Welcome to the September edition of "Insight"! This month, we look at how our SCORE program is helping youth with sight loss achieve their career goals. Next, we speak to one educator and artist about his vision loss and passion for music. Finally, we focus on the up and coming provincial elections and issues affecting Canadians who are blind or partially sighted — find out how you can get involved and informed. Remember to send us your feedback at email@example.com.
CNIB appoints new board chair, launches ‘seeing beyond vision loss’
On September 24th, 2011, we announced the appointment of Jane Beaumont as our new national board chair and launched our new official organizational tagline at our 93rd annual general meeting.
A member of the national board since 2005, Ms. Beaumont served as the chair of the programs and services committee. She is active on a national working group to promote and implement the Initiative for Equitable Library Access, a partnership involving all levels of government, public libraries and CNIB as key stakeholders.
“Ms. Beaumont brings a wealth of knowledge to her new post, including an extensive background in accessible libraries and core service delivery,” says CNIB’s President and CEO John Rafferty. We couldn’t be more pleased.”
Our new tagline “seeing beyond vision loss,” which was also launched at the annual general meeting, encompasses all that CNIB does to serve Canadians who are blind or partially sighted.
“Our goal is to create a better Canada – one in which every Canadian has free access to the information and resources they need to prevent avoidable eye disease, and the quality rehabilitation services they’ll need if they should ever lose their sight,” says Ms. Beaumont. “We’re committed to creating a more inclusive society for people with vision loss and challenging misconceptions of what it means to be blind or partially sighted.”
Less than 35 per cent of our total funding comes from government sources; we rely on public donations to help it to be there for everyone who needs our services.
SCORE program helps youth with vision loss build independent, rewarding futures
How do we train the youth of today for the challenges of tomorrow? This question was the seedbed for founding the SCORE program 22 years ago.
Today, with an employment rate of 35 per cent for working-age Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, the answer has never been more important.
SCORE stands for Skills, Confidence and Opportunities through Recreation and Education, and is a unique program for youth with vision loss supported by the Walter and Wayne Gretzky Scholarship Foundation. The program focuses on personal development, team building, leadership, career skills, post-secondary preparation, and civic responsibility for youth with vision loss.
The SCORE 4 program, which focuses on youth in their last two years of high school, began this summer at Lake Joe Centre and ended at Ryerson University in Toronto. During this time, students participated in a three-day work placement with the Toronto Urban Farm Program, and Good Shephard Centre in Toronto, Ontario.
“Through these placements, they learn the importance of how they can give back to the community, and how that there are different types of people out there who require services. It gives them an opportunity to look outside of themselves, to broaden their horizons,” says Kerrie St. Jean, Professional Practice Leader, Child, Youth and Family Services at CNIB, who leads the program.
“We try to help them understand the impact their time can have on the lives of others; empowering them to see how they can make a difference and contribute to society,” she says.
Students participate in ten days of group work, mock interviews, and leadership training, building on their strengths and unique talents, while actively practicing new life skills, personal development and achieving goals with others.
“Two key areas stood out in past recipients’ speeches: meeting with the boss of companies they might apply to, and developing a support network of people they can speak and relate to,” says Ronald W. Finucan, National Director for Wayne and Walter Gretzky Youth Programs, as he spoke at a SCORE celebration dinner.
Generous support from the Walter and Wayne Gretzky Scholarship Foundation make the scholarships possible. Established in 1996, the foundation presents several scholarships and bursaries each year to eligible students with vision loss planning to study at the post-secondary level. At last count, 245 students have graduated from the scholarships.
“Any time we deal with Wayne and Walter, the bottom line with them is always ‘Make sure it’s for the youth.’ The SCORE program is really dear to their heart,” he says.
Cultural artist and educator stays active in his community despite vision loss
Pat “Panman” McNeilly got more than he bargained for when he visited the optometrist three years ago to be outfitted with eyeglasses.
He learned he had open-angle, or chronic glaucoma, which can progress gradually and may go unnoticed for many years. Glaucoma is the second most common case of irreversible vision loss in seniors and affects more than 250,000 Canadians.
The 66-year-old, who holds a diploma in education from Queen’s University and is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers, has 20 per cent vision in his left eye and just 10 per cent in the right. He carries a CNIB identification card instituted last June for Ontarians who are blind or partially sighted.
“To be pronounced legally blind was difficult,” said McNeilly who, 25 years ago, introduced steelband as a formal high school music credit course at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). He has also adjudicated several Toronto Catholic District School Board music festivals.
Despite the challenges he’s faced with losing his vision, McNeilly tied for first runner-up in last month’s Organization of Calypso Performing Artists (OCPA) calypso competition.
The two-time Calypso Monarch and Juno-award winner made a strong return to the competition in 2007 after a 10-year absence, finishing second behind Structure. He was the oldest participant in the event.
McNeilly, who published ‘Hands on Steelpan: Teachers Guide and Student Companion to the Art of Playing Steelpan,’ was also the only pan player at the inaugural 1967 Caribbean Carnival.
“I have been in the entertainment business for 50 years and I have enjoyed every moment,” said McNeilly who taught for eight years in Trinidad and Tobago before returning to Canada in 2005. “There have been bumps along the way, but it feels good to be recognized and to be able to at least see the reward. This is a signal moment in my life.”
Provincial elections 2011: Raising a voice for Canadians with vision loss!
In the lead-up to the provincial elections this fall, CNIB is raising a voice for issues that affect Canadians who are blind or partially sighted – and we’re rallying as many people to join us as we can.
Although life with vision loss can present many challenges, CNIB’s vision rehabilitation and library services are vital resources that help people who are blind or partially sighted build the skills to fully participate in everyday life.
Unlike other rehabilitation services offered through Canada’s health care system, however, vision rehabilitation services are provided mostly by CNIB and other charities, and funded largely by private donations.
We believe Canada urgently needs a greater investment into these services in order to effectively meet current and future demands for vision rehabilitation support.
Likewise, our library is the largest resource for alternative format materials in the country, but is simply not able to meet the current and future demand for alternative format materials.
In the absence of a coordinated network for the delivery of fully accessible library services, a significant investment in the current library is needed in order for us to continue to provide fully accessible books, magazines, newspapers and other materials to the thousands of Canadians who need them.
It’s important to remember that while CNIB provides core rehabilitation services for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, less than 35 per cent of our total national funding actually comes from government. This means we rely on the generosity of the public to continue to offer these vital services to those who need them. With our rapidly aging population, vision loss in Canada will only continue to rise in the years to come.
By contacting your local candidates in this upcoming provincial election, you can help us spread the word about the need to make sustainable investments in vision rehabilitation and library services.
You can add your voice to our own by visiting us at cnib.ca/election or calling 1-800-563-2642 for information about how you can take action.
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Monthly Giving - Become a Partner in Vision
Every 12 minutes, someone in Canada loses their sight. By giving as little as $10 a month, you can provide CNIB with sustainable funds to provide programs and services, like our library, to people with vision loss. Become a Partner in Vision today and help us empower these Canadians with the confidence, skills and opportunities to build meaningful careers, with services covering everything from résumé writing, to computer training, networking and travelling to work safely.