Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded (SAPA)

British newspaper magnate Sir Arthur Pearson lost his sight to glaucoma in 1913, and in 1915 founded St. Dunstan’s Home to rehabilitate soldiers who had been blinded in the First World War. Rather than simply being a charitable organization, however, St. Dunstan’s offered vocational training to the servicemen to enable them to regain their independence and return to the workforce.

Many Canadian soldiers, including CNIB’s founder Colonel Edwin Baker, founder of CNIB, underwent rehabilitation training at St. Dunstan’s before returning to civilian life in Canada.

Baker and Pearson became good friends during Baker’s stay, and as a result Pearson, who was also president of Britain’s National Institute for the Blind, had a hand in founding CNIB in 1918, and served as its first honorary president.

Under contract with the Canadian government, CNIB’s role was to provide training, employment placement services and follow-up care for veterans who had lost their sight in the war.

Eventually, CNIB was able to devote more time to its broader mandate, providing programs and services to all Canadians with vision loss, not just war veterans. Fearing their interests would be overlooked in the rapidly expanding CNIB, however, the veterans founded the Sir Arthur Pearson Club of Blinded Soldiers and Sailors, which worked to negotiate improved disability pensions and other benefits for blinded war veterans and their families. Twenty years later, to properly include the blinded servicemen and women of the Second World War, the Club's name was changed to The Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded.

 

World War II

At the outbreak of the Second World War, CNIB again faced the task of providing rehabilitation services to Canada's war blinded. Rehabilitation training took place at CNIB’s headquarters on Beverly Street in downtown Toronto.
 
In 1952, SAPA social clubs were organized across Canada with each club appointing one delegate to attend the annual SAPA meetings in Toronto. Eventually, these clubs became branches of SAPA, with the president of each branch assuming membership in SAPA's National Executive.

Scholarships

In 1959, the SAPA Scholarship Fund was established to encourage students with vision loss to further their education. By 1992, the scholarship had been restructured as a self-sustaining foundation and re-named the F.J.L. Woodcock/Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded Scholarship Foundation.

 

Continuing service to veterans

As an individual Veterans' Association, SAPA has made many appearances before Parliamentary Committees on matters related to blindness resulting from military service, and has worked diligently on behalf of Canadian veterans in general. The association is active in formulating the policies and procedures of Veterans Affairs, and is a member of the National Council of Veteran Associations. The relationship between The Sir Arthur Pearson Association and the CNIB remains closely interwoven. Today, SAPA has seven branches across Canada, and a national office in Ottawa.

 

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