Pink Shirt Day - CNIB participates in anti-bullying campaign

2/23/2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 –CNIB employees will don their pink shirts for Pink Shirt Day.

Pink Shirt Day was brought about in 2007 when two students bought and distributed 50 pink shirts in support of a Nova Scotia teenager who was bullied for wearing one on the first day of school. 

The event has since taken flight and is honored widely. CNIB volunteer and client Kim Thistle-Murphy, a former guidance counselor who also has Ushers syndrome which, over time, has caused vision and hearing loss says, "The main objective is to raise public awareness around the issue of bullying, and help to prevent it by encouraging open discussion celebrating people’s differences and promoting positive relationships.  Our theme is Stand Up to Bullying."

What is Bullying?

Any behaviour that makes another person feel uncomfortable or afraid can be considered bullying – even if it is unintentional. 

For someone living with vision loss, often times, the lack of understanding of what it means to be blind or partially sighted lends itself to unintentional bullying that often results in feelings of discomfort, loneliness, frustration or isolation.

These stories are especially common among people who are partially sighted because most people do not realize that vision loss is a spectrum that runs between fully sighted and no sight. Many people with vision loss fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum and no two people are alike regardless of the eye condition they have. For example; a person using a white cane is often automatically assumed to be blind. In reality the white cane is used by people who are blind and partially sighted. It is used to listen to the sounds as it hits the ground. It also probes for and locates obstacles in someone’s path of travel. In addition, the white cane is used as a communication tool to let others know they have vision loss.

Thistle- Murphy is a dedicated volunteer at CNIB and co-facilitates an adjustment to vision loss program for individuals who are blind or partially sighted. She says, "It is common to hear participants of the program discuss how uncomfortable it can be to have someone question you about what you can and cannot see. In some cases those closest to you tend to become over protective, which makes the person feel like they are inadequate and unable to do the simplest things. Some people view vision loss as a black and white condition and it is not."

The intent of participating in Pink Shirt Day is to try and increase awareness about how easily statements and actions can result in unintentional bullying that can make a person with vision loss feel uncomfortable.

What you can do:

  • If you think someone may need your help; as you approach the person, first identify yourself and then ask if they need help. If they do need help, ask the person how you can help. Never make assumptions.
  • Try to use language which makes the person feel comfortable. Commonly accepted language includes “person with vision loss” or “person who is blind or partially sighted” or “person with a visual impairment,” however each person is different including the language they use to describe their vision loss. When getting to know someone, ask them what terminology they would prefer.
  • As you would with any person be respectful. Look beyond the vision loss and speak to the person. Try to use “person-first’ language. For example, “person who is blind” instead of “blind person.” It is important to remember to put the person first, as vision loss is a piece of who someone is, not all of who they are
  • Speak normally. You do not need to talk louder or slower to someone with vision loss.
  • Speak directly to a person with vision loss; not a family member or friend. Loss of sight does not result in a reduced capacity for someone to make their own decisions or speak for themselves

What not to do:

  • Do not touch anyone without their permission, unless it’s an emergency.
  • Do not make assumptions on how they feel, or what is best for them. Make it a point and always include the person in any activity. If you have questions about what someone would like to do, just ask them. Most people with vision loss live full and active lives; in most cases they can do the same things as anyone else - they may just do them in a different way.
  • Do not ask personal questions when first meeting someone. It is okay to ask someone how you can help them, but meeting someone with vision loss does not give you permission to ask the person whatever you want to know
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