Kingston, Ont. book club creates community for those with sight loss

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WATCH: CNIB Ontario East is providing accessible reading materials for book-loving Kingstonians who are experiencing sight loss. – Sep 17, 2021

For avid book lovers like Anne Jewell, finding accessible reading materials is a necessity.

That necessity is being made easier through her membership with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s (CNIB) book club — something unique to Kingston.

“It’s an opportunity to connect with people who have the same obstacles, and also to connect with people who have such varied and interesting views on the books being read,” says Anne Jewell.

“I learn something every month.”

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As the CNIB Book Club celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Jewell marks eight years of reading with the group.

“Regardless of people’s vision loss, whether they’re blind, partially sighted or deaf-blind, we welcome everybody into that community,” says Caitlin Bruce of the CNIB.

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“It’s just to connect with others who share that love of reading and really enjoy that and want to connect with others on a monthly basis.”

Book club members are hooked up with CELA, The Centre for Equitable Library Access, which offers people with print disabilities a wide range of books in different formats, from braille and large-print materials to audio books.

“It certainly is different. And I still miss holding that book and turning the page,” says Jewell. “I think I will always miss that. But I’m, you know, now used to listening to books.”

According to CELA, it is estimated that only five to seven per cent of published works are available in accessible formats for people with print disabilities.

“If you haven’t been experienced that, you’re not sure where to go, what resources there are,” says Bruce. “So we can absolutely point people in the right direction on how to get started.”

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Jewell says the group has helped her navigate her journey with sight loss, and encourages others to follow suit.

“It will help you to struggle through the initial throes of losing your vision,” she says. “And you will get lots of really good ideas from people and you’ll meet very interesting people.”

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The small, close-knit group meets the third Wednesday of every month, from September to June, sharing a love of reading, learning and a determination to overcome obstacles.

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