Newfoundland and Labrador Newsletter January-March 2016

In this Issue:

Editor’s Corner

By Lynsey Soper

It’s hard to believe it is 2016 already! We look forward to another year of working with you and sharing stories and information through our CNIB-NL Newsletter. We would love to hear from you! If you have any comments, questions, or an opinion you want shared with other newsletter readers, just send it to us by mail at 70 The Boulevard, St. John’s, A1A 1K2, fax at (709) 754 2018 or email at

Inspirational Quote

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
– Thomas A. Edison

Letter from CNIB-NL

As we embark on a new year it seems like a good time to provide an update on how CNIB’s strategic plan, The Path to Change, is progressing not only in our province, but also across the country.   As you may recall, the strategic plan was launched in 2014 and will conclude in 2018 with CNIB’s 100th birthday.  There are two primary goals:  to integrate post-vision loss rehabilitation therapy, which includes training such as marking a stove for cooking or learning to use a white cane, into the health care system so that high-quality, timely and essential services are available to and covered for every Canadian who needs them; and to redefine the programs we provide that rely on fundraising efforts, such as peer support groups or our post-secondary youth orientation program, in order to enhance the quality of people’s lives and expand opportunities for participation in the community. 

Each province is at a different point on this Path to Change.  In this province, for several years, staff and board members have been working with the government to integrate post-vision loss rehabilitation therapy into the health care system.  In 2015, we signed a service and funding agreement with Eastern Health to deliver vision rehabilitation therapy across the province.  To date we are the only province to have achieved that goal.  However, we still rely on the generosity of the public to support other programs not funded by the government, such as summer family camp for our youth clients and their families or our vision mate program. 

Across the country, conversations between CNIB and provincial governments has started regarding agreements for services and funding. Most provincial governments have agreed in principle to integrating vision rehabilitation therapy into the health care system, but agreements have yet to be finalized. The range of funding received currently is wide and starts with $1.71 per person living here in Newfoundland and Labrador all the way to $.13 per person for those who reside in British Columbia and all points in between.

For any information about the Path to Change please don’t hesitate to contact either of us.

Deborah Wearn, Provincial Director
Duane Morgan, Manager, Programs and Services

Highlight of Staff Member: Dinah Durnford

By Yong Ko, CNIB Volunteer

Dinah and her daughter, Paige, at Pasadena Beach
Photo: Dinah and her daughter, Paige, at Pasadena Beach

Dinah Durnford, a mother of a beautiful little girl, is one of two staff members at the CNIB office in Corner Brook. Her main role is a Career & Employment / Assistive Technology Specialist, assisting approximately sixty to sixty-five clients on an ongoing basis. She provides tailored advice and counselling to clients who are in need of switching jobs, finding a job, or learning to use new technology or devices. She reviews resumes and current skills of clients while contacting potential employers, explaining reasons why they would benefit from hiring her clients. Dinah also keeps in contact with clients to keep them informed about interesting job opportunities. Being a Career & Employment Specialist, she also helps set up transition plans for high school students who are about to embark on a new path to colleges/universities or employment as they may have to live away from their homes.

As an Assistive Technology Specialist, she travels to provide training for clients on the west coast, central Newfoundland, and Labrador who would like to learn new skills for programs and devices.

Dinah worked for eight years as a youth care worker in St. John’s and one year as an employment counsellor in Corner Brook; she joined CNIB to expand her knowledge, while helping other people in a different manner. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies from Cape Breton University focusing on psychology and sociology, she took courses through the Hadley School to deepen her understanding of vision impairment and her role at CNIB. Dinah is a Hadley ambassador for the Atlantic region; she strongly recommends taking courses through Hadley if someone wants to raise his or her awareness of low vision.

Dinah loves her job and is very happy to see the change in her clients’ faces when they realize their capacity to do something they thought was no longer possible. Dinah’s message to clients is very clear: “You can do what you want. You just do it differently than a person with sight.” When it comes to learning about new technology or changing a career, patience and practice are key to success with a firm belief that they can achieve what they want.

