FAQ - Programs & Services

How did CNIB get its start?

CNIB was incorporated in 1918. At the time, Canada's social safety net was decades in the future. Blind veterans returning from World War I had very few options available to them, and so CNIB was created to meet basic but urgent needs - by providing food, clothing and sheltered residences. A lot has changed since then. Today's CNIB helps people to maintain their independence, enjoy a good quality of life, and succeed in just about every career. Read more about our history.

Does CNIB only help people who are completely blind?

Not at all. In fact 9 out of 10 people we help have some degree of vision. We are here for anyone with vision loss that makes everyday living difficult. Even if vision loss is in the very early stages, we can help prepare for the future - and take steps to prevent vision from worsening.

Do I need a doctor's referral to come to CNIB?

No doctor's referral is necessary to use most of CNIB's programs and services.

How do I start the process of accessing CNIB's programs and services? What do I need to do?

Call and make an appointment to come in to see us. For more information, see How to Access Our Services.

Can I benefit from CNIB's services even if my vision is fine?

Yes! We can help with information about eye disease, protecting your sight, and making changes to your lifestyle to prevent future vision loss. CNIB also funds research into the causes, treatment, cure, and prevention of eye disease, which benefits us all. And when vision loss occurs, we support family members and other caregivers as they learn how to help a loved one. We are here for all Canadians, and strive to be 'Canada's vision health resource. Contact us for more information.

Are CNIB's services free?

Our core programs and services are always provided free of charge. Any Canadian, no matter what their means or where they live in Canada, can come to CNIB at no cost, for support, expertise, and assistance. There are one or two cases, however, where we do charge a cost-recovery fee. For example, we are Canada's largest supplier of specialized consumer and assistive technology products (such as magnifiers, white canes, and computer programs that enlarge text on a screen) that help people to live independently, and we offer these on a non-profit, cost recovery basis.

What about financial assistance for people with vision loss? Can CNIB help pay for my surgery or assistive devices?

CNIB raises funds to support programs and services for people with vision loss, but this does not include assistance with medical costs or assistive devices. If you need financial assistance for yourself or someone you care for, contact your provincial ministry of health or your provincial Assistive Devices Program.

Can anyone receive service from CNIB, no matter where they live in Canada?

Yes. And we have developed a number of unique programs to provide service for people who live in remote areas. For example, we have staff and volunteers who visit remote communities. We mail alternative-format materials (such braille and audio books or magazines) to people all across Canada through a partnership with Canada Post, and offer other accessible library materials on the Internet through The CNIB Digital Library. In Ontario, we have the Medical Mobile Eye Care Clinic , also known as the Eye Van. It's a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art medical eye care clinic on wheels that operates in remote northern Ontario communities.

Does CNIB only help seniors?

No. While the majority of people we help are seniors (because of the prevalence of age-related vision loss), we do help people of all ages. For example, we provided services to about 5,000 children and 25,000 working-age adults in 2006. About 500 new children are registered with CNIB each year.

Because each age group has different needs, many of our programs and services target or assist specific age groups. Our Library's reference service helps people to succeed in their careers, and students of all ages to succeed in their studies. CNIB has training in accessible computer technology for adults, and ESL training for new immigrants with vision loss. We have orientation and mobility training that can help someone adjust to a new workplace or educational environment. Across Canada, CNIB offers a number of summer programs that build confidence and leadership skills in youth and young adults. Finally, our Early Intervention Program helps children from birth to age five and their parents. When children have vision loss very early on, it can give them a tremendous advantage to receive the specialized training that CNIB can provide.

Does CNIB endorse particular treatments?

CNIB does not approve, endorse or recommend any specific product or therapy but provides information to assist individual in making their own decisions. If you are considering undergoing a medical procedure or treatment, please discuss all available options with an eye-care professional, who is best equipped with medical knowledge specific to your unique eye condition.

Is CNIB involved with guide dogs?

Yes. At CNIB, we believe that everyone who would like to have a guide dog should have the opportunity to do so. That's why we're proud to launch the CNIB Guide Dog Program, a new program to raise and train guide dogs exclusively for people with sight loss, with the range of choices, services and opportunities they need and want.

I receive services from CNIB. How do I update my personal information?

Call us toll-free at 1-800-563-2642 or email us at info@cnib.ca.

I know CNIB produces books in formats like audio. Aren't the audio books in libraries and bookstores good enough?

Most audio books in bookstores and libraries are abridged - which means you don't get access to the whole book. This is fine if you are looking for vacation reading, but it's not fair to expect people with vision loss to always read books that have been shortened. In addition, the typical retail cost of an unabridged audio book can be as much as $200, considerably more than a print edition.

Libraries, by their very nature, are about access to books regardless of the ability to pay. Yet most Canadian libraries have relatively small audio book collections, particularly unabridged audio books. Consider that the average number of print books available through a local public library system in Canada is one million and many millions more by inter-library loan, versus, for example, the several hundred books that may be available in audio.

People with vision loss want a wide selection of content just like anyone else - and they want to read the whole book! Imagine competing with your fellow students or business colleagues with such limited resources. For most Canadians with vision loss, the CNIB Library is their main source of books, magazines, reference materials, newspapers, and other information.

I'm a researcher in the field of vision health. How do I apply for a research grant?

Visit our Research section, select the fund or grant that interests you and follow the steps for application.

Can you help me to make my building, signs, or public space accessible?

Yes. Our Accessible Design Service consultants can provide you with the tools and information necessary to make your building, product or service more accessible to all people, regardless of disability.

Do you make your financial statements available?

Absolutely. Our financial statements are audited by KPMG LLP Chartered Accountants and are available online in the Financial Information section. Or you can request a copy in the format of your choice by contacting us.

Does CNIB have a policy about privacy and personal information?

Yes. Read our privacy policy.