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Library program brings new life to old phones

Lorraine Graves   Apr-23-2019

Don’t throw out those old cell phones. The CNIB will refurbish them for blind people.

Photo by Martin van den Hemel


Whether you keep them until they are antiques or change them as soon as a newer model comes out, there’s life in your old cell phone.

The CNIB Foundation, once known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, is asking for the public to donate their old cell phones, which will be wiped, refurbished and optimized for someone with no or low vision.

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The foundation is working with city libraries across the country to distribute prepaid envelopes. Then, you can simply pop your disused cells phone into the prepaid Xpresspost envelope, drop it in the mail and off it goes.

With an unemployment rate triple that of the rest of Canadians, people with vision loss can have a hard time affording a cell phone. By keeping your old phones out of the landfill, you can provide a cell phone to the 46 per cent of blind people who don’t have one, yet.

“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,” according to the foundation’s Shelagh O’Donnell. “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.

The phones will be optimized, O’Donnell says, for people who are blind or partially sighted, and will be loaded with new accessible apps specifically designed to benefit someone with sight loss.

“(These phones) can then 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,” O’Donnell says. “From school to work to home to life in the community, smartphones empower people with sight loss with unprecedented levels of information and independence. “

Stephanie Vokey the coordinator of marketing and public relations at Richmond Public Library, says all Richmond public library branches now have a supply of envelopes for pick-up.

Customers can also order an envelope directly from the website.

Every eligible donated smartphone will generate a tax receipt for the donor from the foundation.

“This is a great opportunity for community members upgrading their technology to give back to those in need,” Volkey says.


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