CNIB Through the Ages: A Historical Timeline

Montage of scenes depicting events from CNIB's history

Original Purpose: 1918

Annual Report: “The first Annual Report produced by the CNIB.

With Canada’s social safety net still decades in the future, and many blind veterans returning from World War I, CNIB is incorporated and sets out to meet basic but urgent needs – by providing food, clothing and sheltered residences.

In its inaugural year, CNIB has 27 employees serving 1,521 people who are blind, mostly out of Toronto, although two itinerant “home teachers” provide rehabilitation training in other parts of Canada.

In the 1920s, CNIB starts a job placement program with limited success, but Brooms Flyer: “A flyer advertising brooms, published in 1920s.” its own factories, broom shops and concession stands flourish. Right from the beginning, the fledgling organization recognizes the importance of prevention, appointing a special nurse responsible for vision health and sight preservation.

Evolving Purpose: 1950

A 1959 “Wise Owls” brochure encouraged eye safety.

Serving more than 17,000 clients, CNIB at mid-century is starting to come into its own.

Its offices, vocational centres and residences are found in major Canadian cities, making programs more readily available and giving people with vision loss greater visibility in the community. Prevention is still a priority and a formalized research program has become a new initiative.

An advertisement published encouraging employers to hire people with vision loss. CNIB has achieved significant success in advocacy with the 1930 Blind Voters Act (allowing a blind person to vote with the assistance of a sighted person) and legislation around mandatory eye drops to prevent disease in newborns. In 1956, the organization helps sponsor a course for blind computer programmers.

With innovations such as this, it is not surprising that CNIB is becoming well-known on the international stage, and is assisting other vision loss organizations in the developing world.

Current Purpose: 2008

In 2008, CNIB is committed to research, public education and vision health for more than 800,000 people in Canada with significant vision loss – and all Canadians. The organization challenges conventional attitudes about vision loss and strives to educate Canadians about preventing eye disease.

Each year approximately 10,000 volunteers support CNIB programsCNIB is active in every region of the country, with 800 staff and over 10,000 volunteers providing programs and services for people of all ages. Gone are the residences and workshops of the past; today’s CNIB helps people to maintain independence, enjoy a good quality of life and succeed in just about every career.

Building on past successes, CNIB is a world leader in accessible technology, including its innovative consumer products, DAISY talking books and award-winning digital library. With the approaching crisis in age-related vision loss, CNIB is working harder than ever to meet Canada’s vision health needs.