CNIB Ontario Advocacy Plan

April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018


Mission Statement

To ensure all Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunity to fully participate in life.

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Background and Context

CNIB was born out of advocacy. In 1918, right after World War One, a group of about 200 Canadian veterans blinded in the war, realized there was a need in the community – to improve the lives of Canadians with vision loss – and that they could best meet that need by working together.
In Ontario and across the country, advocacy has often been an undercurrent to everything we do, with the volunteer community rallying around particular advocacy initiatives (e.g., Centre for Equitable Library Access and government-funded post-vision loss rehab therapy) or sitting on advocacy committees. We now want to build upon these efforts in a systematic way to unite the Ontario advocate community and to strengthen our voice as we work together to smash barriers and create an inclusive society. In addition to our focus on municipal and provincial issues, we support our national colleagues on federal and international advocacy issues.
A survey of CNIB's current roster of volunteer advocates was recently undertaken. The results of the survey will inform the selection and prioritization of issues for campaigns. The key findings were:
  • Increase awareness and educate the public about the challenges facing people with sight loss, their rights, their unlimited potential and the value they can add to society.
  • Provide self-advocacy skills so people with vision loss can be empowered to address their own needs themselves.
  • In terms of the choice of campaigns we undertake, municipal issues are of highest interest to our community, followed by provincial, national and international issues (in that order).

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Guiding Principles

  • Advocacy is part of CNIB's heritage and mandate.
  • We value a culture of partnership and collaboration with the community.
  • "Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far." – Will Rogers
    • CNIB partners with volunteer advocates who often drive the selection of issues/campaigns and tell their own stories to provide compelling examples to influence decision makers.
  • When CNIB states a position, it is as an organization. We do not speak for individuals with sight loss.
    • Official CNIB spokespeople (employees and Board members) must represent CNIB's position. They are not speaking as individuals.
  • When determining a CNIB stance, we will consider the impact on the people in our community who have the greatest needs.
  • CNIB Ontario positions should be in alignment with the National Advocacy stance and consistent from region to region within Ontario, unless there is a clear, approved reason to deviate.
  • When volunteer advocates within a region, or from region to region, disagree with each other on a position, CNIB will provide self-advocacy training so members of the community can represent themselves.
  • On occasion, CNIB may take a position that varies from some members of the community. This will be done with the support of appropriate CNIB leadership.
  • We will remain open to challenges and new approaches and will likely adjust our positions from time to time.
  • All materials shared with the community will be accessible. 

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  • To influence key decisions to break down barriers and create an inclusive society that is in the best interests of people with sight loss.
  • To impart self-advocacy skills to people with sight loss, their families and friends.
  • To raise community, public and media awareness of CNIB, its programs and services, its leaders across the province, and the causes it supports.
  • To build a corporate reputation for CNIB's Foundation in Ontario by demonstrating CNIB's:
    • Effective leadership
    • Determination to do what is morally and ethically right
    • Openness to change
    • Responsiveness to community opinions and needs
    • Collaborative approach
  • To attract people to CNIB as an organization that is making a difference and influencing the future (new clients, volunteers, donors, staff)
  • To build the trust of all stakeholders (people with sight loss, volunteers, donors, staff, community partners, municipal and provincial governments, etc.)
  • To create a baseline for measurement of success in the future 

Strategies - How we advocate

  • Work directly with decision makers and meet with them to demonstrate why they should support our issue (also called lobbying).
    • Build relationships and offer decision makers win/win solutions rather than simply presenting problems.
  • Take campaigns public when direct, behind-the-scenes (lobbying/self-advocacy) efforts have not succeeded.
  • Never burn bridges unless we are 100 per cent sure we do not want to go back. Antagonistic advocacy is the last resort once everything else has been attempted.
  • Share our position and/or the community's stories with people who can assert their influence to strengthen our voice.
  • Generate media coverage to highlight problems and solutions in order to build public support and create the environment decision makers need to support our cause.
  • Support our advocates as spokespeople to speak in their own voices about their reality and what they need and deserve.
  • Partner with likeminded organizations and disability coalitions (stakeholders) on joint issues that affect our communities.
  • Equip advocates with the resources and advice to self-advocate on issues important to them.
  • Share the latest advocacy news across the province through our advocacy e-newsletter Equalize and on our website and Ontario social media platforms to inform people about our activities and positions.

