President's Message: Building Communication Options for ACB, by Kim Charlson

In an organization as diverse as the American Council of the Blind, it takes many paths of communication to get the word out about what we do to all of our members, potential new members, and the general public. In many ways, technology has made it easier and also harder to communicate – not because of the technology itself, but because of the varied methods now being used to reach out. I often find the same challenges in my work as the director of the Perkins Library, the NLS network library for the National Library Service/Library of Congress program.
 
ACB takes communication, in its various forms, very seriously. From the more traditional but very important hard-copy pages of "The ACB Braille Forum" to the electronic pages of "The ACB E-Forum," these are two incredibly important vehicles for our organization to share its message about our accomplishments and activities.
 
The board of directors has had the challenging responsibility to balance increasing costs to produce a magazine in a variety of accessible formats with the lower costs for utilizing innovative technological approaches to making the E-Forum available via e-mail.
 
If you have been receiving "The ACB Braille Forum" in hard-copy format, but haven't been receiving the e-mail edition which is published in alternating months, I would urge you to send an e-mail message that includes your name, e-mail address, and a request to be subscribed to the e-mail version to Sharon Lovering, editor, at slovering@acb.org.
 
In addition, you can access "The ACB Braille Forum" and the E-Forum via the NFB Newsline service. This program is available to anyone in the U.S., even in states that do not presently have full NFB Newsline access. For more information on signing up, call 1-866-504-7300.  
 
I am very pleased to announce that you can also listen to "The ACB Braille Forum" and "The ACB E-Forum" on the ACB Radio telephone system by calling (231) 460-1061.  You can listen to either the latest issue of "The ACB Braille Forum" or "The ACB E-Forum." And you can skip forward and back through the articles by using the telephone keypad.
 
The board of publications (BOP) continues to work very hard to ensure that options are available for all of ACB's members to access the organization's news. You will be hearing more from the BOP about a survey they will soon be conducting to get more feedback about ways they can continue to work and improve ACB's publications for the membership. My thanks to the members of the BOP who have worked on this issue and are making great progress on providing a variety of access methods to ACB information. They include: Denise Colley, Lacey, Wash.; Ron Brooks, Phoenix, Ariz.; Marcia Dresser, Reading, Mass.; Doug Powell, Falls Church, Va.; and Richard Rueda, Union City, Calif.
 
For those using technology to keep up with information, ACB is there for you as well. The broad term "social media" covers the various methods of communication used by computer and mobile device users. Most often we include Twitter and Facebook in this category for purposes of ACB.
 
You can opt to "Like" us on Facebook (americancounciloftheblindofficial); or "Follow" us on Twitter (acbnational). We urge you to share and re-tweet messages to your friends and followers to help us spread the word about ACB.
 
The value of social media is that you can share news immediately and take advantage of this ever-growing network. The ACB Twitter account presently has over 650 followers, and it continues to grow weekly. 
 
I want to publicly express appreciation to both the Twitter and Facebook teams for ACB. The Twitter team consists of four individuals who rotate week-long coverage for sending tweets out on our Twitter account. This team includes: Lisa Brooks of Arizona, Jim Denham of Massachusetts, Michael Malver of Minnesota, and ACB board member John McCann of Virginia, the Twitter liaison to the social media team.
 
The Facebook team is structured a bit differently based on the way Facebook is used and accessed. ACB's Facebook page has over 450 followers and is growing at a rapid rate.  ACB treasurer Carla Ruschival of Kentucky is the Facebook team leader, assisted by second vice president Marlaina Lieberg of Washington, Will Burley of Texas, Katie Frederick of Ohio, and Carey Bishop of Arizona. Francine Patterson and Eric Bridges from the ACB staff round out the team.
 
ACB has a strong commitment to expand its available communication channels to meet all of the information needs of our membership. Balancing everyone's needs and taking full advantage of emerging technologies is important to me as president of ACB. We also continue to work hard to ensure that members without technology can have a variety of options to get the ACB information they need.
 
If you have other ideas on how we can expand our communication reach and would like to help us grow our communication channels, let me know. For more information or questions about the ACB social media presence, contact me at kimcharlson@acb.org or call (617) 501-5853. Keeping the channels of communication wide open and flowing is a high priority in the months and years ahead.