Tara Nanayakkara’s Story

By Colin Rideout, CNIB Volunteer

 Tara with her son, daughter, and husband
Photo: Tara with her son, daughter, and husband

Tara Nanayakkara, currently residing in St. John’s, has been a client with CNIB since 1966. She was born with congenital cataracts and is currently living with less than ten percent of her vision. Nevertheless, this challenge has not impeded success in both her professional and personal life.

Tara was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to Canada as a young child with her parents. An eighteen year marriage produced two children, seventeen-year-old Leah and thirteen-year-old Tristan. Leah likes drama and the arts, while Tristan plays the piano and loves building LEGOS. Tara met her second husband, Barrie, three years ago in St. John’s.

She works as a professional writer and has published three contemporary women’s fiction novels:“To Wish Upon a Rainbow” in 1989, “Priya’s World” in 2012, and just a few months ago “Cardboard Dreams”. Coming up in the fall of this year is her latest book, “Dawning of a New Garden”. She is currently working on a new novel, “Patchwork Family”. The inspiration for these books she says is music; describing the feeling as a ‘mental movie’ where she feels like the characters come to life on the page.

Throughout the years, Tara has been living independently; this is thanks in part to the technical support and white cane training that CNIB has been able to provide. Tara only uses the white cane when she is on her own or in a big, unfamiliar city.

When she is not writing, Tara loves to cook and bake everything from curries to cod au gratin to desserts. While she has no problem making the food delicious, she leaves the icing and decorating to her daughter.

Tara has identified lighting in restaurants as an issue that needs to be addressed. When she and her husband go to restaurants there is often dim lighting in the dining rooms. Tara will request a table that is better lit or for lights to be turned to a brighter setting, but is often told that all the restaurant staff can offer is a candle because they do not want to disturb the ambiance that is set for the other diners. A candle is not adequate lighting for Tara’s vision. Another common solution is that they will be segregated from other restaurant diners to accommodate their request for better lighting, which is exclusive and uncomfortable.

This is a problem because they are addressing certain things that people want instead of things that other people, like Tara, need. Because of this problem, there are many restaurants that Tara and her family are no longer able to go to. Her recommendation is that there be areas of restaurant dining rooms that have better lighting or designated to accommodate better lighting so that Tara and other people who are partially sighted can have a comfortable and inclusive dinner at any restaurant of their choice.

Anyone who is interested in Tara’s novels can check out her website at, or look for her on Facebook by searching “Tara Nanayakkara Author”. Residents of St. John’s can purchase a hardcopy of her new book, “Cardbook Dreams”, for $18 (tax included) by getting in contact with her. Her book can also be purchased as an e-book online from Amazon or Chapters.

CNIB-NL Updates

Vision Mate Program

Through the Vision Mate program, a person who is blind or partially sighted is matched with a Vision Mate volunteer who provides sighted assistance for a couple of hours a week. Vision Mates can help through friendly visiting or assisting with everyday activities like reading mail, organizing, going for walks, running errands, and more.  We currently have 11 Vision Mate matches across the province and are looking to let everyone know this great program is available throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. We are also looking to recruit Vision Mate volunteers, particularly in rural areas.
If you are interested in getting a Vision Mate volunteer, or know someone interested in volunteering as a Vision  Mate, please contact our Counsellor / Coordinator of Volunteer Services, Lynsey Soper, at, or by telephone at 1-800-563-2642.

Post-Secondary Orientation Week

The Post-Secondary Orientation Week is scheduled the week before Easter each year and students with vision loss from Levels 1, 2 and 3 are invited to attend.  The goal of this week is to give students an opportunity to visit Post-Secondary Institutions and take part in activities that will increase their independence and help them further their career plans. 

After we receive completed applications from students, we try to determine if they’ve already decided where they would like to attend post-secondary or what institutions/programs they are interested in.  We try to visit any colleges of interest and Memorial University.

Upon arrival, students get a chance to meet each other, CNIB staff and volunteers at our welcome lunch at the CNIB.  Students spend time at Memorial University and visit the Glen Roy Blundon Centre, as well as the College of the North Atlantic, and meet with disability services staff, who provide accommodations for students with disabilities attending these post-secondary institutions.  These accommodations may include: extra time for exams, textbooks in alternate formats, and other services that will help the student succeed. 

