by Penny Reeder
The ACB Board of Directors has held two meetings since the last board meeting summary appeared in the Forum. The board decided to hold the 2022 ACB conference and convention as a hybrid event, to accommodate people who attend the meeting in person, in Omaha, Neb., as well as those who attend remotely, via ACB Media and Zoom.
March 11, 2022
President Dan Spoone called the meeting to order at 1 p.m. Eastern. All board members, as well as most ACB staff members, were present.
President Spoone and executive director Eric Bridges led the board in wishing ACB Community Events a happy second birthday. Cindy Hollis, Manager of Membership Engagement, and her assistant, Kolby Garrison, provided a statistical snapshot of the community. More than 2,100 people are subscribed to the daily Community Events e-mail announcement list, and between 50 and 75 people visit “ACB Presents the Daily Schedule,” held concurrently on Zoom and in Clubhouse each day. As events were added, the number of participants has grown. Community events are focused on an ever-widening range of interests, including languages, cooking, technology, health and wellness, crafts, book clubs and chats, music, spiritual exploration and support, travel, peer support, games, affiliate-sponsored discussions and more.
ACB has created a Community Support Committee (CSC), chaired by Lucy Edmonds. The CSC recommended several policy modifications for community events facilitators and hosts, as well as new administrative procedures to assure the safety of community events and guarantee privacy for participants. The board approved the proposed modifications.
Janet Dickelman stated that the fall board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 22 at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg, Ill. She complimented special-interest affiliate chairs, ACB committee chairs, and ACB Media staff members and volunteers on their planning for the coming convention in Omaha. A number of hotel rooms will be reserved for in-person social events. There will also be four Zoom-equipped rooms dedicated to hybrid convention events, allowing four parallel hybrid sessions to be streaming concurrently each day. Registration will open for ACB members on May 12, and on May 19 for non-members. Registration will close on June 20.
The ACB convention auction, which will be virtual this year, is set for June 18. Dan reminded everyone that descriptions of the items they are donating for the summer auction should be sent to Leslie by May 20.
On June 22, the convention will open for reading of the standing rules and the preliminary credentials committee report, and to stream the first special-interest affiliates’ business meetings. To accommodate affiliates whose constitutions require them to hold business meetings and elections concurrently with the ACB national convention, Zoom-only sessions will be scheduled June 22nd through 24th. The nominating committee will meet on Thursday, June 23rd. The presidents’ meeting and the committee chairs’ meeting are tentatively scheduled for June 24th. The hybrid portion of the convention will open on July 1. Twenty-four tours are scheduled during convention week, and an audio-described tour channel will be available again this year. Then, on July 11-13, the convention will resume for virtual-only sessions, which will be devoted to voting on constitutional amendments and resolutions.
ACB’s World Blind Union representative, Kim Charlson, announced that ACB has invited the newly elected WBU CEO, Marc Workman, as the featured international speaker at our convention. In addition, she told the board that the WBU released a statement in solidarity with our blind brothers and sisters and colleagues in the field, in Ukraine. You can find it at https://worldblindunion.org/blog/news/wbu-stands-united-with-ukraine-and-is-taking-action-to-help/.
Dan announced several staff reassignments, including Cindy Hollis’ new role as staff support person for the information, referral and peer support committee. Tony will serve as the new staff lead for the scholarships and awards steering committee.
Eric described the first quarter of the year as a time of change and transition. In February, both Erika Keller and Jennifer Flatt announced their pending departures from ACB. During recent weeks, ACB has welcomed four new staff members. In January, Kaitlyn Herrera joined the staff in Alexandria, Va., as a part-time administrative assistant. Rick Morin joined the ACB Media team on March 1 as ACB’s media and information technology manager, and Larry Gassman joined that team as a contractor. Julie Fischer has joined the staff in Minneapolis as the human resources specialist.
Eric announced that every member of ACB’s Advisory Board would be introduced during the course of the D.C. Leadership meetings. Those presentations are included among the D.C. Leadership meetings podcasts: https://www.acbmedia.org/2021/03/02/20210221-leadership-conference-day-1-breakout-1a-acb-media/.
