Meet Guide Dog Owners in Victoria at BC Ministry of Justice December 3 at 1:30

Please come and meet our guide dog owners and their companions this Thursday, at 1:30 p.m. outside the Ministry of Justice, 1001 Douglas Street, Victoria, British Columbia and learn the news that will change lives.

Canadian Federation of the Blind will demand the end to discrimination spearheaded by those whose responsibility it is to protect the disabled.

“Taxi drivers use phony dog allergy claims to deny service to people who use guide dogs. Unbelievably the BC Human Rights Tribunal has bought into this sham,” said Mary Ellen Gabias, President of Canadian Federation of the Blind.

Evidence shows no driver allergies exist in any of the published British Columbia human rights cases. Blind people and their trusted guides now have no remedy when drivers discriminate against them. The Human Rights Tribunal is ignoring the facts and destroying guide dog owners’ access rights on a taxi driver’s whim.

Blind citizens will challenge this notion and will be making an important announcement on Thursday, December 3, on the International Day for People with Disabilities.

Support Justice for People Who Use Guide Dogs

Without your immediate help, three quarters of a century’s work establishing the access rights of guide dog teams may be casually swept away in British Columbia!

Discrimination by the taxi industry is just fine, no more than a minor inconvenience, according to Jacqueline Beltgens of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

We need your help to raise fifteen thousand dollars to fight for legal redress of a Tribunal decision that gives more credence to hearsay about a taxi driver’s unproven dog allergy than to the rights of a person with a guide dog.

Please go to

to make your cry for justice heard. As you read Graeme McCreath’s story, consider the implications for guide dog teams everywhere.

Graeme McCreath just wanted to go out for a casual evening with a few friends on July 15, 2014. He never intended to walk into a humiliating bureaucratic nightmare.

The story is all too familiar to anybody who cares about guide dogs and human rights. A friend phoned a taxi. When it arrived, the driver, Bruce MacGregor, announced, “I can’t take the dog. I’ll get you another cab.”

The refusal of service was a public humiliation. It was also a direct violation of British Columbia’s Guide Animal Act.

British Columbia has two laws that are supposed to protect people who travel with guide dogs. The Guide Animal Act says: “A person with a disability accompanied by a guide animal has the same rights, privileges and obligations as a person not accompanied by an animal.” The British Columbia Human Rights Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

The law seemed extremely clear. Graeme McCreath sought justice from the Human Rights Tribunal. After a year of filings and discussions, the matter finally went to hearing on July 14, 2015. Graeme McCreath, Bruce MacGregor, and Sean Convy, the manager of Victoria Taxi, had nearly a year, more than ample opportunity to produce evidence. The only documentation the taxi company produced was a vaguely worded slip from a walk-in clinic that didn’t mention allergies and an internally produced document noting that MacGregor had been given an “exception.” Both were dated months after the 2014 incident.

Graeme McCreath and three witnesses to the event testified at the hearing. Bruce MacGregor didn’t even bother to attend. Sean Convy, the manager of Victoria Taxi, represented his company, since the human rights complaint named Victoria Taxi because the company’s policies allow MacGregor and other drivers to refuse service.

The facts are undisputed. Graeme McCreath is blind and was accompanied by his certified guide dog. Bruce MacGregor gave no reason for refusing to transport Graeme when the event occurred, but Sean Convy later claimed that MacGregor has both a dog phobia and a dog allergy. Since MacGregor wasn’t there, he never verified Convy’s claim.

This is how the tribunal described Graeme McCreath’s assertion that he had suffered discrimination.

“[28] Mr. McCreath has established a prima facie case of discrimination. He has a physical disability, he suffered an adverse impact when he was denied a ride by the Taxi Driver, and he was denied the ride because he was accompanied by his guide dog.“

Yet the tribunal dismissed Graeme McCreath’s case!

The tribunal ruled that denial of service by one driver was a minor inconvenience since another cab arrived within a few minutes. One wonders how the tribunal would have responded to Rosa Parks. After all, it is also only slightly more inconvenient to walk a few extra steps to the back of the bus.

