At a meeting held the morning of Saturday January 17th, 1998, with 20 members of the blind community present, the concept of a consumer-driven advocacy coalition was discussed and a few short weeks later, Advocates for Sight-Impaired Consumers was born. After 20 years of providing advocacy services for the benefit of British Columbians and other Canadians, after engaging a total of 122 individuals to serve on its volunteer board at different times, and after undergoing a minor amendment to its brand in 2007, the Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers Board has elected to wind down its entire operation effective May 31st, 2017. In doing so, it leaves behind a legacy of independence and access initiatives that will benefit persons who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted for generations to come. The list in part, includes:
- Leading the call for and creating the position paper for accessible pedestrian signals including wayfinding messages, a pedestrian clearance tone and other optional functionalities.
- Successfully advocating for high-contrast tactile platform edging on all Metro Vancouver SkyTrain and Canada Line platforms.
- Successfully advocating for and seeing the initial implementation of descriptive video and closed captioning services in Famous Players theatres that expanded into identical services in Cineplex Entertainment complexes across Canada.
- Developing the concept of, and assisting with the implementation of, the “VIP Assistance Line” which provides sighted guide assistance in and around SkyTrain and Canada Line stations.
- Successfully advocating for the installation and implementation of automated stop announcements on all conventional transit and community shuttle routes operated by the Coast Mountain Bus Company in Metro Vancouver.
- Successfully advocating for the installation of audio ATM machines at Vancouver City Savings Credit Union branches.
- Creating a heightened awareness amongst senior officials at Elections BC of the needs of voters who are blind or partially sighted and working collaboratively with Elections BC to provide braille candidate lists, large-print facsimile posters of the election ballot, rigid plastic voting templates, a pilot telephone voting option for all persons with a disability for the 2017 general election, and participating in the creation of a training/awareness video to educate election officials on how best to assist voters with sight loss.
- Successfully advocating for the expansion of the Taxi Bill of Rights throughout BC which was voluntarily adopted by 33 taxi companies.
- Successfully advocating for the design and implementation of universally accessible bus stops with appropriate features to assist transit users with various disabilities (including blindness) so that they can independently locate a public transit passenger loading zone in the Metro Vancouver area.
- Successfully advocating for a pilot installation of taxi meters with optional audio output by the Vancouver Taxi Association. The success of the pilot project has resulted in the BC Passenger Transportation Board establishing guidelines for the implementation, installation and operation of Soft Meters (tablet-based) with optional audio output.
- Successfully advocating for the availability of accessible prescription medication information in an audio format from 10 pharmacy chains throughout BC.
These are only some examples of the many projects that were the focus of ASIC’s attention over the years.
As the ASIC Board works to tie up all administrative and operational duties by May’s month end, it is their intention to update the Resources section of the ASIC website and to leave the entire website running for as long as feasible. The Community Calendar will be discontinued. Accessible Media Inc began featuring audio promotions of community events throughout BC starting mid-April 2017. Details regarding community events may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASIC’s Contact Us web page has been updated and now offers a telephone number which will be manned by former ASIC Board member Reed Poynter going forward. British Columbians who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted may write to our existing email address or call to obtain the name(s) of various resources when tackling a self-advocacy issue. Or, individuals may seek assistance from any one of the many other consumer advocacy organizations listed on our web page at: https://www.asicbc.ca/resources/ConsumerOrganizations/Pages/default.aspx.
At the close of the final meeting of Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers, ASIC’s Chair Rob Sleath summarized by saying: “The past 20 years has given many caring and compassionate individuals an opportunity to give back to their community by volunteering time and energy toward the goal of improving the independence and access for British Columbians who are blind, deafblind or sight-impaired. It has been an honour and a privilege to work with these individuals, and we hope our efforts will enhance the independence of all British Columbians for years to come. To all those who supported Access with Sight-Impaired Consumers with donations, gifts-in-kind, financial support and/or through their donations of time and energy, I extend a simple but most sincere thank you! We could not have achieved so much without your generous and valued support.”