Students take a tour of the Memorial University campus and participate in a scavenger hunt as a fun and informative activity to help students familiarize themselves with the campus and its services. High school students also have the opportunity to spend time and connect with current post-secondary students with vision loss, who provide guidance and share their experiences with attending university or college.

Students also take part in recreational activities and get an opportunity to perform mobility training using traffic lights, riding transit and navigating local malls and grocery stores.  During the visit to the grocery stores, students have to prepare a shopping list, purchase ingredients and prepare a meal.

Overall, this week provides participants with an opportunity to experience many of the activities that will soon be a part of their lives as post-secondary students. Possibilities for individuals with vision loss have never been greater thanks to advances in technology and increased support services both on-campus and here at the CNIB. Since 2008, 88% of CNIB clients that enrolled in post-secondary school have either graduated from, or are still in the process of completing, their program.

Dining in the Dark

A concept that was the brainchild of a Swiss pastor has evolved into one of the CNIB’s most successful fundraising events. In the late 1990s, Jorge Spielmann, who is blind, would often invite his dinner guests to dine with him while blindfolded. His intent was to demonstrate the challenges of eating a meal without vision while engaging the other senses in new ways. It was an idea borne of both education and enhanced dining experience. In 1999, Spielmann, opened a restaurant in Zurich, called Blindekuh in which patrons would be seated and consume their meal completely in the dark. The winning format became a phenomena that spread to other European countries and ultimately to North America in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Montréal, and Toronto. To their credit, the establishments frequently hired partially sighted staff and donated a portion of their proceeds to organizations that support people with vision loss. This blend of public education, fundraising, and premium experience made the concept an ideal match for CNIB.

In this spirit CNIB-NL hosted its first dining in the dark event in 2012 at Raymond’s restaurant in St. John’s. The event provided a unique dining experience for guests that duplicated the conditions of the original restaurants through the use of blindfolds. Expanding on the original concept, the night was steeped in fun-filled activities that reminded participants of the importance of vision health and safety. Guests also learned the ‘clock method’ of dining, were introduced to technology that helps individuals with vision loss, and were enlightened by guest speakers recounting their experiences with vision loss and stories demonstrating the ways CNIB has had a positive impact on their lives. Exceptional food and an inspirational atmosphere culminated in an enormously successful celebration that has spawned similar annual evenings at the Gypsy Tea Room in St. John’s; 48 High in Grand Falls-Windsor, and Gitanos in Corner Brook.

Since 2012 the Dining in the Dark events have helped raise over $128,000 to support CNIB programs and services across the province. The next event will be held in February at Raymond’s in St. John’s and plans are in motion for the first ever Dining in the Dark in Labrador.

Ignite your senses with dinning in the dark. find an event near you or host your own dinning in the dark fundraiser 

Yoga Classes

The CNIB is organizing an ongoing yoga class for people with vision loss at our St. John’s office. The class would be taught by Judy Power, an experienced yoga instructor, who led our recent ‘Yoga in the Dark’ event which was a big hit with all those who attended.

Right now we're trying to figure out a schedule that would best serve the highest number of clients and we're asking people to indicate their preference in terms of weekday and time. Judy is recommending starting classes in February 2016(at the earliest) and her possible class times for a once-weekly class are:

Wednesday - one hour between 12-3 pm or 4-5pm


Thursday - one hour between 12-1:30pm or 4-5pm

We need a minimum of 8-10 participants and a maximum of 25. Anyone interested can respond with their preferred day and time by emailing Amy Gillard at or by calling Amy at 709-754-1180 ext. 5800. Class schedule will be based on the majority preference.

