Halifax Public Libraries helping put technology in the hands of blind Nova Scotians

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(HALIFAX – March 13, 2019) Nova Scotians can donate their old smartphones to help individuals who are blind or partially sighted – thanks to a partnership with Halifax Public Libraries, the CNIB Foundation Nova Scotia 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.

“Halifax Public Libraries is excited to partner with CNIB with this innovative initiative that helps support digital equality,” says Åsa Kachan, Chief Librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries. “As more and more services move online, it is essential that everyone have equal access to digital information. Helping connect community members to information is what library services is all about.”

Halifax Public Libraries was named CNIB's Outstanding Community Partner in 2018 for ensuring that Nova Scotians who cannot read print due to sight loss – or a learning or physical disability – are able to fully engage in their leisure reading and learning needs by having access to a wealth of accessible reading materials through their local public library.

"Given Halifax Public Libraries' tremendous past support for Nova Scotians who are blind or partially sighted, it was no surprise that they stepped up to support our Phone it Forward program in a big way," said Jeff deViller, CNIB's Foundation Programs Manager. "Together, we're asking individuals to check their desk drawers for old smartphones not being used – and to donate them at one of 14 participating Halifax Public Libraries locations."

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 14 participating Halifax Public Libraries to pick up a Phone It Forward postage-paid envelope and donate your used smartphone(s). Your donation will support individuals with sight loss in Nova Scotia. 

About CNIB Foundation Nova Scotia
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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