Clark Rachfal and Swatha Nandhakumar briefly summarized recent advocacy activities associated with the 2022 legislative imperatives. Clark also reported that advocacy is ongoing regarding the inaccessibility of home COVID tests. Dan Spoone sent letters to the White House and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explaining why lack of independent access is an important issue for people who are blind, and Clark said that Dan and other advocates from the disability community would attend a related listening session next week.
Tony Stephens said that, while the development and communications team had experienced several unanticipated staff changes in recent weeks, the innovative organizational approach that ACB is implementing is paying off. Our approach of launching several critical campaigns that focus on our development activities, engagement with members, and advocacy work is letting us achieve measurable success in accomplishing our overall goal of promoting voice, choice and community for people who are blind.
A year ago, we were just thinking about what ACB Media might become, and now, ACB Media is a real communications platform, reaching people on six continents and dramatically increasing the effectiveness of our external communications. Tony added that plans are already under way for the next Audio Description Awards Gala, and sponsors have already indicated their desire to increase their support.
Under membership services, Cindy noted that the ACB Community continues to attract new members to the organization. Many of those who are most active within the community are younger members. She said that members from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are involved in a pilot project to explore combining resources for holding some regional events.
CFO Nancy Becker reminded affiliates to get their membership updates in by March 15. Final certification reports are due on March 31. The date of record (by which time a person has to be a certified member of the organization in order to vote) is May 23.
This year, ACB is adding two additional scholarships. A total of 75 scholarship applications have been received. Winners will be notified in early May.
She announced that the 2022 financial audit would be conducted during the first week of April. Income and expense statements that Nancy shared, and treasurer David Trott’s financial narrative, indicated that ACB’s financial health is good.
Penny Reeder stated that the BOP has recently expanded its focus on the ACB Voices blog. She said BOP members have developed a process for evaluating, editing, and publishing submissions. The board is also evaluating newly proposed guidelines for large print. An article was included in the March issue of the Forum (print edition only) that complies with the proposed guidelines. She asked large print readers to share their feedback regarding the readability of that article.
During the final hour of the meeting, the board heard and accepted reports from three task forces.
The Executive Committee Task Force
Kim Charlson explained that the board had created this task force to determine whether the executive committee is operating within the scope of provisions in our constitution. The committee determined that decisions the executive committee made at a special meeting on Jan. 8, 2021, relating to authorizing funding not previously allocated in the approved budget, fall within the scope of the constitution. The group determined that the language within the constitution is broad enough in scope to give the executive committee the authority it needed. They determined that a best practice when authorizing expenditures which were not included in the annual budget would be for the executive committee to refer the matter to the budget committee for review, ratification, and referral to the whole board of directors.
The group suggested that the need for deferring time-sensitive decisions to the executive committee could be virtually eliminated if the constitution could be amended to permit electronic print notification of a meeting and to shorten the time requirement for delivering advance notice to members. The board agreed. Task force members will make themselves available to the constitution and bylaws committee as that committee crafts the proposed amendment(s). The board accepted the report and disbanded the group.
The Resolutions 2.0 Task Force
Ray Campbell reported that the task force recommends making the deadline to submit resolutions earlier — for this year’s convention, May 1st. Then, the resolutions committee will begin meeting twice each week. Proposed resolutions slated for discussion at each meeting will be announced on the Community Events e-mail list. Meetings will be streamed on ACB Media and via Zoom. The goal is to bring resolutions that are in final or near-final form to the convention floor.
The task force plans to submit two proposed amendments to the constitution and bylaws committee to codify the deadline for submitting resolutions as 60 days prior to the start of convention.
The Voting 2.0 Task Force
Jeff Thom presented the group’s recommendations. Constitutional amendment debates and voting will occur during the July 11-13 virtual sessions. Voting for directors and members of the Board of Publications will occur during the hybrid convention week. Nominating speeches will be scheduled toward the end of each day’s general session. After each session concludes, a number of hours will be designated for casting votes using Vote-Now. An on-site voting precinct will also be available in Omaha. Delegate votes will be collected and counted each morning following individual remote voting.
Constitutional amendments and resolutions will be grouped on the Vote-Now ballots. During the roll call, delegates will report their affiliate’s votes for each of the amendments or resolutions listed on the day’s ballot.