Classifieds Section of CNIB-NL Newsletter

Do you have any independent living aids or technology you would like to sell or give away to a fellow newsletter reader, or would you like to put up a wanted ad for one? If so, send us a request by mail at 70 The Boulevard, A1A 1K2, St. John’s, fax at (709) 754 2018 or email at

Community Partner Updates

Newfoundland and Labrador Visually Impaired Sport and Recreation Association (NL-VISRA)
By: Nadine Green, Member of NL-VISRA

The Newfoundland and Labrador Visually Impaired Sport and Recreation Association (NL-VISRA) is a non-profit association that facilitates the education and awareness of the public about the abilities and achievements of people who are blind or partially sighted, especially athletes. Members of the group are individuals who are interested in participating in various sports, games and recreational activities, such as croquet, bocce, curling, golf and bowling, among other things.
The association encourages and supports the development of sport competition and recreational activity of interest to its members. It also provides an opportunity for individuals who are blind or partially sighted to participate in amateur sports.;

The association plays a role in selecting athletes to represent the province and send them to participate in national and international competitions.  NL-VISRA members have attended and won medals at provincial, Atlantic, national, and international blind lawn bowling championships, national blind curling championships, and Atlantic Sports and Recreation competitions.

New members are always welcome. For more information please contact either:

The TechTalk Corner

By Yong Ko, CNIB Volunteer

Sunu Band

It is always  a pleasant surprise to learn about how advanced technology has been reshaping our lives in a positive way. Despite a plethora of beautifully designed, high-quality smartwatches or wristbands, a wristband specifically designed for people with low vision has been hardly commercialized.

A Sunu Band, a wristband for people who are blind or partially sighted, has a simple goal: helping a person lead a more independent life by raising awareness of one’s environment. By emitting frequency from a sonar transducer, it helps detect surroundings and generates vibration on your wrist in response; vibration becomes stronger as you are closer to an object or obstacle. It can sense up to 13 feet (or approximately 4 meters) and be used both inside (to detect aisles, exits, etc.) and outside (to avoid tree branches). It can be used as a supplement to white canes or guide dogs.

A Sunu tag can also come with a Sunu Band. It helps find personal belongings that may be easily lost; a Sunu tag can be clipped to items and detected using a Sunu Band or a user’s cellphone.

The first delivery of this product is expected to be mid May 2016. Please refer to below links for more details.

diagram of Sunu Band 

(Photo: Sunu Band)

diagram of Sunu Tag 

(Photo: Sunu Tag)

History of White Cane and White Cane Week

Canes and walking sticks have been effective and indispensable tools for people with vision loss throughout history. In earlier times, particularly in country or rural settings, the natural color of a wooden cane made little difference to its usefulness. However, as society became more urbanized, small villages were replaced by larger towns and cities. Roads were more frequently travelled and eventually the automobile and trolley emerged as the main methods of transportation. Travelling this new landscape presented fresh challenges and dangers to pedestrians, particularly the partially-sighted. Automobiles were fast and noisy by nature, making it challenging to safely cross a busy street. And, a dark wooden travel cane was difficult for a fast-moving driver to see against a background of asphalt. It was for this reason that James Biggs claims to have invented the white cane in 1920 in the city of Bristol, England. Biggs, who had been blinded in an accident, painted his walking stick white to make it more visible to motorists and reportedly created the first of many white canes.

At this time, the First World War had just ended and many veterans were returning from battle with complete or partial blindness. In Canada, organizations like CNIB emerged in response to this need. In France, a similar organization was created in Paris with its headquarters on Daru Street. 42 year old, Guilly d' Herbemont, lived in the area and each day she witnessed people who were blind and partially sighted making the, at times, perilous journey to Daru Street. Eventually, police were assigned to road crossings and used white sticks to regulate traffic and allow those with vision loss to more safely cross the street. But, Guilly felt that pedestrians who were blind should have their own sticks as a way to signal traffic. She wrote articles to the major press and spear-headed a campaign to bring this idea to fruition. Guilly secured support from city officials and charitable organizations, which ultimately led to a successful referendum. So it was on February 7, 1931, d’Herbemont presented the first white canes to the president of the Blind Men of War association and a blind civilian. They were the first of 5000 canes that Guilly financed with her own money.

