CNIB honouring northeastern Ontario woman for volunteer work
Imagine going into a public library and not being able to access the majority of books inside.
That used to be the reality for many people with visual impairments, until a woman from Sault Ste. Marie got involved.
On Saturday, Dorothy Macnaughton will be honoured for her efforts as an accessibility advocate. She is receiving the CNIB's Arthur Napier Magill Distinguished Service Award. The national award is given to someone "who is deemed to have made a contribution significantly above and beyond that which is normally seen," according to the CNIB.
Macnaughton was born premature and had damage to her retinas.
"I'm thankful for what sight I do have," she said.
"Even though it's deteriorated over the years, I still have a little and even if I didn't, I'd still be thankful for being alive and being able to contribute to society."
About 30 years ago, she decided to take part in a support group offered by the CNIB.
"I was struggling with dealing with changes and not being able to drive, not being able to see as well and raising young children," she said.
"One of my fears was having one of my children run away and not know where he'd gone."
Making library services accessible
From there, she was asked by the CNIB if she would be willing to serve on the local advisory board. As a former teacher, Macnaughton also eventually served on the CNIB's library board.
"I am very connected to libraries and believe in libraries," she said.
"What I was able to do when I was on the library board was advocate for people with print disabilities in public libraries."
Mcnaughton says when she started with the CNIB, people who had vision impairment received a talking book machine. Eventually, the library worked to digitize its books.
"They could make sure they got to CNIB clients," she explained.
"But nobody else in communities across Canada could access those materials."
She helped lobby the provincial and federal governments to make those materials available through the Centre for Equitable Library Access. That means anyone with vision loss in Canada can access more books from across the country.
"That just thrills me because it makes library services accessible to everyone with a print disability," she said.
"I can also sign up for access to hundreds of thousands of books to download … which means I can get many more books that I used to be able to."
Though she's seen progress in accessibility rights throughout her life, Macnaughton says there's more to be done.
"You can go into a restaurant and not be able to access the menu," she said.
"Through advocacy and through education I think that's one reason I still like to be involved and get that word out."