At the beginning of December the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired was made a publisher by Library and Archives Canada. Achieving this designation allowed us to create an initiative, launched on World Braille Day, to create accessible books in electronic text, audio, and Braille as part of our effort to increase literacy of people who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf blind. We have called this initiative Camp Bowen Books.
Expanding on our outreach initiatives from last year that saw a telephone information line created for the dissemination of society news, the board launched Canadian Blindness Services (canadianblindnessservices.com) to collect as much information as possible on the resources available to blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind Canadians. When complete it will also have information on blindness, partial sight, and deaf blindness of interest to families, employers, organizations, and others who want to make a difference in this space. We began promoting the service, though it is still in its infancy, at the 2018 White Cane Week event held at the Park Royal Shopping Centre in North Vancouver, BC on February 8, 2018.
Also in February, the society began work on Bailey, a machine learning tool designed to speed up and reduce effort required for the production of 21st century ready accessible books. Bailey is a software application that works by learning from the work of human book producers and applying the knowledge she gains to automatically perform common production tasks. Bailey, has been hard at work and will have her first set of books complete soon. This includes the greater than 162 titles the society will be contributing free of charge to the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). By using Bailey, volunteers will be able to produce public domain titles faster and more efficiently than ever before. Bailey can produce multiple forms of ebooks, DAISY books, audiobooks, and Braille books and we are excited to see where she will go next.
In April, the society launched a pilot program for its training initiative. The pilot will help to inform decisions regarding delivery of training services and will be followed up by an expanded pilot ahead of the development of a live-in independence living skills training centre.
Finally, the society continues to advocate for the rights of the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community and our Bowen Island neighbours in the dispute over the Bowen Island Lodge situation as it pertains to the covenant governing the use of the lands and facilities. The covenant, which restricts the property to having the principal use as a training, meeting, and recreation space for those who are blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind, is not being properly followed by the current management, who have not yet addressed safety, accessibility, and affordability concerns that make the property in its current state unusable by the principal use group. The significant issues surrounding the Bowen Island Lodge came to a head early in 2017 after attempts to resolve said issues with the owners who purchased the property in 2016 came to a standstill. As a result of the issues, which span the categories of safety, accessibility, affordability, and facility access, summer camps have been postponed until 2019. The society has been working tirelessly with the community of Bowen Island and the Bowen Island Municipality to resolve these issues and remains committed to ensuring that the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community’s rights of access to the Bowen Island Lodge are upheld. For progress updates, visit our website at: