Blind People Need Publicly Funded Rehabilitation

By Mary Ellen Gabias, Vancouver Sun May 8, 2012

Blind people need publicly funded rehabilitation and the right of informed choice. Rafferty’s call for a single, one-size-fits-all national strategy is a none too subtle plan to entrench CNIB, a monopoly the blind community increasingly distrusts.


Re: Canada needs national vision health plan, May 1

Eyesight preservation is different from rehabilitation. Preserving eyesight is a public health issue. Rehabilitation fights poverty and promotes economic and social integration.

B.C., via health services, pays for medical procedures to preserve vision. Even with state-of-the-art care many British Columbians become blind. Those are the people our province fails.

CNIB president John Rafferty is correct when he says: “But the rehabilitation services they (blind people) need to overcome these challenges are provided mostly by CNIB – a charity – and funded in large part by public donations.”

But blind British Columbians are increasingly unhappy with the type and amount of service available through CNIB and would like other options.

For three years the Canadian Federation of the Blind has unsuccessfully requested government funding so that working-age blind adults can be given an option to attend intensive blindness immersion rehabilitation training provided by entities other than CNIB.

Blind people need publicly funded rehabilitation and the right of informed choice. Rafferty’s call for a single, one-size-fits-all national strategy is a none too subtle plan to entrench CNIB, a monopoly the blind community increasingly distrusts.

Mary Ellen Gabias Kelowna

Reproduced from http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Blind+people+need+publicly+funded+rehabilitation/6584145/story.html

Canada Needs National Vision Health Plan

By John M. Rafferty, Vancouver Sun May 1, 2012

Experts are calling it the “perfect storm” of vision loss. With our rapidly aging population and the fact that most major eye diseases are age-related, more Canadians than ever are losing their vision today.

In fact, more than one million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight; this burden costs Canada a staggering $15.8-billon per year. But researchers predict these figures will double within 25 years; a sight loss epidemic we’ve never experienced before.

The problem is, it doesn’t have to be this way. And if Canada had a national vision health plan in place, it wouldn’t.

Few Canadians realize that 75% of vision loss is preventable or treatable, and the strategies to prevent it can be as simple as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular eye exams to detect eye disease early and have a chance at sight-saving treatment.

But without a consolidated public education effort through a vision health plan, Canadians don’t know how to avoid sight loss, and the amount of people losing their vision each year rises dramatically. What’s more, without a vision health plan, Canada is left with a dire lack of support for its citizens when they lose their sight.

If a Canadian has a serious health problem that affects their ability to be independent and mobile – a stroke, perhaps – our health care system provides them with the rehabilitation services they need to rebuild their lives.

But when a Canadian loses their vision, they too have to regain their independence and mobility. But the rehabilitation services they need to overcome these challenges are provided mostly by CNIB – a charity – and funded in large part by public donations.

For many people, loss of sight can be an incredibly isolating and overwhelming experience. The community-based services from CNIB help Canadians overcome the challenges of vision loss and fully participate in life. But shouldn’t those essential services be part of our social safety net?

In 2003, Canada made a commitment to the World Health Organization under Vision 2020, the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, to develop and implement a national vision plan by 2007. Nine years later, no such plan exists in Canada.

The question is: With nearly 50,000 Canadians losing their vision each year, why isn’t our government doing something about the vision loss epidemic on our doorstep? And, as importantly, how long are we willing to weather this storm?

John M. Rafferty is president and CEO, CNIB.

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Reproduced from http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Canada+needs+national+vision+health+plan/6545181/story.html