for Android Smartphones:

Near Sighted VR Augmented Aid – Android Apps on Google Play

NearSighted -VR Augmented Aid Are you legally blind? Do you have low vision or can only see things up close? Then this app might be for you. NearSight is …


Get it for Apple iPhone or iPod Touch where it is called Myopia VR Glasses:

Myopia VR Glasses on the App Store

Read reviews, compare customer ratings, see screenshots, and learn more about Myopia VR Glasses. Download Myopia VR Glasses and enjoy it on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Google Cardboard VR Googles at


Prizmo Go – a cloud OCR and Text Reader

Prizmo Go lets you quickly grab printed text with the camera. After text is recognized in a blink of an eye, you can interact with it in many useful ways. Read it aloud with its built-in text reader, share it, copy and paste it and for a small free app it’s not too bad.


Requires iOS 10.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.


More information:


Get it on iTunes:

Prizmo Go – Instant Text Capture on the App Store

Read reviews, compare customer ratings, see screenshots, and learn more about Prizmo Go – Instant Text Capture. Download Prizmo Go – Instant Text Capture and enjoy it …


OrCam MyEye

This is a unique, portable and wearable device which consists of a tiny, yet powerful smart camera, attached to an ultra-mini speaker that is clipped onto any pair of eyeglasses, and is wired to a very small sized battery packed base unit (the size of a large iPhone).

Convenient, mobile and easy to use, you will witness how OrCam will instantly and discreetly read any digital text and printed text from any surface – including books, magazines, newspapers, computer & smartphone screens, restaurant menus, street signs with only a gesture of a finger point at the text.


CNIB Edmonton is hosting an Orcam demo. You need to RSVP.

When:           Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Time:             10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Where:           CNIB Edmonton – 12010 Jasper Avenue – Edmonton, AB

RSVP to:        Monica Enica, her email is

phone 780-488-4871


Next Meeting (Monday October 16 at 7pm)

  • Since the second Monday of October is Thanksgiving Day, we will meet October 16.
  • As usual, we will provide one-on-one training especially iPhone and DAISY players. If you have other training requests email your interests to us so we can try to accommodate you.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.


Meeting Location and Logistics

  • Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton.
  • We meet in the basement hall. There is elevator access.
  • Enter the church from the back door. There is parking at the back and drop off space for taxis, DATS.
  • Meetings are every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
  • If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.


GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

[End of Document]

Guest Post: NAGDU Guide & Service Animal Advocacy & Information mobile app, by the National Association of Guide Dog Users, (NAGDU)

Hi GTT Participants.  Here’s a press release related to an app regarding Service Dog Legislation in Canada and the USA that Dog Guide users might want to have at their fingertips.  It is a project of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, (NAGDU) and it was recently updated to work with iOS 11, and an Android version will soon be released as well.  Read on, and if it’s of interest to you it will be found on the App Store by searching for the following:




Leading Guide Dog Users’ Membership & Advocacy Organization Releases New Mobile App


When the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), a strong & proud division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), launched the NAGDU Guide & Service Animal Advocacy & Information mobile app in September 2014, it was hailed as an innovative ambitious project. This mobile app was the first to compile all the relevant state and federal service animal laws in the United States, along with associated guidance articles to help service animal users and businesses alike understand their rights and responsibilities. Over the past three years, this mobile app has been downloaded by nearly 5,000 iOS users and has been helpful in resolving numerous access issues across the country!


Now, with the advent of iOS 11 and with the input from hundreds of users, the National Association of Guide Dog Users is excited to announce the release of version 2.0 of the NAGDU Guide & Service Dog advocacy & Information mobile app for iOS and, by the end of September, its Android version. Here is what you will find in version 2.0:


  • Updated information on each state statute
  • The laws for each of the Canadian provinces
  • The ability to download the app from the Canadian app store
  • The complete regulations concerning service animals from the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Specific guidance for industries of concern to service dog users
  • Frequently Asked Questions to help these industries understand their rights & responsibilities
  • A direct email button to get more specific guidance & offer suggestions
  • A direct telephone connection to speak with a trained advocate
  • A more dynamic app with frequent updates
  • An Android version by September 30


“Those of us who use service dogs experience discrimination more frequently than most are aware,” says Marion Gwizdala, a guide dog user who serves as the NAGDU president. “We believe this new app will help guide & other service dog users better advocate for themselves, while providing accurate information to the general public and places of public accommodation so that instances of discrimination are resolved quickly and amicably!”


This incredible app is provided absolutely free as a public service by the National Association of Guide Dog Users and was created with the generous support of Aaron Cannon, a blind Software Accessibility Engineer and member of NAGDU. We also extend a special word of thanks to Michigan State University’s Animal Legal & Historical Center for the use of their legal research and information on state and provincial laws.  Before this announcement was even released, the app had been downloaded more than 1400 times! To download your free copy of this awesome mobile app, simply go to the App Store and type “NAGDU” in the search field; it’s that easy! Once you download the app, please browse through the information and send us your feedback. You can do this directly from the app by using the “send an email” feature. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you to raze the expectations of the blind in the United States so we can live the lives we want!


For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users or the National Federation of the blind, please visit the following websites:


National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU)


National Federation of the Blind (NFB)




The National Association of Guide dog Users is the nation’s leading membership and advocacy organization for blind people who use guide dogs.  NAGDU is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports sound policy and effective legislation to protect the rights of guide dog users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users and to support our work, you can visit our website at <HTTP://WWW.NAGDU.ORG>, send an email message to <Info@NAGDU.ORG>, or call (813) 626-2789.


About the National Federation of the Blind


        The National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and largest organization of the blind in the United States. The NFB knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want! Blindness is not what holds you back.

