Insight May 2017

Welcome to the May edition of Insight. We've got so much to talk about this month! Let's not waste a moment...

BIG NEWS: CNIB is going to the dogs!

They're the fluffy, furry, fantastic animal companions that not only provide lots of love, but greater mobility and independence for people who are blind or partially sighted worldwide. We're talking about guide dogs of course!

Without further ado, we're thrilled to announce that CNIB is launching a guide dog program!

Why are we starting a guide dog program?

  • There's a shortage of guide dog programs in Canada. In fact, the wait list for a guide dog in Canada is 2-4 years, far too long to wait when you rely on a dog for your mobility.
  • Because of the lack of programs here, most Canadians travel to the United States to receive a guide dog. It can take several weeks of travel and training away from home. Not everyone is comfortable travelling, or has the ability to leave their families and jobs for so long.

Our goal is to expand the choices available to blind and partially sighted Canadians by providing a best-in-class guide dog program that meets the specific needs of people who are blind or have sight loss.

The CNIB guide dog program will:

  • Be free for all users. We believe finances should never be a barrier to someone acquiring a guide dog if they need it. All costs (including vet expenses and equipment) will be fully covered by CNIB.
  • Train users where they need it. Rather than asking users to travel to a centralized location for weeks on end, our guide dog program will be tailored to the needs of each participant, and may include domiciliary, residential or blended approaches.
  • Include ongoing additional support. We'll provide support to guide dog users throughout the dog's working life and in periods of transition, including peer support, social groups and supplementary training.

Over the last two years, we've been consulting with our community about the needs of Canadian guide dog users, and researching best practices set by dozens of guide dog schools across the globe. Now we're ready to bring some puppies into the mix!  

This past March, we acquired our very first guide dog puppies: two beautiful males named Baker and Piper. These little cuties were bred from some of the best guide dog stock in the world, from a long line of stellar guide dogs in Australia.

Over the next few months, we'll be welcoming even more puppies into our guide dog family. We're hoping to graduate these little guys by late 2018 when they'll be all grown up, fully trained, and ready to be paired with Canadians who need them.

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50 tips for parenting with vision loss

Moms and dads with vision loss have an amazing way of coming up with creative solutions for everyday parenting challenges. This month we bring you 50 tried-and-tested tips for parenting with vision loss – shared with us by Canadian moms and dads who are blind or partially sighted…

Keeping track of your kiddo: Baby on the floor with toys

  • Place your little one in a playpen when you're doing other things like laundry or cooking.
  • If you have low vision, use the camera on your phone to zoom in on your baby to watch him or her from a distance.
  • Use outlet covers and baby gates throughout your home.
  • Place locks on cupboards or drawers containing items you don't want your little one getting into.
  • If you have low vision, you might want to dress your child in a bright garment (like a neon t-shirt or hat) if you're going to a busy or public place so you can identify them easier in a crowd.
  • If you're at an event with other parents and kids like a birthday party, it can be hard to keep track of your little one. Assuming you trust them, you may want to ask other parents to let you know if they see your child doing anything they shouldn't be so you can deal with it.  
  • Buy shoes for your child that make noises, like these Wee Squeak shoes. (Luckily, you can remove the squeaker in the shoes when you need some relief!) For a cheaper option, you can also attach noisemakers like small bells to your child's shoes or accessories. 
  • If you need to do something in another room, ask your child to sing a song for you so you can not only keep track of where they are, but keep them occupied with an activity. 
  • If your child ever loses track of you in a busy place, they'll probably be inclined to yell out "Mom!", which isn't that helpful in a crowd. Instead, make a plan with him or her that they yell out something that's easier to identify – like your real first name or even a funny, made-up term like "Butterfly dance!" or "Purple puppies!"
  • Some kids may get out of bed independently in the night and parents worry where they might go. For this reason, you might want to use motion alarms, door frame alarms, child gates or a baby monitor to alert you if your little one wanders out of their room.
  • Try one of these child locators as a just-in-case precaution if you ever lose track of your little one. Even if you never need to use it, it might give you some much-needed peace of mind.

