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Raising awareness about sight impairment in Chilliwack

The Canadian Council of the Blind, Chilliwack Chapter, invites the community to an open house on Wednesday, 11am–3pm, at Evergreen Hall.
Ann McNabb is the president of the B.C.-Yukon division of Canadian Council for the Blind. The CCB is holding an open house on Wednesday.

Diagnosed with a hereditary retinal disorder at 18 years old, Ann McNabb has been progressively losing her sight throughout adulthood. After she was declared legally blind, she was getting on the bus with her white cane one day in the early 1990s, when she met a member of the Canadian Council of the Blind, who invited her to a CCB meeting. Although McNabb admits the group isn't for everyone, she found confidence through it, and stuck with it for nearly two decades.

To celebrate White Cane Week, held nationally in the first week of February for nearly 70 years, the Chilliwack chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind is inviting the community to an open house Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will be at Evergreen Hall (9291 Corbould Street), in the Slesse Room.

A Chilliwack native, soft-spoken McNabb now heads the BC-Yukon Division of the CCB from her hometown.

"I think (the CCB has) helped me to be more confident in myself. If I wasn't a member of the local club, I certainly wouldn't be doing some of the things I do at the division level," says McNabb.

She is also a committed volunteer with the local Girl Guides of Canada, and the Chilliwack Safety Village.

CCB Chilliwack offers peer mentoring support, and club members range from people who are legally blind, to those who have absolutely no vision, like McNabb herself. The club helps members to cope, says McNabb.

"Because no matter when your vision loss comes along, or how much it is, it's an adjustment. And being with people who are in the same group helps."

The 30--40 members hold twice-monthly meetings, monthly lunches, and bowling nights.

In addition to bringing together people who are visually impaired and the wider community, next week's open house will welcome an orientation specialist from CNIB, the organization that services the blind and visually impaired nationally. The specialist will consult on making a home more accessible. CNIB will also bring adaptive equipment items for sale.

Chilliwack could improve on its accessibility. Although the city sports a few audible signals at traffic lights, whose chirp announces a safe time to cross, McNabb would welcome more. And while the HandyDART provides an excellent service, "It sure would be nice if they ran more on the weekends or on the evenings," she says. "Because you kind of get stuck, or you end up having to pay a taxi, or you just don't go out. It limits you."

And one way of overcoming limitations is to connect with people in similar situations.