Living Locally   /   Business Services / Building & Design   /   Business Services / Technology   /   Business Services   /   Community

Making accessible spaces for Calgary’s visually-impaired with Universal Access and CNIB

How businesses can open more doors for those with blindness

January 24, 2020 by Centaine Hlushak on Universal Access

January is Braille Literacy Month, raising awareness for the importance of using the Braille system to support the blind and visually impaired community. 

Universal Access is an accessibility consultancy that uses universal design principles to help businesses make their spaces more accessible to people of all walks of life -- including the blind and visually impaired.  

“When people think ‘accessibility’ the first thing that comes to mind is often mobility support -- ramps, elevators -- but accessibility and universal design goes far deeper,” says Universal Access CEO and Head Chair, Sean Crump, who uses a wheelchair himself. 

Universal Access regularly utilizes information and criteria provided by other accessibility – minded organizations to further help bring voices of lived experience to the table. For design issues regarding the blind and visually impaired, Sean utilizes information provided by Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) -- a non-profit which has been providing life skills, career support, braille literacy and more to the blind community for more than a century. 

“The best part of my job is that I help people who are blind or partially sighted help realize their potential in the world of work and how we can work together to help them achieve their goals,” says Ted Bonar, Program Lead for Career Support and Employment at CNIB. 

There are several ways that public spaces can be made accessible to the visually impaired. “Businesses can embrace individuals with vision loss by realizing that with the great advancement of technologies such as the smartphone, many tasks that may have been a great challenge can now be achieved by using technology,” Ted explains. Smartphones and tablets can be equipped with screen-reading software and used for navigation in buildings. When placing braille or raised text, position matters greatly. Sean says to consider what a comfortable height would be for someone to place their hand in order to read it. 

“There’s a lot still to learn,” Sean says. “Organizations like CNIB are an amazing resource that we can share and utilize on an ongoing basis with our clients. Who better to teach us than the people who deal with these challenges on a daily basis?” 


  1. To help your business increase its accessibility, get in touch with Universal Access. 
  2. Meet Sean in person, alongside other like-minded business owners, at the Be Local Open House on January 30, 4-6 pm. 
  3. Click here to learn more about CNIB. 
  4. Connect with Universal Access on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
  5. Visit Universal Access’ Sustainability Profile on the Be Local directory.