SASKATOON – Nearly a century after its inception, a service created by injured veterans continues to support people who are blind or partially-sighted in Saskatoon and across Canada. In 1918, two veterans named Alexander Viets and Edwin Baker returned from the First World War, having been injured in combat.
Realizing supports for blind people were limited, they helped create the Canadian National Institute for the Blind – or the CNIB.
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“It started off small – and it really started off with being able to read, having people read to them,” said Lee Pion, supervisor of vision rehabilitation services at CNIB’s Saskatoon branch.
Ninety-seven years later, the non-profit organization offers free programs for employment, counselling, rehabilitation and other services. CNIB also has a library and store in Saskatoon.
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The ultimate goal is independent living – something 92-year-old veteran Katharina Loepky knows a lot about.
Living on her own and with limited sight, Loepky turned to the CNIB when she began showing signs of macular degeneration in her late sixties.
“I don’t know what I’d do without CNIB,” Loepky said.
She signed up for the Second World War as soon she turned 18. She waited on tables in the officer’s mess in Newfoundland, before being told her flat feet prevented her from going overseas.
“Just a few months later, peace was declared,” she said.