Since MacGregor didn’t bother even to appear at the hearing, he never had to explain his actions or answer a single question about his reason for refusing to transport Graeme McCreath. Nevertheless, the tribunal ruled that MacGregor had a “disability” that entitled him to an “accommodation” from the company. Beltgens referred repeatedly to MacGregor’s “disability” as an allergy based on hearsay testimony from Sean Convy. Without documentation, Beltgens voided MacGregor’s responsibility to obey the law. No proof was required; a claim with no substantiation of the severity of the alleged allergy was enough.

We’ve all met people who say they have a “vision impairment” when what they mean is that they wear reading glasses. Their “impairment” exists, but it doesn’t constitute a disability as the term is generally understood. Anyone who wants to establish blindness medically must be seen by an ophthalmologist, a physician with the highest available credential for treating eye conditions. The tests are exacting; all available corrective measures must be undertaken before certification of blindness can be made.

The word “allergy” also has variable definitions, ranging from mild sniffles to anaphylactic shock. Clearly anaphylactic shock is disabling. Sneezes are not. Yet the tribunal did not require that MacGregor’s claim of a disabling allergy be documented by a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic conditions. She specifically and categorically ruled out any finding that anyone claiming an allergy exemption from transporting guide dogs should undergo treatment, calling the suggestion “untenable.”

Ms. Beltgens writes: “The Tribunal has determined that an allergic reaction to animals can constitute a physical disability under the Code.” She behaves as if it not only can, but that merely asserting the presence of an allergy is sufficient to claim disability status, even though the presence and severity of the allergy is unproven.

Graeme McCreath’s case uncovered disturbing evidence of systemic discriminatory practices on the part of Victoria Taxi. Beltgens writes: “He (Mr. Convy, the manager of Victoria Taxi)says that, in addition to taxi drivers, the owners of a particular taxi are also entitled to place an exception to having animals in a car. He says that five of the owners of taxi cabs have also placed exceptions on their cars preventing the transport of animals.” Refusing to take pet dogs is an owner’s right. However, the tribunal never raised any issue concerning the legality of applying a “no animals” policy to guide dogs, even though failing to make that distinction is a clearly discriminatory practice.

Unless we challenge this decision, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has written a manual on how to discriminate and get away with it! You drive a taxi and don’t want to vacuum dog hair? No problem. Just file an exemption so that no dogs can ride in your cab. If you want to be really sure that you can get away with denying service, go to a walk in clinic and ask the doctor on duty to give you a note that says you have “medical reasons” for not transporting dogs.

With only a little creativity, Ms. Beltgens reasoning can easily be extended to include restaurants or other businesses: “I can’t serve you because I’m allergic. It’s only slightly inconvenient to go next door.”

We do not want to deny the legitimate claims of taxi drivers and other workers who genuinely suffer with disabling allergies. They should be accommodated by their employers. We know what genuine disability means and we’re passionate about protecting all people with disabilities. That is why we are passionate about not wanting disability to be trivialized by those who frivolously and fraudulently seek to claim disability protection.

We urge you to go to

and contribute what you can. Graeme McCreath was victimized twice – once when he was refused service and again, in an even more profound manner, when a tribunal set up to protect his rights actively engaged in denying them. If people who care about guide dogs and human rights don’t stand together, British Columbia may lead the way in erosion of our rights. If we stand alone here, we may fall separately all across North America.


Mary Ellen Gabias, President

Canadian Federation of the Blind

P.S. We realize this story seems nearly impossible. Human Rights tribunals were set up specifically to put an end to unfair treatment on the basis of characteristics like disability. With that mandate, how could a tribunal rule the way this tribunal ruled? If you doubt this decision was based on hearsay and that the facts were massaged to permit a preordained conclusion in favour of the business interests of Victoria Taxi, we invite you to read Ms. Beltgens ruling, with all its tortured reasoning, on the BC Human Rights Tribunal web site.

