CNIB enhancing lives of visually impaired

CNIB enhancing lives of visually impaired

New technology helps eliminate loss of sight obstacles

New technology has created life-changing opportunities for the lives of the visually impaired.

But there is both a lack of awareness about these phone app-driven initiatives or a lack of financial means to afford a smartphone that drives access to them for some.

Craig Faris, the CNIB program lead for technology, is doing his part to change the awareness factor.

He was in Kelowna for two workshops last week, attended by about 20 people, and will do more across the province in the months ahead.

RELATED: CNIB promises to respond to criticism

RELATED: Apple products reign supreme for accessibility

“Our mandate is to bring this new technology to where people live, work and play all over the province,” Faris said.

“There are those with the means who are not aware of these programs, and others who don’t have the means to get a smartphone. It is a bit of a double-edged sword.”

CNIB is stepping up its efforts through fundraising and sponsorship initiatives to help address the financial limitation factor for those who don’t have smartphones.

A recent survey showed that 46 per cent of blind Canadians don’t own a smartphone,

“That means many visually impaired people are living within a means that doesn’t make it affordable for them to own a smartphone and have access to these new phone apps that can mean a such a difference in their lives,” said Marni Adams, who works out of the CNIB office in Kelowna as philanthropy co-ordinator for the CNIB’s western region.

For Faris, he finds great personal satisfaction in sharing his technological knowledge with others that can profoundly improve their lives.

“The degree of independence it gives to a person’s life who is blind is life-changing,” he said.

“Now there are few things a blind person can’t do that someone with normal vision can. It is just learning a different way to do those things.”

Some of the high-tech initiatives offered through phone apps, he said, include reading labels on grocery store items, navigating directions when traveling and voice repeat of written words that otherwise would require braille assistance.

In many cases, the apps provide a verbal message or indicator for what a blind person can’t see.

“You can get to know one product from another time, but if you want to open a can of pears to eat and actually open up a can of mushrooms…that can be disappointing.”

Faris has been blind since birth. His mother was blind and three of the six siblings in the family are blind.

“I remember as a kid when other kids were talking about a book they read, I couldn’t participate because I had to wait two months for the braille version to come out. And when it did, my friends had already moved on to talking about the next book. I was always behind,” he recalled.

He had overcome that adversity to start up several businesses and volunteer for various organizations. He currently lives on a boat in Vancouver.

He said his mother’s blindness was a big advantage because she wouldn’t settle for her son giving up on anything he wanted to do in life because of his sight impairment.

“She wouldn’t let us get away with anything. She believed the blind can do anything a sighted person can do, it just might take a little more work or effort to do. In the long run, that is the parenting style that works,” he said.

“It sounds odd to say, but if you lose your vision today, there has never been a better time for that to happen because there is so much available through technology to help you lead an independent life.”

For more information about how app technology developments can improve the personal freedoms for those who are blind, contact your local CNIB office.

The Kelowna CNIB office is located at 101-1456 St Paul St. Call 250-763-1191.

To report a typo, email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C.’s 2021 budget is trending in the right direction to support farmers, says the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
BC Fruit Growers’ Association gives thumbs up to provincial budget

BCFGA general manager said budgetary investments put farming industry on a good trajectory for recovery

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

A total of three cases were linked to the outbreak in unit 4E— one patient and two staff

Sheldon Pierre Louis’s winning mural design, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.” (Facebook: Okanagan Nation Alliance)
Syilx artist selected as winner of Kelowna Gospel Mission’s mural project

Sheldon Pierre Louis was also awarded $10,000 for his winning submission, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.”

The administrative headquarters for Central Okanagan Public Schools in Kelowna. (File photo)
Another 6 Central Okanagan Schools exposed to COVID-19

The school district has seen a rise in cases at several of its schools over the course of the month

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Shuswap businesses dependent on  tourism are bracing for further details of travel restrictions expected to be announced by Friday, April 23. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
B.C. travel restrictions create uncertainty among North Okanagan-Shuswap businesses

Sicamous mayor to ramp up campaign against licence plate hate

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The site of a proposed water bottling facility referred to in a groundwater licence application is in the vicinity of this intersection. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Concerns raised over water licence application in Salmon Arm for bottling water

Neighbours want to know more, city councillor concerned about commercial use of public aquifers

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

Most Read