Insight May 2015


May is Vision Health Month! This month we’ll introduce you to Canada’s first Patient Charter for Vision Care, as well as the National Vision Health Report. We’ll also highlight the 2015 recipient of the Winston Gordon Award for accessible technology, and we’ll invite you to CNIB’s first ever photography exhibit happening in Toronto.

May is Vision Health Month!


True or false: Excess weight and smoking are both significant risk factors for eye disease? How would you respond? If you’re not sure of the answer, you’re not alone.

Canadians claim that vision health is important to them, yet 24 per cent of Canadians haven’t even had their eyes examined in the last two years and 53 per cent don’t know the controllable risk factors that could help them avoid eye disease. For Vision Health Month 2015, CNIB wanted to find out how just how much Canadians know about vision health.

The National Vision Health Report – the first of its kind in Canada – compiles responses from more than 2,700 Canadians across the country who answered questions that covered everything from vision health to stigmas around vision loss to advocacy issues. Questions such as “how important is your eye health?”, “when was your last eye exam” and “how do you feel when you see a blind person crossing the street?” were all asked but, responses weren’t always indicative of a country that claims to value vision health.

“There are an estimated 5.5 million Canadians living with a vision-threatening eye disease, and many more at risk,” said John M. Rafferty, President and CEO, CNIB. “This report shows they may not be doing all they can to save their sight.”

The report shows Canadians value the importance of vision health maintenance:

  • 92 per cent of respondents believed that eye exams are an important part of their overall health maintenance.
  • Preventing vision loss places third in terms of priorities for maintaining overall health, behind only heart health and weight management.
  • 82 per cent of Canadians said they teach their children about the importance of regular eye exams.

However, despite their commitment to vision health, there is a dichotomy between their beliefs and their knowledge and behaviours:

  • Only 47 per cent of Canadians are aware of whether or not their family has a history of eye disease, meaning more than half aren’t aware of potential hereditary risks.
  • 40 per cent of respondents had no awareness of age-related macular degeneration, .the most common eye disease causing vision loss.
  • 15 per cent of Canadians cannot remember when their child’s last eye exam occurred, and only 38 per cent of parents with a child aged one year or younger know if their child’s eyes have been tested at all.

In response to these knowledge gaps, CNIB and Canada’s leaders in eye health have come together for the first time to make a shared commitment to providing optimum patient-centered care across all stages of the vision loss journey – from prevention to diagnosis to treatment. The Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Opticians Association of Canada, and community organizations including CNIB have sealed their commitment by signing the  Canadian Patient Charter for Vision Care.

“It is incumbent on all members of the eye health and vision care community to come together, and to do better,” said Rafferty. “This Vision Health Month, we’re taking the first step toward that goal.”

Visit for more information.


BlindSquare: The world beyond the tip of your cane


The Winston Gordon Award was established by CNIB in 1988 and is presented to an individual or group who has made significant technological advances benefiting people with vision loss through the development of a product, software or application. Finish company MIPsoft, the 2015 recipient, was founded just one year after the awards were established and have been working to improve the lives of individuals who are blind or partially sighted with their accessible smartphone apps ever since.

On Wednesday, March 25, CNIB awarded the Winston Gordon Award for excellence in accessible technology to MIPsoft for their GPS-style app “BlindSquare” with a breakfast ceremony at the charity’s head office in Toronto.

MIPsoft has taken GPS navigation to a new level with their app BlindSquare –available for purchase through Apple’s App Store. It uses GPS, your phone’s compass and FourSquare to deliver information verbally about what is around you. The app also gives users the ability to plan out an entire trip before leaving home – whether getting on a bus, hailing a cab, selecting a place to eat or just walking down an unfamiliar street with confidence. All of this is possible from the comfort of your couch.

“I am honoured to have BlindSquare recognized by CNIB and the prestige of the Winston Gordon Award,” says Ilkka Pirttimaa, CEO and lead iOS developer at MIPsoft. “BlindSquare was built to solve many problems facing blind travellers daily. It’s a bit unusual as it’s an app that is continually being refined, not from our talents alone, but from the daily experiences of thousands of travellers who have come to enjoy new information, new choices and a bigger and safer world beyond the tip of their cane.”

The app also allows easier navigation inside buildings, through its beaconing positioning system (BPS). It alerts them to different areas inside a building such as a cafeteria, washroom, meeting room and other important markers they’d like to make through the use of their iCloud.

“I am truly looking forward to utilizing the indoor navigation capability of BlindSquare,” says Debbie Gillespie, CNIB’s accessibility coordinator who is blind. “It’s a natural fit for me, and opens up endless possibilities for independent navigation and way-finding. It is a welcome addition to my technology toolkit.”


The Mind’s Eye: CNIB photography exhibit


There are many misconceptions and stigmas that follow the blind and partially sighted community, but none as pervasive as that of a life of darkness.

As part of the photography festival, CONTACT, CNIB challenges the idea of vision with The Mind’s Eye, an exhibit that showcases the talents of Canadian photographers living with vision loss. This groundbreaking exhibit containing works from across the country will challenge the general public’s stigmas around individuals with vision loss and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

The photographs will be on display for the general public from May 8 to May 22. For hours and more information, visit


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For any special occasion, honour a loved one with a gift to CNIB

Why not give a present that makes a difference? A CNIB gift in honour of someone you care about makes a difference in the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted, helping them lead active, independent lives. Your donation helps us change lives every day.

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Note: The information provided in this article is for awareness purposes only, and should not replace the expertise of an eye doctor. CNIB recommends that you visit your doctor of optometry regularly for thorough eye exams, up-to-date medical information and advice tailored to your own unique vision health and family history.

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