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What We’ve Done

ASIC has been creating equitable access since 1998. We’re thrilled about the progressive path we’ve cleared so far, and we’re not yet finished removing barriers to independent living for sight-impaired consumers. Read up on what we’re doing to get up-to-speed with ASIC.

On this page, we’d like you to consider the universal implications of our greatest efforts so far, from latest to earliest:

TransLink’s Compass Card integrated with CNIB’s national ID card — Completed December 2014

By collaborating with both CNIB and TransLink, we worked toward combining the current national identification card with the new Compass card, requiring a mass issue of this integrated card to sight-impaired consumers residing within TransLink boundaries. Once TransLink issues the combined card to current cardholders, they will use only this one single card for Metro Vancouver’s public transit system – specifically, Coast Mountain conventional and shuttle buses, SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus and West Coast Express – but excluding HandyDART. We expect this roll-out to be completed by the end of 2015.

Contributed to ‘Act, Listen & Act’, the Taxi Driver Training Curriculum – Completed January 2014

Hosted by the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD), ASIC participated with various pan-disability organizations and the Vancouver Taxi Association (VTA) in developing a taxi driver-training course entitled ‘Ask, Listen & Act’. This mandatory, specialized training course teaches drivers how to assist passengers with a wide range of disabilities, emphasizing the importance of inquiring and listening to determine the best way to assist passengers, specifically seniors and people with disabilities – and how to act upon given directions instead of making assumptions. ASIC’s main contribution to the course focused upon specific components addressing the needs of sight-impaired and deafblind consumers, with or without a guide dog.

Universally-Accessible Bus Stops – Pilot completed 2012 and we’re working to further this one!

Since Rick Hansen completed his Man in Motion World Tour in 1986, municipalities have been working toward ensuring accessibility for people with mobility impairments. Wheelchair ramps, curb cuts at intersection crosswalks and automatic or power door-openers are quickly becoming commonplace. Many public transit providers are working with municipalities to ensure transit stops are accessible to people using wheelchairs, scooters and other forms of mobility aids.

However, the ability for a sight-impaired consumer to locate a bus stop has always been extremely challenging. Many think it is simple to locate the bus shelter or the bus bench, but not all bus stops are alike and very few are identical in design. Even the bus pole onto which the bus stop sign is mounted can be very different at each stop.

In 1998, ASIC introduced BC Transit (and subsequently TransLink) to the concept of a universally-accessible bus stop designed to assist sight-impaired consumers to accurately locate a bus stop. Our determination and collaborative efforts began to bear fruit as of 2012, when TransLink piloted their universally-accessible bus stop design at the Joyce/Collingwood Exchange, the Newton Exchange in Surrey and the Carvolth Exchange in Walnut Grove.

The design features benefits for everyone, including:

  • installation of large-print transit information panels attached to the bus stop ID pole, which include bus route numbers and related information, in both braille and tactile formats
  • high colour-contrasting tactile material embedded in the sidewalk surface to indicate the location of the bus stop, easily detectable by mobility canes as well as footwear
  • bench Seating
  • bus Shelter

VanCity Savings Credit Union Offering Audio ATM Terminals – Completed September 2011

VanCity members who are sight-impaired can now take advantage of ATM terminals with audio features, at all VanCity branches (except in Squamish). This success is a result of several years of patient, dogged work by ASIC.

Sighted Guide Assistance for Boarding/Disembarking BC Ferries – Completed August 2010

ASIC is grateful to BC Ferries, whose management responded to our request to provide sighted guide assistance to and from the car deck to the passenger decks, when travelling to Vancouver Island via Greyhound or Pacific Coach Lines. The driver will inform the BC Ferries ticket agent upon arrival at the terminal who, in turn, will notify on-board ferry staff of required sighted guide assistance when the bus boards the ferry.

Way-finding (Street) Identification – Completed August 2010

Until very recently, blind, deafblind or sight-impaired pedestrians had little choice except to ask for help from other pedestrians if they were uncertain of their location. Travelling along busy streets and keeping track of their exact location was extremely difficult and often required intense concentration. Asking other pedestrians can be helpful, although often the information provided was inaccurate or skewed. Or, more frequently, there was no one close by to ask.

Working with accessible pedestrian signal (APS) manufacturers and local municipalities, ASIC has assisted in developing verbal way-finding messaging to access public street signage. Verbal way-finding messages enable the APS device to announce the names of the intersecting streets when the APS push button is pressed. The inclusion of braille/tactile signage enables a blind, deafblind or sight-impaired pedestrian to access public street signage almost as easily as it is for sighted pedestrians.

We have worked extensively with municipal traffic engineers to find an equitable balance in volume settings to eliminate extraneous sounds from these signal devices. To minimize any noise pollution emitted by these devices, we accept that audible tones emitted from the push button assemblies should only be audible within a 3.5-metre radius. Anyone who requires amplified audible tones can increase the volume by pushing the button for 1.5 seconds to increase the volume for their single crossing. For additional information on this feature, refer to Item 18 within the Position Statement on Accessible Pedestrian Signals.

Alternate Format Billing Statements – Completed September 2009

Telephone and cellular service providers have now made billing statements available in alternate formats (i.e. braille or large-print) for many years. Through ASIC’s efforts, alternate format billing statements are also now available through BC Hydro and Power Authority, Fortis BC (formerly Terasen Gas), and Shaw Communications.

