White Cane Dinner

CCB 75th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Louise Gillis speaking at a podium during the White Cane Dinner
Louise Gillis delivers her speach at the White Cane Dinner

Good evening and thank you for being here with us as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Council of the Blind!

In 1944, 10 men sitting around a table – blind veterans who had returned from World War II and the representatives of schools for the blind – started the CCB. Today, 75 years later, we have 84 chapters from coast to coast and are the Voice of the Blind in Canada.
The CCB’s original mission, to promote the well-being of people with vision loss through advocacy, education, profitable employment, and social association, continues to this day.

Our various chapters support local members through social and recreational opportunities, along with education and support.

For example, our Get Together with Technology program continues to expand across the country, providing training and education on accessible technology.

Various sports teams and tournaments are thriving. For instance, I’m presently participating in the AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship going on just across town at the historic Ottawa Curling Club.

We also endeavour to prevent blindness in vulnerable and underserved populations, such as youth and seniors, by offering outreach programs like our Mobile Eye Clinic.

Providing education and awareness, in both the prevention of vision loss and the improvement of accessibility, is a big part of what we do.

We work closely with organizations of and for the blind, other stakeholders, health care groups, and all levels of government, to ensure that accessibility and high-quality care are available for those of us who have sight loss and that each of us has the right to fully-informed consent to treatment options.

As we celebrate our 75th anniversary today, we have many wonderful accomplishments to reflect upon in the past year alone. In 2018, we made great strides towards establishing a barrier-free Canada. We partnered with the Neil Squire Society and the Can­adian National Institute for the Blind to raise awareness of the need for wider access to retail payment systems in order to reduce the service gap faced by Canadians with blindness or low vision.

Our National Advocacy Commit­tee helped bring innovative technologies, such as ScripTalk – a device that reads prescription labels out loud for patients – to the public. Most importantly, we joined with stakeholders, friends, and members of Canada’s vision loss community to work with Minister Qualtrough to pass Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, which is presently before the Senate and in the good hands of Senator Jim, number 12 in your hearts, Munson.

As the CCB’s National President, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with experts from the World Health Organization, the Inter­national Federation on Ageing, and leading Canadian ophthalmologists to address, among other things, the myth that vision deterioration is a part of the ageing process. Vision loss is not solely related to age, yet among adult at-risk populations there is a relatively low level of awareness of the condition and treatment options.

It’s important that we remember that vision loss is not only treatable but preventable.

In August, the CCB was invited to Anatolia, Turkey by the Turkish Federation of the Blind to take part in the writing of a declaration for world peace. People who are blind are sincere and determined opponents of war as it increases the population of the blind to a significant extent.

In celebrating our 75th year, the CCB has dedicated 2019 to “Our Year of Accessibility.”

As we look forward to more collab­oration, success, and discovery, we remember everyone who has played a role in the CCB’s progress in pursuit of our ultimate mission: to make our lives better physically, economically, socially, and mentally. In doing so, and joining with all involved in this wonderful community, we are, as our late Past President Harold Schnellert stated in 2006, changing what it means to be blind.

Thank you for being here with us on this special evening. To our members, our volunteers, and all of our supporters here tonight – you make the CCB what it is. Your support means everything.

Thank you.