ANIMATION with Blissymbols

film (cylinder + camera [enclosure + light {eye + sun}]) + pencil: film on which images are drawn

Julie Millar and Shirley McNaughton have had some fun looking at the ways in which Blissymbols have been animated through the decades. They have chosen three examples and made three short videos to demonstrate them. Enjoy!

Playing with Blissymbols

This video (3:48 minutes) is taken from the film, “Mr. Symbol Man”, produced by The National Film Board of Canada and Film Australia in 1974. It shows children playing with felt Blissymbols at the McGill Family Centre before being shown the film “Symbol Boy”. After seeing the film, one little girl is asked to name the felt symbols. See how many symbols she learned, just though seeing the film once!

Learning with Bliss

This video (2:17 minutes) is taken from the film “Take the Time”, produced for Rogers Community Mississauga Productions in 1995. It includes the Blissymbols for seeing, talking, hearing, walking, being introduced, followed by and Shayne Dennis using the combine strategy when communicating with his teacher, Barbara Rush in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Music with Bliss

This video (2:23 minutes) is taken from “Celebrating 50 Years of Bliss” produced by Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada in 2021. It shows Blissymbols accompanying the “Blissymbols Alphabet Song”, animated by Julie Millar and sung by Aaron Lightstone. Julie is editor of narrative videos produced by Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada, through funding by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Resilient Communities Fund 2021. Aaron is music director of the Bliss I-Band, a project of Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada.

Special Days in March!

March had at least two special days, Rebecca’s birthday and St. Patrick’s Day.

We want to wish Rebecca a very Happy Birthday!! 

Carolyn wrote: I remember my father had a St. Patrick’s Day tie that he wore every March 17.  One of my brothers had one also. They were funny to look at.  I like the song group called Irish Rovers. I bought a necklace of shamrocks to wear on St. Patrick’s Day. Wearing something green for St. Patrick is a tradition for a long time. 

I have a good friend who is of Irish heritage.  His ancestors emigrated to Canada from Ireland in the 1840s and settled as subsistence farmers along the Ottawa River north of Renfrew. So, St. Patrick’s Day was very special for his family when he was growing up. It is also his sister’s birthday.  On the day, it was a combined celebration with Irish Stew and a birthday cake with green icing. His dad used to like to play fiddle music records and Irish Rovers that day, which his family felt was right because his dad’s birthday was March 19. My friend’s name is Patrick (I should ask if he is named after the day!), and his tradition is to keep thirteen different types of Irish whiskey and he always makes it a point to sample some “nectar of the gods” on St. Patrick’s Day.

Samantha wrote: My dad is 29 on the 17th of March and has been for the last 30 years. So, St. Patrick’s Day is always fun at our house. He is Scottish, so he likes scotch whisky to Irish whiskey. This is Jayme and I getting into the spirit!

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Bliss and Canadian Faces

On March 27, the global Bliss community joined Chris White for his 50th episode of Canadian Faces to talk about Bliss and music in the lives of our Bliss community.

Canadian Faces is a live-streamed show, hosted by Chris, featuring video interviews and performances with Canadian singer-songwriters and other folk/roots musicians. 

Here’s the link to the March 27, 2022 ‘Canadian Faces’ show.

There were many people from around the world. As one member, Joe Jessop, said it was “like traveling on Zoom”.  We agreed with Joe that it was so interesting hearing from different people. There were people from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Brazil, as well as our home country, Canada. We talked about the early days of Bliss and how the Bliss language has positively helped the lives of many of us.  Some of us have used Bliss to become writers and poets!  Music is very important to many of us and Aaron Lightstone, our music director, shared some videos of the Bliss i-Band.  One of the songs was our first collaboration with a musician – who was Chris White. We showed the video of the Bliss i-band playing his song, Follow Your Bliss together with him. Another video we shared was “Take the Time”, with lyrics by Kari Harrington, who was at our meeting.

Many people, like we did, talked about how we used Blissymbolics when we were young. 

We also told the group that there is a Blissymbol for ‘hope’ on Snake Island (just off of Vancouver Island, Canada) in honour of the hope for peace in Europe.

Here’s is what one of the group who erected the sign told BCI:

We erected the sign on Snake Island on Sunday March 6th

Our Snake Island is located in Nanaimo British Columbia Canada

We see this as a sister Island to the Snake Island in Ukraine that was shelled by the Russian Navy.

Interestingly enough we also have two ex Canadian Naval Warships that lie peacefully next to snake Island as artificial reefs and recreational dive sites. One is the former Saskatchewan cold war era destroyer escort and the other the Cape Breton a world war 2 victory ship.

