Posts Tagged "Blind"

22May

Running was supposed to be the perfect pandemic pursuit, but not for this blind B.C. runner | CBC News

by admin

For most people, running presented itself last spring as the perfect pandemic pursuit.

With gyms closed and fitness classes cancelled, the sport brought many people to the streets, sidewalks and trails, where they were able to keep their distance from others and breathe fresh air while getting a good workout. 

But for Peter Field, a 59-year-old runner living in Vancouver, the pandemic made running nearly impossible. 

Field is blind and needs a guide to join him on his runs. 

The pair are connected by a 30-centimetre tether connected to their waists, which puts them far closer than the two-metre or six-feet distance recommended by health officials since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘My sanity, my health’

Field became blind when he was a teenager, and has been running seriously for the past five years. He competes in road races from five kilometres in length up to the marathon, which is 42.2 kilometres long, with the goal of trying to improve his time over the distances.

He runs four times a week: once alone on a treadmill, and three times outside with a guide doing routes in and around his home in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood or in Stanley Park.

“It helps me keep my sanity, my health,” he said about his running. “It’s probably one of the prime motivating things in my life.”

But Field couldn’t run for almost six weeks when no guide would train with him out of concern that the coronavirus made the endeavour unsafe.

“I was just completely frustrated that something that should be so simple and so accessible was not,” he said. “Having a disability or being blind, I’ve dealt with inequities all my life … it really got under my skin. It just seemed so unfair that people could just go out their door and run and I was totally cut off.”

Peter Field, 59, faced several obstacles in continuing to run during the pandemic such as finding guides willing to accompany him. 0:43

As cases mounted, Field’s guide at the time was not comfortable continuing, which resulted in a scramble to find new partners. He posted messages on two Facebook pages dedicated to running, but those garnered responses saying what he was trying to do was unsafe. 

Things were also compounded by research from engineers in Europe who used modelling to argue that droplets from people running or cycling could carry extended distances beyond the two metres health officials asked people to maintain.

“People were really quite hot under the collar that I would ask for a guide runner. We’re not even six feet apart never mind 30 feet apart. So the post got taken down,” said Field. “I was pretty upset.”

Finally as the science began to show that outdoor activities were not a significant source of transmission, Field’s guide at the time agreed to pick up running with him again.

He also found a new guide to share the training and even completed a virtual version of Vancouver’s BMO marathon in May. 

‘Hey it’s not six feet!’

But resuming his running came with increased public scrutiny.

“Lots of people said things like, ‘Hey it’s not six feet!’ or were upset if we ran by them or would turn away,” he said. 

Field and O’Shea run along Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway. People yell at them occassionally because they are not six feet apart. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Then in the fall as the second wave hit B.C., both his guides decided to stop running with him again. Luckily, he gained another two, Sam O’Shea and John Ball, through the B.C. Blind Sports and Recreation Association (BCBSRA) which vets guides for blind runners..

O’Shea actually saw Field running with a guide one day in his neighbourhood and thought it was the type of volunteering he wanted to do.

The 36-year-old has been a lifelong runner and moved from London to Vancouver two years ago with his wife and is now the father of a young son.

After reaching out to the BCBSRA, it didn’t take long before he and Field met to talk through a possible partnership and how they would stay safe by keeping their bubbles small and being honest with each other if any hint of illness developed.

O’Shea says he and Field share a passion for running that made it easy for them to train together. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Both runners said their concern about becoming infected with the coronavirus was low despite running close together and not wearing masks because of the exertion required in the sport.

“It just seemed like a non-issue to be honest,” said Field. “We trusted each other.”

O’Shea had never guided before and had to literally learn on the run, but the pair came together seamlessly because of their shared passion for running.

“Immediately I just realized  if I lost my vision and was unable to run … that would be … huge because running is quite a big part of my life,” he said. “I was pleased to be able to help him at the time when he needed it quite a lot. I think for both of us it was surprisingly good.”

76.3K of racing in 19 days

On Saturday, Field culminated his year of pandemic running by completing the “dynasty club” event as part of the virtual BMO Vancouver marathon, which entails running a five-kilometre, eight-kilometre, half-marathon and marathon distance over the course of one month.

Field completed the marathon in four hours and 23 minutes Saturday, giving him more than 76 kilometres of racing in just a 19 day period.

Field gave much of the credit for the accomplishment to his guides.

