— Oliver Community League Update —

Equity tower

The new CNIB building on Jasper Avenue is designed with vision impairment in mind

The new CNIB building on Jasper Avenue is designed with vision impairment in mind

Crews demolished the CNIB building at 120 Street and Jasper Avenue in March to make way for a new, 32-storey tower, expected to stand by 2022.

The old building was the oldest CNIB property in Canada, while the new tower has been designed with the help of Chris Downey, an American architect who lost his vision. It will feature elements to aid in navigation for those with sight limitations.

But what does the demolition mean for Oliver and surrounding residents, who rely on its services? They’re still available at the CNIB’s temporary home, at 11150 Jasper Avenue, said Matthew Kay, executive director of vision loss rehabilitation, Alberta & NWT Division.

“There’s always a few growing pains when moving into a new space, but as far as accessibility goes, this is more accessible than our previous space”

Matthew Kay

“All services have remained, and we will be adding new services,” he said.

The temporary building is split into two different organizations: CNIB and Vision Loss Rehabilitation Alberta.

Kay said Vision Loss Rehabilitation Alberta offers assessments, and skills development, like white-cane training and guide-dog training. “This can be anything from cooking, cleaning, pouring a cup of coffee, anything you need to live independently.”

The CNIB offers volunteer services, like matching people up with a vision mate that can help with grocery shopping. “We also offer employment services where we help people develop skills, with resume building and connect them with potential employers,” Kay said.

The interim location is accessible to almost everyone, as it’s on a public transit route. “As far as accessibility goes, this is more accessible than our previous space,” Kay said.

Once complete, the new building will feature many residential units, with a portion of units reserved for the visually impaired. Textural patterns will be on the floor to assist cane users. There will be provisions to manage glare for those sensitive to light. Doors on the main floor will have different lighting and contrasting colours to help those with low vision. Fragrance gardens will be added as well to assist with navigation.

According to CNIB, about 60,000 Albertans are affected by vision loss.

Kay said the way we build cities affects those with visual impairments and needs to be considered.

“Ultimately, I would like to see more accessibility in homes and small businesses. Large print signs, audio street lights, these are all important to our clients,” he said.

“Also, always be aware. If you see someone with a white cane or a guide dog, treat them with the respect they deserve. If someone asks for assistance, help them, but remember, they are independent and we shouldn’t make any assumptions based on the fact that they have a visual impairment.”