Winnipeg Public Libraries helping put technology in the hands of blind Manitobans

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Media Release

For Immediate Release

Winnipeg Public Libraries helping put technology in the hands of blind Manitobans

(Winnipeg– April 8, 2019) Manitobans can donate their old smartphones to help individuals who are blind or partially sighted – thanks to a partnership with Winnipeg Public Libraries, the CNIB Foundation Manitoba 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.

“Winnipeg Public Library is excited to be part of this project,” said Sophie Firby, Administrative Coordinator of Information and Virtual Services for Winnipeg Public Library. “The Library’s list of online resources is continually growing – we offer audiobooks, eBooks, eMagazines, movies and music – and making those collections easily accessible to our customers with vision loss, by helping to put smartphones in their hands, supports our mission to enrich the lives of all Winnipeg citizens.”

"We're asking Manitobans to check their desk drawers for modern smartphones not being used – and to donate them at participating Public Library locations," said Leonard Furber, Executive Director for CNIB Manitoba. "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 for a list of eligible smartphones under the "Donate" section and find a list of participating libraries under the "Get An Envelope" section, then visit any Winnipeg Public Library location to pick up a Phone It Forward postage-paid envelope and donate your used smartphone(s). Your donation will support Manitobans with sight loss in the province. 

About CNIB
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


Media contacts:

Kayla DeBaets
Administrative Assistant, CNIB
Phone: (204) 789-0962

Tracy Garbutt
Program Lead, Foundation Relations, CNIB
Phone: (204) 789-0941

Sophie Firby
Administrative Coordinator of Information and Virtual Services, Winnipeg Public Library
Phone: (204) 805-5689

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