“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

“Simply by chance they came on board in November, you know had the time, had the energy and had no COVID worries and … we had that trust factor between us, so that made the difference.”

13Feb

Victoria taxi refused blind man service, discrimination complaint says | CBC News

by admin

A blind man claims a Victoria taxi refused to pick him and his guide dog up, and that a second taxi driver sent by the same company scolded him on his ride home for not warning dispatchers about his disability.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear 73-year-old Andrew McCreath’s discrimination complaint over the alleged incident, after denying Bluebird Cabs’ application last week to dismiss it.

In the tribunal’s reason for decision, McCreath claims the alleged discrimination took place after a doctor’s appointment in July 2017.

According to the documents, he asked the receptionist at the doctor’s office to call him a taxi, then went outside with his dog to wait for it.

McCreath alleges that the receptionist noticed him still standing outside when the taxi should have already arrived, so she called a second one.

He claims the first taxi driver arrived, saw he was blind and had a guide dog, and cancelled his trip.

“It’s quite humiliating,” said McCreath, who has been blind for the last 60 years and relies on his guide dog, a German shepherd named Marsh, to help him navigate his surroundings.

A taxi driver is not allowed to refuse service to a customer who is visually impaired and has a certified guide dog, according to the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.

Bluebird Cabs denies its drivers discriminated against McCreath.

The allegations have neither been proven nor formally heard by the tribunal.

Bluebird Cabs denies its drivers were discriminatory against McCreath and applied to have his complaint dismissed. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal rejected that application. (Facebook/Bluebird Cabs)

The 1st cab

According to the tribunal’s reason for decision, Bluebird’s GPS and dispatch records show that the first taxi arrived outside of the doctor’s office, waited for three minutes, then marked the fare as a no-show and drove off.

The first driver said he had no idea that the person he was picking up was blind because that information wasn’t on the trip profile when he accepted the call, the reason for decision says.

The driver claimed he did not see anyone who looked like they were waiting for a taxi, nor did he remember seeing a guide dog, and that’s why he cancelled the trip.

He also provided documents that shows he has taken trips with guide dogs before and after this incident.

But in his complaint, McCreath claims — based on his alleged conversation with the second cab driver — that the first driver did see him and chose to leave.

The 2nd cab

When the second cab arrived, McCreath alleges the driver told him the first cabby had an allergy and that’s why he couldn’t drive him, according to the tribunal documents.

McCreath also claims the second driver immediately scolded him for not informing Bluebird of his disability and requirements, then chastised him for the entire drive home.

The tribunal documents show Bluebird did not deny what the second driver said, and that no affidavit was submitted by the driver of the second cab.

2015 case favoured driver

During an application for dismissal, the tribunal only considers whether the allegations as stated violate B.C.’s Human Rights Code, and does not consider any defence or alternative theories.

In this case, “the allegations in the complaint go beyond conjecture and speculation and allege an arguable contravention of the code,” tribunal member Pamela Murray said in her decision.

The tribunal will now hold a hearing to determine whether McCreath was discriminated against.

It’s not the first time McCreath has taken a complaint about a taxi company to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. In 2015, he filed a complaint against Victoria Taxi for refusing him service because the driver said he had an allergy to dogs.

The tribunal ruled in favour of the driver in that case.

8Oct

Helping the blind to ‘see’: New Google app reads text out loud, warns of obstacles

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


Ian Stoba, who grew up in West Vancouver, heads a team at Google whose work helps blind people see.


PNG

On the other end of the phone line in the Seattle area, Ian Stoba held his phone up to his computer screen and it began reading the vancouversun.com page open on his computer screen to a listener in Vancouver.

“Just pointing it at the computer screen, it is able to read the text,” said Stoba, who grew up in West Vancouver.

It’s a Google app that is coming to Canada soon, one that alerts people with impaired vision of obstacles in their way and reads text to them.

What drew him to the accessibility team at Google?

Well, there’s the company’s corporate mission statement, for one: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Not everyone is as well-served as others are by existing technology, however. Like people who are blind, say, on the eve of Thursday’s World Sight Day.

“The idea is to try to use the data that exists in the world, find the information to make it useful to people,” Stoba said. “I was really interested in the intersection of technology and testability, and ways we could use some of the technology that was being developed at Google in ways that were genuinely helpful.”

Thus his phone reading The Vancouver Sun to a reporter inside the newspaper’s newsroom in East Van.

