Call to Order
The October 9, 2021, ACB fall Board of Directors Meeting was called to order at 10:00 AM Eastern Time by President Dan Spoone.
Roll Call and Introduction of Guests
At the call of the roll, the following board members were present: Dan Spoone, Deb Cook Lewis, Ray Campbell, Denise Colley, David Trott, Kim Charlson, Chris Bell, Jeff Bishop, Donna Brown, Doug Powell, Kenneth Semien, Pat Sheehan, Koni Sims, Michael Talley and Jeff Thom. Board of Publications Member Penny Reeder was present representing that body.
Members absent: Jim Kracht.
Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Clark Rachfal, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Tony Stephens, Director of Development, Swatha Nandhakumar, ACB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, ADP Coordinator & Grant Writer, Kelly Gasque, Communications Specialist, Nancy Marks-Becker, Chief Financial Officer, Jennifer Flatt, Manager of Communications, Cindy Hollis, ACB Membership Services Coordinator and Kolby Garrison, Membership Services Administrative Assistant.
Contractors present: Rick Morin, ACB Media Technical Director.
Guests: Janet Dickelman, Conference and Convention Coordinator, Rhonda Trott, Kristal Platt, Jim Jirak, Mark Bolger and Karyn Campbell.
Review and Approval of Agenda - Dan Spoone, President
The agenda was reviewed with one addition, to add time for any committee updates. It was moved by Bell and seconded by Charlson to accept the meeting agenda as presented. The motion carried.
Review and Approval of Minutes: August 31 (2021 Resolutions Part One) - Denise Colley, Secretary
The minutes were sent out for review prior to this meeting. Campbell made a small correction to the reported adjournment time of the meeting, from 12:35 PM to 12:35 AM.
It was moved by Semien and seconded by Powell to approve the minutes as corrected. The motion carried.
Mission Moment - Dan Spoone and Eric Bridges
This Mission Moment centered around recognizing the over 100 visitor’s brochures that were audio described through a Google Grant and partnership with The National Park Service (NPS), The University of Hawaii and ACB through the Uni Description Project. This project has been going on now for almost four years. This project and all who are involved has allowed ACB to establish a wonderful collaborative relationship with the National Park Service and the University of Hawaii. Dan thanked Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, our Project Manager, Deb Cook Lewis for all her work putting together the Zoom streaming and technical support for the Descriptathons, and the ADP Steering Committee and individual committee members, staff, Board members and ACB volunteers, for all their contributions to the success of the project. Eric shared the history behind the development and implementation of the UniD Project.
Consent Agenda - Dan Spoone
It was moved by Powell and seconded by Campbell to approve the Consent Agenda to include the six reports submitted to the Board by staff members prior to this meeting. Campbell requested minor clarification on two items in the Year-To-Date Financial Statements Report. They included (1) why the line item for web and internet hosting showed $0 for 2021, and (2) why there were expenditures shown for scholarship and DKM travel for 2021 when the convention was virtual? These questions were addressed later in the meeting when the Chief Financial Officer gave her updates. The motion carried.
Convention Report - Janet Dickelman, Convention Committee Chair
Janet discussed the convention hotel in Omaha and the availability of services in the surrounding area. The hotel has a full-service restaurant and there are a number of restaurants around the hotel that are very walkable. Some convention activities will take place in the convention center, which is connected to the hotel via a fourth floor skybridge. There is also access from outside by crossing the street where there will be an accessible pedestrian signal. Tours will include an evening riverboat cruise, a minor league baseball game on the 4th of July with dinner and fireworks, a city tour on a step on trolley, an evening Get Up And Get Moving activity where we will walk across the pedestrian bridge that connects Iowa and Nebraska, the Omaha zoo, our annual blind services tour, Boys Town, a brewery tasting tour, a possible crime tour dinner where people can hear about all the notorious things that have happened in Omaha, and a candy tour.
A group of representatives from the Board, staff, Zoom hosts, ACB Media and the Conference and Convention Steering Committee have been meeting with Kate Vendemio from Mount Vernon Consulting to begin discussions around what will need to happen for hybrid convention planning. It will need to include making sure that virtual attendees are engaged, that our AV equipment works reliably for in-person and virtual attendees during all aspects of the convention, and that everyone is able to vote using Vote Now. It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Charlson to accept the Convention Report. The motion carried.
