Accessibility News Blind Related Articles

Digital Inaccessibility: Blind and Low-Vision People have Powerful Technology but Still Face Barriers to the Digital World

Imagine that you have low vision and you’re completing an online job application using screen reader software.

You get through half the form and then come to a question with drop-down options the screen reader cannot access because the online form doesn’t conform to accessibility standards. You’re stuck. You can’t submit the application, and your time has been wasted.


New, Accessible Art Exhibit at OMAH has Visitors ‘Seeing Beyond’

Tyler Evans
Jan. 20, 2024

Artist Robyn Rennie was at the Orillia Museum of Art and History on Saturday afternoon to unveil her fully accessible, 27-piece exhibition called Seeing Beyond.

Unveiled at the Orillia Museum of Art and History on Saturday was a new exhibition created by 24 fibre artists from across Ontario.

More than 100 people visited the Orillia Museum of Art and History on Saturday to see three new exhibits.

Artist Robyn Rennie was on hand to unveil her fully accessible, 27-piece exhibition, Seeing Beyond, which includes braille labels and descriptive audio.

Rennie, who lived in Orillia for nine years and currently resides in New Brunswick, says OMAH is a “top-rate gallery.”

“They are miles ahead in terms of accessibility,” she said. “They make art accessible to people who are blind or who have low vision, like myself.”

Rennie has been vision impaired for 19 years. Her latest work on display at OMAH, funded by a Canadian Council for the Arts grant, is her imparting to others how she sees the world.

“In my lived experience with going to galleries, I can’t tell what I’m looking at because the tags are not accessible and there is no descriptive audio,” she said. “There is nothing I can touch, which is hugely important when you don’t see.”

The pieces in Rennie’s exhibit at OMAH come in various sizes and have exact replicas for people to interact with. For each of the seven paintings in the exhibit, there is an interactive audio description component available.

“While you listen to me describe the painting on the left, you are free to explore the tactile replica on the right,” Rennie explained. “There isn’t a lot of this being done and, in fact, to my knowledge, no other artist has done this with their own work.”

Rennie, 63, is hoping other artists will follow suit and help to break down barriers by making visual art available to people with visual impairments.

“Everybody needs art and access to this,” she said. “The more people who can be included in this, the better.”

She says the accessible art will also provide a different and unique experience to people without accessibility challenges.

“Touch is fun for people who see, too,” she said. “Children and people with neurodivergences need to be able to touch and explore in a different sense because it’s thrilling.”

Ninette Gyorody, executive director of OMAH, says Rennie’s work is the first of its kind.

“There are over 20 abstract landscape paintings,” she explained. “She uses a lot of tactile materials and iridescent colours because that’s what she happened to be able to see now.”

Rennie’s work will be on display at OMAH until April 13.

Also unveiled on Saturday was Sybil: Connections Fibre Artists. The exhibition was created by 24 fibre artists from across Ontario who were inspired by their mentor, Sybil Rampen, who launched the Joshua Creek Heritage Art Centre in Oakville.

Participating artists chose some aspect of Rampen they admire and are grateful for to inspire their creations.

“We like to show fibre works every couple of years, especially when they are different collectives,” Gyorody said, adding it is an opportunity for people to experience a different kind of art form

The exhibit will be on display until May 11.

Grant’s Legacy: Capturing Orillia’s History on Film was also seen by visitors for the first time at OMAH on Saturday.

The exhibit is a screening of a series of 16-millimetre film footage, mainly of Orillia, captured from 1928 to 1964 by Jack Grant, a local amateur filmmaker.

“They were digitized in 2017,” Gyorody said. “There is no sound, but it’s fun to see what life looked like in Orillia in the ’40s and ’50s.”

The nostalgic exhibit will be on display until April 20.

A bonus exhibition is on display in the lobby of the Orillia Recreation Centre. The new Stack Gallery Teenaged Zeitgeist is curated by the art in public places committee, which is managed by OMAH in partnership with the City of Orillia.

“Twice a year, we host exhibitions on the wall at the Stack Gallery in the rec centre,” Gyorody said. “The theme for this round was how teens feel about life these days.”

More than 20 works of art were submitted for the exhibition, and a jury of local art professionals selected the top 10 to be displayed in the rec centre.

“They all have labels and an explanation of what the artist was trying to convey through their images,” Gyorody said.

Each year, OMAH hosts about 18 exhibitions, excluding the two at the Stack Gallery.

“Our mandate is that we are providing an inclusive space for different arts mediums,” Gyorody said. “We want to make sure that we are showcasing work that different audiences can appreciate.”