Google Accessibility’s app, Lookout, isn’t yet available in Canada but will be soon, the company says.

Among the app’s abilities is it can tell you what’s on the menu, if you’re at the correct gate at the airport, whether you’re about to walk into something (“chair at 12 o’clock”), just generally help people who are blind or have low sight identify objects in the world around them and navigate their way around all the written words that are out there.

“We call it environmental text,” Stoba said. “The amount of printed materials people interact with every day, for people who can’t see they don’t have access to that.”

One example the 53-year-old gives of environmental text is a person who was doing some work with his team and who used a guide dog.

“Guide dogs, like all dogs of course, need to go outside periodically, right? And so he’d taken his dog out and it was a nice day, he was sitting on a bench where the dog had helped guide him to. But what the dog couldn’t tell him was that there was a sign on the bench that said, ‘Wet paint.’ ”

The app, Stoba said, is a complement to guide dogs, white canes and echo location, and it’s pretty amazing, he said.

There are many winds in the road that brought him eventually to this project, but one thing that got him interested in helping people who are blind was watching a cousin, Barbara Morrison, translate Braille.

“I grew up hearing a lot about the work she had done, she was a multilingual Braille translator. She’d translate books, for example, from Japanese print to English Braille. One of the things that got me the most about the work she was doing … first of all, I thought that was fascinating while I was struggling with French lessons and she was translating all these different languages into Braille.

“But then she described the difficulty of things like illustrations or books that had cartoons in them and trying to explain visual humour in a way that was both concise and accurate enough for people to be able to follow along in Braille.”

It’s a bit, he added, like the area that Lookout operates in today, helping provide visual descriptions for things people with limited or no vision to perceive or interact with.

“It’s an interested thing as a sighted person to become a little more conscious of how much textual information you get from text that’s around us all the time,” he said. “I do joke about that paint sign, but it is a real thing. Just look around you and count how many signs or banners or bumper stickers or mail you get at home, it might have text that’s important or relevant to you, so you can really begin to see the value of something like this.”

19Jul

Blind man arrested after refusing to remove guide dog from Kamloops gas station store | CBC News

by admin

A late night stop for a coffee in Kamloops, B.C., last month quickly got out of hand when a gas station attendant refused service to a blind man because he had his guide dog in the store. 

Ben Fulton, a law student from Ontario, was arrested on June 16 for causing mischief after getting into an argument with a gas station employee over his guide dog, which the employee said was not allowed in the store.

“I explained to the clerk that it was a guide dog and by law we were allowed to be in the store,” Fulton told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. “He insisted that his manager had given him very strict instructions that no dogs at all were allowed.”

Fulton said the conversation escalated, when the attendant asked if he should call the police. 

Cpl. Jodi Shelkie with the Kamloops RCMP said the attendant told police that when he asked Fulton, his travelling companion and the dog to leave the store, that they became “very verbal and made physical gestures,” which the attendant interpreted as threatening. 

Fulton called the RCMP’s comments a “gross misstatement of the fact.”

“I was telling the clerk that the dog was a guide dog, so I was being verbal in that I was explaining the situation,” he said. “I held my card out so the clerk could see the card. That’s the only gesture that I can imagine he’s talking about.” 

When officers arrived at the gas station, Fulton expected they would tell the gas station employee that the law does allow guide dogs in public places. 

Instead, RCMP handcuffed him, put him in the back of a police car and arrested him for causing mischief.

“The male was unco-operative and began yelling at the officers and, at this time, the man was arrested to prevent continuation of the offence,” Shelkie said. 

After 20 minutes of speaking with Fulton and his travelling companion, RCMP released Fulton with no charges. 

B.C.’s Guide Dog Service Act says a guide dog team (the dog and the individual that needs its assistance) can access public spaces just like a person without a guide dog might, providing that the dog does not take up a seat meant for public use and that dog must be on a leash or harness.   

The Human Rights Code in B.C., says a person cannot be denied access to a service on the basis of a number of things, including physical disability. Fulton, being a law student, was aware of this and plans to file a complaint with B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal. 

“I will be pursuing whatever measures are necessary to make sure that these rights are being enforced and upheld in the province and indeed the country.”

In addition, Fulton wants the gas station employee and the RCMP officers involved to do some sensitivity training. 

“I think it might behoove them to do a little work in the community with disabled people,” he said. 