President’s Report - Dan Spoone
Resolutions (2.0) And Voting Task Force (2.0) Ad Hoc Committees: The chair of the Resolutions (2.0) Committee is Ray Campbell, with co-chairs Deb Cook Lewis and Gabe Griffith. The Voting Taskforce will basically remain the same. Report outs from these two Committees will be given at the DC Leadership Conference in March.
WBU Searches for New Executive Director – Kim Charlson
Since Kim’s election to the position of Regional President for the north American/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union in April 2021, and the General Assembly in late June, an announcement just came out that Jose Viera, the Chief Executive Officer is going to be leaving the WBU to go to work as Executive Director for the International Disability Alliance. Kim said she had just received the recruitment announcement for his position which will be posted in the next issue of Dots and Dashes.
At the General Assembly a constitutional amendment was passed putting into place a sliding fee structure for dues, particularly for small countries with populations under 800,000 people. The next General Assembly will be held in 2025, and will be in Madrid, Spain. There will be a North American/Caribbean Regional Meeting sometime before the end of the year.
Affiliate Board Liaisons to Be Assigned
Dan reported that we will be identifying board liaisons for 2022 by the end of October. Any continuing Board Members who might have an interest in changing their currently assigned state or special-interest affiliate representation are encouraged to contact Dan.
Archive Committee Formed: Dan formally announced the creation of this new committee. Their two objectives will be to work on gathering archival digital and audio information, especially for the time period following the release of “People of Vision”, and on establishing safe locations for storage of ACB’s past policies and important historical documents. The committee will also look at developing archival storage procedures to ensure these items are easily retrievable. The historical storage component part of the committee’s role will be chaired by Chris Gray, and the second portion will be chaired by David Trott.
Changing Board Agenda to Program Format for Future Meetings
Dan reported that there have been discussions in the staff and Leadership Team L10 meetings about making changes to the structure of ACB Board meetings as the organization refocuses toward our nine programs and services. This will be considered for future meetings.
It was moved by Powell and seconded by Campbell to approve the President’s report. The motion carried.
Eric Bridges, Executive Director
As previously authorized at the July Board meeting, ACB has changed staff retirement fund providers from Mutual of Omaha to Mutual of America.
On September 16th, staff and the L10 Leadership Team had an all-day quarterly check-in session with Lee Nasehi, our EOS facilitator. This team will meet again in December.
A hybrid Advisory Board meeting was held on September 17th. Time was spent at that meeting discussing fund-raising and what different levels of donors look like. Staff will be working with advisory board members to further build out a plan, so the organization can better understand who to reach out to, and for what reasons.
In early October, Eric, Clark and Swatha attended the technology-related M-Enabling Conference, held annually in Washington, DC. Eric presented on a panel addressing the question, “Is there a need for further legislation regarding closed captioning, audio description, and web conferencing tools.
Advocacy Update - Clark Rachfal
Voting work continues. Senate Democrats introduced the Freedom to Vote Act which is viewed as a compromise between progressives and moderates. There is still language of concern related to durable paper ballots for in-person voting. However, it appears the language is a bit more open related to accessible absentee voting. There is still a concern that electronic return is not explicitly mentioned, while mail-in ballot return and/or delivering the ballot to a drop box are mentioned.
Regarding Health and Wellness, there was great news this past month with a joint public statement by the Coalition for Inclusive Fitness, of which ACB is a part, and Planet Fitness who has committed to purchasing and installing accessible fitness and exercise equipment as it becomes more readily available. They have 2,000 locations across the country. Work continues with other facility providers such as gyms and fitness centers, as well as hotel chains to seek similar commitments.
Clark participated on a panel regarding data security and privacy in navigation aps at the M-Enabling Summit. The intent of the panel was to spotlight what the disability community expects with respect to privacy, why it’s important for industry to collaborate and work with the disability community.
