Charting the Course for ACB's Information Future by Ron Brooks

At the beginning of 2013, and in response to a very tight budget, the board of publications took two actions which are still being discussed today. First, we increased the size of "The Braille Forum" from 32 to 56 pages, and decreased the number of issues from 8 to 6 bimonthly issues. Second, we introduced a new publication (which was ultimately dubbed "The ACB E-Forum") to run in those months during which "The ACB Braille Forum" was no longer offered. One result of these actions was that we were able to share more than twice as much information with ACB members and subscribers as before at virtually no additional cost. However, our actions have also led to a growing concern by some members that we are denying informational equity to a large percentage of our members, namely those who cannot access or read information presented electronically. It is true that more and more blind and visually impaired people are gaining access to technology and to the Internet, but there remains a large percentage of our members who either cannot or will not access information presented electronically.
 
For these reasons, and in light of our evolving use of technologies like computers, the Internet, smart phones, refreshable braille and all the rest, the members of the BOP feel that the time has come to take a fresh look at what ACB publishes, how we publish it, and the best and most appropriate ways of distributing the information we publish.
 
For now, the BOP is not planning any changes to either "The ACB Braille Forum" or to the newly created E-Forum. However, we are planning a number of activities during 2014 which will help us to plan changes for 2015 and beyond. The purpose of this article is to summarize our plans for 2014 and to let each of you know how you can assist the BOP as we move forward.

Answering Ms. Bopeep

When a BOP member hears the call of Ms. Bopeep, we do not hear the call of home. Rather, we hear the call of an ongoing quality assurance exercise called "Board of Publications Editorial Excellence Project" or BOPEEP for short. We use BOPEEP as a means of checking every published edition of "The ACB Braille Forum" and E-Forum for everything from consistent formatting, to spelling and grammar accuracy, to the consistent use of page margins and white space. Through BOPEEP, it is our hope that absolutely every page of every edition of "The ACB Braille Forum" and "The ACB E-Forum" will be just as we all want it to be — namely, perfect. This will not only make the magazines better and more appealing to those who obsess over comma splices or dangling participles; it will make the magazines more accessible and user-friendly for all of us.

Improved Formatting for Large Print Publications

In response to concerns raised by several representatives of one of ACB's largest special-interest affiliates, the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International, the BOP is in the process of investigating various ideas for improving the readability of all of our large-print publications. Ideas we are exploring include larger print, different fonts, more white space around blocks of text, and different page sizes and layouts.

Panning for Gold

The need to improve the accessibility of our large-print publications could further stretch our resources. Therefore, we will continue to work with the board of directors, the resource development committee and interested affiliates and chapters to develop new and innovative ways to increase the amount of money which is earmarked for Forum and E-Forum productions.

Seeking Your Input

Those of us on the BOP know and believe that the best way to garner support and financial assistance for any and all ACB publications is to ensure that those publications address the needs, interests and concerns of as many ACB members and subscribers as possible. Therefore, we are planning to conduct a comprehensive survey of as many ACB members and Forum subscribers as possible. Subjects for which we will seek your comments will include, among others: 

  • Information formats which are accessible to you and your relative preference for each, e.g., large print, braille, audio cassette or audio CD/DVD, computerized speech, etc.
  • Reading devices which you use and your relative preference for each, e.g. cassette tape recorders or players, CD/DVD players, computers with and without Internet access, computers with refreshable braille and/or braille notetakers, iPhones and other smart phones, etc.
  • Which formats of "The ACB Braille Forum" and E-Forum are accessible to you
  • Which format you prefer
  • How often you read "The ACB Braille Forum" and "ACB E-Forum" and how much of each publication you read each time they are published
  • Which articles or types of articles you like and which are of less interest to you
  • Whether, how, and to what extent you use the information provided to you within ACB publications
  • Whether, and how much, you would be willing to pay to offset the actual publication cost of ACB publications and whether you would pay more or less if payment was sought on a voluntary rather than mandatory basis

In order to ensure that our survey reaches the widest possible audience and that return rates are as high as possible and reflective of our entire membership base, including people who do not have access to computers or the Internet, we will publish the survey in an upcoming edition of "The ACB Braille Forum," in an upcoming edition of "The ACB E-Forum," on-line accessible via the ACB's web site and via e-mail. We will also provide copies to each state chapter and special-interest affiliate as well as to each member of the board and national staff. All of these members will be asked to assist any member to complete the survey if asked. Finally, we will use the BOP Editors' Workshop during the 2014 conference and convention to conduct a town hall meeting regarding this project and to receive feedback from any and all who attend.
 
The members of the BOP want to assure you that we will continue to publish both "The ACB Braille Forum" and "ACB E-Forum" with the same frequency as we did in 2013, and we will work hard to improve the quality and accessibility of both publications. In the meantime, if you have specific comments or suggestions, please share them with us by sending an e-mail to bopchair@acb.org. You may also contact any member of the BOP or the editor, Sharon Lovering, in the ACB national office.