Programs & Services

CNIB Ontario GTA Programs

 

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What is it?
  • An introduction to new accessible technology options (new smart phone apps and the latest devices) for people with varying degrees of sight loss.
  • Tech bar for learning, sharing and problem-solving, run by your peers
  • Virtual reality room for trying out technologies
  • One-on-one and group sessions
Why does it matter?
  • Accessible technology can transform the lives of individuals with sight loss, but they need to learn what will work best for them and how to use it.
  • Having a forum for learning from others and a place to go when there's a problem is essential for long-term success with any technology.
Michael's Story: Living with sight loss and trying to learn how to use an iPhone at an older age sounds frustrating and difficult. Nevertheless, 75-year-old Michael was determined to take advantage of his iPhone's capabilities. His biggest concern was that he didn’t know how to enter a telephone number to his contact list. He contacted CNIB and learned about a feature called Voiceover. With Voiceover, he didn’t have to memorize the iPhone screen, and could comfortably accomplish everything from inserting a name to his contact list, to setting his alarm for the next morning. Before long, Michael was experimenting with other tasks for his iPhone to do and checked back and forth with CNIB for guidance as he went along. Michael says the best thing about these technological challenges is that they give a blind person confidence and that CNIB was right by his side and ready to help.

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Lead, Accessibility Technology, shane.laurnitus@cnib.ca, or call 416 486-2500 ext. 7459.

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What is it?
  • Advocacy is persuading a person with influence, the public, businesses, organizations or governments to change attitudes, policies and/or practices about an issue.
  • Training in advocacy skills for people who want to either self advocate (advocate for their own personal needs, e.g., get the accommodations you need at school or work), raise awareness, or join in a collective effort to challenge systemic discrimination and break down societal barriers, so that people with sight loss can participate fully and equally in society.
  • No regular time or length of service requirement to become an advocate.
  • CNIB provides the training and the tools needed.
Why does it matter?
  • You are your own best advocate. There is so much to be done to create the inclusive society we envision, where people with sight loss receive the accommodations they need as a matter of course. We are stronger together. By speaking up, whether individually or as part of a group, is how we will change what it is to be blind today.
Shahzadi's Story: Shahzadi Khan is a part of CNIB's advocacy team. She joined because of the positive impact CNIB programs and services made on her. "CNIB is one of the reasons why I am so independent, confident and self-motivated. I want to educate others about adjusting with sight loss, along with informing them of the services that CNIB can offer. CNIB's services motivated me to give back to the community." She also knows that the impact of advocacy is strongest when people are able to advocate for themselves because it is "more from the heart and experience". CNIB's advocacy program helps give people those tools.

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Lead, Advocacy (GTA) and Specialist, Government Relations (Ontario), kat.clarke@cnib.ca or call 416 486-2500 ext. 7651.

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Beyond the Classroom (for children and youth aged 0-29)

What is it?
  • Creating the best school experience possible, from pre-school to post-secondary, for students with sight loss by focusing on empowerment, confidence, social skills, opportunity, equal rights, knowledge, inclusion, independence and advocacy.
    • Student panels – families have an opportunity to hear from students about their experiences through the school system
    • Peer support groups – connecting kids with other kids
    • Parent information nights – topics include: sports and recreation, community supports and local programs, online resources, eye conditions, academic tools and advocacy skills
    • Teacher and educator support – in-school and online presentations addressing sight loss issues
    • High school to post-secondary school – transition guidance
Why does it matter?
  • For kids with sight loss, moving through the school years can be challenging.
    • Less physical activity – Only 26% participate in sports.
    • Lower sense of social inclusion – Only 23% belong to clubs and a third of their parents say their child has never received a birthday party invitation.
    • Lower graduation rates – Only 65% graduate from high school.
Sarah's Story: Sarah has just been accepted to her top two post-secondary institutions of choice. She is working closely with the CNIB Beyond the Classroom program leader to plan her transition to post-secondary school. 

Through the program, she will learn how to prepare for post-secondary school and about the differences between high school and post-secondary learning environments. There will also be opportunities to attend networking events, career panels, prepare meals, navigate the cafeteria, use public transit and learn about the accessibility services schools offer.

Volunteers can assist with transportation, mentor a young person, assist with panel nights; set up and clean up at info nights; and, may provide child care to younger siblings, so families can attend.

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Program Lead, Beyond the Classroom, rhonda.underhill-gray@cnib.ca, or call 416 486-2500 ext. 8313.