        The Federation provides scholarships to blind students; support for those who are blind or losing their eyesight; advocacy for the blind facing discrimination; and educational programs for the general public on topics of blindness. The NFB is not an organization that speaks on behalf of the blind; we are the blind speaking for ourselves.


For more information about the National Federation of the Blind or to support our work, please visit <> or call (410) 659-9314.




Marion Gwizdala, President

National Association of Guide Dog Users Inc. (NAGDU)

National Federation of the Blind

(813) 626-2789




The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise expectations because low expectations create barriers between blind  people and our dreams. You can live the life you want! Blindness is not what holds you back.

Used Assistive Technology Market Places

If you are holding on to previously enjoyed blindness related assistive tech and would like to find a new home for it, here are two opportunities.


For those items you wish to give away, please contact Albert Ruel through the CCB’s GTT program and I will attempt to connect you with someone who needs your generous donation.  I can be reached at 250-240-2343 or


If you want to sell your previously enjoyed assistive tech, Canadian Assistive Technology are offering an opportunity for people who have left-over blindness related assistive tech that you’d like to sell.  People just need to let Steve know how much they want for their stuff and he’ll post it.  For more info contact Steve directly.

Gently Used Equipment Marketplace

Phone: 1-604-367-9480

Toll Free: 1-844-795-8324


Guest Post: Humanware, BrailleNote Touch and KeyMath – Succeed like a pro!

BrailleNote Touch and KeyMath – Succeed like a pro!

HumanWare logo. see things. differently.

WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL! – BrailleNote Touch and KeyMath – Succeed like a pro!

BrailleNote Touch and KeyMath – Succeed like a pro!

Back to School is here and HumanWare would like to help you build your confidence in using Braille Note Touch and KeyMath. We`ve created two webinars,
each focusing on several key, frequent use features of KeyMath, the valuable math application on BrailleNote Touch. Designed to complement each other and
not to be missed, these two webinars are your best ally in getting the best out of BrailleNote Touch and KeyMath.

Join Peter Tucic, HumanWare Product Specialist hosting these 2 webinars that will focus on using the KeyMath application on the BrailleNote Touch. It is
our pleasure to also have a special guest participant in both these webinars. Find out who on webinar day!

What is KeyMath, how to use it and troubleshooting tips.

Wednesday August 23rd at 2:00 PM EDT


KeyMath allows for the seamless translation of either UEB or Nemeth braille math into perfect visual output. In the first webinar, Peter will demonstrate
how a student is able to create and place math content into a Microsoft .DOCX file in addition to using HumanWare’s symbol and template selector tools.
Peter will also help teachers and students alike employ best practice and troubleshooting methods for the efficient use of KeyMath and will demonstrate
how easy it is to save and share math assignments.

Reviewing and editing math homework, sharing assignments with teachers and classmates, and what’s coming next with KeyMath.

In the second webinar, Peter will demonstrate how a student can easily edit math content that has been previously created. The process of sharing files
to both Google Drive, DropBox, and the KeyMail Application will also be shown. This second webinar will also preview a very exciting update to KeyMath
that will for the first time allow a student to generate graphs for his/her sighted teacher, as well as the ability to emboss graphs and images for further
exploration. Humanware looks forward to your participation in one or both of these webinars, and also to the start of a new school year.

Wednesday August 30 at 2:00 PM EDT


We look forward to sharing with you this valuable information!


HumanWare, 1 UPS Way, Champlain, NY 12919, USA


GTT Re-Purposing Initiative: Used Assistive Devices Wanted

Used Assistive Devices Wanted!


Do you, or someone you know have a used VR Stream, a talking blood glucose monitor or a magnifier you’re no longer using, and if so are you willing to make it available for others to enjoy going forward?  The above are simply examples of devices that might do well to be recycled.


Some GTT members across the country are seeking donations of such devices, or at least a very low price for the re-purposing of your previously enjoyed assistive tech, so please let us know what is gathering dust in a drawer somewhere, and we’ll help you put it back into circulation.


If you have some devices available for this re-purposing initiative please let Albert Ruel know, along with the condition of said equipment and how you wish to see it re-enter circulation.  I will endeavour to put donors and recipients together for such an exchange, or facilitate the exchange as might best suit the participants.


If you have something you wish to make available, if you’re in need of something, or if you merely want to know more please contact Albert at 250-240-2343 or by email at:


Thx, Albert


Albert A. Ruel, GTT Coordinator

Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

Get Together with Technology Program (GTT)


Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968 Ext. 550

iPhone: 250-240-2343


GTT Blog:



Facebook Group:

Twitter: @GTTWest @GTTProgram @CCBNational


Get Together with Technology (GTT) on Twitter and Facebook, An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

GTT on Twitter and Facebook

Get Together with Technology (GTT)
Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

GTT is an exciting initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind, founded in 2011 by Kim Kilpatrick and Ellen Goodman. GTT aims to help people who are blind or have low vision in their exploration of low vision and blindness related access technology. Through involvement with GTT participants can learn from and discuss assistive technology with others walking the same path of discovery.

GTT is made up of blindness related assistive technology users, and those who have an interest in using assistive technology designed to help blind and vision impaired people level the playing field. GTT groups interact through social media, and periodically meet in-person or by teleconference to share their passions for assistive technology and to learn what others can offer from their individual perspectives.

To follow, and join in on the discussions undertaken my members of the Get Together with Technology initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind, please find us on Twitter and Facebook.

