Call to Order
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) Board of Directors met virtually via zoom on Friday, March 11, 2022, for its DC Leadership Winter Board meeting. President Dan Spoone called the meeting to order at 1:00 PM Eastern Time.
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, Jim Kracht, Doug Powell, Kenneth Semien, Pat Sheehan, Koni Sims, Michael Talley, and Jeff Thom. Board of Publications Member Penny Reeder was present representing that body.
Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Clark Rachfal, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Tony Stephens, Director of Development and Communications, Swatha Nandhakumar, ACB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, ADP Coordinator and Grant Writer, Nancy Marks-Becker, ACB Chief Financial Officer, Cindy Hollis, Manager of Membership Engagement, Kolby Garrison, Membership Services Administrative Assistant, Sharon Lovering, Editor, and Kaitlyn Herrera, Administrative Assistant.
Contractor: Larry Gassman, ACB Media Coordinator.
Guests: Janet Dickelman, ACB Convention Steering Committee Chair.
Approval of Agenda – Dan Spoone President
Review and Approval of Agenda
President Spoone reviewed the agenda. He added an additional agenda item to follow the report outs from the Resolution 2.0 and Voting 2.0 Task Forces, Officer Liaison Committee Reports. Sheehan asked about scheduling time to talk about the ACB Strategic Plan Vision/Traction Goals for new Board members. Dan said that while this had been done at the 2021 fall Board meeting, we could certainly hold another special meeting to do this. Trott also asked if the Plan could be put into the Board Dropbox and Dan asked Nancy if she would do this and send it out to the Board list. Trott moved and Brown seconded adoption of the agenda. The motion carried.
Review and Approval of the October 9, 2021 (Fall) and January 16, 2022 (Telephonic) Board of Directors Meeting Minutes - Denise Colley, Secretary
Colley reported receiving one small correction in the October minutes of a misspelling of a name, and this correction had been noted. It was moved by Powell and seconded by Semien to approve the October 9, 2021 minutes as corrected. The motion carried.
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Powell to approve the January 16, 2022 minutes as submitted. The motion carried.
Mission Moment – Eric Bridges and Dan Spoone
This Mission Moment celebrated the second birthday of Community Events, which has hosted over 7,000 events with 150 trained hosts and 200 plus facilitators with over 150,000 individual touches. Dan thanked all of the leads who volunteer so much of their time and talents to make the Community Events so successful. He also thanked all of the many volunteers, as well as the support the Community has received from the ACB Media Team helping to stream the many broadcast events.
Eric added that the really encouraging and exciting component of this is that these are events that are brought to us by people who are blind or have low vision. The planning on the front end, the attendance and the back-end logistics of hosting and streaming are all done by blind people. We’ve been able to do this through the utilization of zoom and other products as an organization of the blind, and in the process, teach one another and our sighted peers how to use these technologies. The daily email for the calendar of events is now reaching over 2100 addresses. This is one of the key ways people are coming to know about ACB and who we are and what we do, as well as our being a safe, welcoming and respectful place to come and meet others and learn.
Cindy added that we have connected Zoom and Clubhouse every morning now since the middle of October, and we average around 60 people every morning, including weekends and holidays.
Consent Agenda – Dan Spoone
Five staff reports were made available to the Board prior to this meeting, as a part of the Consent Agenda. They include the year end 2021 Financial Statements, the ACB Braille Forum Editor’s Report, the Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Report, the year-to-date 2021 Development Report and the Membership Services Report. It was moved by Colley and seconded by Brown to approve the Consent Agenda. The motion carried.
Convention Report – Janet Dickelman, Convention Committee Chair
The ACB Fall Board Meeting is scheduled for the weekend of October 22, 2022, at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg, Illinois. More information will follow as the date gets closer.
Janet thanked all Board Liaisons to Special Interest Affiliates and Committees for anything they did to assist them in getting information related to the ACB Conference and Convention. They have all done a great job, given all the things she has asked of them this year.
The general session meeting room will be set up as a hybrid room, as well as four hybrid meeting rooms throughout the duration of the in-person convention that will be available for Special Interest Affiliates, Committees and our business partners to use to hold their sessions. Other rooms will be available with microphones but will not be Zoom accessible. April 17 is the deadline for submitting all information for the Convention program. Registration for ACB members will open on May 12, and May 19 for nonmembers. Registration will close on June 20. Registrants will be able to stipulate whether they are attending in person or virtually on the registration form. Large print or braille programs will be mailed out to those individuals attending virtually who request them. Those attending them in person will pick them up at registration. Rick Morin is working with three AV providers to get estimates from them for AV services.