Meanwhile, in North America, the white cane was being championed and promoted by organizations like the Lions and Rotary Clubs. For the first time, legislation was passed that gave blind pedestrians the right of way while carrying a white cane. In 1944, near the end of the Second World War, Veterans’ Rehabilitation Specialist, Richard E. Hoover, developed the now standard method of travel cane training which came to be known as the Hoover method. The technique involved swinging the cane from the center of the body, back and forth between the feet. The method was born of many hours spent travelling blindfolded through Valley Forge Army Hospital. Hoover also recognized the need for a lighter weight cane and commissioned the creation of an improved long cane to be supplied to war veterans and rehabilitators. With the support of legislation, a methodical training process and improved design, usage of the white cane increased over of the following decades.

The cane continued to evolve; new materials like plastic, fibre-glass, aluminum, and graphite led to improved, light-weight designs. Folding canes and later telescopic versions allowed for easier storage and portability. A red stripe was added near the tip to add contrast for snowy conditions and reflective paint on newer models enhanced visibility at night. New variations also emerged to suit a range of needs. A shorter and lighter ID cane is now used to alert others of a person’s visual loss but it is not considered sturdy enough for traditional use. Additionally, white support canes offer physical stability and ID purposes for the partially sighted with mobility concerns. Canes are also incorporating new technologies such as ultrasound and laser which alert users to the presence of obstacles or drop-offs through vibrating handles and audible beeps. Still in their infancy, these new designs foretell even greater improvements in the future.

Nearly 100 years after its creation the white cane continues to be the most widely used travel aid for people with vision loss. Lightweight, portable, and inexpensive, it is a remarkable tool that brings freedom and independence to so many and as such deserves to be celebrated.

In 1946, the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) held the inaugural White Cane Week, an event that continues annually and in 2016 runs from Sunday, February 7th – Saturday, February 13th. CNIB would also like to say thank you to the support of the Lions Clubs of Newfoundland and Labrador who allow white canes to be available free of charge to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with vision loss.

Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) White Cane Week Events

St. John’s Events

Contact Nadine Green at: (709)745-6797 or

Date Time Location Event

February 8

7:00 PM

St. John’s Lions Club

Cribbage tournament between members of the CCB and members of the St. John’s Lions Club

February 10

10:00 – 12:00

CNIB St. John’s

Various fun activities hosted by Academy Canada with prizes and snacks

February 13

2:00 PM

St. Pat’s Bowling Alley

Bowling between members of the CCB and members of Lions Clubs from the greater St. John’s area

February 7-13


Ottawa Ontario

CCB Members from NL participate in the National Blind Curling Championships

Corner Brook Events

Contact Darrell Pike at: (709) 632-2686

Date Time Location Event

February 8

8:15-11:00 PM

St. Michael’s Anglican Church

Dart night. Eye simulators will also be available for players to simulate different eye conditions

February 10

8:00 PM

Corner Brook Lions Centre

Community Awareness Council Meeting with presentation from Western Health

February 13

2:00 – 4:00 PM

Blow Me Down Ski Club


Grand Falls-Windsor Events

Contact Beverly Pike at (709) 489-9515 or Joyce Gillis at (709) 395-0064 

Date Time Location Event

February 8

7:00 PM

CNIB Grand Falls-Windsor

Cribbage night

February 9

2:30 PM

CNIB Grand Falls-Windsor

Pizza and bingo

February 10

12:00 PM

Curling Club Grand Falls-Windsor


February 12

2:00 PM

Sprucewood Elementary


February 12

7:00 PM

Elk’s Lodge


February 13

7:00 PM

Holiday Lanes 5 Pin Bowling Centre


We Are Here For You - Contact Us

St. John’s Office
70 The Boulevard
A1A 1K2
(709) 754-1180

Corner Brook
3 Herald Avenue, 1st Floor
A2H 4B8
(709) 639-9167

Grand Falls-Windsor
1A O’Neill Avenue
P.O. Box 442
A2A 2J8
(709) 489-6515

Happy Valley – Goose Bay
49 Grenfell Street
A0P 1E0
(709) 896-8302

Call Toll Free to all offices: 1-800-563-2642

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