Some Kelowna residents are not impressed with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
Joyce Henderson has a 36-year-old blind daughter, and said the annual charity event, Wine’ing’ in the Dark, a fundraiser for CNIB where guests participate in wine sampling while blindfolded, is a “gimmick for showing life as a blind person.”
“Sited people walk away with a misconception about blindness,” she said.
Henderson continued most blindness is a slow, gradual process, not the instantaneous one CNIB portrays.
To connect with blind people and to learn what life is like through their eyes, individuals must spend time with a blind person, she said.
Danielle Suter, public relations and communications officer for CNIB, said the event was created by CNIB’s Kelowna office to involve the wine industry in Kelowna.
“The event is not about simulating blindness. There are blindfolds there, but (you) don’t have to put on a blindfold. People come to experience difference wines and provide (funding) for a charity,” she said, adding blindfolded-tasting events are common among companies like Pepsi.
Mary Ellen Gabias, president for the Canadian Federation of the Blind, agrees with Henderson that the event doesn’t give a proper description on what blindness is.
Gabias has been blind her entire life and she thinks the event promotes fear and creates a misconception of how blind people live.
“(CNIB) promotes pity rather than respect. It’s three hours of sipping wine and the sudden immersion into the fear of blindness… my life is nothing like suddenly going blind,” said Gabias.
However, Suter said “That’s not the goal of it. We know we have the support of our clients who are blind or partially blind.”
John Ingram is a client of CNIB and is declared legally blind. He will be attending the fundraiser.
“Fundraising is important for the community, I have no problem with it,” adding he thinks there is no issue with the event.
Gabias is also critical of CNIB as a whole, and believes rehab and rehabilitation for blind individuals should be in the hands of the Provincial government, rather than a charity.
“I don’t think a Toronto-centred monopoly is needed,” adding the issue with CNIB is it provides a problem by problem solution, instead of ongoing intensive care which she said is needed.
“I would love to see in the province, where people in local communities get paid to instruct people… I’m not knocking the individuals. There is a structural problem.”
Suter said CNIB fundraisers held locally go back into the local community and that each case differs depending on the individual.
“It stays within the region,” she said.