Blind denied access

(A letter to The Vancouver Sun by Doris Belusic,)

Re: Taxis can snub service animals, Oct. 20

Jacqueline Beltgens of B.C. Human Rights Tribunal says Graeme McCreath was only “inconvenienced,” when a Victoria Taxi driver denied him service and called a second cab to pick him up. Was Rosa Parks only “inconvenienced” by being shunted to the back of the bus, even though it would arrive at her destination the same time as the front? McCreath was discriminated against, plain and simple.

At the hearing McCreath supplied proof of certification of his guide dog and of his blindness. In contrast, the taxi company lacked any specific dog allergy proof, even stating that some drivers just don’t want to take dogs. Yet the tribunal found the taxi driver’s evidence sufficient to dismiss McCreath’s case. Beltgens defied reason and endorsed discriminatory practices of Victoria Taxi, setting blind people’s equal access rights back decades. Beltgens and the Human Rights Tribunal didn’t “get” what discrimination is.

Blind taxi user was doubly victimized

(A letter to the editor of The Victoria Times Colonist by Frederick Driver.)

Re: “Tribunal dismisses blind man’s complaint against taxi,” Oct. 27. B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Jacqueline Beltgens has erred in ruling against guide-dog user Graeme McCreath. McCreath was not seeking a special “accommodation,” but rather the protection of his lawful rights.

The Guide Animal Act clearly states that “a person with a disability accompanied by a guide animal may, in the same manner as a person not accompanied by an animal, enter and use an accommodation, conveyance, eating place, lodging place or any other place to which the public is invited or has access so long as the guide animal is prevented from occupying a seat… and held by a leash or harness … A person must not interfere with the exercise of [this] right.”

It is the taxi driver who is seeking a special accommodation, not the guide-dog user. If such an accommodation is warranted, it is up to the taxi company to do the accommodating – not McCreath.

It is outrageous that the company thinks denying McCreath his access rights under the law is an acceptable way to accommodate its employee. It must find another way – one that does not break the law. (Perhaps the installation of a Plexiglas barrier between front and back, which would also be beneficial for drivers’ security and ventilation. Perhaps a desk job.) McCreath’s rights are crystal clear and have been violated. He has now been doubly victimized, once by Victoria Taxi, and once by the Human Rights Tribunal.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal Trashes Guide Animal Act After a Taxi Driver Refused a Blind Man with His Guide Dog

“On 15th October, 2015, MS Jacqueline Beltgens, a BC Human Rights Tribunal Member, set blind people’s access rights back 40 years,” says Oriano Belusic, First Vice President of the Canadian Federation of the Blind.

Although conceding Mr. McCreath was clearly a victim of discrimination under section 8 of the human rights code, MS Beltgens found, despite a lack of evidence, that Victoria Taxi’s policy of permitting drivers to deny access was not a violation of the human rights code. Beltgens accepted hearsay comments from the Victoria Taxi manager and dismissed the case.

Beltgens also ruled that, because a taxi arrived quickly to replace the one that refused McCreath service, discrimination should be rebranded as just an “inconvenience.”

Belusic asks, “was Rosa Parks only inconvenienced?”

The BC Guide Animal Act says that blind people and their guide dogs have a right to unimpeded access – this right is not an accommodation under that law. Beltgens ruled against a blind person with a proven disability in favor of a taxi driver with an unproven disability claim.

Graeme McCreath, the blind man who was refused service in a very public manner on the streets of Victoria on the evening of July 15, 2014, says, “Discrimination is always unjust, humiliating and gets to the soul, but when the BCHRT targets the disadvantaged we truly have a broken system. If the BCHRT cannot provide justice where can blind people turn?”

“An independent review is the only recourse after such a decision, since the tribunal is clearly ruling in a manner that contravenes the principles in the Guide Animal Act and the recently passed Guide and Service Dog Act,” states Belusic

For further information:
Phone: 250-598-7154.