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CNIB Ambassador Program

What is it?
  • A public speaking program for people who would like to raise awareness of sight loss and the work of CNIB at community events.
  • CNIB provides training to help people develop their public speaking skills in order to confidently represent CNIB in the community.
  • CNIB Ambassadors represent CNIB at schools, seniors' residences, information booths at community events and fundraising events, – anywhere where a community representative is needed.
Why does it matter?
  • Every time a CNIB Ambassador speaks at a community event, people learn about the spectrum of blindness, the programs of CNIB and the challenges and accomplishments of people with sight loss.
  • The average Canadian knows very little about sight loss, even though they probably know someone who has experienced it.
  • Too many people accept their sight loss without learning how to regain their independence.
Sharon's Story: Sharon Brant was a client with CNIB for many years. When she came to Canada at the age of 13 she did not know how to read or write braille or use a white cane. With the help of CNIB, she learned these skills which enabled her to attend school, participate in extracurricular activities and live an independent life. Her memories of CNIB still resonate strongly with her, so she was determined to give back. As an Ambassador, Sharon is able to share her story with others. "I want to help to shape our society to be a much more inclusive place for all of us live and enjoy. It is important to me to go out and help to educate our students of tomorrow’s society, and for them to pass on to their friends and families that we can live a very normal and fulfilling life. I love interacting with others, and being an inspiration to them."

If you are interested in requesting a CNIB speaker for your event, please visit our request page.

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Coordinator, Advocacy & Stakeholder Engagement, ray.smith@cnib.ca, or call 416 486-2500 ext. 7209.

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What is it?
  • A mix of CNIB-run activities and community-run sports and hobby groups.
  • Activities range from yoga and running groups to knitting and woodworking programs.
  • Participants will gain skills, develop relationships, integrate into the community and demonstrate that people with sight loss can do almost anything.
Why does it matter?
  • People with sight loss often miss out on the significant physical and mental health benefits associated with recreation and leisure.
    • Research shows they are less physically active than their sighted peers
      • In a study of older people with sight loss, 62% reported seldom leaving their homes to participate in recreational activities.
      • Another study showed that male youth with sight loss were significantly less physically active than youth in the general population. Greater levels of sight loss were associated with lower levels of physical activity.
  • Mainstream leagues and clubs are often unaware of how to adapt their programs to accommodate people with sight loss, leaving them literally on the sidelines.
    • CNIB is working with community groups to help them adapt their programs for people with sight loss).
Paul’s Story: Paul attended one of our Yoga classes and shared his experiences.

"I confess I was skeptical when I decided to try out the class the first morning. I'd had some very discouraging experiences attempting Yoga classes in the past. The instructors simply couldn't seem to figure out how to make Yoga accessible to an entirely non-visual person. I could tell right away, however, that the experience with Vivian would be entirely different. I immediately felt welcomed, and as if the class was designed specifically for me and I could sense the others in the class did as well! She has an impressive ability to describe the complex body positions in a way that makes it extremely easy to follow her despite not being able to see what she's doing. She has a very relaxed, easy going personality, yet is clearly extremely passionate about the beauty and benefits of Yoga and takes her role as teacher very seriously, striking the perfect balance of casualness & professionalism. I can't wait for the opportunity to receive instructions from her again!"

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Program Lead, Culture, Recreation and Sports, brian.mclean@cnib.ca, or call 416 486-2500 ext. 7618.

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Home-Based Support: Vision Mate Program

What is it?
  • CNIB's flagship initiative for home-based support is the Vision Mate program. Vision Mate volunteers provide one-on-one sighted assistance and companionship for a person who has sight loss.
  • Activities include: reading, organizing, walking, assisting with errands or outings, social visiting.
  • Vision Mates usually visit a community member with sight loss for one or two hours a week, in the individual’s home or another suitable environment, at a mutually convenient time.
Why does it matter?
  • For some people with sight loss, day-to-day activities, such as reading the mail or running a quick errand, can be difficult or even impossible.
  • Too many try not to burden their families and experience daily feelings of isolation and loneliness, as a result.
John's Story: John lost his sight after being diagnosed with a rare disease. Being new to the area and living alone, he began to feel isolated. CNIB’s Vision Mate program helped connect him with someone to help.

John and his Vision Mate, Steve, meet weekly. They spend time at home going through mail/documents, accessing technology, and getting to know each other. They also go out to run errands, or just to check out the neighbourhood. John is really starting to get to know his new community, including the best shops, restaurants and activities. John is gaining more independence, and experiencing less frustrations.
 
What makes the two of them such a good match? Their common interests, of course, but also empathy and a willingness to learn from one another. John often expresses how meaningful it is that Steve not only took the time to get to know him, but to also learn and understand about his health and vision. “It is so wonderful to have someone that makes time for you, and puts in the effort to understand what you are going through."

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Lead, Home Based Support, lindsay.mitchell@cnib.ca, or call 416 486-2500 ext. 7586.

