Programs and Activities

Overview

The Canadian Federation of the Blind is a not-for-profit, entirely volunteer, grass roots organization, incorporated on June 2nd, 1999.

Among other services, we provide positive public education about blindness to improve the social and employment opportunities of blind people and, through role modeling and mentoring, we help increase the self-confidence and independence of blind people.

Walking Proud Program

Funding permitting, The Canadian Federation of the Blind provides long, white canes to blind people, through our Walking Proud Program, free of charge. Members of the National Federation of the Blind, our parallel organization in the United States, use long, white canes. Not only are these canes more practical for mobility, but they also represent a symbol of pride.

Technology Share Program

The Canadian Federation of the Blind accepts donations of old computers. Members restore these computers and give them to blind people who need this equipment.

Access to information is key to improving the lives of blind people, and our members, who have expertise in technology, volunteer to help blind people learn computer skills and the vast array of adaptive technology.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind also provides information about how to secure funding for adaptive software, such as screen-reading programs.

Canadian Federation of the Blind Mentoring Program

To increase self-confidence, Braille literacy, orientation and mobility and general independence, members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind assist other blind people both formally and informally to learn or improve these skills.

These gatherings give blind people an opportunity to support each other, network and improve self-esteem, and they provide a venue to practice independence and mobility skills.

The Federation holds the following gatherings for the purpose of mentoring:

* Cane skill sessions, where members get together to go out in a group to walk, take buses, and practise travel techniques.
* Braille mentoring classes where people work with each other to learn Braille.
* Regular socials for people to relax, talk and mentor each other informally.
* Monthly meetings, where the Federation conducts its business and where members and newcomers get a chance to meet, network and learn from each other.

Conventions

The National federation of the Blind in the United States, sister organization to the Canadian Federation of the Blind, holds conventions, which are unlike typical conferences. These events serve as a way for numerous blind people from across distances to get together to learn from each other, to share ideas and to gain confidence from being together. The conventions consist of: speakers who talk about blindness from a positive and proactive perspective; workshops on everything from blind lawyers, to blind educators, to blind parents; and events such as adaptive technology exhibits, advocacy workshops, kids camp and a Braille flee market.

When possible, and when funding permits, the Canadian Federation of the Blind supports and encourages people to attend these conventions. The organization believes the conventions play an important role in helping blind people to improve skills and feel good about themselves and their potential.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind held its first convention in September, 2005. This “Believe 2005” conference, consisted of: interesting and motivating speeches by members on such topics as the education of blind children and the Federation perspective on training and rehabilitation for blind people; a banquet; and a white cane walk.

Community Resource

Members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind act as a community resource of knowledge and positive attitudes about blindness for the benefit of teachers, parents of blind children and youth, young adults and the newly blind. People can contact the Federation at any time if they have questions or concerns about blindness.

Public Education

The Canadian Federation of the Blind believes educating the public about the abilities of blind people plays a significant role in improving the situation for blind citizens. When people learn and understand about blindness and about our capabilities they are more likely to treat us as equals, hire us for a job and generally view blindness as a normal human condition.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind public education program includes the following programs and initiatives:

Materials and Publications

Members developed a brochure about the organization, a Website with a range of resources and information about the Federation and about blindness, and three volumes of ‘The Blind Canadian’, a positive and innovative publication about blindness.

Public Presentations

Members make public presentations about blindness, about the alternative techniques blind people use and about the abilities of blind people.

Braille is Beautiful

The Braille is Beautiful education and curriculum program provides schools with educational materials that teachers can use now and in subsequent years. Members go to grade four classes to teach children about the importance of Braille as literacy for blind people, and to provide a hands-on, interactive learning experience. We also use the time to raise awareness about blindness and the abilities of blind people. As all volunteers are blind, this sends a genuine and effective message to students and teachers.

The Canadian Federation of the Blind was fortunate to receive a small grant from the Victoria Times Colonist Book Drive Disbursement Fund as well as assistance from the National Federation of the Blind, which enabled us to pursue this program.

Advocacy – Dealing with Discrimination

Members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind support legislation that protects the rights of blind persons. Members provide support in cases of discrimination against the blind, such as refusal of service to dog guide users. Some actions we have participated in include: British Columbia Assistance Animal Legislation, the survey of the Taxi Industry in British Columbia; the BC Special Needs Education Review and the BC Standing Committee on Finance.

We also voice our concerns and provide constructive feedback about discriminatory treatment and false or stereotypical representations of blind people in the media and other public mediums.

Honours and Awards

In 1999, members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind nominated Dr. Paul Gabias for an Honorary Doctorate. The University of Victoria Millennium Honorary Degrees recognized outstanding individuals whose contributions to society reach into and have implications for society in the twenty-first century. Dr. Gabias, a member of the Canadian Federation of the Blind, was one of a select group of recipients. This achievement sent a positive message to a wide public about the potential and abilities of blind people.