Making medicine time easier: VersaScan Talking Thermometer in package

Avoiding big messes: Baby sitting in high chair, covered in food

  • Place a mat under your child's highchair to catch messes and make clean-up easier.
  • Some parents suggest buying a large supply of inexpensive bibs and keeping a bib on your baby or toddler all day when they're at home with you. That way, when spit-ups and spills happen, you just take off the bib and put on another one.
  • Keep your little one as mess-free as possible during feeding time with a bowl bib like this one or bibs with sleeves like this one
  • Try this ezpz Happy Mat Placemat to avoid dealing with your little one picking up or throwing their plate.
  • When your child is playing with something that can easily become a big mess (like Lego, puzzles or Play-Doh), consider having them play with those items in a contained area like a playpen or small room. Some parents even say the bathtub can be a great place to have a fun, mess-free playtime – just make sure you're close-by so your little one doesn't accidentally turn on the water.
  • Buy mess-free art supplies for your kids, like an Aqua Doodle or Magna Doodle board; mess-free Playfoam; or these Color Wonder paints and markers, which only work on certain paper and not on walls, skin, fabric or furniture.

Staying organized: Socks held together by sock clips

  • Use helpful tools like a braille labeller, PenFriend Talking Labeller or colour identifier to label and identify commonly used items.
  • Consider only buying your child socks in one colour (like white) to avoid dealing with matching their sock colours every day.
  • Little shoes are easy to lose track of. Try installing a small shelf by your front door so you can keep your child's shoes on it and always find them in a hurry. You could also keep them in a small bag that you leave hanging on the door knob.
  • Try using sock clips or safety pins to avoid losing your child's socks in the wash and keep matching pairs together in the drawer.
  • Use a diaper organizer to keep all your diaper changing items neat and tidy.
  • Try using small laundry bags to keep your child's outfits together when doing laundry; you can get these bags at most dollar stores. 
  • If you're having trouble identifying your child's clothes in a drawer, try hanging them. Some parents find clothes that are hung up are easier to feel.
  • Download the Be My Eyes app on your mobile phone. Through Be My Eyes, you can take a video of pretty much anything visual that you need help deciphering – whether it's print on the back of a milk carton, a written note your child brings home from school, or even a video of your surroundings if you're a bit lost. You then submit the video to the app, and a sighted volunteer will answer the request with the info you need. Be My Eyes can be a big help in a pinch, especially for busy moms and dads. It's free to download and although it's currently only available on an iPhone, it will soon be released for Android devices too.     

Kiddie hygiene: Baby covered in bubbles in a bathtub

  • Try a finger toothbrush or an electric toothbrush when brushing your child's teeth.
  • Use your finger to measure toothpaste.
  • When changing diapers, consider applying cream with each diaper change. Some parents find this reduces concerns of irritation.
  • When potty training, try using a toilet training seat that fits onto the regular toilet. This may help to reduce clean-up.
  • Encourage your child to use their words at potty time. During the potty training period, sighted parents can often tell when their child has to "go" because of visual body language cues – like the child crosses their legs or puts their hands on their crotch area. Because they can't always see these clues, many blind parents actively encourage their children to pay attention to when their body is telling them it's potty time, and "use your words" to tell the parent when they think it's time to go.
  • Use a non-slip foam in the bottom of a baby bathtub.
  • Use small nail clippers carefully to cut your little one's nails. Some parents even suggest biting their nails to trim them.

Reading and learning: Boy reading a printbraille book with his mother

  • If you're having trouble helping your child with their print homework, consider getting a tutor, either privately or through the school.
  • If you're a braille user, read with your child using printbraille books, which take a regular book with print and images, and add braille overlays so you can both read together. 
  • Consider getting a Leap Frog. When touched to Leap Frog pages or words, the Leap Frog pen will read aloud, sound out words and start games.
  • Check out, which offers various children books for all ages with braille on clear plastic
  • Sign up for CELA to access hundreds of thousands of accessible reading materials, including children's braille and printbraille books.
  • Download children's audio book apps for your mobile phone, like MeeGenius, which offers hundreds of free audio books for kids.
  • Create your own tactile books using foam, felt or other textures so you and your child can explore the book together.

Getting out and about: Mother carries child on her back in a baby carrier

  • If you use a white cane or have a guide dog, try pulling your stroller instead of pushing it. Some parents find this easier. (Note: It's best to buy a stroller with 360-degree rotating wheels if you're going to be pulling it.)
  • Use a stroller cover and/or a bunting bag to keep your baby snug and dry in bad weather.
  • If you don't want to use a stroller (or can't because of a guide dog or cane), try a baby carrier or sling that allows you to keep your baby on your chest or back when out and about.
  • Consider carrying your little one in a baby wrap. Although they can be a bit hot in the summer, many parents say these wraps are great because they're fairly comfortable to wear and they can be adjusted as your little one grows.
  • Try a harness to keep your little one close when you're on the go.
  • Consider investing in a Go-Pod, which is a portable and lightweight activity/play station – great for keeping baby from crawling away when you're at a friend's house, doctor's appointment, etc.

