Programs & Services

CNIB Ontario North Programs


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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.
Lenore's Story: "Before I lost my sight, I was a very independent person. I was devastated when my eyesight was gone. I was very apprehensive about attending the CNIB peer support group for adjusting to sight loss, but I thought 'if there's something designed to help me, I should give it a try'…I'll never regret that decision. The group helped me to deal with the anger I was feeling. It was good to know that I was not alone. I found it easy to connect with the people in the group. Talking made me feel better. Learning about the resources and technology available was really helpful too. Now, I'm looking forward to being involved in CNIB groups and learning more to keep moving forward."

The Peer Support program requires registration. To register, or for more information or to volunteer, please contact:

Simcoe-Muskoka (Barrie)
Lucia.Ricardo@cnib.ca, 705-728-3352 ext. 5281

Northeast (Sudbury)
Rose.Jobin-White@cnib.ca, 705-675-2468 ext. 5418

Northwest (Thunder Bay)
Kelly.Rooney@cnib.ca, 807-345-3341 ext. 5460

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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.
Margaret's Story: Home-based support programs like Vision Mates are tailored to an individual's needs. Vision Mates can help run errands, drive to appointments or just sit and chat. Margaret, who is 88 years old, views her Vision Mate Tarja as a friend who comes over for tea. "The need for assistance is very minimal for her due to her independent personality", says Tarja. "She tells me 'if I need any help I'll let you know.'" The Vision Mate program does not have any one specific outcome. It is about building a bond and providing companionship, in whatever form that may take!

The Home-Based Support program requires registration. To register, or for more information or to volunteer, please contact:

Simcoe-Muskoka (Barrie)
Lucia.Ricardo@cnib.ca, 705-728-3352 ext. 5281

Northeast (Sudbury)
Rose.Jobin-White@cnib.ca, 705-675-2468 ext. 5418

Northwest (Thunder Bay)
Kelly.Rooney@cnib.ca, 807-345-3341 ext. 5460.


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Youth Leadership

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.
For more information or to volunteer, please contact Lucia.Ricardo@cnib.ca, 705-728-3352 ext. 5281.

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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.
For more information or to volunteer, please contact Sherri.Helsdingen@cnib.ca, 705-728-3352 ext. 5289.
 

Advocacy

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.
Dorothy's Story: "As a former teacher I knew firsthand the importance of access to reading materials. This (Centre for Equitable Library Access) was a long-fought campaign, and I spoke to a number of Ministers, MPPs and the Premier. We were a small yet mighty number of advocates who wrote letters, emails, and made calls to decision makers. We kept the pressure on and I was so happy when the funding came through; it is going to have a huge impact for people with print disabilities."

For more information or to volunteer, please contact:

Simcoe-Muskoka (Barrie)
Sherri.Helsdingen@cnib.ca, 705-728-3352 ext. 5289

Northeast (Sudbury)
Rose.Jobin-White@cnib.ca, 705-675-2468 ext. 5418

Northwest (Thunder Bay)
Kelly.Rooney@cnib.ca, 807-345-3341 ext. 5460


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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.
Betty's Story: "I agreed to join CNIB’s Ambassador Program as it would give me an opportunity of paying CNIB back for all their assistance as a client and would involve helping others with sight loss. I was also very interested in receiving training in public speaking which would help to build my confidence and self-esteem. I found that after doing a presentation, many people come forward to ask questions and receive information. Hearing “the facts” from a CNIB client and how their services have made a difference in our lives helps people with sight loss and family members to have a better understanding of CNIB. When we attend health fairs, our information table gives CNIB a presence in their community and the informal environment encourages people to stop by and chat. In the past years, blind and partially sighted people have been “out of sight”. Being an Ambassador puts us right in the eyes of the public. We stand up with pride with our heads held high and tell our personal stories. CNIB and their staff gave us back self-esteem and our voices.”

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

For more information or to volunteer, please contact:

Simcoe-Muskoka (Barrie)
Sherri.Helsdingen@cnib.ca, 705-728-3352 ext. 5289

Northeast (Sudbury)
Rose.Jobin-White@cnib.ca, 705-675-2468 ext. 5418

Northwest (Thunder Bay)
Kelly.Rooney@cnib.ca, 807-345-3341 ext. 5460


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CNIB Medical Mobile Eye Care Unit (CNIB Eye Van)

The CNIB Eye Van is a fully-equipped mobile eye care unit, providing critical medical eye care to 30 remote communities in Northern Ontario where these types of services aren't typically available. The CNIB Eye Van program was established in 1972, in partnership with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). For over 45 years, our partnership with the OMA, the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and many other community partners have contributed to our continued success.

Nine months of the year (March to November), a group of 30 participating ophthalmologists, assisted by two CNIB ophthalmic assistants, travel more than 6,000 kilometres and examine 4,500 patients. For many Eye Van patients, it means a chance at early detection if an eye condition is present – and a much greater opportunity to receive treatment and avoid sight loss.

For more information, please contact Lisa.O'Bonsawin@cnib.ca, 705-675-2468 or visit the Eye Van section of our website.

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CNIB Lake Joseph Centre

CNIB's Lake Joseph Centre (commonly known as "Lake Joe") is a fully accessible lakefront facility located in the Muskoka region of Ontario, providing a unique blend of recreation and vision rehabilitation in a safe, inclusive environment where guide dogs are welcome. Two hours north of Toronto, Lake Joe stretches over 12.5 acres of waterfront property on the northwest corner of beautiful Lake Joseph. There, a wide range of programs are available to people of all ages who are living with sight loss.

Volunteer opportunities exist year round at Lake Joe including supporting guests participating in various camp activities, assisting with special projects and events or helping out in the office.

For more information, please contact Eugene.Chong@cnib.ca, 705-375-2630 or visit the Lake Joe section of our website.

Lake Joseph Centre Board Members List for 2016-17

  • Robert Froom – Chair
  • Cory Braun
  • Dawn Clelland
  • Shawn Dale
  • Lion Peter Hammond
  • Terry Kelly
  • Tom MacNair
  • Dan Maggiacomo
  • Nancy Simonot
  • Derek Thompson
  • Jim Tokos
CNIB Staff
  • Monique Pilkington, Executive Director, Ontario North
  • Eugene Chong, General Manager, CNIB Lake Joseph Centre
  • Alain Saumur, Director, Philanthropy, CNIB Ontario Division
  • Eyre Purkin Bien, Manager, Major Gifts, CNIB Ontario East
  • Cindi Meyer, Manager, Major Gifts, CNIB Ontario
  • Devin Shyminsky, Coordinator, Community Giving, CNIB Ontario North