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Composite image of John Rafferty: Smiling at a community event, and in front of CNIB iconography

Ushering in a New Era at CNIB

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After 15 years as President and CEO of CNIB, John M. Rafferty has made the difficult decision to move on to new opportunities. 

“It’s time,” says Rafferty. “I’ve been immensely proud of and grateful for the years I’ve spent with this incredible organization, but it’s time for a new leader to carry the mantle into the future.” 

Rafferty joined the CNIB team in 2009 and has been a catalyst for extraordinary organizational growth ever since. Under John’s leadership, CNIB expanded by more than 50 per cent and unified its service offerings across the country, making them more accessible and available nationwide. 

He also spearheaded the trifurcation of CNIB into three separate organizations – CNIB, Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada, and CNIB Deafblind Community Services – each of which provides distinct and unique services to Canadians who are blind, low vision, or Deafblind. This was a landmark achievement for sight loss support in Canada.  

Rafferty was also a driving force behind the implementation of many of CNIB’s most ground-breaking and impactful programs – including CNIB Guide Dogs, Come to Work, CNIB SmartLife, and others – and was instrumental in leading the charge on a number of landmark accessibility victories for people who are blind, partially sighted, or Deafblind, including Canada’s ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, the launch of the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA), and the manufacture of Canada’s first accessible payment terminal for retail stores.

“I never imagined I’d spend so many years with CNIB, but I found a calling in this work – this critical work of building a more equitable world for Canadians who are blind, Deafblind, or who have low vision,” says Rafferty. “And though I’m leaving as CEO, I’ll never stop supporting that mission.” 

Bob Fenton, Chair of CNIB’s Board of Directors, describes this transition as bittersweet.

“John has been an outstanding president and a true innovator. He has led CNIB to accomplish so much. We’re sorry to lose him,” says Fenton. “But we’re also excited to find a new President and CEO to usher us into the next era of CNIB’s history.”  

Filling Rafferty’s shoes won’t be easy, so Fenton and the CNIB Board of Directors have begun their recruitment process with the help of an external agency partner, Odgers Berndtson. Their expertise will play an important role in maintaining fairness, transparency, and adherence to best practices throughout the selection process.

Working with Odgers Berndtson, CNIB’s Board of Directors says it will conduct a global search for the organization’s next President and CEO. Candidates with diverse lived and professional experience will be considered, including internal and external applicants, members of the blindness community, people of all cultural backgrounds, and people who identify as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

The search for the organization’s next President and CEO begins this month, January 2024, with the application process likely to begin in early February, and the successful candidate is expected to be selected and in place by the end of the year. 

The CNIB, Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada and the Deafblind Community Services organizations express their immense gratitude to John Rafferty for his exceptional leadership over his 15-year tenure as President and CEO, and wish him every success and happiness in his future endeavours.  

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