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Touchscreen Card Devices May Prevent Blind Customers Paying

Blind customers are being left “frustrated” and “embarrassed” by inaccessible payment devices.

Some shops have buttonless touchscreen card readers, meaning you need sight to tap in your PIN.


Touched by Art: Legally Blind Ontario Painter Makes Tactile Paintings to Enhance the Experience for All

By Zenith Wolfe,
October 16, 2023

Lynda Todd wants you to touch the canvases in her new art exhibition – especially if you can’t see them.

The legally blind artist from Peterborough, Ont., learned to paint in 2019. She has since received several awards, including the 2021 Spirit of the Hills Art Award and the 2022 Gordon and Arbie Holnbeck Award, for incorporating disability advocacy into her art.

The most recent example of her advocacy is the exhibition, TAP: Please Touch, which was on view at Peterborough’s Dreams of Beans Cafà for the month of September. The paintings include 3D models of butterflies, clouds and other typically visual elements that viewers are invited to touch.

Todd said she wanted to design the exhibition to be accessible to people with visual impairment. The title of each work was displayed in large letters and in braille next to each canvas. Sighted guides were on hand to describe the colours, shapes and characters of each piece to visitors.

“I know what it’s like to not be able to see things. They may go by too fast or be too small, or often in galleries artwork might be a few feet behind a roped off area. You’re missing out on so much.”

To make this exhibition, Todd had to teach herself to combine paint with other mediums, including resin and modelling paste. She said she also had to come up with new strategies to accommodate her own partial colour-blindness. “I label the containers I’m using because even though I may see red in the moment, an hour from now – especially if I’m more tired – I won’t be able to tell that it’s red.”

Todd hopes her art will motivate more exhibitions to provide similar accommodations in the future since it can also benefit sighted people.

“They got as much enjoyment from being able to touch it. It was like a freedom they’ve never had before, because everyone has always been trained not to touch art in galleries,” she said.

Jennifer Kirkpatrick went to the exhibition as a sighted guide for her aunt Christel Galachiuk, who has been blind for 50 years. She also volunteered as a sighted guide and helped four other groups experience the canvases.

“I’ve always been very partial to anything I can do to help people with disabilities,” she said. “It also made me look much closer at the art. It made me realize how exciting it must be for them to have the same experience I could have.”

Kirkpatrick said even though she has good vision and can experience the paintings visually, being able to feel them was a new experience. For her, it made the art feel more real.

“There are salmon with their tails curled and butterflies with their wings at different angles. All the plaster and paperwork makes it so textured,” she said. “It’s not something everyone has thought of, which seems crazy now that I’ve seen it.”

Christel Galachiuk said she was especially impressed by the spread wings and antennae of the butterflies. She said the whole gallery was “awesome” and she says she has grown to like a lot of Todd’s work because of its accessibility. Galachiuk hopes other art galleries will take note.

“You can’t touch everything in other galleries because most of it is paintings. They’re like museums,” she said. “If galleries had somebody who could take you and explain it to you, I’d probably go to more.”

The exhibition opened at the Quinte Arts Council Gallery in Belleville on Oct. 5.

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From Kicked Off to Welcome Aboard: How a Blind Vancouver Paralympian was Hired by Virgin Cruise Line

Donovan Tildesley, 39, has been blind since birth. But that hasn’t stopped him from traveling the world.

“I was very blessed to have parents who encouraged me to do any and everything that someone with sight could do,” said Tildesley.


Walmart Class Action Alleges Website Not Equally Accessible to Blind, Visually Impaired Consumers

Plaintiff Ali Abdulhadi claims Walmart’s website contains access barriers to screen-reading software used by individuals who are blind or visually impaired to browse internet websites.


Jury Urges Improved Medical Resources

Teen died despite bed checks at Brantford school for blind children Maan Alhmidi The Canadian Press

The jury at an inquest into the death of a teen who died at a school for blind students has recommended the province review the availability of overnight medical resources provided to schools that cater to disabled children.

Jurors at the inquest into the death of Samuel Brown also suggested the provincial government draft and implement policies to ensure and improve 24/7 on-call availability of medical staff for students who stay at those schools.

The suggestions were among 21 recommendations issued Thursday by jurors who heard the case of 18-year-old Brown, who died five years ago while attending the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford, Ont.

Brown’s family has said the teen, who was born with a genetic condition that left him blind, deaf and non-verbal, was in good health the weekend before he died at the school.

Less than 12 hours passed between the time the family received a phone call indicating their son was slightly unwell and when Brown was declared dead, his mother testified at the inquest.