Watch Anne Malone’s Talk at TEDxStJohns: License to Beg

In the past, to be blind was to live in shame; considered a punishment for sins in a past life. The idea that being ‘legally’ blind and it’s middle age origin is almost criminal, and yet, as beggars had to prove their disability to find the favour of charity, we live in a day and age where Anne has to present an ID, from a charity, to prove that she is different. Anne challenges all of our views of legal blindness.

Anne Malone is a writer, speaker, and creator who envisions and advocates freedom from disability for people who are blind.

B.C. Transit Will Trial New Call-Out System on Buses — Helping Riders Locate Streets and Stops

By Doris Belusic

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”
~ Earl Nightingale

On Friday, July 17, 2015, Victoria members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB), a grass-roots advocacy organization of blind people, along with B.C. Transit personnel, rode around town on a bus equipped with the latest GPS Trekker Breeze. It is being trialled by B.C. Transit as an automated annunciation system. It will call out streets travelled, all cross streets and be modified to call out points of interest, such as Craigdarroch Castle or Mayfair and Hillside Malls. In August, B.C. Transit plans to install it on 25 Victoria buses. If the trial period is successful, it will be rolled out onto the rest of Victoria’s fleet in September; then later in B.C.’s smaller communities.

After more than 15 persistent years of advocacy by CFB members, including a recent human rights tribunal, to get an automated annunciation system onto buses, this is a major accomplishment. Blind transit riders, tourists, seniors and others will now be able to know where the bus is along a route and when to exit independently. No more relying on drivers’ memories and missing stops.

B.C. Transit sought bids until May 5 from companies for automated annunciation systems. According to David Guthrie, of B.C. Transit, the bids were either too expensive or not in trial-ready working order. B.C. Transit decided to re-try CFB’s original suggestion of several years ago. They teamed up with Humanware, a Canadian company which makes Trekker Breeze, originally a blindness-specific GPS system. Today, the updated Trekker Breeze is much advanced and there are now 12 tracking satellites, so the system appears to work very well, even between taller buildings. Guthrie says this lower cost, simpler, more informative system is the first of its kind on buses anywhere.

“It could be revolutionary,” says Oriano Belusic, CFB’s first vice president. “This system is B.C. Transit’s answer to provide blind people with necessary information so they can use public transit independently until such time they install the much more complex and costly smart bus AVL technology.”

The Trekker Breeze will be hardwired to the PA system, which includes at least six speakers from front to back inside each bus. Guthrie says the Trekker Breeze will be encased in plastic and will automatically turn on when the bus is started. The driver needs little or no training and only has to adjust volume. Call-outs should easily be able to be heard (they must be heard) over ambient noise of air conditioners and people’s voices.

“There will undoubtedly be wrinkles to iron out,” says Mary Ellen Gabias, CFB president. “One thing is completely clear to everyone: Blind people have a right to information. We are no longer relegated to the fringes of transit planning.”

“Members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind are very pleased that B.C. Transit is taking concrete steps to equip our buses with automated GPS stop annunciation devices,” says Belusic. “Five of us had an opportunity to test drive a demonstration bus that worked very well and with some fine tuning the new system will definitely make public transit more accessible for blind riders and many others.”

CFB will certainly keep a check on progress, but if the system works well in day-to-day general transit use, as it appears it should, CFB would like to commend B.C. Transit for stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing. Soon blind and visually impaired people will also be able to travel with dignity and confidence.

Bill 17 Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Bill 17 as currently written would shift the focus from protecting access rights for people using guide dogs to catching impostors at the expense of law-abiding blind individuals, according to the Canadian Federation of the Blind.

“Taxis often won’t take us,” says Graeme McCreath of Victoria, who has frequently been refused service because he is accompanied by his guide dog Adrienne. “We wanted the province to clarify and strengthen enforcement of our access rights. Instead, they’re forcing us to jump through more bureaucratic hoops and creating the false presumption that we are perpetrating fraud until we prove otherwise.

