Insight November 2015


​Welcome to the November edition of Insight. This month we’ll meet some amazing kids who are making great strides in the world of braille. The holiday season is right around and Dear Izzy is helping us keep traditions alive with tips for holiday baking with vision loss. We’ve also got Shop CNIB’s Holiday Gift Guide to help you cross some names off your list with ideas for all ages. 

Treasure Box Braille: Meet the Classy Cyborgs

The Classy Cyborgs TeamA team of nine students between the ages of 12 to14 years old is on a mission to help children who are blind to learn braille.

It’s estimated that only 10 percent of blind adults and children know how to read braille. While there are many educational apps and technology aimed at teaching sighted children, there is little available for kids with vision loss.

The Classy Cyborgs, hailing from Aurora, Ontario, began developing their new technology called Treasure Box Braille in October 2014. Based on digital learning like LeapFrog, the app introduces braille literacy to young children in a way that is fun and educational.

The students developed the idea for the software when they participated in FIRST Lego League, a worldwide organization that promotes science and technology to students between 9 and 14 years of age. The FIRST Lego League encourages students to solve a real world problem. Treasure Box Braille was selected by the FIRST Lego League as one of the top 20 innovations from around-the-world.

Treasure Box Braille offers an entertaining learning experience for blind and partially sighted children. A braille simulator attaches to the finger to teach the braille alphabet and words. As users learn letters, prizes (such as gold coins) are dispensed from a treasure chest. While the Classy Cyborgs are designing the software, the students are also working with Linar Smigalob and Nicolas Casali at the Lassonde York University’s School of Engineering to develop the braille simulator.

In developing their innovative technology, the Classy Cyborgs were mentored by former NASA scientist and robotics professor, Ayanna Howard. The students also received a scholarship from the Canadian Scholarship Trust, which is being put towards development of a prototype. They hope to have the prototype ready this winter for testing by users including CNIB clients.

As well as creating an exciting product that will teach vital skills to blind and partially sighted children, the young entrepreneurs are learning other things including business skills, public speaking, running a blog and social media.

The Classy Cyborgs say they hope their innovation will open up a world of possibilities for blind children who want to learn how to read.


Dear Izzy: Holiday baking with vision loss

Dear Izzy is an anonymous advice column that offers solutions to everyday challenges for people with vision loss.

Dear Izzy,

For years, my favourite activity over the holidays was baking. My family always looks forward to receiving their Christmas care packages filled with an assortment of delicious goodies. However, as my vision slowly deteriorates I find myself dreading the chore. Simple tasks like measuring small quantities of liquid have suddenly become more difficult. I usually end up spilling the ingredients all over the counter or onto the floor. Do you have any suggestions? Please help me!

Baffled Baker in Branford

Dear Baffled Baker in Branford,

My favourite solution for measuring small quantities of liquid like vanilla, oils, and vinegars begins with a set of cheap metal nested measuring spoons. Nested measuring spoons are usually bound together with a metal ring. The spoons stack on top of each other making it easy to identify the different sizes.

Place the metal measuring spoons in a cup of hot water. When the spoons are warm, bend the bowl portion of the spoon to a 90º angle to the handle so the spoons are shaped like miniature ladles. Transfer your liquid ingredients into wide-mouth jars.

To measure, simply dip the appropriate spoon into the liquid. When you pull the spoon out of the jar, you will instantly have the correct measurement of the liquid. This method works equally well with other liquids like syrups and salad dressings. If you would like to learn additional kitchen skills, contact your local CNIB office. Happy baking!

If you would like to submit an independent living skills question to Izzy, please send an email to Your question may be answered in a future CNIB blog.


Shop CNIB Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for a gift for a family member or friend who’s blind or living with vision loss? Or, are you looking to add something new to your collection of accessible products to make 2016 that much more exciting? Look no further! Shop CNIB is home to the largest collection of accessible products in Canada, from playing cards to stylish watches to video magnifiers and everything in between.

Check out Shop CNIB’s Holiday Gift Guide for 2015


This holiday season, honour a loved one with a gift to CNIB

When someone loses their vision, life changes forever – and every person adjusts to it differently. Some people live in isolation, while others experience depression or anxiety. Your support makes it possible for CNIB to be there for people who are blind or partially sighted, helping them lead active, independent lives. Your donation helps us change lives every day. Donate today at


Spread some holiday cheer!

As the crisp fall weather begins to move in, the CNIB team is eagerly looking forward to the holiday season ahead! This year, we’re thrilled to be offering CNIB holiday cards for sale through Shop CNIB retail stores across the country and online at Available in packs of 10, the proceeds of these beautifully designed cards will support CNIB services in your community. Order yours today!


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. 

Back to top of page