Another Half-baked CNIB Idea

It is no secret that I have a tenuous relationship with the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind).  I’ll grant that they have good O & M instructors (Orientation and Mobility), but my praise stops there. I am grateful that they taught me good caning skills. That’s what they do best, are supposed to do and should continue to do.  My beef with CNIB? They make nutty decisions with little or no consultation with their clients. I’ll get to the latest half-baked scheme they dreamed up in a moment. What really puts a burr under my saddle is their passive acceptance of praise (and money) from people who have no idea what they do (or not do).  More than once, someone has asked me, “What’s your CNIB dog’s name?”  I could spit. Instead I grit my teeth and explain that CNIB HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PUTTING GUIDE DOGS INTO BLIND PEOPLE’s HANDS! In fact,   The CNIB in Toronto was known to have banned Guide dogs from their building for a while in the early years, relegating them to the yard while their handlers were inside.  The organization has a public image that is vastly based on misconception. They do not give “all that free stuff that helps the blind” as people erroneously believe.  Nor do they find employment for people (except some pathetic contracts with casinos that has blind people doing coat check with drunks or similar and infrequent opportunities). Nor do they provide any social programs which some isolated blind folks could really use. Nor do they actually employ many blind people within their organization (except for a few token staff here and there). Nor do they provide a list of services or resources when one is referred…it’s hit or miss what or when you ever find out what they do and who does it, or what other organizations might offer. Nor do they do advocacy work on any significant scale, though they are quick to accept kudos for other people’s work.   I will explain their latest idiotic idea.  The CNIB library in Toronto has historically mailed Braille and Talking books to the blind all over Canada.  Several years ago, the four-track cassettes were finally retired and new technology emerged with the creation of DAISY books. Digital Audio Information Systems books are Cd’s that hold an entire recorded book on a single disc. The Canadian government gave the CNIB library $6,000,000 to convert to the new system. I have no idea what terms came with the money, or how it was used in paying for new discs, mailing cases for them, and new devices to play them on.  They are played on DAISY players. These machines cost $500.00 Canadian. The CNIB got in bed with a Quebec company called Humanware, and a bunch were given free of cost to many blind people across the country. The rush to do this was fueled by unknown factors. Accountability and transparency are not part of the CNIB philosophy.  Now, several years later, these devices are breaking down and no one, except Humanware can repair them. They do so for an obscene price and great inconvenience (shipping to Quebec) to the owners. Remember, most blind people live are unemployed or underemployed and live in poverty.  That’s just a drop in the bucket, as far as I am concerned. Now, the CNIB library very craftily sent out a notice that the audio books on DAISY disc were going to arrive in a new mailing case. Here’s why, I have learned through patient investigation. The discs, are mailed in a cardboard mailer. The name and address of the client is imprinted on the disc. The client listens to the book on CD and then returns it to the CNIB in Toronto, where it is DESTROYED and “recycled”.  The reason given for returning them is one of copyright (even though you can copy the book while you have it). They claimed that there were ‘mistakes’ in the return of CD’s and this is why they have changed the system.  Every client gets a fresh book every time.  I began thinking about the number of books that would be destroyed and ‘recycled’. I tried to find out about the recovery of material in the recycling of CD’s and the amount of material (significant) that would end up in the landfill.  E-mails and phone calls to the library tested my patience. It was not until I threatened ‘Freedom of information’ action, that I was finally told that last year, the CNIB library loaned “over 1,000,000 DAISY books on CD.” They tried to cushion the significance of this by saying that downloads are becoming more popular.  Their own web site identifies that fewer than 17% of blind Canadians are connected to the Internet. Sigh. I have contacted the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario and in Nova Scotia to get some input. They are stunned and are checking into it. No one seems to know much about  the environmental impact of recycling CD’s…there is a significant part that goes into the landfill.  I will be withdrawing my CNIB library membership and following the consequences of this CNIB half-baked idea, done without consultation, as usual. I think they should stop calling themselves a library, if they are not circulating the majority of their collection. 


2 responses to “Another Half-baked CNIB Idea

  1. When I was living in Halifax I got the whole “cnib dog” thing quite a bit. Funny how I never had anyone mention a “cnib dog” in any other province. I think they say “cnib dog” because they hear “seeing eye dog” and don’t know what the Seeing Eye is, so assume they heard “cnib dog”.

  2. Hmm. interesting theory, Kim. The public here equates CNIB with EVERYTHING involving the blind. They (CNIB) get credited with a whole bunch of stuff (including guide dogs) here in the maritimes which THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH!!! Frankly, I find it annoying that they refuse to work on current advocacy initiatives (ex. the hybrid car report I present to city Council was approved, yet they held back on comment “until more is known”). They wait until all the work is done, and the status quo has approved of it, and the whole thing has been signed, sealed and delivered. Sadly, the media goes to them on comment for everything, even advocacy issues and guide dog information.

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