Oriano Belusic, first vice-president of the Canadian Federation of the Blind and a guide dog user for more than 35 years, is waiting to see what the legislature does before deciding whether to replace his dog, Hillie, who recently died. “I love the speed and ease of movement I have always had with my dogs, but it’s not worth it if every shopkeeper, restauranteur and cab driver can demand to see my credentials. Current law presumes I have a right to go about my business. Bill 17 will force me to prove, over and over again, that I have rights. Proponents say certification is like a driver’s license, but it’s not; the police only ask to see a license when a driver appears to be doing something illegal. This bill would mean that anybody could demand to see my certification before they even let me in the door.”

The Federation estimates there are approximately 80 guide dogs in the province. “We haven’t encountered problems with people pretending to be blind in order to bring phony guide dogs into public places,” Belusic states. “For guide dog users, this proposal is a draconian solution to a nonexistent problem.”

Dr. Paul Gabias, a blind university professor in Kelowna who has trained six guide dogs, knows certification offers no protection for the public against badly behaved dogs. “Certification only proves that a team worked correctly on the day the certification was issued. I’ve seen people from fully accredited schools who have ruined dogs. I’ve seen dogs whose work has deteriorated because of trauma. I’ve also seen privately trained dogs that have worked beautifully. The law already requires that dogs be kept under control at all times and permits any business to remove a badly behaved guide dog.”

“Why is the province punishing us for the behavior of impostors without disabilities?” asks McCreath. “Why not make it an offense to misrepresent a pet as a service dog, require community service for violators, and leave our access rights intact? That’s simpler, much cheaper, and far more just than creating a new bureaucracy.”

Gabias agrees. “People determined to commit fraud will find ways to fake certification documents,” he says. “I would much rather tolerate a few bad actors than impinge upon access rights.”

“There are some very fine access improvements in Bill 17,” says Belusic. “Even so, if the focus isn’t changed from catching phonies to protecting blind people, we’ll be better off if it does not pass.”

Canadian Federation of the Blind
Tel: (250) 598-7154

About the Canadian Federation of the Blind

The Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) is a grassroots nonprofit organization made up of blind people working together and supporting one another to improve the quality of lives of the blind in Canada. The CFB’s goal is not only to change and improve the quality of blind Canadians’ lives, but also to educate sighted Canadians by changing the negative stigma that society has attached to blindness. The CFB is unique because it involves blind people teaching other blind people, builds on the individual strengths of each blind person, and teaches that blindness does not have to define an individual.

The organization consists of members from a diverse range of cultural and professional backgrounds, ages and ethnicities, and has a wealth of experience and information about blindness to share with the public. CFB programs are determined by membership vote and directed by an elected executive. All voting members, including all members of the executive, are blind.

Blindness: Time For Action!

In a fast paced, action packed one day event, the Canadian Federation of the Blind is setting forth our action plan to deal with some of the most serious issues faced by blind individuals.

Come to Nanaimo and help make the plan! Then plan to work together to make a difference!

What are the civil rights issues that impact our lives?

How will changes in technology improve our opportunities?

Will Unified English Braille (UEB) help build a renaissance in Braille literacy, or does it create additional barriers?

How can we make sure that our voices are heard in the halls of government?

What are blind people doing to create opportunities for themselves?

On Saturday, May 2, plan to be at the Ramada Inn in Nanaimo to help determine the answers to these and other vital questions!

Convention registration is $40, which includes lunch and the evening banquet.

Transportation will be arranged for those traveling up island from Victoria.

The Ramada Inn is convenient to the ferry for those traveling from the Mainland.

Watch for registration details and an easy to use form.

The Nanaimo Ramada Inn is the place to be on Saturday, May 2!

Scholarships from CFB Available to Attend NFB National Convention

The Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) is pleased to be able to offer a few scholarships, from CFB’s Empowerment Fund, for blind individuals who can use some financial assistance to attend the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) national convention in Orlando, Florida, this year.

The NFB convention will take place this July 5 – 10 in Orlando, Florida.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) convention is a week-long gathering of close to 3,000 blind people that brings blind people together from around the world to mentor each other, to build self confidence and to learn a positive perspective on blindness.

At this event, participants will take part in a wide array of seminars and classes related to employment, independence and blindness skills; they will hear speakers who talk about blindness from a positive and proactive perspective; participate in workshops on everything from blind parents, to blind lawyers, to blind educators, to blind journalists; and take part in events such as adaptive technology exhibits, employment seminars and recreational activities.

These events provide exceptional training, education, employment information, mentoring and inspiration to participants. But the chief benefit of attending this gathering of nearly three thousand blind people (the largest gathering of blind and visually-impaired people in the world) is the opportunity to network with others and to come to understand the diversity, potential and normalcy of the blind.

Convention is a time for mentorship, in living the positive attitudes of blindness which promote competing on terms of equality with the sighted, in all aspects of life. It is, for the moment, the best form of rehabilitation that we have available to us

This is a wonderful opportunity to experience firsthand the huge potential, capabilities and accomplishments of blind people, where high expectations and mentoring make much of the difference. Lots of seminars and interesting, inspiring people and speeches. Attendees really enjoy visiting the huge Exhibit Hall where technology in all its splendor is displayed and the NFB Independence Market shows and sells NFB canes and equipment of all kinds. The highlight of every convention is the banquet dinner and president’s banquet speech. This will be the first speech of NFB’s new president Mark Riccobono. For many in the past who have attended, the convention is a life-changing event.
Do consider applying for sponsorship to attend this convention. Sponsorship will cover airfare and possibly more, depending on available funds. Open to blind non-CFB and CFB members. Scholarship winners commit to attending the entire convention and the closing banquet.

To apply, please send an email to by April 15, 2015 with the following information:

Phone number
Email address
Write a paragraph about yourself. Tell us why you’d like to attend the convention and how you think it will benefit you and how you intend to use what you learn to enhance the work of the Canadian Federation of the Blind.

Paul Gabias, second vice-president of CFB, is responsible for compiling all applications and reporting to the CFB executive which will make the decision on the number and amount of scholarships to be awarded based on available budgeted funds. Please contact him to discuss your application, or to get answers to questions about the convention, at (250) 491-7256.

National Federation of the Blind
National Convention 2015


Sunday, July 5—Friday, July 10, 2015


Rosen Centre Hotel
9840 International Drive
Orlando, Florida 32819

Reservations: Call the Rosen Centre staff at (800) 204-7234.


Preregistration is now open. When purchased online by May 31st, the preregistration fee for convention is $25 ($30 on-site) and the cost of a banquet ticket is $55 ($60 on-site).

Preregister online now or use the mail-in PDF form.

Hotel Information and Room Rates:

The 2015 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 5-10, at the Rosen Centre Hotel at 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. The 2015 room rates are singles and doubles, $82; and triples and quads, $89. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with Rosen Centre staff by calling (800) 204-7234. At the time you make a reservation, a $95 deposit is required for each room reserved. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $95 check. If a reservation is cancelled before Monday, June 1, 2015, half of the deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.

Guest-room amenities include cable television; in-room safe; coffeemaker; hairdryer; and high-speed Internet access. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Centre Hotel offers fine dining at Executive Chef Michael Rumplik’s award-winning Everglades Restaurant. In addition, there is an array of dining options from sushi to tapas to a 24-hour deli. The hotel has first-rate amenities.


Sunday, July 5 Seminar Day

Monday, July 6 Registration Day

Tuesday, July 7 Board Meeting and Division Day

Wednesday, July 8 Opening Session

Thursday, July 9 Business Session

Friday, July 10 Banquet Day and Adjournment

First Timer’s Guide to the NFB National Convention:

View our beginner’s guide to the NFB National Convention, intended to give the first-time convention attendee some important information about national conventions of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

First Timer’s Guide to the National Convention
First-Timer’s Guide to the National Convention (Audio)
For more information, check