The board accepted both task forces’ reports. Ray, Jeff and Dan assured everyone that further explanations would be forthcoming during the weeks leading up to convention, on community events and regularly scheduled ACB Media programs like Sunday Edition, Tuesday Topics, and VisAbilities.
Dan thanked Gabriel Lopez Kafati and Swatha Nandhakumar for providing half-hour summaries in Spanish for each day’s wrap-up show during the D.C. Leadership Conference. This is the first time ACB has provided Spanish language translations and materials as part of an official event. The registration form was provided in English and Spanish, as were the legislative imperatives and social media promotional materials. ACB has enlisted the help of the Multi-Cultural Affairs Committee and contracted with Catholic Charities to identify two hours of content that highlights important aspects of the D.C. Leadership Conference. These summaries will be converted to a series of Spanish-language podcasts.
April 1, 2022
Dan Spoone called the meeting to order at 8 p.m. Eastern. All board members were present. To listen to the proceedings, visit https://www.acbmedia.org/2022/04/07/20220401-acb-board-of-directors-meeting-april-1-2022/.
Dan highly praised the D.C. Leadership Conference. He said that more than 300 people registered for the conference. The ACB Media team is converting all the event recordings into podcasts, and Tony Stephens’ communications team is making recordings available on YouTube. Eight hours of meeting highlights will also be available in Spanish.
Dan and Eric invited the board to celebrate ACB’s leading role in advocating for accessible COVID home test kits. As a direct result of ACB’s advocacy, and at the direction of the White House, the National Institutes of Health recently convened a meeting to inform and involve advocates for people with disabilities in a collaborative effort to include accessibility as an essential requirement for all home test kits under the agency’s direction. That meeting included a number of organizations representing people with disabilities, as well as administrators and the lead consulting team from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Dan, Kim Charlson, Jeff Thom, Clark Rachfal, and Claire Stanley all attended the meeting.
Decision on Hybrid Versus Virtual for the 2022 Convention
Janet Dickelman shared the convention steering committee’s recommendation regarding the advisability of holding an in-person convention in Omaha, and the considerations that had led them to their recommendation. If ACB were to cancel the in-person convention, she stated, ACB would owe the hotel a cancellation fee of $185,000. If ACB were to wait until after April 29, the fee would be even higher. ACB would lose more money if we cancel our contract with the hotel than we would if we hold the convention in Omaha but don’t meet our full quota of hotel room nights and our food and beverage commitment. The committee recommended that the 2022 convention be a hybrid event, featuring an in-person convention in Omaha, Neb. After much discussion, the board accepted the committee’s recommendation.
Next, the board decided what COVID-related precautions to put into place. All the motions recommended by the convention steering committee were adopted unanimously. These include:
- All individuals attending the 2022 convention in person will be required to show proof of vaccination before receiving their convention badges. Registrants with medical or religious exemption letters must provide a negative independently verified COVID-19 test administered within 48 hours of the time the registrant receives their convention badge.
- Facial masks will be optional: All ACB conference and convention official meeting rooms will include an area in the room identified as a “Mask Required Seating Area.” All participants seated in that area will be required to wear masks. All other seating in the meeting rooms will be mask-optional areas.
- Other hotel and city of Omaha areas will follow COVID-19 guidelines currently in place in the local community.
- Volunteers will be required to wear masks and to carry and use hand sanitizer when helping convention attendees.
- Hotel staff will be required to wear masks when interacting with our members.
During the remainder of the meeting, the board considered several other issues.
Kim Charlson told the board that the World Blind Union has established a Ukraine Unity Fund to assist blind and low-vision individuals who have been displaced or need additional help as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The board voted to contribute $1,000 to this fund. Jonathan Mosen and others have organized a performing arts concert featuring blind and visually impaired artists, which will be made available via Zoom and streamed online on April 16 by Mushroom FM and other online media networks, including ACB Media.
Dan advised the board of the need to define roles and responsibilities more formally for the people and organizational entities who make decisions within ACB. The board directed the Administrative Services Steering Committee to put together an ad hoc committee for that purpose; the group will present a report at the fall board meeting.
Finally, the board approved a motion to update the convention standing rules. After a brief executive session, during which no motions were made and no actions were taken, the meeting adjourned.