Hope in Sight

Contributing editor Joan Kelley Walker on the life-altering work of the CNIB.

Allow me to take a moment to tell you about my dear mother, Roseline. She is sweet and lovely and has spent a lifetime sharing pure love — the kind that spreads to everyone. She grew up in a rural farming community where she had to ride a horse to school or self-taught via correspondence. Imagine that for a moment — relying on the mail system in an isolated prairie town. Talk about patience. She graduated nursing school as the valedictorian. She was determined, reliable, popular, and beautiful. She is everywoman.

Fast-forward to today, she still embodies all of these qualities. She lives independently, keeping herself motivated and entertained. As our matriarch, she exudes happiness and love for her family. She is, in short, my inspiration. My mother has also overcome many challenges in her lifetime. In her 20s she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and has bravely soldiered her way through it without a complaint. As a result, she is legally blind in one eye and since suffered macular degeneration in the other. She still has vision and it serves her well, but it’s not what it used to be.

In 2018, I was asked to be the emcee for CNIB’s centennial celebration at their one-of a-kind camp, CNIB Lake Joseph Centre. When I saw all the work that they do, it dawned on me that my mother could benefit from this foundation. Life does have a way of giving you what you need when you need it.

The CNIB Foundation is a non-profit organization driven to change what it means to be blind today. They deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the CNIB. I was drawn to the cause like so many others because of a family connection to vision loss. I had no real awareness of the magnitude of support available. When someone loses their sight, it affects not only themselves but their families, partners and friends as well. CNIB Foundation programs are available not only to every Canadian who has sight loss or blindness, but their loved ones, too. This is so important. I, personally, felt helpless and, at times, quite emotional as I was unable to help in the ways I wish I could. Now, I do feel like my mother and our family unit have this support.

Today, more than 500,000 people in Canada are blind or partially sighted. Blindness should never be a reason to settle for less. The CNIB Foundation is continuing to drive change for Canadians living with vision loss by increasing access to employment, harnessing advanced technology, and advocating for a more inclusive and accessible country, while moving the bar on societal inequities and stigmas surrounding blindness. Their programs are funded by donor dollars and philanthropic support. Their impact is directly powered by the generosity of Canadians.

My mother’s story continues to inspire me every day, and my hope is that it also inspires you and shines a light on many other people’s stories affected by sight loss or blindness. To learn more about the CNIB, visit cnib.ca