E.A. Baker had a bright future ahead before his wartime service changed his life’s path. The future CNIB leader was born in a stone farmhouse in 1893 near Kingston, Ontario, and went on to earn an electrical engineering degree from Queen’s University. Baker served with the 6th Field Company of Engineers in Canada’s Expeditionary Forces in February 1915. Eight months later the 22-year-old entered a trench that had been partially filled in, and immediately recognized the danger. “I found myself with my head and shoulders above the top of the trench. A German star-shell lit up the desolate landscape...I remember wondering if there was any possible chance of the enemy being able to see us. I think the last thing I saw was that bright, floating star shell for, as I watched, a bullet smashed through the bridge of my nose and left me to the mercy of the darkness and my friends."
Baker went to St. Dunstan’s Hostel in London for rehabilitation. His experience there introduced him to the life philosophy that influenced his future work at the helm of CNIB. It was a philosophy of empowerment: if he could do it on his own, then he should do it. At St. Dunstan’s, Baker’s training and studies included braille, typing, and business administration. For recreation, he took up fencing and sculling. Through these experiences Baker developed his confidence and his core belief in independence for people with vision loss.