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Literacy

What is it?
  • Support for people of all ages with sight loss as they explore alternative formats for reading, or sharing their thoughts with others – whether through writing, conversations or more formal presentations/speeches
  • A wide range of literacy opportunities to meet practical and social needs
    • Reading and book clubs
    • Creative writing workshops
    • Building confidence and skills through public speaking
    • DIY tactile book and storytime workshops for caregivers and children
  • Options to reading print (e.g., synthesized speech, refreshable braille displays, VoiceOver and other IOS apps)
Why is it needed?
  • Reading and writing empower people, providing a safe way to explore the world, share experiences and work through complex issues.
  • Learning about alternative formats and tech options lessens the depression and despair felt by many people with sight loss.
Sue's Story: Sue joined our Literacy team for a tactile book-making workshop and loved every minute of it! "Signing up was a no-brainer for me, as I am both an artist & visually challenged. I feel programs like this are crucial to the growth of all our sight-challenged. These 'books' open up the doors to future skills, such as braille literacy. I also feel that this is a perfect outlet for volunteers to express their inner artist! It is actually a challenge to pinpoint my favourite parts of the session. Karen was very helpful and informative. Meeting new people, and getting to 'play' together was a delight. Being able to be freely creative with a larger purpose was awe inspiring! It was a fabulous session and I would love to attend more of them! If you need a helping hand get in touch!"

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Program Lead, Literacy, karen.brophey@cnib.ca, or call 416 486-2500 ext. 3180.

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Peer Support

What is it?
  • Adjustment to sight loss
    • Six-to-eight-week structured course brings together participants who have newly lost their sight in an accessible, comfortable location where they can share their stories and feelings, give advice and learn about adjusting to their new reality
  • One-on-one peer support & mentorship
    • Matches participants with volunteer mentors who have "walked in their shoes"
  • Drop-in Groups
    • Monthly groups connect participants on a variety of topics and issues, providing a chance for fun, friendship, sharing and learning
  • Phone and Online Support
    • Extending the reach of our support programs through telephone/based support groups, accessible online forums, and e-learning videos
Why is it needed?
  • Research indicates that peer support – connecting with others who have experienced the same thing – reduces the incidence of depression and isolation, while helping people gain self-confidence and improve the quality of their lives.
  • In comparison to their sighted peers, people with sight loss experience:
    • Less independence in daily life - 84% need practical assistance from family and friends for such things as mobility, personal care and household management.
    • Three times the risk of clinical depression – particularly among seniors.
    • Earlier admission to long-term care facilities - three years, on average.
Ian's Story: Ian White is one of the leaders of CNIB's New Beginnings Peer Support group. Being involved in groups like these has shown him the value of shared experiences. "Those new to sight loss need the opportunity to meet others who are undergoing similar kinds of change, that they are not alone in coping with sight loss, and to learn that there are ways of shaping a future for themselves; that people just like them are not merely blind, but rather, are interesting, interested, multi-dimensional people who, each in their own way, is coming to terms with a new approach to living their life. Through sharing my journey with others like me, I have been able to learn, and to inspire those around me to reach a little further. The opportunity to share the knowledge and experience I have gained has given me the confidence to expand my own horizons far beyond where I thought I could go; to laugh, to learn, to express my passion, and to share my interests with like-minded people; these are all part of what give my life meaning and engender the feeling that I am valued, that I can be useful, that I have a contribution to make."

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Manager, GTA Operations & Peer Support Lead, suzanne.decary@cnib.ca, or call 416 486-2500 ext. 8233.

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What is it?
  • Programs for youth to:
    • Get together regularly with peers in a safe and inclusive environment
    • Learn new skills, social interaction and physical activity
    • Benefit from support and advice on healthy relationships and being safe
    • Develop new communication, technology, community engagement, mentorship and leadership skills
Why is it needed?
  • Research indicates that youth leadership programs reduce the incidence of feelings of isolation associated with sight loss, and help young people gain self-confidence, learn practical skills and develop social supports.
  • In comparison to their sighted peers, people with sight loss experience:
    • Lower graduation rates - only 65% of blind and partially sighted youth graduate from high school.
    • Less physical activity - only 26% of blind and partially sighted children participate in sports.
    • Low employment rates – 62% of the working aged people with sight loss don't have jobs, compared to 27% of the sighted population.
    • Low incomes - Approximately half of Canadians who have sight loss live on low incomes, making $20,000 a year or less.
Yaren's Story: Yaren Genc participated in the TIES (Teens in Employment and Sports) camp in the summer of 2017. She signed up because she "wanted to learn new skills and, of course, meet other teens like myself". She took a particular interest in the fashion segment of the program. She even managed to fully outfit herself in age-appropriate, on-trend styles during the group shopping trip. "It was so much fun that I will even be telling my sighted friends to sign up to volunteer."

During her time at TIES, Yaren blossomed into a charismatic and confident young lady. She will be one to watch for sure!

To learn more about participating or volunteering, please contact Program Lead, Youth Empowerment, keya.osborne@cnib.ca, or call 416 4862500 ext. 8274.

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