The message of HOPE in Blissymbolics has already had people very curious. Asking what to the “letters” mean?

We tell them the story of Charles Bliss and that the letters mean Hope in an international language

Most importantly the Hope can be whatever the person reading them wants to hope for

Hope to end this war

Hope for peace

Hope that we begin to realize that attacking innocents can no longer be tolerated and we need to move forward as a global society to leave this behaviour in our past

Thank you again and kindest wishes to all of you.

Robert Wolanski

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Comment from Audrey King

March 31 2022

Thank you for writing such an excellent article about our day with Chris White.  It was amazing to see ACC users from all around the world and made us all realize how important it is to be able to communicate with each other, regardless of traditional languages.

Great job of com uniting Samantha, Julie, Carolyn & Glynis and everyone else involved.

Keep it up!


Bright Shining Canadian Irish Star

We had such a happy (but bittersweet) zoom gathering on Sunday January 30!

A group of friends and colleagues met to celebrate the retirement of Barbara Collier – to wish her well as she returns to Ireland with her husband, Bill, and they begin the next chapter in their lives. 

Barbara’s sisters, Geraldine, Rachel, Ruth and her brother, Peter, were with us at the zoom meeting, to celebrate Barbara’s return home to Ireland in February, after 4 decades in Canada. Barbara’s sister, Liz, was unable to attend. Geraldine spoke on behalf of all Barbara’s siblings and their families, in expressing their pride in her accomplishments. Barbara and Bill will be living in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, Ireland. 

How fortunate we have been to have Barbara’s contribution to the lives of AAC users across Canada! Her strong advocacy work  for more inclusive communication access legislation has been powerful!  Barbara leaves a wonderful legacy through her founding and nurturing of Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) and establishing two new groups to take on aspects of CDAC’s work – The Canadian Communication Access Alliance (CCAA) and Communication Access to Justice (CAJ). Her influence on legislation and the future impact it can have on the lives of those with a communication challenge will be felt far into the future.

Hazel Self who began working with Barbara in the establishment of CDAC back in 2001, said this at our celebration: 

As I reviewed the annual reports of CDAC I was struck by the breadth of activity… nothing was too big or too small for Barbara…her vision embraced all of life yet remained focused on human rights and the true definition of communication as being a 2 way process, with the concept of authentic communication as being generated by the individual, with and without support…..input from CDAC was shaping the ODA and the Accessible Canada Act. …In 2018 CDAC was invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Human Rights, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities; here Barbara was responsible for having Bill C81 amended to include communication as a priority area of focus in the Accessible Canada Act…..all this from her bedroom office…

 We were fortunate to have had Barbara’s bright star shining in the AAC universe for so many years – working steadily to improve the lives of those with communication challenges.

Through the combined efforts of Julie Millar (videography) and Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg, (arranger of ambient music by the Bliss I-Band) and my design, we produced a Bliss vignette, as our tribute.

We can see Barb’s determined spirit and her enjoyment in sharing fun moments (also shared by Bill), in the pictures below …

Samantha and Julie Millar, along with Carolyn and Glynis Henry have contributed their thoughts as to what is so special about Barbara. The descriptive word they all agreed to was “inclusive”. Barbara is inclusive! They only saw her at conferences but they always knew Barbara was interested in what they had to say and listened to AAC users when they expressed their ideas. They saw their concerns being included in all Barbara’s advocacy work.

Julie gave an example of how the CDAC website had helped Samantha and herself directly. They learned from the website that AAC users have rights – and one in particular, the right, in hospitals, to receive the assistance they need! When Samantha was experiencing a difficult time during a stay in  hospital, and the staff were not understanding nor responding to her anxiety, Julie used information from the CDAC website to explain to the nurses how they could address Samantha’s needs. With this knowledge, they were able to resolve the problems! Julie and Samantha thank Barbara!

We wish Barbara much happiness as she returns to Ireland. We know her presence will continue to be felt in Canada,  Ireland and throughout the world in the years ahead! May Barbara’s star continue to shine brightly!

Shirley McNaughton

Valentine Day Memories

Carolyn’s Valentine Day Memory

Since I have been in Toronto, many times I went over to the mall before Valentine’s Day, and I would get myself a chocolate heart and a heart for my sister. But, I won’t be going this year because of this pandemic. When I was a little girl, I used to send Valentine’s Day cards to my friends at school. When I got older I got a special card for my parents and for my sister.

Samantha’s Valentine Memory

My first dog was Smudge. Smudge was born on February 6th 2006 but for many years we believed she was born on February 14th. We went to Niagara Falls 6 weeks later to pick her up.

