CNIB Cut Volunteer Services

Up till then, the CNIB was systematically cutting all kinds of services but somehow many of us thought that
they would have at least had the decency to continue their volunteer services to their clients. How wrong we were and how awful for this particular agency to have done this to their clients without any logical explanation

This Article originally ran on November 10, 2008 under the title Living Without Volunteers In The City Of Toronto by Donna Jodhan.

How much has change?

Well, here we go again! Shocker or shaker? It would be a definite shocker if
Canadians only knew that for at least the past four years; Torontonians have
been living without the help of volunteers. A definite shocker for Canadians
to know that in Canada’s largest city, blind and visually impaired Canadians
are unable to find any type of decent volunteer service to help them with the
basic tasks such as: Shopping, going to medical appointments, house chores,
and so on.

About four years ago, the CNIB quietly cut its volunteer services to its clients
and without even so much as a courtesy email or any other type of notification,
blind and visually impaired persons living in Toronto found out by word of mouth
that they had been deserted once more. It was a shocker to me but I guess
that we should have seen this one coming. Up till then, the CNIB was systematically
cutting all kinds of services but somehow many of us thought that
they would have at least had the decency to continue their volunteer services
to their clients. How wrong we were and how awful for this particular agency
to have done this to their clients without any logical explanation but wait!
The CNIB did say something when pressured to do so. They offered this explanation:
They could not afford to keep their volunteer services running. Yes, that was
their statement of the day.

As things stand today, if a blind or visually impaired person phones a volunteer
service seeking a volunteer, almost always they are told to go to the CNIB
and when the person tells the volunteer service in question that the CNIB no
longer provides volunteers, well, the call quickly deteriorates into hesitation
and a final answer of inability to help. So, where do we go?

If we do not have kind family members or friends or neighbours nearby to help
us then we are doomed! If we do not have the money to pay someone to help
us, then we are stuck and for the majority of blind and visually impaired persons
living in Toronto, the paying option is out of the question. So, what
do we do?

Here is the picture as I see it. Canada’s largest city does not provide volunteers
on a regular basis to help blind and visually impaired persons. The
majority of volunteer agencies around Toronto seem not to want to or be willing
to provide or offer their services to blind and visually impaired persons.
The CNIB? Well, once again this agency has come up true to form and has deserted
us. So for most of us, if we are unable to find a family member or
friend or neighbour, we have a really hard time living quality lives. It is
difficult to go grocery or clothes shopping without a pair of eyes to assist
us. It is difficult for us to navigate the corridors and offices of those huge
hospitals. When winter comes around, our lives are made even more challenging
if we have to do it all by ourselves without sighted help.

Speaking about how the CNIB has once more deserted us: Well, a few weeks ago
I happened to receive a Braille copy of their Vision Health Vision Hope newsletter
and for old time’s sake I decided to spend a few minutes just flipping through
it and lo and behold! Here are some facts for you to ponder. First, they
wrote this appeal as follows:

“Want to reconnect with our services? If you are a client of CNIB and are
having new difficulties with everyday activities due to a change in your vision
or support system we invite you to come back to see us again. Just leave your
name and phone number on our client enquiry line. 416-486-2500 ext 8275.”

Maybe we should give them a second chance? Or maybe I should be asking what
brought this about? Is this for real?

The second item that caught my attention in this newsletter is when the CNIB
made the following announcement:

“Did you know that the Canadian Red Cross
provides transportation for the frail, elderly, and disabled in the community.
The service is for those unable to use public transportation or private
means. They provide reliable transportation to and from medical appointments,
social events, shopping and rehabilitation programs, including CNIB appointments.
Fees are based on the distance travel. For more information please contact 416-236-3180.”

Bravo! Bravo CNIB! Once more, you have managed to not just
insult our intelligence and humiliate us, but you have also unwittingly managed
to embarrass yourselves. There is one major drawback to this announcement.

When I phoned the Canadian Red Cross a very pleasant call taker told me that
they only provide door to door assistance. That is, after one is dropped off,
they are left to find their way to their appointment. So, how would this benefit
a blind or visually impaired person? Say for example someone who needs
to go to a medical appointment at one of those huge down town Toronto hospitals
where it is often difficult for an able bodied person at the best of times
to find their way to their doctor’s offices? Come now CNIB! What kind of a fluff
off is this? According to very reliable sources, You somehow have ability
to use volunteers to help with your computer training but lo and behold, you
are not able to provide volunteers to help with medical appointments?

What many are telling me is this; the CNIB continues to use volunteers to perform
jobs that should be offered to qualified blind and visually impaired persons

but if you look at this through the eyes of the CNIB this is the picture. The
CNIB uses volunteers to assist in the running of programs such as its computer
training classes and in so doing they are able to save themselves some money.

However, in doing this their volunteers are inadvertently preventing qualified
blind and visually impaired persons from earning income but this does not seem
to bother the CNIB.

Another thing: The CNIB has abdicated its responsibility to provide volunteers
to their clients choosing instead to direct us to such places as the Canadian
Red Cross but guess what? Other organizations do not have the services to fully
assist us. Yes, they provide door to door transportation, but what are
we to do when we get to our appointment if we are unable to find our way from
the door to the required office?

I think that Canadians will be really shocked if they knew that Toronto the
Good is not that good after all. Canada’s largest city without a volunteer
system to support its blind and visually impaired residents is simply not acceptable
and it is time for us to start speaking out. According to the rumblings
among many special needs Canadians,It is probably no shocker that the CNIB has
chosen to use its volunteers to cut down on costs such as hiring qualified
persons to teach its blind and visually impaired clients but it would probably
be a shocker to the rest of Canada if they were to discover this. I’ll
let you be the judge of this one.

I’m Donna J Jodhan your free lance writer and reporter wishing
you a terrific day.