Getting support:

  • Join our Parenting with Vision Loss telephone support group! This weekly phone-in group brings together moms and dads across Canada to share tips, advice and challenges on the ups and downs of parenting with blindness or vision loss. If you'd like to join the group or learn more, please contact the amazing and talented Shelley Adams, who runs this group and is also a mom with vision loss herself. Shelley can be reached by email at, or by phone at (902) 453-1480 (ext. 5701) or toll-free at 1-800-563-2642 (just ask the operator for Shelley Adams).

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Get it while it's hotHands on Orbit braille reader

The Orbit braille reader lands in Canada

Just over a year ago we introduced you to an amazing and affordable new tech device due to hit the (physical and online) shelves of Shop CNIB. We're thrilled to announce that the newest, coolest and most affordable braille display has now landed in Canada – the Orbit braille reader!

Refreshable braille displays are amazing devices that can revolutionize reading and writing for people who are blind. But unfortunately, they're not the most affordable devices. Most braille displays cost around $3,000, and that puts them out of financial reach for a lot of people.

At a price point of under $500, the Orbit is the least expensive product of its kind on the market and available to purchase in Canada only through Shop CNIB.

CNIB is one of 10 organizations worldwide who were involved in creating the new technology, along with the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) in England, NFB (National Federation of the Blind) in the United States, American Printing House for the Blind, New Zealand's Blind Foundation, Perkins, the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, Association Valentin HauY (AVH), Sightsavers, and Vision Australia. CNIB provided research and development funding, expertise and testing.

The Orbit reader has the potential to make a tremendous impact in developing countries, where access to braille can be severely limited due to cost. It will also provide an affordable option for people right here at home, including students who are learning braille. And with 32 gigs of memory, students will be able to upload all their textbooks onto this one portable device.

Be one of the first in Canada to own the Orbit braille reader. Order yours through Shop CNIB today!

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Woohoo! It's our 100th birthday!

We can hardly believe it ourselves, but we're about to hit triple digits! That's right, folks: We're turning 100!

Collage containing 5 images. Image 1: CNIB logo and tagline a century of change - 100 years. Image 2: CNIB founders at banquet, 1919. Image 3: Old CNIB poster featuring blind boy touching globe and the words CNIB brings the world to the fingertips of the blind. Image 4: Blind children playing music, 1950s. Image 5: Hands on early talking book machine.Since being founded in 1918 to support veterans left blind after World War I – as well as people blinded in the Halifax explosion – we've been creating programs, providing services and advocating to change the lives of people with sight loss of all ages across Canada.

You can't have a birthday without celebrations. To kick ours off with a bang, we held "Eye Believe", a flash mob in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, on March 31, where hundreds of community members gathered to set the Guinness World Record for the largest formation of the human eye.

All year long we'll be celebrating this very special birthday with lots of events and activities, including:

  • Our "100 Years, 100 Stories" initiative where we're sharing – you guessed it – 100 stories about the people past and present who've changed what it is to be blind in Canada.  
  • The CNIB Century of Change Awards Program. ​If you or someone you know is a volunteer who has made a significant contribution to CNIB, nominate them today for the CNIB Century of Change Volunteer Award. We'll be announcing all the award recipients this coming fall.
  • Birthday parties from coast-to-coast! At the end of our birthday year, in March 2018, we'll be letting our hair down, throwing on our dancing shoes and hosting 100-year parties right across the country – and you're invited of course! Stay tuned for more details in the months to come.

Stay up-to-date on our birthday celebrations throughout the year by visiting Be part of the celebrations by sharing your stories and memories on social media by using the hashtag #CNIB100.

Speaking of history…
AMI host Mike Ross interviews CNIB President and CEO, John Rafferty
While we celebrate our 100th birthday, we're also proud to celebrate almost 30 years of partnership with AMI (Accessible Media Inc.)!

Back in 1989, we were proud to help AMI secure its broadcast licence to launch Canada's first nationally mandated reading service. Then known as Voiceprint, AMI-audio now broadcasts two live programs daily, focused on news, events and issues pertaining to the disability community.

To this day AMI continues its commitment to represent the blind and low vision community across Canada with more live broadcasts planned across the country, including live coverage of APTN's Aboriginal Day celebration on June 21, 2017. Visit to find your service provider or stream AMI-audio live at

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