Carolyn has another memory of February 

When I was living at home in Cornwall, I did have another favourite day in February. That day is the day before the start of Lent and is sometimes called Pancake Tuesday. To celebrate it, my mother always made us pancakes for dinner as a special treat – with fruit and maple syrup. They were so good. I always wondered why pancakes were special and found out that they were a tradition in many European countries because eggs, sugar and fat were often forbidden during Lent, so they were used up before Lent started. 

Samantha has a similar tradition for Pancake Tuesday. We make potato pancakes for dinner.

hmmmmm …. they both sound good!!

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Happy New Year to All!

We have several Birthdays to celebrate this month. Shirley’s Birthday was January 3rd, Kari’s Birthday was January 6th, Irene’s Birthday is on January 25th and Joe’s Birthday is January 28th.
We wish each of them a very happy birthday!

Joe’s birthday celebration in Toronto, 2014

2022 has come in with a bang! … we hope everyone survived the snow that fell on Monday January 17th in Ontario. Just think, in 4 to 5 months we will be complaining about the heat! I hope everyone keeps warm and safe.

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Special Music Guests

We met Ken Whiteley on Zoom when he joined our music group. Carolyn thought he was a really neat person and lots of fun to play music with. Ken told some stories about his music. He likes to create new songs as he sings them. Do you know that if somebody hadn’t recorded him when he sang “Gospel Music” for the first time, it might not have been written down? We each took a turn playing with him.

Samantha didn’t know that Ken plays with Raffi so it was a happy surprise. Samantha and her sister Jayme loved Raffi when they were younger. They sang and danced to Baby Belluga, Knees up Mother Brown, and Shake my Sillies out. Samantha looked on her Spotify account and saw that Ken played guitar and piano and even arranged some songs with him; like ‘Junior Ragtime’. Samantha liked Ken’s music before she found out about the connection with Raffi, she loves Ken’s music even more now!!!

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Celebrating 50 Years of Bliss!

We are excited to tell you about our new film, ‘Celebrating 50 Years of Bliss!’ The film is looking at how Bliss symbols got started in Toronto and how they were used to help nonspeaking people to communicate here and then around the world. The movie is narrated by Shirley McNaughton who introduced this symbol based language system to children who had physical limitations. In the last 50 years many children have used Bliss symbols as a way to communicate and have moved on to use the printed word. Many of these children didn’t have a way to communicate in a meaningful way prior to this. There is a lot of music from the Bliss i-Band featured throughout this movie. The Bliss i-band was co-founded by Shirley McNaughton and Audrey King. The film,’Celebrating 50 Years of Bliss!’ Can now be seen on YouTube

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Thanksgiving and Halloween

October is the beginning of fall and a couple of fun celebrations. For Thanksgiving the iBand had many similar themes like spending time together with family and friends, good food and enjoying the fall colours. Carolyn remembers driving to Cornwall and admiring the fall colours along the 401. Rhonda remembers when her dad was alive they would go for a ride or walk to look at the fall colours. 

Samantha usually has a quiet Thanksgiving with just her mom, dad, sister and grandma and our neighbor, Peter who joins us for dinner. Carolyn has a larger family that she goes back to her home town of Cornwall to see. Irene remembers Thanksgiving at her brother’s house, where her whole family is there including her favourite grandmother who will be 99 next month. Shirley has many happy memories at her cottage in Bala where she had family and friends visit and help with all the work of closing a cottage. Shirley remembers blending “the chores with long walks to gather leaves to decorate the cottage, sharing the last boat ride, singing songs around the piano, and sharing our dreams for the future.” 

For many of us the good food includes turkey with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and for Rhonda, especially pumpkin pie. Not everyone has had the Canadian tradition of turkey for Thanksgiving.  Elaine W grew up in England where they celebrated a Harvest Festival, which was more of a religious celebration. For Rebecca, Thanksgiving was something she learned about at school and she didn’t celebrate it until she had her own family. She found the hustle and bustle of a Thanksgiving meal being prepared and then being dismantled, was an experience she enjoyed. Moshe usually has a traditional Thanksgiving but last year with a new baby and the pandemic he celebrated with sushi and wine. Gabriel is looking forward to spending time with his new nephew and reminds us that we should all be thankful for family and good friends. Moshe’s experience also “brought our little family closer than ever and reminded us how important family is”.

October also includes Halloween and Audrey remembers going on a bus tour with her sister to see a Musical at the Stratford Festival Theatre and had an opportunity to try on some of the costumes. It looks like Audrey had a lot of fun!!

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry