Bonfanti: More must be done to support Canadians who are blind

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We still have an attitude problem in this country, but empathy and understanding can break down barriers.

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My father is blind. Growing up, I witnessed the discrimination he faced as a first-generation Canadian living with a sensory disability. Living with blindness was not just an inconvenience, but a barrier that unfairly kept him from the basic opportunities all Canadians deserve.

While my father faced many hurdles, he was also met with simple acts of kindness along the way. In these moments, he would feel empowered, and our family found hope. Compassion is a powerful force: it can break down prejudices and foster a sense of belonging.

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Amidst the largest nationwide consultation process in CNIB’s history recently, a message came through loud and clear from our community: Accessibility challenges are not only persistent, but Canadians who are blind feel misunderstood and unseen. It appears the challenges my father faced were not unique and are unfortunately the reality for almost two million people in Canada who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision. We have had generations to figure it out, but, regrettably, nothing has truly changed.

CNIB’s 2023-2028 Strategic Plan: The Way Forward was launched in October 2023 to kickstart this meaningful work. We are challenging Canadians to increase their understanding and awareness of what it means to be blind today, to correct language that perpetuates misconceptions, and to actively follow and engage in initiatives that promote inclusivity — such as signing the Charter for the Rights of Children Who Are Blind, Deafblind or Low Vision.

The Charter aims to address the needs and rights of children in our sight-loss community so we can level the playing field. These children have the right to access the same opportunities as their sighted peers.

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Whether it’s appropriate medical referrals upon diagnosis, access to assistive technology at school, or standards for early childhood exams and regular eye screenings — we must hold ourselves and each other more accountable. In the age of abundant information, no one can claim ignorance of these issues.

My father’s journey, marked by both struggle and triumph, is a testament to the transformative impact of awareness, kindness, and accountability. Let’s work together to build a Canada where attitudes no longer limit our blind community. Where everyone is seen and barriers crumble — paving the way for a future marked by understanding and equal opportunities.

There is no more time to waste.

Angela Bonfanti is Chief Operating Offer at CNIB. She is a driving force for achievements for the blind and partially sighted community nationwide, and a vocal advocate for inclusivity for all people living with disabilities.

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