Canadian Council of the Blind’s COVID-19 Impact Study Reveals Disturbing Reality for Those Canadians Living with Vision Loss

A magnification of the Covid-19 virus.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 6, 2020 – Ottawa, ON – Louise Gillis, National President of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), today released the findings of the CCB’s recent Survey on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadians Who Are Blind, Deaf-Blind, and Partially-Sighted, which was conducted from April 7th to 14th.

The report’s objective was to provide recommendations to our federal, provincial, and municipal governments in order to assist them in creating policies to support those living with vision loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey received a robust sample of 572 responses, with respondents representing all provinces. The results paint a disturbing picture of the experience of Canada’s vision loss community during this crisis.

Speaking from her home in Nova Scotia, Gillis spoke of the need for government to recognize the circumstances presently impacting all Canadians with disabilities, but specifically the over 1,560,000 Canadians living with vision loss. “The vision loss community was too often marginalized and already socially and economically depressed prior to the arrival of the pandemic,” said Gillis, noting that, “the present situation has only served to magnify those barriers and obstacles.”

Key results of the study showed high levels of stress in the vision loss community. Respondents are very concerned about social distancing – they’re unable to see how far they are from others and are concerned that others don’t realize that they have vision loss and tend to come too close. Respondents feel unsafe when going out.

Those living with vision loss are particularly concerned that the effect of the added stress from the pandemic on their mental health may cause them to become overwhelmed.

Survey respondents are stressed about their inability to access a doctor or health care practitioner and to meet their financial obligations, and about their ability to maintain their present standard of living. They’re further stressed due to their already-fragile economic status.

Respondents also expressed concern about having transportation and finding someone to accompany them should they have to go to the doctor or hospital.

Shopping is a concern as plexiglass shields make it difficult to negotiate payment and those with seeing disabilities are uncomfortable interacting with staff. About half of the respondents indicated that they had a personal care worker entering their home, about half of whom weren’t wearing proper personal protective equipment.

Respondents are concerned that when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, they’ll discover that their job no longer exists. Many who were asked to work from home have discovered that they don’t have the proper accessible devices and technology necessary to do their jobs from home, and that their employers have refused to provide or fund them.

The survey succeeded at identifying the challenges confronting those living with vision loss during the COVID-19 crisis. As Respondent 211 commented, “What’s affecting my mental health is this prolonged and extreme isolation. As a blind person, I already live a fairly limited life when referring to freedom of movement and independence and now even that small wedge of my active life has been completely eradicated.” It’s clear that the vision loss community is being heavily impacted by the pandemic. It’s further evident that there’s a need for immediate action from all levels of government to provide support and solutions to help those living with vision loss get through these stressful times. The CCB’s resulting report includes detailed recommendations for all levels of government to consider.

“We must ensure that those with disabilities aren’t left behind and that they have the urgent support they need,” said Gillis. “Leadership must come from the top down, and therefore we’re counting on the federal government to take the lead role in providing the guidance and financial support to provinces to make sure that all Canadians with disabilities, and especially those with vision loss, have access to the needed programs and solutions.”

The Survey Report on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadians Who Are Blind, Deaf-Blind, and Partially-Sighted is available on the CCB’s website and is fully accessible.

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT:

Michael Baillargeon, CCB Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Special Projects, [email protected], 416-651-2102

ABOUT THE CCB

Canadian Council of the Blind Logo

The CCB is the Voice of the Blind™ in Canada. Founded 75 years ago in 1944 by returning blind veterans and schools of the blind, the CCB is a membership-based registered charity that brings together Canadians who are blind, living with vision loss, or deaf-blind through chapters within their own local communities that provide the opportunity to share common interests and social activities.

The CCB works tirelessly to improve the quality of life of people with vision loss through advocacy and its dedication to building public awareness, improving the well-being of people with seeing disabilities, and promoting and providing a better understanding of, and solutions for, the barriers faced by those living with vision loss, all while promoting the fact that a lack of sight is not a lack of vision.

The CCB is proud of these efforts to change what it means to be blind, and of its success in partnering and building relationships with other national and international organizations of and for the blind. Most importantly, the CCB is proud of its leadership role through initiatives that call for access to accessible, assistive technology, the provision of the very best in available medical treatments, and the fostering of patients’ rights, all while recognizing that blindness and vision loss are avoidable.