GTT Program on Twitter:
To stay in touch with GTT on Twitter please follow the three Twitter Feeds listed below:

@GTTProgram @GTTWest @CCBNational

GTTProgram on Facebook:
To follow GTT on Facebook like and share the following FB Pages:

CCBNational GTTProgram

Or join the General and Youth GTTProgram Facebook Groups;

Join the GTTProgram Group for blindness related assistive technology discussions. This group welcomes participants of all ages. For more information contact Kim or Albert at or

Join the GTTYouth for lively discussion on matters related to blindness assistive technology. Canadian Youth aged 18 to 25 are encouraged to join this group. For more information contact

For more information please contact your GTT Coordinators:

Albert Ruel or Kim Kilpatrick
1-877-304-0968,550 1-877-304-0968,513

CCB Backgrounder:
The CCB was founded in 1944 by a coalition of blind war veterans, schools of the blind and local chapters to create a national self-governing organization. The CCB was incorporated by Letters Patent on May 10, 1950 and is a registered charity under the provisions of the Income Tax Act (Canada).
The purpose of the CCB is to give people with vision loss a distinctive and unique perspective before governments. CCB deals with the ongoing effects of vision loss by encouraging active living and rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.
CCB promotes measures to conserve sight, create a close relationship with the sighted community and provide employment opportunities.

The CCB recognizes that vision loss has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities or age.
The CCB understands in many instances vision loss is preventable and sometimes is symptomatic of other health issues. For the 21st century, the CCB is committed to an integrated proactive health approach for early detection to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.
As the largest membership organization of the blind and partially sighted in Canada the CCB is the “Voice of the Blind™”.

CCB National Office
100-20 James Street Ottawa ON K2P 0T6
Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968 Email: URL:

Guest Post: VocalEye August 2017 Newsletter

Image: dog’s face in a sprinkler

1) Hot Dog Days!
2) Described Performances and Events:
Aug 2: Celebration of Light Fireworks
3) Aug 6: Vancouver Pride Parade
4) Aug 11: The Drowsy Chaperone at Theatre Under the Stars
5) Aug 27: Accessible Fringe 101
6) Last Call for Raffle Tickets
7) Buddies
8) Support
9) Reminders

The dog days of summer are upon us and there’s still fun to be had! This month, we describe 3 spectacular outdoor events and we’ll be handing out free Fringe Memberships to VocalEye users who attend ($5 value). (

We’ll put our Fingerworkers to the test tomorrow at the Celebration of Light (August 2). This event is pretty much “sold out”, but we might have room for one or two more. Check with Donna,

Happy Pride Week! We are thrilled to partner with the Vancouver Pride Society for our third year, making the Pride Parade more accessible with live description. Allan and Eileen are very excited to describe the parade for you. Seats and headsets are still available and we hope you can join us for this fun, free, fantastic event! Reserve your spot with Donna,

I just got a phone call today from the Vancouver WhiteCaps and they’re offering Pride Partners a special deal that I’m passing on to all of you: tickets to the Sat August 19 game (Vancouver vs Houston) for $27 (regular price is around $60). Support Pride Night will include pre-show events and the first 1,000 ticket holders will receive a complimentary pair of Pride shoelaces (rainbow stripes, natch!). Contact Adrien at 604.669.9283 ext. 2804 or and mention VocalEye (you may want to call just to hear a beautiful Parisian accent).

You won’t want to miss our last described show of the season, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE at Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park with a Touch Tour afterward. What a perfect way to end the season!

August marks the beginning of the end of summer and also the end of VocalEye’s seventh season. Details for next season are coming soon, but here are a few highlights:

The new season begins with the Vancouver Fringe Festival: 100 shows, 700 performances, 11 days. We’re not describing all of them, of course, but 30 shows are designated as Low Vision Friendly and VocalEye will describe one performance as well. Find out what all this means at our Accessible Fringe 101 orientation (details below).

We are delighted to return to the Arts Club for our 8th season! Single tickets are now on sale for all described performances with shows and dates on the Arts Club website. Be sure to mark your calendars for Beauty and the Beast. We’re describing this one twice: Sunday, December 17 at 2 pm with a Touch Tour; and again on Wednesday, December 20 at 7:30 pm (no tour). Season subscriptions are also available with more savings and perks. Call 604-687-1644 for more info. (

We’ve also confirmed another described season at The Belfry in Victoria. They’re offering a season ticket package for described performances for greater savings this year. Call 250-385-6815 for more info. (

VocalEye will also return to the Surrey Arts Centre, the Kay Meek Centre, The Gateway in Richmond and Stanley Park for The Ghost Train. (

Save the date: Saturday, November 4 for VocalEye’s 5th annual TALES FROM THE BLIND SIDE storytelling fundraiser at Moose’s Down Under. (

I could go on, but summer’s almost over already. Get out there and enjoy!

See you soon!





VANCOUVER PRIDE PARADE described on Sunday August 6, 2017 from Noon until 3 pm, Beach Avenue Accessible Seating near Alexandra Park. Free public event. (

Headsets and priority seating will be provided free of charge for people with vision loss in the accessibility area from 11 am to 3 pm on Parade Day (Sunday, August 6). Reservations are required. Contact 604-364-5949 or

Seating and equipment are limited. We recommend arriving early.

Please note: The new accessibility area is located on the water side of Beach Avenue at the foot of Broughton Street. This is across the street and farther down the parade route (to the left) when compared to our location in previous years.

VocalEye is proud to describe the 39th Annual Vancouver Pride Parade for people who are blind and partially sighted. This is VocalEye’s third year describing the Vancouver Pride Parade thanks to a request from Richard Marion, a member of the blind community.

Described by Eileen Barrett and Allan Morgan with live-tweets from VocalEye volunteers.

