The Canadian National Institute for the Blind was established in response to an evident need for a national service and rehabilitation organization to help returning veterans and others achieve recognition and independence. It emerged at a time when government social services were virtually non-existent and, in the early days of the CNIB, many of the urgent needs were the most basic: food, clothing, and shelter. In most cases, people who were blind were dependent on their families or eked out a meagre livelihood. A number of schools for children who were blind provided limited education, but rehabilitation and employment services for adults who were blind and visually impaired did not exist. Edwin Baker, managing director from 1920 until 1962, was one of a number of blind veterans returning from World War I who, joined by sighted friends, founded the CNIB “to ameliorate the condition of the blind of Canada and to prevent blindness.” It has become one of the best models of volunteerism in Canada. From the beginning, the group of volunteers at the CNIB has included people who are sighted and people who are blind, and have work hard to reach this goal. They have played an important role in promoting integration in the areas of education, employment, and society in general.
Construction began in 1954 on this complex on Bayview Avenue, which has become the largest centre for blind people in the world. For more about The CNIB and its history see its website.
For an interesting narrative about E. A. Baker, see chapter 17 of “Fifty Tales of Toronto” by Donald Jones.