A comedy of errors

By Donna J. Jodhan

President John F. Kennedy once said: “An error is not a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” A Catholic priest recently said in his sermon: “Mistakes
cannot be erased.” However you choose to define it and however you choose to view the present situation; in my humble opinion, the CNIB is guilty of having
committed several mistakes, errors, and faupas for too many years. No one should have been really shocked or shaken when this organization announced last
week that Jim Sanders’s replacement is going to be a sighted person. We should have read the writing on the wall when the CNIB amended its bylaws in late
September of 2008 to allow the hiring of a sighted person to hold its highest office. No shocker, no shaker! A disgrace? Definitely so! A comedy of
errors? Definitely so!

I have had the privilege and I say so with tongue in cheek to watch for the last two decades as this once well respected powerhouse has allowed itself to
slip from the pinnacle of respectability to an organization in disarray. There was a time when the CNIB used to provide vital services to its clients
but for at least the past decade it has managed to somehow divest itself of many of its responsibilities. The once mighty CNIB that used to possess a
worldwide reputation for being a forward-thinking agency has regressed into an entity that is desperately fighting to save itself. Long gone are the days
when the CNIB used to provide good client services. Gone are the days when it used to provide volunteers to its clients, support services for job hunters,
and various types of social services. This has all been replaced with an agency that has deliberately chosen to turn its back on its clients in favour
of catering to those Canadians with potential vision loss.

The announcement last week was probably the hardest and final slap in the face delivered by the CNIB to its Canadian clients. The CNIB has quietly and
sneakily deserted us to search for greener pastures; these being partnering in various research projects that deal with prevention of blindness. Many
have told me that they would prefer to see the CNIB replaced by an agency with a fresh new approach. One that would include working with blind and visually
impaired Canadians to develop services for the good of blind and visually impaired Canadians. A cooperative effort between agency and consumers. As for
me, I would love to see the CNIB reverse its attitude and make a dedicated effort to bridge the gap with its clients. I am more than willing to give Mr.
John Lafferty a chance to turn things around and show us that the CNIB does really care about us.

There is no doubt that like so many others, the CNIB has fallen on hard times and needs to shake things up in order to stay alive but slapping their clients
in the face like this does not do anything to improve the picture. There are so many questions to be answered and so many misconceptions to be cleared
up by this new boss. In talking to several of my fellow blind and visually impaired Canadians, the following common concerns have emerged.
Did the CNIB exert enough energy to find a qualified and noteworthy sight impaired successor to Jim Sanders? If not, why not? If so, how was this search
carried out?
How is Mr. Lafferty planning to obtain experience in dealing with his sight impaired clients? It is well noted that this gentleman does not possess any
credentials when it comes to work experience with the sight impaired community, despite his other noted credentials.
Is the CNIB planning to renew its efforts to work for the well being of sight impaired Canadians or are they going to turn to research projects as their
new ventures?
So many misconceptions and concerns to be addressed much sooner than later.

Mr. Lafferty should be given a chance to show what he is made of but I would hasten to add that if he does indeed plan to retain us as his clients, he should
not waste any time to sit down with the appropriate groups soon after taking office in order to start repairing the serious damage that past leaders of
the CNIB have unwittingly caused. If he does not plan to retain us as his clients then he should signal this much sooner than later and then we would
need to get working. If the latter is the case, then it would be up to us to start looking after ourselves. At the present time, there are too few of
us who are willing to stand on the front lines. Sight impaired Canadians need to start showing more leadership, commitment, and grit. Strength lies in
numbers. Sustained and well thought-out commitment is what we need in order to persevere. Time for us to stop fighting among ourselves. Time for us
to stop depending on the committed few to carry us on their shoulders. We need to fight with our words, actions, and deeds.

So now, we wait for Mr. Lafferty’s signals. If he plans to work with us, then he needs to tell us very soon. He needs to rebuild trust between agency
and client. He needs to show us that he means what he says. He needs to take affirmative action to show not just us, but other disabled groups that the
CNIB is going to work with us. Above all, if he gives the signal that he wants to work with us, then accountability and transparency must be a given here,
nothing less will suffice. If his signal indicates that his direction is elsewhere, then we need to get cracking. This will be the time for us to leave
the dead horse alone and move on. One last thing: Mr. Lafferty, you need to acknowledge that what the CNIB has done to us as a group is downright disgraceful.
Maybe, and just maybe, a public apology may be a good starting point for you; but I say to my fellow sight impaired Canadians, don’t hold your breath
for this to happen anytime soon or even at all. Mr. Lafferty, charity begins at home and I urge you to remember this before you send out your first signal
to us.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your freelance writer and reporter wishing you a terrific day.

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