Goal #1 – Advocacy Network and System/Tools Development

To build the network and systems/tools to set us up for quick and effective advocacy action whenever needed.
  • To create a vibrant, flourishing advocacy network in each of the four regions of Ontario, with individuals effectively self-advocating, participating in advocacy opportunities identified by CNIB, and activating quickly for large campaigns.
    • To identify the issues each advocate is interested in
  • To develop a process for decision making regarding "new" issues to support
  • Is it something we adopt as a CNIB campaign?
  • Is it a self-advocacy issue where we can provide self-advocacy guidance?
  • Is it a matter of referring a person to the correct group for support?
To develop the tools needed to maintain the network and serve our advocates.
  • A clear process for on-boarding advocates
  • Email lists, broken down by areas of interest, for quick dissemination of information and campaign recruitment
  • A newsletter for ensuring advocates have the opportunity to hear about advocacy issues in Ontario
  • A robust website and social media platforms for engagement
  • Regional Board Committees focused on advocacy
  • An advocacy 'position bank' where we collect advocacy messages, survey responses and positions and materials, so we are able to mobilize quickly when needed
  • An advocacy referral network of experts – people and organizations – to whom we turn or refer for advice
  • A tracking template for monitoring advocacy efforts

Goal #2 – Accessible Neighbourhoods

To improve accessibility of the infrastructure of our neighbourhoods, using our ShopTalk program in the Greater Toronto Area as a pilot.
  • Apply funding grant from Rick Hansen Foundation to collaborate with BlindSquare to create and pilot an accessible neighbourhood model at Yonge and St. Clair (the neighbourhood of the new CNIB Community Hub) – accessible businesses, crossings, infrastructure, access to information
  • Work with volunteer canvassers to recruit local businesses to use the BlindSquare Beacons to identify their businesses and facilitate navigation within their premises
    • Educate local businesses about customer service for people with sight loss
  • Work with local councillors and politicians to enact structural and legislative change when required
  • Promote pilot widely to raise awareness of what can be accomplished when a community decides to be inclusive
  • Identify other areas of the province to duplicate the pilot in second phase

Goal #3 – Know Your Rights

To equip people with sight loss with knowledge about their legal rights and empower them with the knowledge, skills, connections and confidence to fight injustice and receive equitable treatment.
  • Apply for funding grant (estimated at $100,000)
  • Create advisory group of volunteers and staff with expertise in sight loss, Deafblindness, the legal system in Ontario and legislation regarding the legal rights of people with disabilities
  • Create plain-language materials (factsheets, videos) relating to the AODA, OHRC and the Blind Person's Act to help people what their rights are under each piece of legislation, broken down into categories such as: education, employment, health care, services (taxis, restaurants, etc.).
    • There will be two streams of materials:
      • One set for people with sight loss and Deafblindness, and
      • Another set for people in the legal system who need to understand the challenges faced by people with sight loss and Deafblindness, as well as the aspects of the legislation that apply to such people.
  • The content will be blindness/Deafblindness-specific, but will have components that are applicable to all disabilities.
  • Develop and pilot a "Know Your Rights" training guide and train CNIB staff and volunteers across each of the four regions of Ontario to deliver the training to people with sight loss.
  • Promote resources to targeted stakeholder groups across Ontario, including relevant legal organizations, e.g., the Ontario government, municipal governments, Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) for use in continuing education.
  • Develop and implement project evaluation methodology to learn where improvements can occur and articulate project impact.
  • Once developed and established, the "Know your Rights" program will be offered by the CNIB Foundation in Ontario on an ongoing basis. Community outreach will continue where needed across Ontario, materials will be updated to remain relevant, and the program will continue to be marketed to the relevant communities.

Goal #4 – Transit

To ensure transit is accessible and affordable for Ontarians who are blind or partially sighted.
  • Conduct research to determine transit programs accessibility across the province.
  • Consult with the community on the transit situation in various regions of Ontario and key issues province-wide.
  • If a consensus exists in the community across Ontario, write a CNIB position on transit issues, including concessionary fares for people who are legally blind, in preparation for tackling future threats to concessions (equity vs equality, no fare vs reduced/affordable fare)
    • Ensure Ontario's position supports CNIB national position (or is approved by National Advocacy team and executive management)
  • Develop advocacy tools that can be adapted to the varied transit situations for each municipality, on a case-by-case basis (flowing from a CNIB national/Ontario strategy)
  • Raise awareness of unique needs of travellers with sight loss (e.g., safety, affordability, etc.)