Your sighted friends are welcome to listen in on Eileen and Allan’s description of this year’s Pride participants. Bring an extra set of ear buds and ask us for a splitter and you’ll be able to share your receiver. Friends can also follow our live tweets on Twitter ( .

The Beach Avenue Accessibility Area features seating, shade and accessible washroom facilities. Free bottled water will be available, but to reduce waste, we encourage you to bring your own water. VocalEye will provide light snacks and treats. Be sure to dress for the weather as necessary, it can be cooler near the water, and don’t forget your sunscreen! You may want to bring a little cushion for your seat.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, described by Eileen Barrett on Friday, August 11 at 8 pm at Theatre Under the Stars, 610 Pipeline Road, Stanley Park, Vancouver. TUTS offers a free companion rate for VocalEye users. Regular ticket prices range from $30 to $49. To purchase tickets, please call 604-734-1917. For best headset reception, seating is recommended in the left section of the audience, rows 10 and higher. Running time is approximately 1 hour 50 minutes. This performance will be followed by a Touch Tour and we’ll also draw the winning raffle tickets. (

Arrive early and grab a bite to eat at the Garden Café or a light snack from the snack bar. There is a wide range of hot, cold and alcoholic beverages for sale as well. Bring your own seat cushion for more comfort. A limited number of cushions will be reserved for VocalEye guests on a first come, first served basis (

You’ll be sitting outdoors, so be sure to dress for the weather and be prepared for cooler temperatures in the evening.

“There’s nothing snoozy or sleepy about this TUTS production of The Drowsy Chaperone: it’s flat-out, full-on fun. Plus it’s wickedly clever.”
-Jo Ledingham (

Alone in his modest, one-bedroom apartment, a die-hard musical fan plays his favourite cast album, a 1928 smash hit called The Drowsy Chaperone. As the record spins, the show magically bursts to life, filling his living room with colourful characters, immersing him in the hilarious tale of a celebrity bride and her impending nuptials, complete with gangsters, playboys, singing, dancing and drinking.

“There’s much ado these days about a Canadian musical, Come From Away, making it big on Broadway and scooping a Tony Award for direction earlier this month. (

But what many people forget, or don’t know, is that just over a decade ago, another subversive little Canuck musical pulled off the same magic. Written by Bob Martin and Don McKellar as a wedding present to Martin’s wife, it was first staged off the beaten track in Toronto’s storied Rivoli bar back in 1998. A long, winding, and unlikely path led it to the bright lights of Broadway by 2006, nabbing it five Tony Awards and the chance to go on to England, Australia, and Japan.” -The Georgia Straight (



The Vancouver Fringe Festival tagline is “Theatre for Everyone”, an ideal that VocalEye fully supports! (

Personally speaking, I am a long-time fan of the Fringe. Full disclosure: I performed in the very first festival (1985) and have been involved with more than a dozen Fringe shows as an actor or director and many, many more as an audience member. Frequent Fringe-ing or Fringe Binge-ing is one of my all-time favourite things to do. With $14 tickets, a free companion rate and 60 minute shows (on average), you can do it, too! Let us show you how…

If you are a VocalEye member with vision loss or a Theatre Buddy who’s new to the Fringe, this orientation session will show you how its done!

When: Sunday, August 27 from Noon until 3 pm.
Meet up location: northeast corner of Broadway and Granville
Session location: Carousel rehearsal space, 1411 Cartwright Street, across from Kid’s Market and the Waterfront Theatre

This free orientation session includes:
* a walking tour from Broadway and Granville to Granville Island (starts at Noon)
* Accessible Fringe 101 session (begins at 12:30)
* Introduction to the Festival
* first-person reports from blind and low vision frequent Fringers, Deb Fong and Tami Grenon
* Low Vision Friendly programming
* tips on how to Fringe: choosing shows, booking tickets and more
* walking tour of Granville Island’s Fringe venues and landmarks
* snacks and refreshments
* free Fringe membership ($5 value)
* the opportunity to connect with a Fringe buddy
* the opportunity to become a Fringe buddy

This year’s Fringe is scheduled from September 7 to 17. There are more than 30 shows designated as Low Vision Friendly, plus one VocalEye described performance of “A Very Unpleasant Evening at the Rockefeller Rink Sometime Late December…ish”, on Saturday, September 16 at 3:50 pm at The Cultch Historic Theatre. This fresh and quirky comedy features some delightful characters, including one who happens to be a legally blind zamboni driver. Find out more at the orientation session!

To register, please contact Donna,
Deadline to register is August 24, 2017

Don’t miss your chance to win one of three great prizes!
* First Prize: Plextalk Linio Pocket daisy/mp3 player from Canadian Assistive Technologies, value $369
* Second Prize: One-year subscription to with AfterShokz bone-conducting headphones, value $210
* Third Prize: Save-On gift card, value $100

Ticket Price: $5

With three easy ways to purchase:
1. at the equipment table at one of VocalEye’s events
2. from a friendly VocalEye board member
3. or from Steph, 604-364-5949.

Draw Date: Friday, August 11, 2017 at 10:30 pm

Draw Location: Theatre Under the Stars, 610 Pipeline Road, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC V6G 3E2

Presence not required at time of draw. Winners consent to the release of their name by VocalEye, 303-355 E 15th Ave, Vancouver V5T 2R2 | 604-364-5949

Number of tickets for sale = 300 | BC Gaming Event License # 95264

Limit one prize per winner | BC residents only

All proceeds go toward VocalEye’s description programs.


Theatre Buddies are available to guide VocalEye Members 18 years of age and over from a designated meet up location to and from selected theatres in the lower mainland. Reserve your Theatre Buddy by calling 604-364-5949 or send us an email. 48 hours notice is required.

