Insight E-Newsletter - July 2011

Welcome to the July edition of Insight! In this issue, we celebrate summer with five travel tips from experts at CNIB. We speak to the founder and director of Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler about his passion for jazz music and CNIB. Finally, we get inspired as we look back on our celebrity sunglass auction and kind acts of generosity from across the country. As always, feel free to drop us a line with your feedback at or follow @CNIB on Twitter.

Founder of Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler talks about his jazz roots and why CNIB is his charity of choice

Image of Jazz on the Mountain at WhislterArnold Schwisberg, founder and producer of Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler, has been involved in music his whole life, but it was a trip to Disneyland in L.A. at 18 that solidified his passion for jazz.

“There were about 2000 people there and these guys were kicking up a storm, and the fact they had no vocalist lost nothing. The name of this band was Spyro Gyra,” he says.

In the following years, Schwisberg pursued his love of jazz by getting involved in numerous festivals across the country, hosting a national jazz radio show and even running his own record label before he came up with the ambitious idea of creating his own festival – with CNIB as its official charity.

Taking place from September 2 to 4 in Whistler, B.C, Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler is Canada’s newest jazz event that will feature top international and Canadian jazz artists from Kevin Eubanks to Oliver Jones to Spyro Gyra, performing in a picturesque, intimate and highly interactive setting. In addition to offering various on-site fundraising and awareness building opportunities for CNIB, a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to support local CNIB programs and services in B.C. CNIB clients carrying a CNIB identification card will also receive free admittance into Whistler Olympic Plaza, the festival’s main venue.

The decision to have the festival help support Canadians who are blind or partially sighted made sense to Schwisberg for more than one reason.

“I’ve always been a big fan. CNIB is well known in Canada as being one of the most valuable charities in the country,” he says.

He has a personal connection as well. His brother in-law, Ian White, went blind in his 40s. “He’s one of the most cheerful, optimistic, and happy people I know. He’s truly inspiring,” says Schwisberg.

Also a fine guitar player, it was Ian who first introduced Schwisberg to the iFactor, CNIB’s premier musical competition for Canadians with vision loss. Witnessing Ian’s success as one of the top 10 finalists in the iFactor competition last August inspired Schwisberg to come up with a way to reach out to jazz lovers with vision loss.

In addition to great performances, the inaugural festival will also offer a Master Class Series where aspiring young musicians will learn from some of jazz music’s most well-known guitar virtuosos. CNIB will work with festival organizers to provide a CNIB Scholarship for a blind or partially sighted guitarist so they can take part in six intimate, 90-minute learning sessions alongside 70 other participants from across North America. The most improved students from the Master Class Series will be selected to perform with their teachers live on stage.

“Jazz On The Mountain At Whistler will have something for everyone, not just jazz fans,” says Schwisberg. “We want to offer a great experience.”

For more information, visit


Shades of fun celebrity sunglass auction round-up

Photo of the autographed sunglasses donated by singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlanThis year’s Vision Health Month surpassed our greatest expectations - a whirlwind of activity sweeped across the country raising awareness about the importance of eye health. With more than 50 celebrities donating their shades to the cause, we reflect on some incredible acts of generosity during our Shades of Fun celebrity sunglass eBay auction.

Female singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan generously donated her sunglasses and used her Facebook and Twitter feeds to help spread the word. With more than 658,000 Facebook fans, her words had incredible reach.

Jann Arden sent us her shades and posted a special message on her official website urging fellow Canadians to join her in helping Canadians rebuild their lives after losing their vision.

A very successful round two of the auction garnered a jaw-dropping $2,080 for Canadian singer Anne Murray’s shades, while pop and R&B singer-songwriter and actor Justin Bieber’s sunglasses went for $585. Perhaps most unexpectedly in round three, the shades of former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams, fetched an astounding $2,600!

“We’re thrilled and humbled by the generosity of these celebrities,” said Steve Lutz, Vice President of Fund Development at CNIB. “Their participation has gone a long way toward raising awareness about vision health, and raising funds for CNIB services from coast to coast.”

The auction went live on May 11 as part of the lead-up to Shades of Fun day on May 26. All proceeds will help fund vital rehabilitation services for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted across the country.