The inquest jury found that Brown died by natural causes, of acute bronchopneumonia.

Jurors recommended medical training be provided for staff at schools for disabled children on how to identify potential early symptoms of aspiration pneumonia, as well as mandatory training on ableism with a focus on the dangers it poses for those with disabilities.

They also recommended that the schools develop protocols for “ongoing monitoring, documenting, and interdisciplinary consultation among staff regarding noticed changes” in students’ behaviour and medical symptoms.

Jurors further called for a system to verify that overnight bed checks are being completed.

The inquest heard that support staff working at W. Ross Macdonald on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, 2018, had been checking on Brown at half-hour intervals all night and kept a close eye on him, given he appeared to have cold symptoms the evening before.

Stephanie Rymon-Lipinski, a former student support counsellor at the school, said it was only when she went into Brown’s room at 6 a.m. to change his diaper that staff noticed the teen wasn’t breathing.

Before finding him unresponsive, Rymon-Lipinski reported that Brown appeared “congested” and had a runny nose, but that was not out of the norm for the teen or cause for alarm.

The inquest also heard that there were no nurses or medical staff available overnight at the school once the student health centre which diagnosed Brown with a slight fever that evening, gave him Tylenol and cleared him to go back to his residence bed closed at 11 p.m.

Another staff member had testified that she took Brown’s temperature around 1 a.m. and it was within the normal range.

The inquest previously heard that Brown who had been attending the school since he was four years old had difficulty swallowing and had hospital admissions as a child for aspiration, which is when food or liquid enters one’s airways. As a result, most of his food had to be pureed and he had an additional risk of developing pneumonia, which he had been admitted to hospital for in the past.

Dianne Harris, a support staff team leader at the school, told the inquest support staff are not medical professionals who could have recognized apparent or non-apparent signs of pneumonia specifically, and they were not informed of Brown’s history of infection.

A nurse who evaluated Brown at the student health centre the evening before he died testified that she noted nothing abnormal about his lungs, breathing rate or behaviour. She said support staff did a good job monitoring him overnight and she didn’t believe them being informed of his previous pneumonia diagnosis would have changed how they cared for him.

The school now has a strict policy that students be sent home if they are feeling unwell rather than staying overnight, the inquest heard.

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Lego Launches New Line of Braille Bricks

Just in time for Blind Awareness Month, Lego is launching a new line of bricks that include something a little different-braille.


Lobbying to bring back braille menus

Gerry Dewan
CTV News London Reporter
Published Aug. 25, 2023

Terry Hoddinott lost his vision to cancer when he was just three years old. He now runs a London, Ont.-based business that seeks to improve life for others with visual impairments.

He admits there are always hurdles to overcome, like the one he experienced during a recent visit to a Boston Pizza in Toronto when he asked for a braille menu.

“They said, ‘Well, we have QR codes’,” recounted Hoddinott. “I told them that doesn’t work, it’s not accessible and they said, ‘We can stand here and read it to you’ and I was flabbergasted.”

Hoddinott said that option draws unwanted attention to people with visual impairments and makes the dining experience less pleasurable, “Independence is out the window when I have to stand there while you’re reading the items to me. I have to ask the prices, flip back and forth.”

He said it can be particularly awkward during a business lunch or in certain social situations, like a first date.

Hoddinott is supporting a campaign designed to have all restaurants offer alternative menus with large print and braille in them. He says the large print is also helpful for seniors or those who don’t do well in low-light situations.

Hoddinott said restaurants would only need two or three accessible menus on hand, “You keep them behind the desk. When you have somebody come in asking for them, you provide them at the table. Simple as that.”

Hoddinot said Boston Pizza had braille menus up until about four years ago, but switched to using QR codes. The code links to an online menus and utilizes text-to-voice or text to braille technology, which links to a portable braille translation device.

Hoddinott said the technology is unreliable and not helpful for people who aren’t tech savvy.

His business, Braille Masters, does custom braille transcriptions and printing. That does include providing braille menus to some clients, but he insists his campaign isn’t designed to attract business.

He would have no issues if another business landed the contract to provide braille menus. Just so long as they’re available to customers, “It’s one of those things that’s a simple, easy fix and there’s no reason for them not to do it.”

Hoddinott has been reaching out to area MPPs to draw attention to the issue and says he and others are considering an Ontario Human Rights Commission Appeal.

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Local Woman Returns from Mars Simulation, Promotes Accessibility

“Like what if you’re on Mars and you lose your vision, it’s not like we can swap you out and send you home,” said Sheri Wells-Jensen, who teaches linguistics at Bowling Green State University for the past 23 years.