President's Report to the National Conference, Part III

by Mitch Pomerantz

At long last, here is part three of my report to the membership given at ACB's 50th annual conference and convention this past July in Reno, Nev.

Monitoring an entity's compliance with existing structured negotiations agreements is crucial to the overall process and involves ACB members utilizing the services of those entities. Agreements currently being monitored actively include:

- An accessibility agreement with Major League Baseball (MLB) to assure that its web site, including its radio and TV service, as well as its applications for the iPhone and iPad, are accessible.

- A number of long-standing tactile point-of-sale agreements with national retail chains: CVS, Target, Staples, Radio Shack and Best Buy. Blind people should never be required to give their PIN or other confidential information to a clerk at any of these retailers in order to use a debit card, and if this occurs, Lainey and Linda need to know about it right away.

- Agreements related to accessible web sites for the three major credit reporting agencies, CVS and Radio Shack, and the aforementioned MLB and American Cancer Society web sites.

- Ongoing structured negotiations efforts began last year with major pharmacy retailers including Wal-Mart, Target and CVS on the issue of providing accessible prescription information, and similar discussions have recently begun with Rite-Aid.

Lainey and Linda are also involved in discussions with the Cinemark movie chain over the provision of audio description in its theaters. Requests to enter into structured negotiations have gone out to Anthem Blue Cross of California concerning its web site and lack of information in alternative formats; Weight Watchers concerning web site barriers and lack of a consistent program for providing alternative formats; and Walgreens regarding accessible prescription information. I'm pleased to tell you that Walgreens has just accepted our offer and will be entering into structured negotiations.

ACB has been extremely busy this past year responding to several Advanced Notices of Proposed Rule-Making (ANPRMs) issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Access Board on various sections within Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In January, a working group comprised of Eric Bridges, Kim Charlson, Paul Edwards, Pratik Patel and Mark Richert finalized responses to ANPRMs addressing accessible web information and services, movie captioning and video description, and accessible equipment and furniture. I provided a summary of those comments by telephone at a DOJ-sponsored public hearing on January 10th, and our comprehensive written comments were submitted.

More recently, Eric drafted comments responding to another ANPRM addressing Shared Use Path Accessibility Guidelines. Shared-use paths are where we, as blind pedestrians, encounter bicyclists and roller bladers up close and personal as they text and listen to music while moving at unsafe speeds.

I am pleased to say that we are once again working collaboratively with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) at Mississippi State University. MSU received a significant grant in 2010 to conduct several research projects. ACB was asked to have a representative serve on its Advisory Council on Employment Outcomes for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. In late March, I attended the first meeting of that group. I'm also pleased to tell you that Michael Garrett is serving on a committee which is involved in advising MSU on a mentoring project for blind and visually impaired college students. As a matter of fact, ACB and the National Alliance of Blind Students are recruiting mentors and mentees for this endeavor. If you're interested, see either Michael or the NABS president, Sara Conrad, during the week for more information.

Since our 2010 gathering, several volunteers including Jenine Stanley, Larry Turnbull and Pratik Patel, along with ACB's webmaster, Earlene Hughes, have been upgrading and modernizing our web site. Fortunately for everyone here, I'm not sufficiently versed in the technical aspects of the work to provide details; be assured, however, that when completed, ACB will have an outstanding web presence which will attract potential new members, supporters and revenue to the organization.

ACB has been heavily involved in ongoing discussions with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on a possible international copyright agreement. On Thursday, you will hear much more about these efforts from Michele Wood, with the U.S. Copyright Office, and from Melanie, who will also provide a travelogue and her experiences as a now frequent visitor to Geneva, Switzerland.

In April, with the inability of the former chair of the World Blind Union's Mobility and Transport Working Group to continue in her capacity, WBU's president, Maryanne Diamond, appointed me to assume this responsibility and to develop position papers on the issues of hybrid vehicles and shared spaces in anticipation of the 8th quadrennial meeting to be held in December 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand. This is a tremendous honor and I fully intend to show the WBU that ACB is prepared to play a major role within the international blindness community.

As I indicated at the outset of my report, this is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Council of the Blind. "People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind," is the definitive compilation of our history. In this excellent book, the events which led to our founding are thoroughly documented and accurately presented. The 26 men and women responsible for ACB's existence are named as charter members and in concluding these remarks and in honor of our anniversary, I am going to read the names of those visionary men and women: Delbert Aman, Jesse Anderson, Marie Boring, Brad Burson, Don Cameron, George Card, Al Drake, Juliet Bindt Esterly, Ned Freeman, June Goldsmith, Dave Krause, Hollis Liggett (who passed away just last month), Aileen and Durward McDaniel, Alma Murphey, Alaric Nichols, F.W. Orrell, Floyd Qualls, Reese Robrahn, Earl Scharry, Mary Jane Hills (we know her as M.J. Schmitt), Ufemon Segura, Catherine Skivers (I hope you're listening, Cathie), Dean Sumner, Florence Verken, and Norma Wagner. ... Thank you and take care.

As this is my final column for 2011, Donna and I want to wish everyone in the ACB extended family the most joyous and peaceful of holiday seasons and a successful and prosperous new year.