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Your CNIB. Your future. Hearing your views on the future direction of CNIB


CNIB is beginning to make plans for our future, and your opinions are crucial to helping us shape those plans and ensure they meet the needs of our community. Read on to learn more about how you can share your views with us on our future direction. 


We’re making plans for our future         2

Your opinions are vitally important to us           3

We’ve achieved so much with your help            4

But there’s still so much to do  8

In a challenging economic climate         10

The rights of Canadians aren’t being fulfilled     11

We want your voice to be heard            13


 We’re making plans for our future 

In 2011, CNIB created a plan that outlined what we wanted to achieve as a national organization over the three years to follow. That plan focused on three priority areas:


•           Community-based support

CNIB’s vision loss rehabilitation services help people who are blind or partially sighted develop the confidence, skills and opportunities they need to fully participate in life.


•           Knowledge

CNIB is committed to improving the eye health of Canadians and eliminating avoidable sight loss through research and public education.


•           Advocacy

CNIB is proud to work alongside Canadians who are blind or partially sighted to advocate for an inclusive and barrier-free society with access to rehabilitation services and technology.


Thanks to the dedicated efforts of our team, our stakeholders and our clients, we’ve achieved an incredible amount under this plan, and are still actively working to deliver on its goals. Now, as we approach 2014, we’re beginning to think ahead to the future and make plans about where we should focus our efforts from 2014 onwards.


In creating those plans, it’s vitally important to us that we place the needs of Canadians who are blind or partially sighted at the centre of our ongoing work, and to know that we are making a real difference in their lives.


That’s why we’re reaching out for your views and opinions to help us shape our plans going forward. 

Your opinions are vitally important to us

CNIB is a trusted Canadian charity with almost a century of experience supporting people who are blind or partially sighted, of all ages and from all walks of life. With such a strong presence in communities from coast to coast, we know that the decisions we make affect thousands of Canadians from all across the country. 


Above all, we want to ensure that our plans for the future reflect the goals and needs of our clients and community stakeholders. That’s why we’re reaching out to key groups and individuals – including Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, our volunteers, our staff, health care professionals, community agencies and members of the public – to help us shape the future direction of our work from 2014 to 2017.


We want your thoughts and suggestions on what’s important to you, on how we can make the greatest impact as a national charitable organization and rehabilitation service provider, and on how we can create solutions for the issues that you care about. 


To help inform your opinions, this booklet outlines some of the many accomplishments we’ve had over the last three years, and also provides information about the current issues within Canada’s national vision loss landscape.


We’ve achieved so much with your help

The following is just a fraction of what we’ve achieved over the last three years with the help of our supporters, partners, staff, volunteers and clients.


Community-based support . . .

•           Providing rehabilitation services to more people than ever

Despite a challenging economy and a huge increase in Canadian vision loss rates, we’ve pushed ourselves to keep up with the demand, and provide more support to our clients than ever before. In fact, since 2011, new client registration rates have increased consistently in CNIB offices across the country, as have the total number of hours we spend providing vision loss rehabilitation services to Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. We’ve also proudly invested more than $152 million into our vision loss rehabilitation services over the last three years – leaving a lasting impact in the lives of tens of thousands of Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, as well as their families.    


•           Establishing “Vision Mates” from coast to coast

Empowering our volunteers to provide direct support to our clients not only allows CNIB to reach more Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, but it also initiates supportive relationships that can last a lifetime. That’s why we launched and have continually expanded our Vision Mate program over the last three years – connecting Canadians who are blind or partially sighted with specially-trained volunteers who offer friendly companionship and assist with day-to-day tasks and errands.


•           Revitalizing our library

We’re proud to have fully replaced the 15-year-old infrastructure of the CNIB Library with modern, cutting-edge technology, thanks to funding from the Government of Canada. Library staff and volunteers also completed a multi-year 

initiative to convert more than 8,000 audio books to digital formats. These improvements are now allowing Canadians with print disabilities better access to our growing collection of more than 80,000 alternative-format reading materials. In fact, we’re now distributing 2.6 million CNIB Library items per year to Canadians who are blind or partially sighted – that’s an all-time high!


