New CNIB hub offers plenty of benefits for those with sight loss

Community Aug 08, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

For years, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has run support programs out of its location on Bayview Avenue.

With its new community hub at 1525 Yonge St., just north of St. Clair Avenue, the organization is now more accessible than ever.

The new location offers a variety of programs, from technology training to educational support to recreational programming, and welcomes those with and without sight loss to enjoy the space.

“We’re trying to help our clients feel more connected,” said Brian McLean, Canadian National Institute for the Blind's (CNIB) program lead for culture, recreation and sport. “We have programs for all ages, but because a lot of our clients are seniors, we have a lot of programs geared toward that demographic — sewing classes, arts and crafts, and we’re going to introduce woodturning (woodworking using a lathe).”

The two-storey space features a “doggie bar” just inside the front door where service dogs can enjoy treats, water and dog toys while their owners take part in classes and activities. The main floor also offers an accessible kitchen where clients can learn to make healthy items such as nature bars and smoothies. A tech bar allows clients to learn to use technology, with or without assistive devices.

The upper floor is more open and allows for everything from yoga classes to dances.

“The space has been everything from a factory where people made tactile books to a craft zone where they made puppets to a nightclub where our youth participants were able to have a dance,” said Rhonda Underhill-Gray, who heads up the CNIB’s child and youth-oriented Beyond the Classroom program. “The dance was a great time and gave our young clients a chance to have their own version of a school dance.”

While the programs cater to those with sight loss, the hub’s executive director, Angela Bonfanti, said the space welcomes everyone. The hub is open to programming from sighted people as well, and welcomes book clubs, yoga classes and other groups who want to use it.

“There are two main goals for this type of space,” she said. “One is to provide the best possible programming we can, and the other is to move the needle on social integration.”

Bonfanti noted that the CNIB’s client base is often underemployed, with 70 per cent of working age adults without a job and 60 per cent of teens dropping out of high school. By boosting social integration, the hub aims to reduce the stigma that goes with vision loss.

“We want to chip away at that stigma and get the mainstream community to be able to relax with the term blindness,” she said.

The hub also boosts employment, with clients running many of the programs offered.

The hub will host a Get Inspired Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, with programs and info sessions with community partners to help welcome and introduce people to the space. For more information on the CNIB and its programs, visit www.cnib.ca.

New CNIB hub offers plenty of benefits for those with sight loss

Community Aug 08, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

For years, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has run support programs out of its location on Bayview Avenue.

With its new community hub at 1525 Yonge St., just north of St. Clair Avenue, the organization is now more accessible than ever.

The new location offers a variety of programs, from technology training to educational support to recreational programming, and welcomes those with and without sight loss to enjoy the space.

“We’re trying to help our clients feel more connected,” said Brian McLean, Canadian National Institute for the Blind's (CNIB) program lead for culture, recreation and sport. “We have programs for all ages, but because a lot of our clients are seniors, we have a lot of programs geared toward that demographic — sewing classes, arts and crafts, and we’re going to introduce woodturning (woodworking using a lathe).”

The two-storey space features a “doggie bar” just inside the front door where service dogs can enjoy treats, water and dog toys while their owners take part in classes and activities. The main floor also offers an accessible kitchen where clients can learn to make healthy items such as nature bars and smoothies. A tech bar allows clients to learn to use technology, with or without assistive devices.

The upper floor is more open and allows for everything from yoga classes to dances.

“The space has been everything from a factory where people made tactile books to a craft zone where they made puppets to a nightclub where our youth participants were able to have a dance,” said Rhonda Underhill-Gray, who heads up the CNIB’s child and youth-oriented Beyond the Classroom program. “The dance was a great time and gave our young clients a chance to have their own version of a school dance.”

While the programs cater to those with sight loss, the hub’s executive director, Angela Bonfanti, said the space welcomes everyone. The hub is open to programming from sighted people as well, and welcomes book clubs, yoga classes and other groups who want to use it.

“There are two main goals for this type of space,” she said. “One is to provide the best possible programming we can, and the other is to move the needle on social integration.”

Bonfanti noted that the CNIB’s client base is often underemployed, with 70 per cent of working age adults without a job and 60 per cent of teens dropping out of high school. By boosting social integration, the hub aims to reduce the stigma that goes with vision loss.

“We want to chip away at that stigma and get the mainstream community to be able to relax with the term blindness,” she said.

The hub also boosts employment, with clients running many of the programs offered.

The hub will host a Get Inspired Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, with programs and info sessions with community partners to help welcome and introduce people to the space. For more information on the CNIB and its programs, visit www.cnib.ca.

New CNIB hub offers plenty of benefits for those with sight loss

Community Aug 08, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

For years, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has run support programs out of its location on Bayview Avenue.

With its new community hub at 1525 Yonge St., just north of St. Clair Avenue, the organization is now more accessible than ever.

The new location offers a variety of programs, from technology training to educational support to recreational programming, and welcomes those with and without sight loss to enjoy the space.

“We’re trying to help our clients feel more connected,” said Brian McLean, Canadian National Institute for the Blind's (CNIB) program lead for culture, recreation and sport. “We have programs for all ages, but because a lot of our clients are seniors, we have a lot of programs geared toward that demographic — sewing classes, arts and crafts, and we’re going to introduce woodturning (woodworking using a lathe).”

The two-storey space features a “doggie bar” just inside the front door where service dogs can enjoy treats, water and dog toys while their owners take part in classes and activities. The main floor also offers an accessible kitchen where clients can learn to make healthy items such as nature bars and smoothies. A tech bar allows clients to learn to use technology, with or without assistive devices.

The upper floor is more open and allows for everything from yoga classes to dances.

“The space has been everything from a factory where people made tactile books to a craft zone where they made puppets to a nightclub where our youth participants were able to have a dance,” said Rhonda Underhill-Gray, who heads up the CNIB’s child and youth-oriented Beyond the Classroom program. “The dance was a great time and gave our young clients a chance to have their own version of a school dance.”

While the programs cater to those with sight loss, the hub’s executive director, Angela Bonfanti, said the space welcomes everyone. The hub is open to programming from sighted people as well, and welcomes book clubs, yoga classes and other groups who want to use it.

“There are two main goals for this type of space,” she said. “One is to provide the best possible programming we can, and the other is to move the needle on social integration.”

Bonfanti noted that the CNIB’s client base is often underemployed, with 70 per cent of working age adults without a job and 60 per cent of teens dropping out of high school. By boosting social integration, the hub aims to reduce the stigma that goes with vision loss.

“We want to chip away at that stigma and get the mainstream community to be able to relax with the term blindness,” she said.

The hub also boosts employment, with clients running many of the programs offered.

The hub will host a Get Inspired Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, with programs and info sessions with community partners to help welcome and introduce people to the space. For more information on the CNIB and its programs, visit www.cnib.ca.