Changes To CNIB

I’m warning everyone, this post is long, winding, and confusing.

I received a disturbing email the other day, and my first response was “Oh my god, this isn’t good, not good at all. We have to scream blue murder about this.” Now that I’ve talked to some people, I don’t know what to think. The email said:

Dear friend,

Are you aware that, historically, the President and CEO of CNIB has always “had” to be a client of the CNIB? Have you heard that, at the upcoming CNIB AGM on Saturday, September 27, 2008, a motion is expected that would remove the requirement that the President and CEO be a client of CNIB? Does this strike you as odd, or at least, as a step backward? Did you receive the CNIB fundraising letter in August, and find it offensive? Do you have a different view altogether?

Either way, we need to hear from you as soon as possible. CNIB has indicated that even non-members will have the opportunity to speak at their AGM about the decision to remove the requirement that the President and CEO be a client of CNIB, and that is what we plan to do. But we’d like to know what people think – and we need your help in encouraging the CNIB membership to either kill this motion, or at least amend it.

First, please visit the survey link below and complete the questionnaire so that we can gather feedback on what our response to this decision ought to be. Your input is valuable! (This survey is intended for members.)


Second, if you agree that the President and CEO of CNIB should be a person who has first-hand experience as a person who is blind or partially sighted (as they have in the past), please sign our petition by visiting the following link. (You may forward this petition to friends and family, too!)


Third, the CNIB AGM will be taking place on Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 3:30 pm. It will be held at The Best Western Hotel & Suites located at 808 Mount Pleasant Road, Eglinton Meeting Room, Toronto. If you can attend (in person) to speak and/or show your support, it would be greatly appreciated! (Please e-mail John Rae at: and let him know you’re coming!)

September 27th is one week away. Don’t delay – act now!

Can’t you tell I received this a bit ago?

First, a teeny bit of explanation about the part about the fund-raising letter received in August. I received it, oh lord did I ever, and smoke came out my ears. I was so unbelievably close to emailing CNIB CEO Jim Sanders a steaming pile of vitriol. I don’t have that horrible lettre, but I’m going to see if google has it. Damn it, it doesn’t, but this blog post sums up the letter’s disgustingness and how I felt. Basically, this marketing plea, which appeared to be signed by CEO Jim Sanders, told the public that it’s a terrifying experience being blind, and most would sell everything they owned to keep their sight. I agree that if you go blind later on, that would be scary. but if you’ve been born this way, there’s nothing scary about it unless people makeyou feel it’s scary. And to see the assumptions I hear from those who don’t know sent by the CNIB, in a letter signed by a blind man, well…it rendered me inarticulate and angry. Steve had to pull back on the rains and keep me from emailing something that showed just how inarticulate I had become at that moment. Hmmm. Steve has had to do that a lot over the years.

I wish I had actually sent something once I had calmed down, but life got in the way and I didn’t. Luckily, others had let their fingers fly, and poor Jim got deluged with angry blinkmail. We soon got a letter that basically said, “I’m sorry! I never saw that! I wouldn’t have signed it if I did! that was a bad marketing decision. Again, I’m sorry, eternally so.”

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the email I just received. I have to say the folks at the AEBC sure got my attention and got me very interested. My first thought was I would be concerned if someone who wasn’t blind took over anorganization who served the blind, since most sighted folks don’t have a clue what is helpful and what isn’t, or get a very narrow view of what we need based on meeting one blind person. What if the person in charge of CNIB thought that if you had a guide dog, you didn’t need Orientation and Mobility training. This is a common misconception. what if they decided that would be the most effective place to cut funds? O and M instructors are already spread way too thin. Imagine what would happen then. That’s just one example, but I think you can see my point.

I decided that one email wasn’t good enough to get me all worked into a lather, since there are so many email hoaxes. I wanted the truth from the very organization about which this was written. So, I asked my O and M instructor. She said she hadn’t heard this news yet, but directed me to the regional manager. I emailed her, and I guess she sent the message on to the head of CNIB, Jim Sanders. I soon got a big fat email from him, complete with info on the motion being put forward. Basically, he wants to retire, and the guy deserves it, since he’s been working for CNIB for 40 years. He would like the next CEO to be blind, but for one thing, just because a person is blind doesn’t mean they can manage an organization of this size, and second, a lot of those who have the skills they’re looking for are already working and don’t want to leave their work to head up CNIB. Hmmm. Both of those are fair points. He urged me to call him, so I did. I sat there, thought a while, took a few deep breaths, and picked up the phone.

I envy those who can manage to get all their thoughts out in a phone call. I’m not good at it. I had about a million thoughts, some I’ve already said here, and others were swirling around. I immediatley got the sense this guy was a very busy man, so I had to get the thoughts rolling in a clear, concise manner. He sure rememberd who I was without any reminders. I wonder if he expected me to call this soon. I managed to get out that I understood that it was better to have a capable CEO rather than it being necessary that they were blind, but not all capable CEO’s understand our issues as closely as we do, so the person taking over had better have broad experience with lots of bblind and partially sighted people, and know we have a wide variety of needs. I managed to get out that they can’t get the job because they have experience with one dude who they see every day on the street. He started laughing. “Yeah, the guy’s uncle, or neighbour, or second cousin is blind so they know everything, ” he said. This made me feel better, but of course he would understand that, the guy’s blind! But he told me that just because a blind person took over as CEO doesn’t mean that we can all feel safe. We blinks have biases too. Of course I knew that, but in all the ra ra ra-ing of the email, I had forgotten this. He told me a story about a blind guy who was working as policy advisor for a company who didn’t read braille, so managed to abolish braille as an alternative format at that company. Now that would be scary too. He told me that of course he wanted a blink to take over, but because of all the things he’d said before, a good match was hard to find. He urged me to tell all people who I felt were qualified about the position. The posting wasn’t up yet, but he said they would make it widely available. He thanked me for calling, and told me to have a wonderful day.

So here I am, with some of the wind knocked out of my sails, not quite sure what I’m next going to do. I’m for sure going to fill out the AEBC survey, but I’m not going to slap my name on the petition. I’m trying to think of who I know who would be able to do that job. I know for sure it’s not me. But I definitely have a more rounded understanding of the whole issue.

So, there it is. I hope that people who have something to say do say it, whatever that something may be. I hope the next CEO is a good one. I mean, the CNIB can’t get much worse than it is. I appreciate the O and M and the library, and if I had a need for the rehab, I’d probably apreciate that too. But I run from the tech aids store and their volunteer program is virtually non-existent. We don’t need to roll down the hill any further.

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