President Spoone asked for an update on the issues with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. ACB sent a letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Eric and Clark had a follow-up conversation with the General Counsel for the US OPPC shortly after the summer Olympics opening ceremony. This was followed by an email from ACB outlining the issues of concern including the accommodations sought and received by athletes. A working group has been established with representation from the board of the US Olympic/Paralympic Committee, high level staff including the Chief of the Paralympics’ their director of diversity, equity and inclusion, members of the Paralympic Advisory Committee, the Athlete Advisory Committee, and several outside organizations, including ACB. The goal of the committee is to move things into a better place for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The meeting moved into recess at 12:25 PM Eastern Time and entered into executive session at 12:50 PM.
It was then moved by Trott and seconded by Bishop to move out of executive session and the executive session was adjourned at 2:25 PM.
The ACB Board Meeting moved out of recess and was called back to order at 2:36 PM Eastern time by President Dan Spoone. The first order of business was to announce the newly elected executive committee for 2022. Representing the officers: Deb Cook Lewis and Denise Colley; and from the board of directors, Doug Powell and Jeff Bishop. President Spoone also reported that legal and personnel matters were discussed, but no motions were made.
Resource Development - Tony Stephens
Tony highlighted three specific areas in the Development and Communications report. They include the creation of a Communications and Development department, focusing on the partnerships being forged between development, marketing, and communications. The department is also pleased to welcome Kelly Gasque, who has moved over to the Communications team.
Kelly reported that we have been doing a great job of expanding our focus as far as social media is concerned, especially through the efforts of Jennifer Flatt, ACB’s Communications Manager. We have had an 8% increase on Facebook over the last year, and a 21% increase of followers on Twitter. This time last year we were only tracking analytics for Facebook and Twitter and our ACB Voices Blog. Now we are also tracking Linked-in, the ACB website, and YouTube. With all the virtual events that we have been holding, our presence on YouTube has really grown. We now also have a Public Awareness calendar where our social media activities are shared. Our social media presence has become much more strategic and targeted. Tony encouraged everyone to help by following and sharing as well. This sharing also helps us on the revenue side as well as getting the word out about ACB and what we’re doing.
ACB’s 60-for-60 campaign is a big fundraising campaign for the year, and we are a quarter of the way through the year, and a quarter toward our target goal with $15,000 raised.
Tony reported that partnerships is another area where we’ve been working hard to focus our growth. The Audio Description Gala is a good example of this. We are already at $15,000 in confirmed sponsorships, and we have a target of $150,000.
It was moved by Lewis and seconded by Charlson to approve the funding for the production of the Audio Description Gala in the amount of $25,000. The motion carried.
Jo Lynn Bailey-Page reported that in March ACB was contacted by the National Parks Service Midwest Region and Accessibility Program asking to enter into a collaborative agreement with ACB. Funding was awarded in the amount of $25,000 for the first year. This agreement is scheduled to continue through 2026. Along with the Audio Description work we already provide to the National Parks Service through our Descriptathons, we will be working with NPS on their self-evaluation and transition plan. We will also be sponsoring a career workshop with NPS which will be geared toward sharing information about the different career fields NPS has to offer.
Member Services - Cindy Hollis
Cindy Hollis said that the statistics in her report demonstrates the growth that continues to happen within the ACB Community Program itself, and the evidence of it expanding into and strengthening our membership. Over 5,000 Community Events have been held since March of 2020. The crafters group started in early June 2020 and just celebrated its 200th call on September 24, 2021.
Cindy then reviewed the proposed additions to the Expectations for Community Events document. (See the document prepared for this Meeting.)
Concern was expressed about the proposed language that reads “All calls held as part of community will be recorded, and recordings will be held for one week from the date of the event.” It was felt that one week for the holding of recordings was not long enough to allow for turnaround time, if there is an event or behavior called into question. The recommendation was to change that timeframe to two weeks. Cindy also proposed adding language to the bottom of all Community Events daily Schedules that clarifies that all events are being recorded, and those recordings are held for two weeks. Jeff Bishop also acknowledged that this policy change would require an update in the disclaimer that is played at the beginning of all ACB Events that are streamed. It was moved by Powell and seconded by Semien to approve the proposed additions to the Expectations for Community Events Policy as amended. The motion carried.
Chief Financial Officer - Nancy Becker
2022 Budget Development Process: Eric, Tony and Nancy have begun the process, and Nancy has reached out to Committee Chairs to request they provide her with their budget requests for 2022. She also reviewed the steps for building the budget and who is involved in that process.
