NB Public Libraries helping put technology in the hands of blind New Brunswickers

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(FREDERICTON – March 12, 2019) New Brunswickers can donate their old smartphones to help individuals who are blind or partially sighted – thanks to a partnership with New Brunswick Public Libraries, the CNIB Foundation New Brunswick and the Canadian Urban Libraries Council.

Phone It Forward is the first program of its kind worldwide that refurbishes used smartphones, putting them directly in the hands of people with sight loss to transform lives. For people who are blind, smartphones are a game-changer – a portable, all-in-one communications and accessibility solution. In the hands of someone who is blind, a smartphone becomes more than most people can imagine – a critical tool that opens a world of opportunity and independence.

However, for too many, smartphones are out of reach. Forty-six per cent of Canadians who are blind don't own a smartphone – or not one that's advanced enough to assist them in daily living. The unemployment rate for persons with sight loss is triple the Canadian average, making affording a mobile device difficult for many.

“New Brunswick public libraries are a key resource in our communities – offering citizens the opportunity to learn, read, create, play and succeed,” said Trevor Holder, Minister of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour. “Partnering with CNIB New Brunswick on the Phone It Forward program is a natural fit with our government initiatives to support social and economic inclusion.”

"We're asking New Brunswickers to check their desk drawers for old smartphones not being used – and to donate them at participating Public Library locations," said Denise Coward, Executive Director for CNIB New Brunswick. "Many Canadians own multiple phones, regularly upgrading to a newer model. Let's get those phones into the hands of people in our community who need them. Partnering with public libraries makes it simple and convenient for anyone to pick up a donation envelope and mail in their used phones."

Smartphones can be used for a multitude of day-to-day tasks that many of us take for granted, including navigating with GPS, identifying colours and faces, reading printed text, confirming correct medications and accessing live video assistance from a sighted volunteer. From school to work to home to life in the community, smartphones empower people with sight loss with unprecedented levels of information and independence.

Help change what it is to be blind today. Visit phoneitforward.ca for a list of participating libraries under the "Get An Envelope" section, then visit one of the five participating public libraries in Edmundston, Campbellton, Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton to pick up a Phone It Forward postage-paid envelope and donate your used smartphone(s). Your donation will support New Brunswickers with sight loss in the province. 

About the CNIB Foundation
Celebrating 100 years in 2018, CNIB is a non-profit organization driven to change what it is to be blind today. We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams while tearing down barriers to inclusion. Our work is powered by a network of volunteers, donors and partners from coast to coast to coast. To learn more or get involved, visit cnib.ca.

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