About Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers

Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers (ASIC) is an independent, consumer-driven advocacy coalition that addresses issues which affect British Columbian residents who are blind, deafblind or sight impaired. Many of our affiliate organizations are associated with widely-recognized provincial or national bodies serving the nearly three-quarter million BC residents who are affected by one of the four most common eye diseases which could potentially lead to vision loss. ASIC’s primary advocacy action plan focuses upon the 64,500 British Columbians who are currently blind, deafblind or sight-impaired.

Our mission is to collaborate with our affiliate organizations and community partners to increase awareness and understanding of issues related to sight impairment. Our aim is to build inclusive communities for people with sight impairment by promoting equitable access and by supporting independent living.

Often we are asked a key question: WHY ASIC? Doesn't CNIB – and other organizations – already promote access and independence for blind people?

There are three facets to our answer:

ASIC’s foundation is supported by the premise and the evidence that consumers who want to make positive and productive change are most effective when speaking for themselves. Decision-makers and the public-at-large only truly understand the daily challenges of sight-impaired consumers when they hear from those who are living the reality. Simply put, second-hand experience is limited in its effectiveness to describe the impact of vision loss.

Organizations like CNIB provide invaluable and extensive services such as counseling support, independent living instruction, orientation and mobility lessons, and low-vision assessments. They help Canadians with vision loss to develop the confidence and skills they need to fully participate in life. While they add their well-respected voice to ASIC’s efforts and those of other consumer-oriented organizations, they encourage sight-impaired consumers to self-advocate for positive change.

CNIB and other organizations do participate in advocacy initiatives at national and/or provincial levels, while ASIC most often responds to requests for advocacy assistance in BC. Here, we share a unique relationship with CNIB and others, in that we possess a mutual respect for each other's goals and mandates. Occasionally, we find our organizations at opposite ends of the spectrum on a particular issue -- in which case "…controversy leads to discourse and discourse leads to solutions," said a prominent Vancouver radio personality.

Our proud history

Since 1998, ASIC has been advocating for independent and equitable access for blind, deafblind or sight-impaired consumers in BC. Our efforts began to take shape when CNIB staff -- already stretched with requests for rehabilitation, O&M, low-vision and counseling services -- was receiving many requests for advocacy assistance on multiple issues.

In 1997, CNIB's Division Client Services Committee Chairperson, along with the Chair of the District's Client Services Committee, developed the notion of calling a town hall meeting to determine interest in forming a consumer advocacy committee within their district structure.

In January 1998, the concept of an advocacy coalition was presented to an audience of interested consumers, with the desired initial outcome of coordinating advocacy efforts in Metro Vancouver. This coalition was to be comprised of five (5) elected members-at-large, along with a member representative for each of ten (10) regional or provincial organizations, some of which had been engaged in blindness advocacy work, prior to ASIC’s launch.

These organizations originally included:

  • Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians - Lower Mainland Chapter (formerly National Federation of the Blind - Access for Equality)
  • BC Association of the Deafblind
  • BC Blind Sports and Recreation Association
  • Canadian Council of the Blind - BC-Yukon Division
  • Canadian National Institute for the Blind - Lower Mainland/South Coast Client Services Committee
  • Crane Resource Centre
  • Fraser Valley Visually-Impaired Persons Society
  • UBC Visually-Impaired Students' Association
  • Visually-Impaired People's Club of Richmond
  • Western Association of Persons with Vision Impairment

As a result of the town hall meeting, a steering committee was struck to coordinate an independent, consumer-driven advocacy coalition, and within a few short weeks, ASIC was born – originally as ‘Advocates for Sight-Impaired Consumers’. By late 2007, our board reviewed our branding and elected to update our name to ‘Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers’, after determining that this new brand now better reflected our mission and purpose. The new name was officially introduced at our AGM on 12 May 2008.

The original ASIC board adopted its official terms of reference (TOR) and defined its mission statement, mandate, goals and purpose. Almost since day one, ASIC has addressed systemic issues that impact blind, deafblind and sight-impaired consumers, and quickly expanded our mandate to cover all BC residents, by finding room on regional, provincial and sometimes national stages for many an issue. While the majority of our advocacy requests have been provincial in matter, we have also assisted sight-impaired consumers in the rest of Canada and into the US on numerous missions.

Membership

Although ASIC began operating with ten (10) member organizations, it was truly the clients and members of our affiliate organizations that formed the nucleus of our membership. Initially, ASIC represented almost 10,000 blind, deafblind and sight-impaired consumers living in the Lower Mainland, and we evolved the structure of our board as affiliate organizations came and went. We are currently comprised of five (5) affiliate organization representatives with several elected board members-at-large. In November 2012, ASIC’s board welcomed the entire CNIB BC-Yukon Division as an affiliate organization, and our membership grew substantially.

Funding

Most of our funding comes from private donations. While we do not yet have charitable tax status, we extend our sincere thanks to those kind supporters who have donated funds over time. We also extend a special thank you to the principals of BASIC (Blind And Sight-Impaired Consumers – an organization that provides awareness training to Vancouver's public transit operators), which has provided us with regular donations to fund our services. Meanwhile, our resources and expertise are provided at no-cost to a sight-impaired consumer seeking advocacy assistance. We know our efforts and results will ultimately create systemic improvements for the benefit of all consumers, with or without sight.

Constitution & bylaws

Our purpose and objectives, along with our bylaws, are clearly defined on our Constitution & Bylaws page.

Organizational structure

ASIC is a consumer-driven advocacy organization whose activities are undertaken by a volunteer board. The board has room for up to eighteen (18) directors, including a representative from each of the following affiliate organizations. The remaining board positions consist of members-at-large who are elected at our annual general meeting.

These organizations also work to support and/or advocate for people who are blind, deafblind or sight-impaired:

The board executive is appointed annually by directors on the board at the first regular meeting following the AGM. The board executive consists of the following five (5) officers:

  • President/Chair
  • Vice President/Vice-Chair
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Nominations Chair

Meeting schedule

Board meetings are held on a bi-monthly basis with proceedings recorded into draft minutes. Once approved by the board, the official minutes are posted to this website. The board's annual general meeting (AGM) is usually held in the first quarter of the calendar year.

A shout-out to those who are interested in attending an ASIC meeting – all you must do is connect with ASIC.

Expression of interest (EoI) for potential board members

In addition to other business, the board elects nominees from a ballot of candidates. These are individuals who have been nominated to represent member organizations, or those who have submitted an EoI application form and been vetted by the Nominations Committee. Candidates are elected for a two-year term and they may re-apply when their term expires.

A call for EoI is distributed 6-8 weeks prior to the AGM, via our email list and postings to this website, Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of geographic location within BC, eligible residents are to submit their EoI form not later than twenty-one (21) days following the EoI posting date.

Interested parties are asked to:


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