As they look back on their youth, today’s blind older adults can recall what it was like to undertake higher education and establish careers as adults in the pre-digital age, with far fewer supports than currently exist for achieving success and fulfillment in a world designed for sighted people. This part of the exhibit reflects on the ways in which many current CNIB clients accessed reading and information in the post-war, pre-digital era.
The Canadian social support system grew dramatically in the first decades after the Second World War, with the introduction of universal old age pensions, health insurance and other social services and supports that provided a greater safety net for Canadians. Along with this expanded vision for the role of the state in social supports came the rise in the disability rights movement, with activists arguing that people with disabilities had the right to participate fully in mainstream society. Blind Canadians could count on greater integration into society than in earlier times, with increasing numbers of blind children being enrolled in mainstream public schools, and vocational training increasingly focused on individual interests and talents, rather than on those types of works considered “suitable” for the blind. Pensions allowed for “a modicum of subsistence for blind persons in need, and provided the starting means in whole or part for the personal and economic rehabilitation of many,” as one CNIB historian wrote.