From Morse code to email – veteran keeps up with changing technology despite sight loss

Radio operator Yvonne Hamon sent Morse code signals during WWII to fool the enemy into thinking Canada had more warplanes in the air than it actually did.

Now, the 95-year-old veteran is sending emails to her son – despite losing her sight.

In 2008, Hamon turned to CNIB Kingston when her eyesight started failing her.

She received low vision, independent living and assistive technology services. Hamon also discovered a new world of cutting-edge products, including a video magnifier and a computer screen reader that has made living with vision loss easier.

“CNIB has enabled me to send emails to connect with my son who lives in Dartmouth, and it is wonderful. I would recommend CNIB to anyone who is looking to make the most of their remaining sight,” says Hamon.

Kingston’s Edwin A. Baker (1893-1968), affectionately known as "The Colonel”, was one of the founders of CNIB, and he served as its managing director from 1920 until 1962. Born on a farm, Baker grew up where his United Empire Loyalist forefathers had settled. He attended public school and high school nearby, and went to Queen's University to study engineering.

He obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree as an electrical engineer in 1914, just in time to enlist with the Sixth Field Company, Canadian Engineers, and serve in WWI. In 1915, he was wounded at Mount Kemmel, France, and lost his sight in both eyes.

Baker returned to Canada in 1916, after undergoing rehabilitation at St. Dunstan’s home in England, to rebuild his life as a person living with vision loss. When CNIB was formally incorporated on March 30, 1918, there were very few supports or rehabilitation programs available to Canadians with vision loss. A lifetime of poverty, unemployment and dependency was almost guaranteed to people with vision loss. Two defining moments in Canada’s history (the Halifax Explosion and WWI, both of which caused many Canadians to lose their vision) only served to underscore the growing need for an organization that could offer a better way forward. From a staff of three and a handful of volunteers, Baker built the organization to include more than 50 offices from coast to coast.

“CNIB has a longstanding relationship with the men and women of Canada’s military. Our history is rooted in service to Canadian soldiers and it’s a heritage we’re proud to continue to this day,” says Len Baker, Regional Vice President, CNIB Ontario & Quebec. “And, nearly a century after we began, CNIB (Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada) currently serves anyone who has experienced a loss of vision through programs and services that are designed to ensure individuals who are blind or partially sighted have an opportunity to lead active, confident lives.”

Whether their vision loss is complete or partial, combat-related or simply a factor of aging, veterans of all ages can take advantage of CNIB’s personalized rehabilitation.

Along with its unique programs and services, CNIB offers Canada’s largest array of products and technologies to make life with vision loss easier – like magnifiers, talking watches and large-button tools. For veterans, the cost of many of these products is covered by Veterans Affairs Canada.