An Ontario man plans to file a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after an altercation with a gas station attendant over his guide dog led to him being arrested. 9:51

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18Jul

Blind man with guide dog denied service, arrested at Kamloops gas station

by admin

A man who’s blind was told his guide dog wasn’t allowed inside a Kamloops gas station, and when RCMP arrived, he thought they would defend his rights, but instead, the officers put him in handcuffs.

“I was very shocked and appalled,” said Ben Fulton. “I was just really surprised at how quickly it spiraled out of control.”

The Toronto man was on a road trip to celebrate after graduating law school, but things took a turn when he made a pit stop at the Shell gas station on the Trans-Canada Highway around 11:30 p.m. on June 16.

All Fulton can see is a grey blur since losing his vision to a rare disorder called retinitis pigmentosa two years ago. He relies on his guide dog, Abbie, to be his eyes.

He said the gas station clerk was adamant his manager gave him “strict instructions” that pets were not allowed.

He said when he tried to show the guide dog identification card and explain that Abbie is not a pet, but rather a working dog, the clerk did not change his position.

“When I was showing him the card, he didn’t want to look at the card. He didn’t want to hear what I was saying about Abbie being a guide dog. He didn’t seem to understand the law,” Fulton said.

“He asked me if I wanted him to call the cops I responded by saying that I would love it if he called the cops. I was expecting them to show up and enforce the law.”
 

Fulton handcuffed and put in police cruiser

Kamloops RCMP said they received a call about a man and woman who were yelling and threatening the clerk.

“When the officers attended at first, they noticed the man and woman. The dog was off to the side and behind them; they didn’t even notice the dog, they were focused on the man and woman,” said spokesperson Cpl. Jodi Shelkie.

Shelkie said the two officers asked Fulton and his friend to step outside because there were other customers inside the store, and when they refused, Fulton was arrested.

“The man and woman began yelling at them and the man was unco-operative. So to prevent continuation of the offence, the officers arrested the male and took him outside,” she said.

Fulton denied he was confrontational, maintaining that he was speaking calmly and he had simply wanted to show the officers his guide dog identification card.

“I was very calmly standing at the counter when they came in. I wasn’t yelling, I wasn’t saying anything,” he said. “The female officer asked me, ‘Why don’t we go outside and talk about this?’ So, I answered her question and I said, ‘I don’t want to go outside because I’m standing at the counter trying to get service.'”

Soon after, the other officer stepped in and put him in handcuffs and he was told he was being arrested for mischief.

He said he was overcome with fear when they placed him in the back of the cruiser.
 

‘Deficiency’ in RCMP training: Fulton

Kamloops RCMP defended the actions of the officers, saying protocols were followed.

“We have a lot of diversity training both for accessibility, cultural and racial situation and we deal with these on an ongoing basis. In this situation, as soon as they found out he’s blind, they removed him from handcuffs and he went on his way without charges. In this situation, the training very much worked,” said Shelkie.

Fulton believes the situation clearly demonstrates a lack in training because the officers were not able to recognize immediately that Abbie is a guide dog.

“I really think they should have known that I was blind just by seeing me by my guide dog. They should’ve known that she’s a guide dog by the fact that she’s wearing a harness. The fact that they weren’t able to identify that shows a deficiency in their training,” he said.

The CEO of B.C. Guide Dogs believes the Mounties unnecessarily escalated the situation.

“To put a person who has a guide dog in a police cruiser is just beyond my comprehension. I can’t understand how that would be the first step taken by a police officer. It’s atrocious,” said Bill Thornton.

He said when Fulton offered the officers his guide dog identification card, they should’ve taken a look at it.

“We’ve had guide dogs and service dogs in Canada for such a long time. It’s very disappointing to hear this type of event taking place.”

According to the B.C. Guide Dog and Service Dog Act, a guide and service dog is allowed to enter and use any place where the public is invited or has access to.

A Shell Canada spokesperson said they are working to understand what happened in the situation.

“Sales associates are expected to treat all customers with care and respect…We have reached out to the independent retailer who operates this site, along with the local RCMP, to further understand this incident,” said spokesperson Kristen Schmidt.

To prevent a similar situation from happening to anyone else, Fulton is in the process of filing a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

“It’s the best venue for having human rights enforced in the province. It’s important for me to not let this go unnoticed – for it to be swept under the rug,” Fulton said.


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