Joe Remembers

Before Bliss

It was bad.  I was a bad kid, I think.  I bit myself.  I cried when I had to go home on weekends. During the week, I stayed with my Aunt Irene before she got blind. She had limited vision when I was young. I liked being there with my cousins, Leslie and Garry. We enjoyed watching TV together, especially seeing the Monkees and Batman. 

I felt like a yoyo, going back and forth. At that age (before I was 6) I was wondering why I had to keep coming and going. I didn’t understand at that age that my mother had to work. I thought that I was very dumb. I thought at first that she was giving me away. I wondered at that age, why I was so dumb.

Learning Bliss

When I was in the Bliss class at OCCC beginning  in 1972-1973 school year, my best friend was Greg Keefe. I stayed over at his place and we took turns staying over at each other’s place.  Our mothers were friends.

Joe and Greg in 1973 in the first Bliss Class

Bliss was my mouth to talk. I remember “boy” and ‘girl”, and “mom” and “dad”symbols. I was shy so I didn’t talk to the other kids.

I had a crush on Sherri who was in Miss Norman’s class. Greg did too! Sherri had black hair and she played with dolls. 

Sherri Joe Greg

I knew Kevin and David  (Shirley’s two sons). We saw them playing outside when Greg’s mom drove past Shirley’s house. Mrs. Keefe stopped at Shirley’s house 4 times. She beeped her car horn. 

I remember. Scott Bond. He was the same as me,  shy.  Here’s what Scott, Greg and I looked like in Shirley’s book “Symbol Secrets”.

Greg, Joe and Scott as they appeared in “Symbol Secrets”

I also remember Mrs. Snetsinger and Mrs Barlow.

Mary Snetsinger and Judy Barlow, Bliss teachers at OCCC in 1973

There is another teacher I remember, Mrs. Bederman.  She used to tease me. She gave us grape juice on Jewish holiday. I don’t have a picture of her.

There is more to come….. about my move to Erin Oak Children’s Treatment Centre.

Joe Jessop will share more of his memories in the next episode.

May and Summer Birthdays

I would like to wish everyone who has a birthday in the summer, a very Happy Birthday!

In May, Carolyn celebrates her birthday.

In June, Fran, Aaron, and Elaine W celebrate their birthday. In July, Elaine D and Gabriel celebrate their birthday and in August Samantha celebrates her birthday. Please send emails during the summer to wish them a Happy Birthday.

Carolyn May 28

Fran  June 5

Aaron  June 15

Elaine W   June 15

Elaine D  July 6

Gabriel July 18

Samantha August 14

by Samantha Millar

Breaking the Ice Virtual Town Halls: January 29 and April 23, 2022

AAC and Identity was the topic for two Breaking the Ice Virtual Town Hall sessions.  The discussion leader was Beth Moulam.  She is a Social Policy graduate, Paralympic boccia athlete and blogger. She draws on lived experience of cerebral palsy, speech and hearing impairments to raise awareness of those who use AAC, the value of an active lifestyle and making your dreams come true. Beth is passionate to empower others to fulfill their own communication and life potential; she leads her own support team living independently. Beth has been an International speaker since 2006 including Co-leading and mentoring on the ISAAC 2018 ‘Dare to Lead’ programme and in 2020 an invited ISAAC Pathways to Leadership speaker. Beth delivers workshops, facilitates training collaboratively and mentors AAC groups/individuals.

Beth’s main point to AAC users was that “How others see you is not important.  How you see yourself means everything.”  

The first Town Hall looked at identity by asking participants to answer three identity questions:

  1. How would you describe yourself in five words?  
  2. What three words describe what you think you are good at?  
  3. Which three positive words would you like others to use to describe you? 

The second Town Hall addressed the questions:

1.    Think of an ANIMAL you identify with. What 3 words or 1 short sentence describe why you identify with this animal?   

2.    Think of a COLOUR you identify with. What 3 words or 1 short sentence describe why you identify with that colour?  

3.    Think of a PICTURE that you identify with. What 3 words or 1 short sentence describe why you identify with that picture? It could be a picture of you, nature, a place or anything else you connect with.

by Carolyn Henry and Glynis Henry

Check it out!

A Neil Squire Program

We went to a Zoom meeting where Makers Making Change were presenting. It was amazing and helpful. Their web site is:

“Our guiding vision at Neil Squire is to achieve economic and social inclusiveness for all people with disabilities. To support this vision, Makers Making Change leverages the capacity of community based Makers, Disability Professionals and Volunteers to develop and deliver affordable Open Source Assistive Technologies.”

They have a catalogue of devices for disabled people but also they help with making things to solve a problem. The prices are much lower because you only pay for materials and shipping costs. Go and check it out!! 

April News

April is an important month for people of many different faiths. We wish everyone a Happy Easter (Christian), Happy Pesach (Judaism), Ramadan Mubarak (Muslim), and Happy Vaisakhi (Sikhism).

April is also Christine’s birthday month – we wish her a very Happy Birthday on April 28!

She would be happy to get email birthday wishes from her friends in the Bliss i-Band!


In the beginning the sunflower was a very tiny seed,

But in the soil it started growing quickly

And  so it was with me, too.

When I got to learn bliss symbols

I wanted to talk a lot.

I think it is the same for many children 

Who cannot talk with their mouth.

I did not understand those who asked:

Was  it hard being a child?

Because when I was little

I didn´t know how it felt talking. 

When I look back in time

I feel like a sunflower

Because I like to learn the bliss symbols quickly.

Now the Sunflower has started to flourish

It is the same with my life.

Sunflower was written by Leo Leppälä, from Finland. He shared his poem at our Canadian Faces meeting on March 27 with the help of Gitta Lönnqvist, his speech therapist and Bliss instructor when he was younger,

Leo wrote Sunflower in 1993 when he spent 2 years in Sweden at FURUBODA. At that time, Leo used the Finnish BLISS MASTER software. Leo has written many poems in Bliss since then and has published a book of his poems.

The version that appears below was made with BLISSONLINE (with Swedish glosses).

We thank Leo for expressing his thoughts so well in Bliss!

From Leo’s friend, Gitta Lönnqvist

It was nice to see Sunflower on the web! I only just the other day learnt that sunflower is the national flower of Ukraina. I hope it gives the same strength to the people in Ukraina as it has given to Leo!

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