** 8) SUPPORT…
VocalEye will describe more than 40 performances and events this season for people who are blind and partially sighted, thanks to the generous contributions of our funders and supporters ( .

We gratefully acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the Province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, our Community Donors and Individual Donors for their critical financial and in-kind support. VocalEye is currently in the process of becoming a registered charity and will not be able to issue tax receipts for donations until our application is approved. In the meantime, donations are greatly appreciated from anyone not requiring a tax receipt.

We thank you for helping us provide people with vision loss greater access to arts and culture.

* VocalEye’s complete season of described performances can be found on our website ( .
* Tickets and headsets must be reserved by calling the theatre, unless instructed otherwise.
* Be sure to mention VocalEye when booking your tickets to receive any discounts offered and indicate whether you have partial vision, a guide dog or other seating preferences. Seating options may be limited.
* Arrive early to pick up your equipment so you can be seated in time for a sound check and to listen to our pre-show introduction that includes brief descriptions of the set, characters and costumes. These begin 10 minutes before curtain.
* Our handheld receivers come with a single earpiece that can be worn on the left or right ear, or you can use your own earbuds or headphones. The audio signal is mono, so it will come through on only one side.
* VocalEye Memberships are FREE for people with vision loss.
* VocalEye Members are eligible for Theatre Buddy assistance, ticket discounts and equipment pickup without a deposit.
* VocalEye newsletters are available in your choice of formats: Plain Text or HTML with images. Both include a link at the top to a simple Word Doc format.
* VocalEye respects your right to privacy. We will not rent, sell or trade our list. Our mailings are intended to inform you of our events, programs, services and fundraising activities. You may unsubscribe at any time.
* You can help us spread the word about described performances and arts access for people with vision loss by sharing this newsletter with those in your network.

Thank you for reading through. See you at the theatre!

RNIB: Factsheet for Employers and Employment Professionals; Guidance and good practice for Risk Assessors

Factsheet for employers and employment


Blind and partially sighted people at work

 – Guidance and good practice for Risk



About this factsheet


This factsheet is for anyone who needs help with safety management in a place where blind or partially sighted people work. Blind and partially sighted people compete for, perform and succeed in a wide range of jobs. Many need little or no adjustment to their workplace or to working practices, and yet many employers worry about employing blind and partially sighted people, sometimes having concerns for their safety and for the safety of others.


This guidance has been compiled in consultation with: health and safety professionals; people in the workplace who assess the risks to employees; employers; and with blind and partially sighted people. We aim to help risk assessors by providing the information they need to reach decisions, and ensure a safe environment with safe working guidelines.




  1. The need for Guidance
  2. Blind and partially sighted people at work
  3. The process of Risk Assessment
  4. Key points for Risk Assessment
  5. Common issues


5.1   Dealing with Guide Dogs

5.2   Mobility and travel

5.3   Lighting

5.4   Trip hazards

5.5   Lone working

5.6   Evacuating the building

5.7   Stairs

5.8   Safe use of computer systems

5.9   Machinery

5.10 Caring for others


  1. References
  2. Sources of help and further information



1. The need for guidance


Carrying out a risk assessment of the workplace or an activity for blind or partially sighted people doesn’t have to be difficult, but it can sometimes be a daunting prospect. If you haven’t worked with blind people before, it can be very easy to over-estimate risks or make assumptions about what blind people can or can’t do.


People who risk assess the workplaces and activities of blind and partially sighted people, looking for advice, often approach RNIB. While we are aware that mistakes can be made, we also know that risks can be managed successfully and we want to share good practice.


This guidance has been produced to highlight some of the things that we’re often asked about, share examples of successful risk management and suggest sources of help.


We are also aware that risk assessment, or health and safety in general, has been used as an excuse not to employ blind and partially sighted people (Hurstfield et al, 2003). We hope that the guidance we have put together will help to overcome unnecessary barriers.


Most importantly, we hope that this guidance helps you to reach informed decisions and, in so doing, ensures that blind and partially sighted people can continue to work effectively and safely.



2. Blind and partially sighted people at work


In the middle of the last century, blind people were encouraged to work in specific occupations. These included jobs as switchboard operators, masseurs, piano tuners and even basket weavers.


Things have changed quite considerably and blind and partially sighted people now succeed in a range of jobs across different sectors. “This IS Working 2” (RNIB, 2009), gave examples of ten people working as: a company director, senior physiotherapist, sales and marketing manager, shop owner, policy officer, development and funding officer, teacher, administrative assistant, and outreach worker. A copy of this document, which includes testimonials from employers, can be fond here:


Blind people do succeed at work. When safety management works well, we know that all employees, including blind and partially sighted people, can work safely.



3. The process of risk assessment


Employers are required by law to manage health and safety in the workplace. Each organisation will have their own ways of doing this and the roles of individual risk assessors can be different.


This document does not deal with the mechanics of undertaking and recording risk assessments. The principles are the same for everyone, but guidance is already available on dealing with “disability” in relation to safety management. See, for example, ‘Health and Safety for Disabled People and Their Employers (Health and Safety Executive and DRC).


IOSH, the Chartered body for health and safety professionals, offers advice on their website about the responsibilities that the Equality Act imposes on those who manage safety.


They specifically suggest that:


  • the Equality Act has an effect on the way you
  • manage safety.
  • while you may be able to use health and safety issues related to disability as a reason not to employ someone – or to refuse a service to someone – you can only do so if certain conditions are met.
  • if the safety of a task may be affected by someone’s disability, then a risk assessment should be carried out for everyone, not just for disabled employees.
  • if you don’t document the steps you’ve taken to consult disabled workers or customers, and to make reasonable adjustments, your organisation could be involved in an expensive tribunal case.


This factsheet will focus on how risk assessment can affect blind and partially sighted people at work.



4. Key points for risk assessment


In general, the following points will help to shape your risk assessments:


4.1 Risk assessments should address a task and everyone



Whilst the legislation requires employers to identify groups that might be at risk of harm, telling someone that “you must be risk assessed” sends out a negative message. In a way, it suggests that the individual is the issue, when this is clearly not the case. It sounds much more positive to tell someone that activities are being assessed.


4.2 The individuals involved must be consulted


The Health and Safety Executive’s “Five Steps to Risk Assessment” recommends that: ‘In all cases, you should make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. They will have useful information about how the work is done that will make your assessment of the risk more thorough and effective.’


Your blind or partially sighted employee is usually the best person to describe how their sight loss affects them and you should be able to tap in to that knowledge. Risk assessments carried out without the involvement of blind and partially sighted employees are significantly more likely to be inaccurate.


4.3 “Adjustments” must be considered as part of the process


Employers have a responsibility to make “reasonable adjustments” to working practices and physical features. This is likely to include the provision of auxiliary aids. While this might be beyond your area of responsibility as a risk assessor, you must be prepared to take proposed changes into account.


4.4 It is important that you do not make assumptions about

the level of someone’s functional vision


Most blind people have some useful vision. Some people will be able to see fine detail, while some may have very good peripheral vision. Even people with the same eye condition can have widely different levels of useful sight.


Employers often ask for medical guidance to help understand what people can or can’t see. However, this is often presented in medical terms and is usually lacking an occupational focus.


Asking the individual to describe their sight is often the best way to gather information to assess risk. Professionals who work with blind and partially sighted people at work can be another source of information. Making assumptions about what people can and can’t see will produce flawed risk assessments.



5. Common issues


Employers often contact RNIB to ask for advice about specific worries they have about the safety of a blind or partially sighted colleague. Things we have been asked about include:


5.1 Guide Dogs at work


Guide dogs are one example of an aid to mobility. However, it has been estimated that as few as one or two per cent of blind or partially sighted people use guide dogs to get around. It is therefore important that you don’t assume that people either use guide dogs, or choose to bring them to work.


Having said that, if an employee brings a guide dog to work, proper planning is required to ensure that things run smoothly.


We have been asked about accommodating guide dogs at work and, in most cases, working practices can be adopted to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment.


Some of the common questions revolve around:


Toileting – a suitable area must be identified for the guide dog. While in some places there are very obvious locations for this, some companies (particularly in town centres) find this difficult.


Moving around building – the extent to which a blind person uses a guide dog once at their workstation will vary, depending on the person’s other mobility skills and knowledge of the environment. It is important that the guide dog user is aware of his or her responsibilities. Working rules should be established. These could include where the dog goes when not “on harness” or how often breaks are required.


Induction/emergency procedures – it may be necessary to review your evacuation plans. There may already be a structure in place (such as personal emergency evacuation plans) to facilitate this within your organisation. Standard instructions, such as those issued during induction should be available in the correct format for the employee to read.


Colleagues – the extent to which colleagues interact with guide dog users is likely to vary. There are both positive and negatives to this. For example, colleagues can distract a working dog, or alternatively can assist with “walking” the dog. Colleagues may need to be told of their responsibilities.  For example, they may need to know when it might be appropriate to play with or to walk the dog, or to know when the dog is working.


Allergy/Fear of dogs/cultural influences – Some thought may need to be given to where guide dogs are based while people are working to allay concerns.


If in any doubt about any aspect of working with Guide Dogs, representatives from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association will want to help you with this.


5.2 Mobility and travel


When considering potential risks involved in travelling, it is important to bear in mind that most blind or partially sighted people will travel easily with no problems. Some may need support.


Blind and partially sighted people have varying levels of sight and particular eye conditions affect sight in different ways. We can’t assume that people with the same eye condition are affected in the same way, as people with the same eye condition often see the world in entirely different ways. Familiarity with the area and environmental factors, such as lighting, are other things that can affect someone’s mobility.


Additionally, people adjust to sight loss in different ways. It is safe to say that the mobility skills of blind and partially sighted people vary considerably.  Some people travel independently, while others use mobility aids or support from others to travel.


It probably goes without saying that an individual should be consulted when considering potential risks with travel. It is also good practice to ensure that any concerns about mobility are kept in perspective – issues should not be allowed to be blown out of proportion.


If an individual is looking for mobility support for specific parts of their travel, two agencies might be able to help.


In each local authority area, there are mobility specialists, sometimes known as rehabilitation workers, who can teach people how to use mobility aids and help them learn to navigate routes. They either work for the local authority social work team, or the organisation that holds the register of blind and partially sighted people.


The Access to Work programme supports people at work and individuals can apply for financial assistance to travel to and from work and within work. The Access to Work programme can only cover the additional costs of travelling to meet disability-related and it is not intended to replace the standard costs involved in business use.


5.3 Lighting


Both the quality and quantity of lighting has a significant impact on all working environments. For some people, it can help to create a comfortable workplace. For others, lighting can pose a barrier to effective working.


Guidance on lighting levels tends to be either general, aimed at a technical audience, or individual, based on one person’s experience. For example, Building Site (1995), suggests that light levels are crucial. It suggests that lux levels (a measure of luminance) for blind and partially sighted people should be 25 per cent to 50 per cent above the “general” level.


The difficulty with such generalised recommendations is that individual blind and partially sighted people have very different needs. Increasing the general “background” lighting levels might not necessarily make a working environment safer or more comfortable.


