Government cuts jeopardize safety and independence of blind Nova Scotians


CNIB is shocked and dismayed by the recent comments made by Community Services Minister, Joanne Bernard, regarding funding of CNIB’s essential vision rehabilitation services – after the Province of Nova Scotia cut CNIB’s funding by 30 per cent.

Funds received from the Department of Community Services are instrumental to CNIB’s ability to deliver rehabilitation therapy services to Nova Scotians – to learn skills and techniques to accomplish everyday activities that sighted people take for granted, like cooking a meal or crossing the street.

Such cuts not only jeopardize the fundamental rights of individuals living with blindness or partial sight in our province, they put their safety and independence at risk.

The Minister’s suggestion that CNIB’s endowments can be used to fill funding gaps created by budget cuts to rehabilitation therapy for Nova Scotians is simply not accurate.

Endowments are funds that are held in trust on behalf of a donor to support a charity’s future sustainability, and the interest they generate is restricted to the purpose intended by the donor. Many of CNIB's national endowments are dedicated to such things as research or accessible library services, and not to rehabilitation therapy.

We are extremely saddened that after years of working together with the Department of Community Services to meet the rehabilitation needs of Nova Scotians with vision loss that Minister Bernard would make such unfounded comments.

The Minister’s comments only illustrate the dire need to change the way that the Province of Nova Scotia perceives and treats individuals who are blind or partially sighted within our society.

Post-vision loss rehabilitation therapy should be publicly funded and never dependent on the ability of a charity to raise adequate funds. CNIB cannot and should not be expected to sustain the current subsidy of these essential services.

Whether an individual receives the rehabilitation therapy they need to live independently and travel safely in their community shouldn’t depend on how many people attended a CNIB fundraising event or on how many people signed up for our monthly giving program last year.

The fact that this rehabilitation is understood today as a charity’s responsibility contributes to the ongoing stigmatization of people who are blind or partially sighted.

CNIB would like to meet with Minister Bernard to help her better understand the nature of the work CNIB does in communities across the province and the vital importance of this funding to the independence and safety of Nova Scotians with vision loss.

Ultimately, we look forward to collaborating with the Government of Nova Scotia to identify opportunities to integrate post-vision loss rehabilitation therapy into the province’s continuum of health care, and sustain this vital service into the future.

Working together, we must ensure all Nova Scotians who are blind or partially sighted can overcome the tremendous challenges of vision loss and fully participate in life, the community and the economy.

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