Volunteering as an Ambassador Toolkit

Thank you for becoming a member of CNIB’s Ambassador Program. This program plays a key role in our efforts to ensure all Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunity to fully participate in life. When CNIB Ambassadors give their presentations, their audiences increase their understanding about the spectrum of blindness and the abilities of people with vision loss.
By building that awareness, we are paving the way for a more inclusive society so that people who are blind or partially sighted will not feel as isolated, misunderstood and overlooked as they have in the past. With each Ambassador’s presentation, we are dismantling the stigma of blindness and transforming the audience’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.
The Ambassador program celebrates people who have triumphed over disability. By speaking out, Ambassadors also stimulate others to do the same. But more than anything, they change what the people in the room think of when they hear the word blind.

This toolkit is available as a WORD document at the bottom of the page. We have done this to make the material as accessible as possible - and to allow people from different organizations to be able to adapt and tailor the toolkit for their needs. If you do so, please provide an acknowledgement that CNIB created the original document.

We’d like to thank everyone who made it possible for us to offer this toolkit in accessible, alternative formats - our braille room volunteers for creating braille toolkits, our library volunteers for producing audio copies and Jim Parkin for formatting large print versions.

To request an accessible (braille, audio, large print) copy, please email ontario.comms@cnib.ca.
The documents in this toolkit have been provided to give you direction and samples so you will have a clear idea of what you need to do. Included are:

Ambassador Bag Checklist

The following is a sample list of items to bring to CNIB Ambassador events.
Printed Material
  • Brochures
    • 50 Save Your Sight
    • 50 Rehabilitation and Support Services
    • Seeing Beyond Vision Loss
    • Get Involved
  • 10 Shop CNIB Manuals with office address/hours inserts leaflets
  • 50 additional office address inserts
  • Eye Simulator Board
  • Poster(s), tape to attach front of table
Activity (Various activities to choose from)
  • Grade 3 activity page
  • Pouring activity (pitcher, CNIB mug, liquid level indicator, plate/tray, absorbent cloths). Fill pitcher with water and have individuals close eyes and pour. Put water from tray and mug back in pitcher and repeat.
  • Discover Braille activity
    • Photo frame with description & 50 activity sheets
Demo Items
  • Reading: magnifiers (handheld magnifier, stand magnifier, page magnifier), braille picture books
  • Writing: writing pad, address book large print, signature guide, felt tip black pen
  • Orientation and Mobility: folding mobility cane/ID cane
  • Home: talking clock, bump dots, large oven mitt, EZ Fill
  • Recreational: braille playing cards, large remote control
  • Banner – Only if volunteer can transport, inside events only
  • Outdoor Events: large paperclips/rubber bands for brochures (wind), extra table cloth (rain), golf umbrella (sun/rain), sunscreen

Event Booking Checklist

  • Confirm details of event with community contact.
  • Record details on the Presentation Request.
  • Put event information on the Tracking Database
  • Put the event in Outlook calendar as a meeting with invitations to appropriate staff. Include details from the presentation request in the meeting notes.
  • Save the presentation request in shared folder for upcoming events, in the appropriate month and date.
  • On or about the 18th of every month, send a list of upcoming events of following month to Ambassadors.
  • The next week, on or about the 25th of every month, assign Ambassadors for events. Send event details to volunteers.
  • Once volunteer is confirmed, put Ambassador information in the meeting request and on the presentation request.
  • Confirm attendance with host. In the email, include Ambassador information, accommodation information and host feedback form.
Each Week
  • Each week, send confirmation details for the following week to appropriate Ambassadors and staff.
  • Each week, request feedback information for events the prior week including host feedback, ambassador feedback and updating the Tracking Database.

Guidelines for accommodating a CNIB Ambassador who is blind or partially sighted

Prime contact: Designate someone who will be the Ambassador’s prime contact. This person will be available to provide information before the speaking engagement via phone or email, and to assist the Ambassador at the speaking engagement.

Arrival: The prime contact should meet the Ambassador upon his/her arrival at the speaking engagement.

Introductions: When being introduced to someone who is blind or partially sighted, say “hello” and wait for them to offer their hand.

Conversing: Feel free to use the words “see,” “look or “read.” People with vision loss want to be treated like everyone else.

Speaking: Do not stop talking when a person with vision loss is approaching; he or she may be relying on the sound of your voice for orientation. Announce when you are leaving, so this person is not left talking to an empty space. For example, you might say, “Excuse me, I have to step out of the room for a minute.”

Introducing Others: Ambassadors with vision loss may not realize there are other people in the room. In small settings, introduce each person in the room by name and indicate where he or she is in the room relative to the person with vision loss. For example, “To your left is Jack Smith; two metres in front of you is Susan Taylor.”

Room Orientation: Describe the layout of the room, whether it is square or narrow, how many tables and chairs there are, how they are arranged, whether there are objects such as water glasses or candies on the table, and where the refreshments and washrooms are located.

Use descriptive terms such as “straight ahead”, “forward”, “left” and “right.” For example, you might say, “there is a table in the middle of the room, about six feet in front of you” or “there is a coffee table on the left side of the door as you enter.” Using the clock face is a helpful way to describe. “The person speaking is at two o’clock” will tell the person with vision loss where to turn his or her face. (If the speaker is using a microphone, his or her voice may be coming from elsewhere in the room.)

Before the presentation begins, guide the person to the lectern or microphone at which s/he will be speaking so s/he will be familiar with its location. Describe its position relative to the audience. Arrange to guide the person to the lectern and back to his/her seat at the appropriate times.

The Sighted-Guide Technique: When guiding people with vision loss, first ask if they would like assistance. If so, touch your hand to the back of their hand as a signal for them to take your arm. You may use either arm to guide. Walk at a pace that is comfortable for the person you are guiding and keep your arm relaxed.

When approaching a narrow space, move your elbow towards the middle of your back. This will signal the person you are guiding to move behind you as you walk forward.

Announce when you are leaving the person you are guiding and, if possible, ensure that he or she is left touching something such as a wall, table or chair. This will eliminate the uncomfortable feeling of standing alone in an open space and not having a reference point.

Guide Dogs: Do not pet a guide dog when it is in its harness. Guide dogs are working animals, and distracting them can put them and the person they are guiding at risk. Always ask the person if it is okay to touch his or her dog.