For some people, increasing background light would be helpful. But it might be more effective to introduce additional light sources, rather than make the existing fittings brighter. This is particularly true if units can be switched on and off to allow more control over lux levels.


Other people find it difficult to work with high levels of lighting and prefer a darker working environment.


As well as the amount of light, the source of light is also an important factor.   Many people find that natural light is best. This can mean that making the best of light from windows is preferable to using electric lighting. Similarly, some people find that light fittings emulating natural light (daylight bulbs) are very effective.


The key to resolving lighting issues is to talk to the people involved and call in specialists where necessary. Sometimes simple changes can make a huge difference to a working environment. At other times, more work is required to strike a balance between the needs of one individual among a group of other employees.


5.4 Trip hazards


Research suggests that blind and partially sighted people are more likely to trip than sighted people (Legood et al, 2009). Yet, when we introduce controls to reduce risk, it is very important to keep a sense of perspective. Introducing “no-go” areas, such as stairs or in specific areas you perceive as dangerous, can be discriminatory. It is very unlikely that the only way to manage potential trip hazards is to exclude people from certain areas, as other alternative steps can be taken to reduce risk. Most blind and partially sighted people can navigate around buildings and other workplaces. If you feel strongly that there are parts of a workplace that are not safe, you should seek advice.


5.5 Lone working


Working alone is an integral part of many jobs. Whether this involves visiting customers at home, working from other premises, travelling either locally or more widely or working at home.


Lone working is an area that often raises concerns for employers. But while there may be occasions when a blind or partially sighted person is exposed to risk, these risks are often no greater than a sighted colleague would face.


It is very easy to make assumptions about potential dangers and introduce unnecessary risk controls. And yet, very many blind or partially sighted people work successfully and safely on their own, sometimes in challenging environments.


Considering risks


It is important to consider how an individual is affected by sight loss.  Some people travel independently and confidently. Others look for support, particularly in unfamiliar environments.


Some employers have found it helpful to consider the extent of an individual’s sight loss. Having an understanding of what a person can or cannot see can make it easier to discuss risks. Medical “evidence” is not likely to help with this. A diagnosis does not usually describe the extent of functional vision.  Most of the time, your blind or partially sighted employee is the best person to describe this to you.


Minimising risk


Your starting point for managing risks should be the systems you already have in place for your lone workers. Your local working practices must be robust and comprehensive, so that the work of all of your lone-working employees is covered. Your blind or partially sighted employee is no different in this respect.


5.6 Evacuating the building


Most blind and partially sighted people will understand the need for plans to deal with unexpected evacuations, for example, in the case of fire.   Employers generally deal with evacuation routes, procedures and assembly points during an employee’s induction period.


It is important to ensure that written evacuation procedures are available in different formats during induction. For example, having a Word version of the procedures available will allow most users of access technology to read them.


Some blind or partially sighted people would welcome the chance to familiarise themselves with the main routes and practise leaving the building by emergency exits. This could be arranged with their line manager when starting work.


If a blind or partially sighted person is finding it difficult to learn routes and needs some support, it may be appropriate to allocate a “buddy” to assist with evacuation until routes are learned.


Further information can be found in the publication “Fire Safety Risk Assessment: Means of Escape for Disabled People”, Department of Communities and Local Government, 2007.


5.7 Stairs


While risk assessing the use of stairs, your starting point should be to assume that blind and partially sighted people are subject to the same risks as any other employee. Therefore, any steps you might take to reduce risk apply to all employees.


If you believe that there are risks to stair users, you may want to consider the following extracts form Building Sight:


“Lighting on stairs should be sufficient to highlight any obstructions on the flight of the stairs, but should highlight the treads as opposed to the risers to emphasise each step.  It is very important that ceiling-mounted luminaires do not become a glare source – they should be well shielded. Alternatively, large-area, low-brightness sources can be mounted on a side or facing wall.”


“The stair covering should not have a pattern that can cause confusion between tread and riser or between one tread and another.”


It is worth pointing out that making physical changes of this type may be the responsibility of your landlord, but this does not mean that you shouldn’t raise the issues with them.


5.8 Safe use of computer systems


Employers are required to “analyse workstations, and assess and reduce risks. Employers need to look at the whole workstation including equipment, furniture, and the work environment; the job being done; and any special needs of individual staff. The regulations apply where staff habitually use display screen equipment as a significant part of their normal work.” (HSE, 2006).


It is entirely likely, then, that the needs of blind and partially sighted people will be highlighted as part of a general risk assessment of display screen equipment.


In addition to this, employees will often highlight difficulties in using computer systems related to their sight. Unless the individual has a good idea of their requirements, it is usually a good idea to seek specialist advice. RNIB or Action for Blind People offices will be able to recommend ways to make it easier to change the way screens look, or alternative ways of accessing screen content.



5.9  Machinery


Employers often have legitimate concerns about blind or partially sighted people operating power tools, hand tools or other machinery such as grass cutting or gardening power tools.


There will be times when you will need to eliminate risk by specifying tools that should not be used at work.
However, it is very important to discuss with an individual exactly how their sight restricts them and how real the risks are. Bear in mind that some new employees may underplay any difficulties as they may have had negative experiences with past employers.


Another factor to take into account is the environment in which people will be working. If you can control the immediate work area, machinery can be made safe to use. For example, in a factory, machines can be fitted with guards and walkways restricted to improve the safety of the work environment. If you are in doubt, ask for advice.


5.10 Caring for others


Many blind and partially sighted people work in jobs where they provide social care services. This can include working in nurseries, care homes and delivering community services.