Independent Voting During Elections – Partially-completed April 2009 and we’re working to further this one!

Sight-impaired consumers have waited a long time to exercise their right to mark their own ballots in a private and independent manner well-afforded by sighted people. Why should we not be empowered to mark our own ballots? Already, federal, provincial and municipal election acts permit a designate (or an election official) to assist a person with a disability by marking the election ballot on their behalf. Having a designate mark the ballot offers some level of convenience, but it leaves sight-impaired consumers with an unnerving degree of uncertainty around the requested ballot mark.

In 2009, following several years of cooperative efforts between ASIC and Elections BC, British Columbia conducted the first-ever general election wherein sight-impaired consumers, including those who are deafblind, could privately and independently mark their own ballots in a general election.

This was accomplished through the provision of:

  • large-print wall posters identical to the smaller ballot, enabling sight-impaired consumers to review the ballot in advance
  • a list of candidates in braille format
  • a plastic template with braille/tactile numbers beside each marking point, enabling the voter to match the points with candidate names, into which the ballot was placed – and if not a braille user, the voter could locate the corresponding points to mark as the candidate names are read aloud

By 2011, some BC municipalities provided a more advanced technology solution to accommodate a much broader spectrum of consumers with disabilities. These municipalities made available the newest technology through an accessible voting terminal known as the AutoMark Accessible Voting Terminal®.

While the terminal’s printer did the actual marking, this technology enabled sight-impaired consumers to review the candidates and political parties via a synthesized speech output, press a button to make a selection, and have the terminal read back their choice prior to actually marking the ballot. Further, deafblind consumers could use the braille display connected to the terminal, and people who were unable to mark their ballot due to physical disabilities could use a ‘sip and puff’ option to control their choices.

In future, we’ll be working with election authorities to promote wider use of this accessible voting terminal technology, and perhaps a more convenient and fully-accessible online and telephone voting process.

Automated Bus Stop Announcements – Completed January 2008

For years, sight-impaired consumers have had to rely on transit operators to announce stops. The only other option was to inform the operator of their intended destination and hope/trust the operator would inform them when they reached the requested stop. Unfortunately, transit operators rarely announced the stops, and they often forgot the requests of sight-impaired consumers.

Following years of educating TransLink and its operators about the value and necessity of announcing stops, ASIC lobbied for the technology to provide automated stop announcements, which were finally introduced in January 2008. This feature now enables sight-impaired consumers to ride public transit with confidence and independence, knowing they can determine their own arrival. Automated stop announcements have also proven to be a valuable service for sighted consumers, seniors, new arrivals and tourists in Metro Vancouver.

Dedicated VIP Assistance Line – Completed October 2006

In 2006, SkyTrain introduced the “VIP Assistance Line” – a dedicated phone line for blind or sight-impaired consumers’ requesting sighted guide assistance in or about a SkyTrain station. In 2009, Canada Line also began to offer this assistance.

Blind or sight-impaired consumers can request sighted guide assistance by using any of the following methods:

  • emergency phones in the designated waiting areas of each station
  • intercoms on any of the station elevators
  • on-board intercoms located inside the entry/exit doors of each ALRT vehicle
  • calling (604) 520-5518 for SkyTrain assistance
  • calling (604) 247-5703 for Canada Line assistance

ALRT Tactile Platform Edging – Completed 2005

In the wake of an awareness campaign in the mid-nineties, coordinated by a group of sight-impaired transit users, ASIC was successful in increasing TransLink’s understanding of the hazardous conditions and risky environments existing at all SkyTrain stations on the Expo Line.

As a result, TransLink installed high colour-contrasting tactile platform edging, serving as a general safety warning and providing an accessible environment for blind, deafblind and sight-impaired consumers. This tactile platform edging is now a TransLink standard on all SkyTrain and Canada Line station platforms, including all expansion plans.

Automatic Directory Assistance Call Completion – Completed September 2003

Through an application to the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission), ASIC successfully requested Telus to provide ADACC (automatic directory assistance call completion). This enables a registered “B” customer to call 411 (directory assistance) and then press ‘1’ to automatically connect to the requested number – at no extra charge.

Famous Players Providing Descriptive Video Service/Rear-Window Captioning – Completed November 2002

A long time ago, Famous Players Theatres began offering audio amplification for people with hearing impairments and accessible venues for people using mobility aids. However, the needs of sight-impaired consumers were entirely overlooked. Addressing the issue with the Famous Players’ President/CEO resulted in the installation of both rear-window captioning and descriptive video services (RWC/DVS). These two features have greatly enhanced the entertainment experience for both totally deaf and sight-impaired consumers. Now, a group of totally blind friends can enjoy a movie together without requiring a sighted person to describe the body language, facial expressions, scenery or other visual elements appearing on-screen.

As Cineplex Entertainment is now the primary source of the movie theatre industry, ASIC is in regular communication with the executive management team as they upgrade their digitally-equipped theatres and prepare to offer RWC/DVS services through the new CaptiView captioning® systems for the hearing-impaired. Fidelio®, the latest in described video technology, was recently made available to blind and sight-impaired consumers.