Thank you to all of the celebrities who donated their sunglasses in support of vision health. The generosity displayed across the country was truly inspirational!


Five travel tips from the experts

Photo of the inside of an airportIf you’ve planned a trip in the recent past, you’ll know how much thought and research is required – not to mention weeks or months of preparation.

The following tips from avid traveler and CNIB client Doug Pace, community pastor Danny Leung, and CNIB’s orientation and mobility specialist Despina Salassidis-Jackson, demonstrate just how easy traveling with sight loss can be.

1. Know your route

Travel experts generally advise mapping out any travel plans well in advance, but if you’re blind or partially sighted, this step is especially important.

“We encourage people with sight loss to call ahead and plan routes in advance,” says Despina Salassidis-Jackson, orientation and mobility specialist at CNIB. One of our core services, our orientation and mobility specialists teach clients the skills required to travel safely and independently.

Doug Pace, a retired psychiatric nursing assistant, became a CNIB client in 2000 after he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). He now has RP (five degrees) with poor night blindness and light sensitivity.

Last year, he embarked on a three-week camping and hiking trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park in the United States.

“I researched each national park, which trails I wanted to do, and what I wanted to see in advance,” says Pace.

2. Ask for assistance

Depending on age group and comfort level, a person with sight loss may require assistance. Many people may not realize, however, that assistance is available at most major airlines, public transit stations, and railway stations.

A community pastor for the Christian Aid and Relational Evangelism Inc., a non-profit community organization in Toronto, pastor Danny Leung offers emotional support to blind or partially sighted people in the Chinese community in Toronto.

“I don’t hesitate to walk up to the front desk and ask for help to get to a specific destination. I’m not shy to introduce myself and make friends,” he says.

“We teach clients how to access customer service so they can bypass the line at rail or transit stations,” says Salassidis-Jackson, who recently taught Porter Airlines staff what to do when you meet a blind or partially sighted person who may or may not be using a white cane or a guide dog.

3. Use assistive technology

Depending on the type of destination, there are many assistive technologies available to blind or partially sighted people.

For Pace’s next trip, a 3,680 km-long kayaking trek starting at the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itaska all the way through ten U.S. states, he plans to take a few more items along. “I’ll need a monocular or binocular so I can see ahead for any barges,” he says. “When I’m paddling, I’ll have my talking GPS. Once I’m on the river, I’ll need to know where I can get off to pick up groceries and other necessities.”

Pastor Danny traveled last year on a cruise from New York to Halifax leading eight blind or partially sighted people and one person in a wheelchair. The year before, he led a group of blind or partially sighted people to Hawaii.

“I utilize an iPhone talking GPS, walkie talkies, and all the on-site resources available,’ he says.

4. Seek family and community support

Touching base with family members, friends, or contacts located in the area you’re visiting is critical for people with vision loss. “I’d research my transportation in advance and have addresses of hotels on hand, including phone numbers of contacts,” says Pace.

5. Use common sense

Tracking devices exist for luggage, which emit a beeping sound when in close range. You can even mark your luggage with bright orange duck-tape to make it highly visible.

Most importantly, Pace suggests, take your time and don’t rush! Rushing can cause problems to occur, such as misplaced or lost luggage.

Lastly, have fun!

Doug Pace will be blogging daily during his trip in 2012. To follow his adventures, visit


Shop CNIBPhoto of Quantum talking travel alarm clock

Quantum talking travel alarm clock: Perfect for the avid traveler - $15.70

This talking travel alarm clock in satin-silver finish will keep you on time and on schedule when you’re far away from home. Large LCD display showing time and temperature takes the guessing game out of what to wear. The gadget boasts a convenient snooze function, and its small size (only three inches high!) with closing function ensures it will fit snugly into your luggage. The clock takes two AAA batteries. Available in English only with a 12-month warranty.


Monthly Giving - Become a Partner in Vision

Photo of a woman hugging a young childEvery 12 minutes, someone in Canada loses their sight. By giving as little as $10 a month, you can help CNIB empower people to overcome the challenges and isolation of vision loss, ensuring they have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life – all year round. Become a Partner in Vision today and help us provide personalized support to Canadians who are blind or partially sighted in your community.



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