As you would expect, the generic risk assessments carried out to cover the working routines of care workers are often sufficient to ensure a safe working environment for blind and partially sighted people.


However, employers sometimes have concerns about certain aspects of working that could be perceived as dangerous. These could include, for example:



Reading facial expressions to predict behaviour:


This is a contentious issue. The vast majority of blind or partially sighted people will be able to read facial expressions, but some will find it difficult or impossible. Logically, this could suggest that a blind person may be at higher risk of sudden changes in behaviour.


However, there is a considerable body of research that shows how people are able to perceive mood or feelings from verbal communication only. So the extent of the risk involved is not at all clear.


Reducing risk in this situation calls for a balanced judgement based on an understanding of an individual’s sight and the requirements of the job.


Missing visual cues, such as evidence of substance misuse or

concealed weapons:


Potential hazards of this kind could be addressed by adopting working practices that apply to all employees. This could include ensuring that thorough background information is obtained with referrals. Additionally, initial assessments of the individual customers should cover the likelihood of issues arising. There may be situations where it is safer for people to work in pairs.


Reading correspondence while visiting customers:


In some jobs, workers may be required to read forms or letters when visiting people in their homes or other settings. Generally, this can be overcome by using access technology, such as portable video magnifiers or scanners.


Perceived difficulties dealing with children:


Nurseries, after school clubs and similar establishments that provide childcare services have well-developed risk management systems in place. If a blind or partially sighted person starts work, the working practices in place are often robust enough to ensure safe working.


Occasionally, parents have concerns about blind or partially sighted people caring for their children. Concerns could include tripping, not seeing children putting things in their mouths, escorting children in the local area or identifying parents when children are collected.


In your role as a risk assessor, you should discuss concerns with the individual to establish whether any of these concerns are genuine and if so how they could be minimised. For example, another worker could check the identity of parents collecting children.


It is really important that the concerns of parents are not confused with actual risk.



6. References


‘Building Sight: A handbook of building and interior design solutions to include the needs of visually impaired people’, P Barker, J Barrick and R Wilson, London HMSO in Association with RNIB, 1995


‘Fire Safety Risk Assessment: Means of Escape for Disabled People’, Department of Communities and Local Government, 2007


‘Five Steps to Risk Assessment’, Health and Safety Executive


‘Health and Safety for Disabled People and Their Employers’, HSE and DRC


J Hurstfield et al, ‘The extent of use of health and safety as a false excuse for not employing sick or disabled persons’, research report 167, HRC/DRC, 2003


JMU Access Partnership, Fact Sheet 24 – Lighting


Legood R, Scuffham PA and Cryer C, “Are we blind to injuries in the visually impaired?  A review of the literature”, June 2009


RNIB and Thomas Pocklington Trust, ‘Make the most of your sight, Improve the lighting in your home”, RNIB and Thomas Pocklington Trust, 2009


‘This is Working 2’, RNIB, October 2009


‘Working with VDUs’, HSE leaflet INDG36(rev3), revised 12/06



7. Sources of help and further information


7.1 RNIB and Action for Blind People


Employment services for employers


We can help you retain a current employee who is losing their sight, and we can help you to take on someone who is visually impaired.


Advances in technology mean that visually impaired people can now overcome many of the barriers to work that they faced in the past, and government schemes like Access to Work mean that many of the costs can be met.


We provide a number of services that can be directly commissioned by employers. These include:


  • Work-based assessments – a visit to a workplace, by one of our specialists, to evaluate the potential for equipment, software, and adjustments that would better allow an employee to fulfil their role.
  • 1 to 1 access technology training. Our technology specialists can visit your workplace and provide training tailored to suit your employee’s needs.
  • Visual and disability awareness training.


For further information about any of these services, please contact us via our website or directly via our employment services mailbox:


Web site:




Employment factsheets


We currently produce the following factsheets for employers and employment professionals:


  • Access to Work
  • RNIB work-based assessment services
  • Blind and partially sighted people at work – Guidance and good practice for Risk Assessors
  • Testing the compatibility of access software and IT applications
  • Guidelines on meeting the needs of visually impaired delegates on training courses


In addition to this you may like to check out our ‘This IS Working’ documents, which showcase blind and partially sighted people working in a range of occupations, and include testimonials from employers, as well as our ‘Vocational rehabilitation’ document, which sets out the business case for retaining newly disabled staff.


All of these factsheets and documents can be found in the employment professionals section of our website which also contains the latest research in the field, as well as information on IT and accessibility, the Equality Act, success stories, and more.


We also produce a number of factsheets aimed at blind and partially sighted people, on a range of employment related issues. These can be found at


RNIB Helpline


The RNIB Helpline can refer you to an employment specialist for further advice and guidance. RNIB Helpline can also help you by providing information and advice on a range of topics, such as eye health, the latest products, leisure opportunities, benefits advice and emotional support.


Call the Helpline team on 0303 123 9999 or email


7.2 Access to Work


Access to Work is a scheme run by Jobcentre Plus. The scheme provides advice, grant funding, and practical support to disabled people and employers to help overcome work related obstacles resulting from a disability. Read our Access to Work factsheet, or visit the Access to Work pages at to learn more about qualifying for the scheme. Further details are also available at


7.3 Guide Dogs


The best place to find out information relating to guide dogs. Visit:


7.4 The Health and Safety Executive


HSE is responsible for enforcing health and safety at workplaces. Visit:


7.5 Equality and Human Rights Commission


The Equality and Human Rights commission have a statutory remit to promote and monitor human rights; and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the nine “protected” grounds – age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. The website includes a section on employment.


Factsheet updated: April 2013