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Why the Canadian National Institute for the Blind Chose Zoom to Serve its Community During COVID-19

Why the Canadian National Institute for the Blind Chose Zoom to Serve its Community During COVID-19

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is a nonprofit organization that offers vital services and programs to people who are blind or partially sighted to live the lives they choose. With hundreds of weekly programs dedicated to helping approximately 1.5 million Canadians with sight loss live, play, and work in the modern world, CNIB plays an important role in empowering the community they serve and tearing down barriers to accessibility and inclusion. 

Virtual programmatic offerings have been something that CNIB, like many other organizations, had considered for quite some time, however, prioritizing the development of these new programs proved to be difficult. Firstly, the organization struggled with finding capacity amongst existing staff to take on the development and implementation of this type of programming, and, secondly, while there was quite a bit of excitement around the engagement of more youth and working-age program participants through a more modern method of program delivery, such as virtual programs, there existed a fear of losing the many seniors who struggled with the use of technology.

And so, when COVID-19 threatened to shut down CNIB’s operations, the organization knew it was time to bring virtual programs to the forefront so that their team of front-line staff, in concert with their colleagues in crucial support functions, could deliver invaluable programs and services to members of the blind or partially sighted community across Canada. Frank Lombardo, vice president of property and technology at CNIB, shared the unique impact that Zoom has had on CNIB and some of the reasons why the organization has chosen Zoom to support Canadians with sight loss during COVID-19 and beyond. 

Providing critical services during COVID-19

“We’ve also been able to have an impact on our guide dog program through Zoom,” Lombardo added. “Although we can’t visit our clients in person to review their dogs’ behavior and offer corrections, we can go ‘on a walk’ with them via Zoom and our guide dog volunteers can observe the dog’s behavior and offer solutions to correct it.” 

Leveraging an intuitive, accessible platform

“We do a lot of education around how to use assistive technology when you’re blind or partially sighted, and that was very doable through Zoom with the screen sharing feature and the ability to initiate desktop control,” Lombardo said. “We also started hosting our peer support groups virtually, and it worked out great. The ability for our clients to have a sense of continuity by meeting virtually was critical. And with Zoom’s extensive online resources, all I have to do is tell people what words to plug in on Google when they need support.”

Removing the barrier of distance

“People with sight loss often have difficulty traveling, and with Zoom, they are no longer limited by geography; they can attend our events no matter where they are,” Lombardo said. “We can gather and see so many people in one virtual space, and that really gives attendees that feeling of being part of something bigger.” 

Issuing reliable organization-wide communications

“Our CEO addresses the organization weekly, and we use Zoom for those meetings because it handles that high number of people very well. With staff across the country living in both urban and rural areas, Zoom does a far better job than other solutions of managing that bandwidth and processing power to create a seamless experience.”

To learn more about how CNIB is using Zoom to support its community members and expand its reach across Canada, read the full case study

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