University of Calgary

United Way

Impact of agency is personal

Visually impaired student credits United Way for her independence

By Kate Davis

Tiana Knight has been actively involved as a volunteer with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and United Way for mor
Tiana Knight has been actively involved as a volunteer with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and United Way for more than four years.
/ Photo by Ken Bendiktsen
With long blonde hair and a giggle like any 16-year-old girl, Tiana Knight is your typical Grade 11 student—with one exception. She’s been visually impaired since the age of three and a half.

Because of United Way, she’s been able to take advantage of activities, programs and workshops—like cooking classes and computer workshops—that are helping her in everyday life.


“The programs I’ve been able to take through United Way have made a huge difference,” says Knight. “I’ve learned things that have helped me become more independent as a person.”

Knight has been actively involved as a volunteer with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and United Way for more than four years. A Youth Spirit of Gold award recipient in 2007 and currently a United Way Ambassador, she acts as a spokesperson for United Way, and regularly speaks to corporations and groups.

Having been touched by a United Way-funded agency herself, Knight knows first-hand the impact that community support can have on even one person. Through funding provided by the United Way, she has been able to take cooking lessons for the visually impaired and although she admits that she’s not quite a gourmet cook yet, she promises her food is edible.

Knight’s also attended a computer camp which taught her how to use Job Access With Speech (JAWS), a screen-reading software program that helps with everything from school assignments to email and the internet.

United Way also helps fund the CNIB library—one of the only libraries of unabridged talking books in Canada outside Toronto and a service Knight regularly uses.

One of the biggest ways that United Way has improved her life? “Definitely the computer camp,” she says. “The workshops and software they’ve provided me with have influenced the way I learn. Now I’m able to do so much more—research online, take my own notes [on a laptop] at school and just connect with people. I wouldn’t have been able to receive that training without United Way’s support.”

Knight doesn’t let her speaking engagements get in the way of her social life. She’s a “hugely competitive” person and loves playing all sort of sports, including goal ball, a paralympic sport. After she graduates high school, Knight would like to study philosophy at university and eventually become a human rights lawyer.

“Nothing I have been able to do could have happened without United Way and CNIB,” says Knight. “United Way really helps people. I can vouch for that.”

The University of Calgary’s 2008 United Way campaign has raised more than $108,000 to date. For more information on the campaign and upcoming events, visit www.ucalgary.ca/unitedway/events.