•           Building careers and confidence

In 2012, CNIB, World Blind Union and the Ontario Trillium Foundation joined forces to develop Project Aspiro (, a comprehensive career planning and employment resource that helps individuals who are blind or partially sighted aspire towards and achieve their career goals. The site provides users with an extensive range of practical resources for building their careers, as well as information and tools for service providers, friends and family members, and employers interested in hiring individuals who are living with vision loss.


Knowledge . . .

•           Bringing vision health to all Canadians

In 2010, CNIB declared the month of May as Vision Health Month for the very first time, with the goal of educating Canadians about vision health and how to avoid preventable eye disease. Delivered in partnership with Doctors of Optometry Canada, the campaign includes a range of key awareness initiatives, from radio public service announcements, to Visions Gala events and a highly successful joint venture program with Postmedia Network, which publishes more than a dozen newspapers across Canada, including the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen. Over the past three years, Vision Health Month has continually grown and built momentum across the country – reaching hundreds of thousands of Canadians with vital information about their eye health.


•           Empowering researchers

Dr. Hugh Taylor – an eminent ophthalmologist and ophthalmic epidemiologist, and the driving force behind Australia’s national vision health plan – was the first-ever recipient of CNIB’s Chanchlani Global Vision Research Award. Established in 2011 by Vasu and Jayshree Chanchlani in collaboration with the Toronto Netralya Lions Club and the Toronto Doctors Lions Club, this prestigious $25,000 award supports the best research in the field of vision science and rehabilitation worldwide. It also represents a major step forward in our efforts to eliminate avoidable sight loss and improve quality of life for people who are blind or partially sighted.


•           Exploring children’s futures

In 2011, the CNIB research team completed a comprehensive review of pre-employment skills for children who are blind or partially sighted – exploring barriers to employment and the steps that can be taken in youth to avert them. This vital information is helping us better understand what kinds of skills children need to develop in order to pursue careers later in life, and will enable us to build services to promote those skills.


Advocacy . . .

•           Raising our voices with Vision 2020 Canada

In 2010, CNIB took on a key leadership role within Vision 2020 Canada, part of a global coalition actively working to eliminate avoidable blindness and vision loss by the year 2020. Since then, we’ve proudly championed vision health promotion at every opportunity, and made fantastic strides in creating dialogues with key governmental decision-makers about the importance of making vision health a public health priority.


•           Upholding the right to read 

In 2010, CNIB received a one-time grant of $7 million from the federal government to support the CNIB Library thanks to our milestone Right to Read campaign. Launched in January 2010, the campaign saw tens of thousands of Canadians and CNIB stakeholders reaching out to our political leaders to support alternative-format library services for Canadians with print disabilities. It was thanks to this hard work that the government came through with this important grant, and the CNIB Library is now better able to support the thousands of Canadians who rely on it to uphold their right to read.


•           Making Canadian currency accessible to all

CNIB consulted extensively with the Bank of Canada on their new polymer bank notes, which include improved accessibility features for people who are blind or partially sighted. The new series of bills features enhanced colour contrast, tactile markings and compatibility with electronic bank note readers – making it easier for people with vision loss to shop independently.


•           Creating a barrier-free society

In order to help eliminate common barriers faced by people with vision loss who do not have a driver’s license – including denials of business services and serious impediments with voting and travel – CNIB proudly worked alongside individuals and consumer groups to assist in the development of a new, officially recognized photo I.D. card for non-drivers in Ontario. Launched by the minister of transportation at an event at CNIB headquarters, the new card is helping to reduce barriers and improve access to voting, services and other resources for people with sight loss.


But there’s still so much to do


Vision loss changes lives forever

Although every person adjusts to vision loss differently, many people experience tremendous challenges after a serious loss of sight – from depression, to isolation, to barriers to employment and more.


•           Due in large part to barriers to education and employment, only 35 per cent of working-age adults with blindness or partial sight are employed.


•           Only 45 per cent of Canadians with vision loss have graduated from high school, compared to 90 per cent of their sighted peers.


•           Compared to people who are sighted, people with blindness or partial sight experience:

o           Two to five times as much difficulty with daily living.

o           Three times as much clinical depression.

o           Twice as much social dependence.


More people are losing their vision today than ever

Because of our aging population (and the fact that most of the major eye diseases are age-related), vision loss is rising fast in Canada. In fact, more than one million Canadians are living with blindness or partial sight today – more than ever before.


•           Every 12 minutes, someone in Canada begins to lose their sight. 


•           One in three adults over 65 will experience blindness or partial sight in their lives, greater than the odds of being diagnosed with cancer. 


•           Researchers predict that the number of cases of blindness or partial sight is likely to double over the next 25 years.


But three-quarters of vision loss can be prevented or treated

Research shows that 75 per cent of vision loss can be prevented or successfully treated with early detection. But without a national vision health plan, Canadians aren’t being educated in sight-loss prevention strategies, and are continuing to lose their vision in record numbers.


•           One in seven Canadians will develop a serious eye disease in their lifetime.


•           A large number of Canadians (31 per cent) only go for eye exams once every five years or less to check for eye disease.


•           In 2003, Canada made a commitment to the World Health Organization to develop and begin implementing a national vision health plan by the year 2007. Still, no such plan exists in Canada.


In a challenging economic climate

Despite being a charity, CNIB is the primary provider of vision loss rehabilitation services in Canada – and we rely on donations from the public to continue to keep our doors open.


•           Less than 35 per cent of CNIB’s total national funding comes from government support. The rest comes from individual donations from generous Canadians and community partners.


•           There are more than 85,000 charitable organizations in Canada competing for donor support, yet CNIB is the only charity providing vision loss services on a national scale.


•           As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to raise the funding we need, and CNIB’s vision loss rehabilitation services – which are a lifeline to thousands of Canadians – are being put in jeopardy.


•           Canada currently pays $15.8 billion in vision loss-related costs every year, and that number is expected to double over the next 25 years. 

The rights of Canadians aren’t being fulfilled

CNIB’s services aren’t just helpful to the Canadians who need them – they’re essential. In fact, many of the services CNIB provides are critical to ensuring that thousands of Canadians are able to achieve their basic rights – such as our mobility training, independent living, CNIB Library services, and others. 

Throughout many Western countries worldwide, vision loss rehabilitation services such as these are provided by government agencies through their social services system. But with the exception of Quebec – where vision loss rehabilitation services are uniquely funded and delivered by the provincial government – that model doesn’t exist in Canada.


Across the vast majority of the country, CNIB is the primary provider of essential vision loss rehabilitation services for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. And despite the gains that many other countries have made in this area, these services have never been absorbed within Canada’s health care continuum, and are instead left for a charity to deliver – and fund mostly with public donations.  


We believe that the fundamental rights of Canadians should never depend on a charity’s capacity to generate donations.


Consider this . . .

•           The CNIB Library is the number one source of alternative format materials (e.g., braille and audio books) for the more than three million Canadians who are unable to read print because of a disability. Yet libraries for sighted Canadians are fully funded by government dollars.


•           If a Canadian has a serious health problem that affects their ability to be independent and mobile (e.g., a heart attack or broken bone) their 

rehabilitation is provided within the health care system. But when a Canadian loses their vision, the essential rehabilitation services they need to overcome the challenges of sight loss are provided mostly by CNIB and funded in large part by public donations.  


•           Within the province of Quebec, vision loss rehabilitation services are fully funded by the provincial government, enabling CNIB to focus on delivering a range of other valuable, life-enhancing services to people in Quebec who are blind or partially sighted. Though isolated, this model holds promise for the possibility that other provincial governments could establish working service delivery models to support the thousands of Canadians living with vision loss across the country.   


•           In order for our specialists to deliver rehabilitation services to Canadians who are blind or partially sighted in communities across the country, we rely on the tireless efforts of thousands of volunteers who support our work behind the scenes. 




We want your voice to be heard

As our population ages and charitable competition continues to increase, the need to create innovative solutions to Canada’s vision loss challenges is greater than ever – and so is the need for your knowledge and opinions.


We want you to help shape the future direction of our work from 2014 to 2017, suggesting where we can make the greatest impact as a charitable organization and service provider.


Tell us what you think

From April to June, 2013, we’re inviting you to give us your views on what you think should be the important areas of work that we focus our resources on, and the principles that should guide our ongoing efforts.

Archival Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
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