Finger running over Braille on the street near a bus stop

Visible Changes for the Vision Impaired

Canada is finally beginning to take notice of the very real segment of the population that is legally blind or visually impaired. Those of us who find certain activities of daily living more difficult, such as getting around when we can no longer drive. Or trying to read a nutrition label on a new product that looks delicious. It’s a start.

Cities making small changes

In my small tourist destination city, the current street signs are white on faded blue, or white on faded black with a touristy icon taking up too much space. Thankfully, they are now being replaced with a larger font in plain white on black, with no icons. Our Chinatown (the oldest in Canada) is keeping the original with the icon and name in white and red.

Improvements to public transport

Vancouver, British Columbia is leading the way with its transit system. It is in the process of improving access to its buses for the visually impaired. By the end of this year, all 8400 bus stops in Metro Vancouver will have both unified English braille as well as raised tactile letters giving the stop ID number, the routes that serve that stop, and a customer information phone number

They are also installing tactile walking surface indicators at every stop. These will not only help identify a stop but will also direct people to the front door of the bus. Real-time text-to-audio information is already available at every RapidBus express stop.

Navigating my city

These changes have not reached my hometown yet, but I’m able to see well enough to text my bus stop number and learn when the next bus will be there. Something I need on injection day. If I couldn’t read the bus number, the timing would hopefully let me know. But would it be this easy if my vision worsened?

Better nutrition labels

Another major step in helping those of us with low vision is the implementation of an improved nutrition label on our food. Not only in what it tells us but how. These new labels will have an updated list of nutrients. We know sugar has an impact on eye health. Now sugar-based ingredients will be placed in brackets after the word sugar to help identify all sources of sugar. Serving sizes will be more realistic. That little can of tuna suggests that half the can is a serving. Reasonable if it’s part of a casserole, but not when eaten alone, as I usually do (with mayo and lemon of course!).

The biggest change I noticed is that text must be in black font on a white or neutral background and of a minimum height. I don’t know how many times I was unable to read a nutrition label printed in grey on a red background. Serving size and calories will be in a larger font to make them easier to find. These changes will appear on all packaged food by December 15, 2022.

What else is changing?

At least one of the cable companies here has a TV remote that responds to voice commands. I still prefer to read the guide, but it’s good to know it’s available if I need it.

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