Scholarship Application Process: The scholarship application process will begin in November. The Scholarship Committee is in the process of reviewing the application questions. If 2020-21 is any indication, the Committee will have over 150 applications to review.
ACBES Update: The actual net profit from the ACB Thrift Stores through August 2021 was roughly $246,600. Since the start of the pandemic, more people are shopping online, which has made it more challenging to bring customers back into the Thrift Stores. Monthly meetings are being held with the Store Managers, and they are focusing on increasing sales while adjusting expenses accordingly. The Amarillo Thrift Store has a new manager who is focused on hiring a team that will work well together. The Lubbock Thrift Store sales have leveled out, and staff are reaching out through social media to bring new customers into the store. A new Point of Sale (POS) System has been purchased for both stores, but the terminals are on back order. Nancy is hoping the Stores will have them by the end of the year.
Employer Retention Credit: ACB is investigating whether ACB can receive an Employer Retention Credit as a part of the CARES Act. This is a refundable payroll tax credit for wages paid and for health coverage provided by the employer in compliance with a COVID-19 related government order, or for a significant reduction in gross receipts. Because the Thrift Stores were closed and their gross receipts declined by 50% compared to 2019, we believe ACB is eligible for this credit. Nancy will also be applying for the forgiveness of the second Payroll Protection Plan loans in the next four months, and she anticipates that those will also be forgiven.
Campbell moved and Lewis seconded a motion that we schedule the two budget meetings for the board for November 29 and December 6 beginning at 8:00 PM Eastern. The motion carried.
Responses were provided to the two questions asked earlier in the day related to the financial reports submitted as part of the consent agenda. Under expenditures, the line item for Web Domain Licenses and Fees was $0 at the end of August because Nancy usually looks at that same line item for the previous year at the same time, and plugs that number into the financial report for that same quarter. The money that was spent for scholarship and DKM travel when the convention was virtual was actually for the printing of certificates, and providing all the winners with a small gift card for a beverage for the virtual reception.
Legacy Fund allocation: Nancy briefly summarized the Legacy Fund allocation process, and that ACB now have three full years of end of quarter values. The board needs to decide what allocation percentage to set for 2022. The average for the fund over twelve quarters is $1,299,300. If we allocate 3% for operating expenses it would equal $39,000 that would be moved from the Legacy Fund over to our cash account, 4% would equal $51,900, and 5% would equal $65,000. In 2020, the amount approved to be allocated was 4% and in 2021, the amount was 5%. It was moved by Trott and seconded by Charlson to allocate 5% for 2022. The motion carried.
Bishop moved and Bell seconded a motion to approve the report of the Chief Financial Officer. The motion carried.
Colley moved and Semien seconded a motion to approve the staff reports. The motion carried.
Financial Narrative for 2021 Year-To-Date - David Trott, ACB Treasurer
It was moved by Powell and seconded by Sheehan to approve the financial narrative for year-to-date 2021. The motion carried.
Review And Approval of ACB Employee Travel Policy - Eric Bridges, Executive Director
As the number of staff have grown, so has the need to have a travel policy in writing for when staff are able to travel again. The policy presented for board approval is a fairly standard policy. It was moved by Powell and seconded by Campbell that the Employee Travel Policy be approved. The motion carried
Review And Approval of The ACB Internship Policy - Eric Bridges, Executive Director
This is a policy that ACB did not have on record. ACB had three interns work with us this past year. We need to have a process in place for the establishment of goals and objectives for interns, as well as management processes for regular check-ins with interns. The expectation should be that, at the end of the internship, both ACB and the intern will benefit equally from the experience. It was moved by Trott and seconded by Brown to approve the ACB Internship Policy. The motion carried.
Review And Approval of the Revised Reasonable Accommodations Policy - Clark Rachfal, ACB ADA Coordinator
The revisions to the draft Reasonable Accommodations Policy suggested by the Board at the July board meeting included:
Wherever the term blind or low vision occurs, the term deaf-blind has been added.
Wherever service animals are referenced, guide dogs have also been added.
Language was clarified around personal care attendants.
Language was added about the process for filing a complaint or grievance.
