Albertans who are blind, visually impaired urged to continue reaching out amid COVID-19 pandemic – Lethbridge

Albertans who are blind, visually impaired urged to continue reaching out amid COVID-19 pandemic - Lethbridge

A number of events, concerts and other activities around the globe have been cancelled preemptively due to mounting concerns around COVID-19.

The Lethbridge Association of the Blind (LAB) is just one of the organizations that have postponed its events.

LAB is a volunteer-based organization that has been operating in Lethbridge for over 14 years. It holds two main events throughout the year: weekly bowling from September through April and monthly dinners with dozens of attendees.

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Bill Brown, president of the organization, said the events are a great way to engage with others living with vision loss.

“The really great thing about that activity is that people have the opportunity of getting together with other people who have a similar problem,” he said.

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Brown, who lives with retinitis pigmentosa, has been staying at home with his wife Lynda since social distancing measures were put in place. Now that COVID-19 has become a serious health concern, their activities have been cancelled for the time being.  He understands that without these events, some might be feeling a little lost.

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“You can be awful lonely if you’re living alone and you are visually impaired, and you’re not out and your family doesn’t stop to visit you,” he said.

To combat this loneliness, Brown said anyone who needs someone to talk to can reach out to the Lethbridge Association for the Blind, and they will be there for support.

“When we can’t get together, at least we can speak on the telephone and find out how they’re doing,” said Brown.

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Another organization hoping to still connect with the visually impaired community through the current pandemic is the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), which operates in every province and territory.

According to Christopher Warner, the program lead with community engagement, it has started digitizing many programs.

“I don’t think anything can ever fully match in-person but it’s the next best alternative,” said Warner. 

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He said the organization previously offered an in-person program called Vision Mate where volunteers worked with clients of CNIB to aid with everyday tasks.

“Whether it just be getting out for a walk or helping them with their groceries,” he said. “We’ve even taken that one virtual now and we’re actually looking for volunteers.”

Warner said the online version of Vision Mate is set to launch on April 6.

“I want people to know that they’re not alone,” said Warner.

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