Copyright © 2020 The Canadian Council of the Blind, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

The Canadian Council of the Blind

National Office

20 James Street, Suite 100

Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0T6

Canada

COVID-19 Survey Results

We Have Heard Your Voices

Cover of the COVID-19 Impact Survery Report - The Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on canadians who are blind, deaf-blind, and partially-sighted.

As you may be aware, the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) conducted a survey over the period April 7 to April 14 to determine the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic was having on Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted. The objective of the survey was to provide recommendations to the federal, provincial and municipal governments in order to assist them in creating policies to support those living with disabilities during this time of COVID–19.

In the short time the survey was open responses were received from 572 members of the vision loss community and yes we have heard your voices. We were delighted and a little overwhelmed with the thorough, thoughtful and heart felt emotion projected in your responses. The robustness of this sample means that our survey will be considered to be truly reflective of the concerns of our community at this time.

On behalf of the CCB, I would like to thank those who participated in the survey, for providing us with your concerns and insights and for enabling us to assemble a number of substantial recommendations for government. Without your quick response, this report would not have happened within the short timeframe essential to make our recommendations meaningful. These recommendations are included in the full report available at the link below. The report is fully accessible, and after reviewing it you may comment on its results, by emailing; [email protected]

Once again, on behalf of CCB, I would like to thank you for participating. Please stay safe and healthy. Do your best to follow local COVID-19 guidelines and shelter in place to the extent possible.

Louise Gillis Signature

Louise Gillis
National President,
Canadian Council of the Blind

Download the Survey Report in Word Below

Download the Survey Report in PDF Below

WBU statement on World Book Day

World Blind Union Logo

On Thursday April 23rd 2020, the World Blind Union joins UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the rest of the world to observe World Book and Copyright Day, also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Day. The focus this year is “Books: A Window into the World during Covid-19”.

According to the United Nations, “Now more than ever, at a time when globally most schools are closed and people are having to limit time spent out of their homes, the power of books can be leveraged to combat isolation, to reinforce ties between people, and to expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity”.

The World Blind Union takes this opportunity to commend all persons and organizations who have made reading materials freely available electronically and would like to encourage more of this globally. This is of great benefit to persons with disabilities, especially blind and partially sighted persons and otherwise print disabled. If properly done, it will provide them access to variety and more current reading material. Also, this can greatly reduce the likelihood of them halting their studies because of limited or no access to information and will create avenues to keep them meaningfully occupied in order to decrease the possible psychological impact of Covid-19.

However, we are calling on governments, educational institutions, service providers and other stakeholders, to ensure that the material made available electronically such as books, Covid-19 related and other information, and online schooling are fully accessible to all. Parents, guardians and teachers who are blind or partially sighted need to have fully accessible information and material so that they can provide adequate support to their children and students. As well, students who are blind, partially sighted or otherwise print disabled must have fully accessible information and material to allow them an equal opportunity for learning alongside sighted peers at their level.

As the world develops strategies to cope with the effects of this pandemic and to eventually eradicate it, WBU will continue to advocate on behalf of our members for inclusive response. Our aim is to ensure that persons with disabilities, especially those who are blind, partially sighted and otherwise print disabled are not deprived of their rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  (CRPD) and the Marrakesh Treaty; and that they remain on governments’ agenda as they continue to strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

———————

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. Visit our website at www.worldblindunion.org

A Press Release from Barrier Free Canada

Press Release:

Barrier free Canada – Canada sans barrières congratulates the government on the formation of an advisory group to take action on issues relating to Canadians with disabilities

We are very pleased to congratulate Minister Qualtrough on the initiative to establish this very important advisory group as there are many Canadians with disabilities who are quite concerned over how their needs and requirements are going to be met. From concerns over health issues, to financial issues, to scoial distancing, and more.

We believe that each time that the government rolls out any type of initiative to help combat COVID-19, the voices, needs, and concerns of Canadians with disabilities must also be included.

While the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group (CDAG) includes strong repesentation from a cross-section of the disability community, it is important that the individuals appointed to the CDAG actually be representatives on behalf of their constituents, and not merely of the organizations with which they are affiliated.

We encourage all those sitting as representatives on the CDAG to engage in broad and inclusive consultation with their respective communities, to ensure that a broad spectrum of views and experiences are considered.