Goal #5 – Guide Dogs

To ensure people with guide dogs are not discriminated against and that their rights are upheld.
  • Provide plain language information about the rights of guide dog users and their dogs
  • Advocate with guide dog users to increase public awareness and break down barriers that infringe on their rights i.e. addressing concerns with guide dog in cabs/Uber cars.
  • Address the built environment, as well as social attitudes to create universal accessibility, and understanding of the guide dog partnership
  • Promote guide dog etiquette
  • Educate businesses who do not observe the rights of guide dog partnerships
In the near future, CNIB will be launching some pilot projects to fine-tune a new Career Support Program we have under development. Along with that, we will be determining how best to support the need for changes in the workplace to break down barriers facing people with sight loss.
  • 62 per cent of the working aged, blind and partially sighted population is not employed, compared to 27 per cent of the sighted population.
    • For the sighted population, we know that the “unemployment rate” (people who are actively looking for work) is approximately seven per cent and the remaining 20 per cent are not looking for work for a variety of reasons (stay-at-home parent, student, etc.).
    • For the blind and partially sighted population, we do not have an accurate unemployment rate, because many people have given up looking for work even though they would like to be employed. This sense of hopelessness contributes to the high numbers of people in this population who live in isolation and poverty.
  • Approximately half of Canadians who have vision loss live on low incomes, making $20,000 a year or less.
  • According to Stats Canada's Survey on Disability:
    • 55 per cent of people with a seeing disability felt that employers regarded them as disadvantaged.
    • 10 per cent to 14 per cent believed they were refused a job interview, refused a job or refused a promotion because of their disability.

Risks & Mitigation Tactics

Risk: Unexpected political decisions made at municipal and provincial level that affect people with sight loss, requiring a quick reaction.

Mitigation Tactic:

  • Having a strong and engaged volunteer base and mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders who we can call upon in crisis
  • Keeping good communication with decision makers and continuing political monitoring to ensure we keep abreast of the political landscape and are forewarned of potential issues
  • Constant development and renewal of advocacy resources that can be adapted for a number of common advocacy issues

Risk: Being out of touch with issues affecting people with sight loss across the province (i.e guide dogs, transit, built environment) and not reflective of our various communities across the province

Mitigation Tactic:
  • Maintaining good relationships with our community stakeholder groups
  • Regular consultation with our community members through our own channels and through external communication methods (online and offline)
  • Advocacy team meeting regularly with Ontario Senior Management, particularly those who cover remote areas
  • Maintaining records of individual issues so we can analyze patterns developing ahead of time

Risk: Previous advocates feeling neglected and unwilling to be involved

Mitigation Tactic:
  • Clear explanation of why there has been a lack of recent engagement, if possible
  • Development of robust processes for advocate volunteer engagement cycle
  • Maintaining accurate volunteer records to ensure contact details are up to date and volunteers are properly recognized
  • Contact details of the advocacy team clearly advertised if someone has a concern, and clear escalation process outlined if appropriate 

Risk: General public/decision makers uninterested in and/or unwilling to address sight loss issues.

Mitigation Tactic:
  • Research and statistics to support any 'asks'
  • Communication plans for all major campaigns so we make the right ask to the right person at the right time
  • High-standard advocacy resources that are audience appropriate

Risk: Advocates speaking off message.

Mitigation Tactic:
  • Maintain records on which volunteers are charged to speak on behalf of the organization, and inform all volunteers of our guidelines
  • Provide media training for those who are charged to speak on our behalf to ensure they stay on message and aren't unintentionally forced into saying something they don't mean
  • Develop clear key messages and provide to advocates and ambassadors.

Risk: Conflicting messages from different CNIB offices.

Mitigation Tactic:
  • Offer support to national advocacy team to develop position statements/papers on full range of issues
  • In absence of national positions, seek out positions developed by other CNIB divisions before developing an Ontario position
  • When corporate positioning is not yet developed, refer to past/other campaign materials to develop new Ontario positions that build upon others and reflect community input

Appendix #1 – Issues on Our Radar


Appendix #2 – Equality versus Equity

Equality vs. Equity.png 
Description of picture: The first picture, above on the left, is labelled "Equality". It shows three people looking at a baseball game over a fence – a tall person, a medium person and a short person. All three are standing on equally-sized boxes, leaving the short person still too short to be able to see over the fence. They have been treated equally (the same) because they were all given identical boxes to stand on, but that hasn't been enough to help the person who is short.
The second picture, on the right, is labelled "Equity". It shows the same three people, but in this case, the tall person has no box to stand on, the middle person has one box to stand on, and the short person has two boxes to stand on. The outcome is that all three can now see the game equally well. They are now on a level playing field. However, the resources or accommodations used to get to that situation of equality were not applied equally. The three people were not treated "the same". Instead, they were treated equitably or fairly, according to their needs.
That difference in treatment – the difference between being treated the same and being treated equitably or fairly, is a key part of our approach to advocacy. That is how we will get to "equal".