It was moved by Thom and seconded by Powell to approve the revised Reasonable Accommodation Policy. Bell referenced that the policy discusses providing reasonable accommodations that are readily achievable and do not present an undue hardship. Nowhere in the policy does it mention the obligation to provide auxiliary aids and services and/or reasonable modifications to policies, procedures, and practices under Title III of the ADA. The policy needs to accurately spell out the obligations and the organizational limitations on those obligations. In the policy we commit to doing things, but it doesn’t address the circumstances under which we don’t have to do things that would result in an undue burden. Because of his expertise of the ADA and the concerns expressed, President Spoone asked Chris Bell to work with Clark and the team and bring back another revision to the board for discussion at one of the two budget meetings. Since this was agreeable to all concerned, the motion to approve was withdrawn. In lieu of the motion passed at the July Board meeting to approve the Policy as initially presented with the caveat that it would be amended and brought forward at a future meeting. Thom moved and Colley seconded a motion that the board approve the policy as presented, subject to revision and presentation at one of the two upcoming budget meetings. A friendly amendment was proposed by Bishop that the updated revised policy, if available sooner, could be sent out by email for a board vote, and subsequent ratification at the next meeting. The motion passed with two no votes by Bell and Campbell.
Board Of Publications (BOP) Report - Penny Reader, BOP Director
The BOP continues to hold meetings with the editors of affiliate newsletters, and they have been active, both on their email list and when they meet together. In September, David Kingsbury, editor of the Bay State newsletter, provided training on improving skills with Microsoft Word for formatting newsletters. A recording of the session was made available to all editors, and the BOP is checking into making it available via podcast.
Along with the Public Awareness Committee, the BOP is working on developing a process for the ACB Blog. They are also working together with members of the Environmental Access/Transportation Committees to update the Pedestrian Safety Handbook.
It was moved by Powell and seconded by Trott to approve the report of the Board of Publications. The motion carried.
Communications - Jennifer Flatt, ACB Communications Manager
ACB Media Network Data Analysis
ACB Media has been a channel that not only is leading the communications plan, but it is also leading the data analysis coming out from ACB. We can use data to evaluate our activities, communication channels, and audiences. One of the goals is to have a standard data request to go out across all our many platforms. Our goal for our messaging needs to meet our audience where they are, but also reach out to the audiences we’re still missing. ACB Media 5 will now be a community devoted channel. ACB Media 6 will be the organization content, events and meetings channel. The audience needs to be able to expect to find particular content when they go to a specific communication platform.
ACB Media Communications to Other Media Sources - Jennifer Flatt
Jennifer and Kelly are working on creating brand and guidelines standards that will be used when we speak about ACB, including the boiler plate language describing the organization. This will be part of what we are calling the Stakeholder Engagement Plan. This will entail reaching out to the different spheres of influence that we touch. Each of those groups has different segments for what type of information they are interested in hearing about ACB, and how we would like to promote ourselves to them through what we offer.
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Charlson to approve both of the Communications Reports. The motion carried.
Board Discussion on Program and Services Steering Committees - Dan Spoone and Eric Bridges
Dan reported that now that the Steering Committee structure is in place and functioning, the next focus is putting some common structure in place using the EOS framework. This will then allow for people to see and feel a familiar approach and methodology to running our organization.
Concern was expressed about the Information Referral and Peer Support Steering Committee and that it has lost its way since Claire Stanley left ACB. Getting it reorganized with specific goals should be a top priority.
We also need to shore up our communication and requirements around the committee chairs and our expectations of them. There needs to be a better understanding of the leadership commitment, both at the committee and steering committee levels.
Donna Brown reported that the Special Education Task Force has targeted orientation and mobility as their hot topic in the education field for blind and low vision students. They are putting together some podcasts with O&M specialists that will begin coming out soon.
Jeff Bishop reported that the Information Access Committee is working on ways of implementing independent websites for affiliates. They will be providing them with templates they can use to get started establishing an independent website. IAC will also be working on the resolutions that have come to them for implementation.
Adjournment: There being no further business, it was moved by Brown and seconded by Lewis to adjourn the meeting at 6:01 PM Eastern time.
Date submitted: 2/16/2022