Advocates Spearhead Canadian Deafblind Bill of Rights

Thursday, May 31, 2018 General News
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Canadian Landmarks, Agencies Celebrate Deafblind Awareness Month in June

Coalition works to educate and make a wave from coast to coast

TORONTO, May 31, 2018 /CNW/ - Deafblind advocates are helping the Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind spearhead the creation of the first-ever Canadian bill of rights for people who are deafblind.


announcement of details about the bill of rights coincides with National Deafblind Awareness Month in June.

"Deafblind Awareness Month in Canada needs to become a true celebration for all Canadians who are deafblind, and that will happen when all Canadians who are deafblind are able to receive the services they need in order to be full participants in their communities," said Megan McHugh, a Toronto resident and president of the Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind (CNSDB).

Members of CNSDB's board have been working on the bill of rights for several years.

The goal of the bill of rights is to educate individuals who are deafblind about their rights, while also increasing awareness in the general public about these rights.

Together, this can help break down barriers that limit people who are deafblind from fully participating in Canadian society.

At the heart of the bill of rights is entrenching the lifelong right to support services, known as Intervenor Services or Support Service Providers, depending on the individual province.

"The CNSDB believes that access to lifelong Intervenor Services or Support Service Providers should be considered a basic human right for individuals who are deafblind, regardless of geographic location," McHugh said.

At the moment, levels of Intervenor Services or Support Service Providers vary from province to province, a source of frustration to the deafblind community. An estimated 65,000 Canadians are deafblind.

An intervenor facilitates the interaction of the person who is deafblind with other people and the environment. For Margaret, who receives support from DeafBlind Ontario Services, her intervenor provides her with information about the environment and what is happening (using receptive language), assists her  to communicate (using expressive language), and also provides or develops concepts where necessary with her. Margaret's intervenor additionally confirms actions, assists her with life skills and most importantly, empowers her  to achieve as much independence as possible. The intervenor takes direction from the individual who is deafblind.

Another important tenet of the bill of rights is equal access to communication.

Individuals who are deafblind use a variety of communication methods such as sign language, tactile sign language, two-hand manual, spoken language, picture cues, large print notes and tangible symbols, among others. Some use specialized devices or equipment as communication tools.

Margaret, who is non-verbal and has some hearing, primarily uses tactile communication which is her preferred method of communication to express herself. She additionally uses object cues to communicate and be an active participant in all areas of her life. For example, a wooden spoon may be used as a cue for baking, a shoe for walking, or a plastic detergent spout for doing laundry.

"The CNSDB believes that all communication methods should be respectfully provided according to one's preferred methods of communication," McHugh said.

The bill of rights would also advocate for the right to assistive technology, the right to public education with access to Intervenor Services or Support Service Providers, as well as offer protections related to quality of life and basic safety.

"For many Canadians, it is difficult to imagine what it must be like to live with a combined loss of both vision and hearing. Our national awareness initiative is extremely important because Canadians who are deafblind have tremendous potential in their daily lives, as participants in their communities and as employees," said Jennifer Robbins, chair of the National Deafblind Awareness Month Committee and executive director of Canadian Helen Keller Centre in Toronto.

National Deafblind Awareness Month was proclaimed by the Canadian Senate in 2015. It is held in June because it is the birth month of Helen Keller, one of the most internationally recognized people who lived with deafblindness.

"This is our third year executing an annual Deafblind Awareness Month campaign that is celebrated by making a wave from coast to coast," Robbins said.

"We recognize the strength, courage and dedication that deafblind people show every day in living their lives and facing their daily challenges," Robbins added.

The bill of rights is considered a living document that will continue to change and develop, based on the needs, goals and evolution of the deafblind community, and in response to new developments in society, such as changes in service levels and government support.

"We received valuable input from many people and we are still looking for more input, especially from the deafblind community," McHugh said.

Members of the deafblind community hope Canadians pause to reflect on deafblindness when they see many familiar landmarks in Canada lit up in blue to celebrate National Deafblind Awareness Month during June. The following landmarks will be illuminated in blue:

June 1, Vancouver City HallJune 14, Calgary TowerJune 14, Parc Olympique, MontrealJune 15, CN Tower, TorontoJune 15, Toronto City Hall TowersJune 15, Toronto SignJune 15, Peace Bridge, Fort Erie, Ont.June 15, Anvil Centre, New Westminster, B.C.

Please see a calendar of events for National Deafblind Awareness Month at

About National Deafblind Awareness Month

The annual National Deafblind Awareness Month initiative is led by groups and organizations that support people who are deafblind. The goal is to share information about the unique disability of deafblindness and the supports available through Intervenor Services with members of the public.

Participating agencies include Canadian Helen Keller Centre, DeafBlind Ontario Services and Canadian Deafblind Association Ontario Chapter as founding members, as well as:

Alberta Society of the Deaf-BlindCanadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind (CNSDB)E-Quality Communications Centre of Excellence, ManitobaCanadian Deafblind Association British ColumbiaCanadian Deafblind Association NationalCanadian Deafblind Association New BrunswickCanadian Deafblind Association OntarioCNIB AlbertaCNIB OntarioDeaf-Blind Association of TorontoGeorge Brown College, Intervenor for Deafblind Persons ProgramGreater Vancouver Association of the Deaf-BlindIntervenor Organization of OntarioLions McInnes HouseManitoba Deaf-Blind AssociationResource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-BlindUsher Syndrome Association of QuebecW. Ross Macdonald School

Founded in 1989, DeafBlind Ontario Services is a not-for-profit organization that helps individuals who are deafblind increase their independence and improve their quality of life through specialized services. With residential locations and community services programs across the province, their services extend into a wide range of communities in Ontario.



Twitter: @DeafBlindON

Instagram: @DeafBlindON

SOURCE DeafBlind Ontario Services

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