A good number of exhibitors have registered with the Minneapolis Office, and a couple of meetings have been held with them to talk about how things will work this year. Each exhibitor will be doing a ten-minute recording, regardless of their booth type, and there will be some Zoom presence. The virtual part of the convention will officially open on June 22 so that special interest affiliates who need to conduct business and hold their elections will be able to have this time to do so prior to the actual opening of the in-person convention. On June 22, we will read the Conference and Convention Standing Rules, have the first Credentials Report, and officially open the convention. This means that the record date of the convention will be May 23rd. On June 23-25, Zoom only sessions will be set up for anyone who wants to host a business meeting and/or another session, and at the time of this report, Janet already had 28 Zoom only sessions scheduled. The Presidents Meeting and the Committee Chairs meeting will also be held during this time. The auction will be held virtually on June 18, with the Appetizer Auction to be held on June 16 and 17. The hybrid convention will begin on July 1. At the time of this report, there were 78 hybrid program sessions and 29 social events scheduled. There are 21 in-person tours, several of which are evening tours. There will also be an Audio Described tour channel for those attending virtually.
On July 11-13, there will be three Zoom only days for completing action on any proposed resolutions or constitution and bylaw amendments that did not get voted on during the hybrid convention. The Nominating Committee will hold their meeting on June 23. At the end of each general session, nominations will be held for the open positions, and if there is more than one nomination for a position, speeches will be held at that time. Vote Now will then be opened for a designated period for members to cast their individual votes. The affiliate role call will take place at the start of the general session the next day. Convention Registration is $35 for members and $50 for nonmembers.
ACB President’s Update – Dan Spoone
ACB WBU Report – Kim Charlson
The World Blind Union has selected a new CEO, Marc Workman. He is from Canada and lives in Edmonton. He has worked in several public and private roles in Canadian Government; his most recent role being with Governmental Affairs and management of the Regional Office of CNIB in the Edmonton area. He does have significant business and public sector experience. ACB has already booked him as our international guest speaker at convention.
At the end of February, the WBU sent out a statement of solidarity with our blind and low vision brothers and sisters in the field in the Ukraine. Kim will share it with the board.
The annual dues cycle for WBU will be ramping up in mid-March. ACB is responsible for collecting all dues for U.S. regional members.
Information, Referral and Peer Support Steering Committee — Dan Spoone
The Information, Referral and Peer Support Committee has a new Staff Lead, Cindy Hollis. There is quite a bit of collaboration between the Member Services Steering Committee and Information, Referral and Peer Support activities. The Community includes many activities that are peer support in nature, and much of what we do organically inside of ACB is also peer support. It was felt that what we need to do is formalize how we do things and develop a more structured process where we can provide formal metrics and see what kind of progress we are making.
The other steering committee making adjustments in its leadership role is Scholarships and Awards. It deals with communications, resource development for funding, selection, organizing convention activities, and presentations. Tony Stephens will take over staff lead for this steering committee.
Auction Committee Thanks Board for Donations — Dan Spoone
Dan passed on to the board a thank you from the Auction Committee for the donations board members and staff made to the Holiday Auction. The committee also reminded everyone about the need for donations for the summer auction, and the fact that auction item descriptions are due to the auction chair by May 1. Dan reported that between the two auctions in 2021, ACB raised $66,000.
Board Liaison Guidelines Updated (CARES) – Dan Spoone and Cindy Hollis
All board liaison assignments have been made and Dan and Cindy have been working on putting together a CARES package to share expectations, not only for board Liaisons, but also for our affiliate presidents. Per request, we will be planning a workshop to discuss the strategic plan and board liaison roles in April. Dan and Cindy updated the timeline and made it more realistic in relation to how the program is currently operating, getting the Liaisons assigned, and getting documentation ready and training for board liaisons. Also included will be training for and/or discussion with affiliate presidents. The goal would be for each affiliate liaison to have at least one contact per month with their affiliates. A spreadsheet is being created that board liaisons will use to track and document their connections so there is something to show how many affiliates were contacted.
ACB Board Meeting on April 1 — Dan Spoone
Dan gave the board a heads up that there will be a board meeting on April 1. The primary focus of this meeting will be making the final decision on a virtual or hybrid ACB Conference and Convention. We will also discuss considerations for rules of engagement related to COVID protocols if we decide to hold a hybrid convention.
Staff Reports – Eric Bridges, Executive Director
Recruitment and Hiring: Eric said much of the first quarter dealt with staff coming and leaving. Given the historical nature of our budget and when we can hire staff, the month of March has become an important month for work anniversaries. Four years ago, in the month of March, Nancy Feela was hired. Seven years ago, Kelly Gasque was hired. Last year, Swatha Nandhakumar was hired, and Jo Lynn Bailey-Page went from being a contractor to a fulltime employee. Two years ago, Tony Stephens was hired as our Development Director.
The first quarter of 2022 has been one of change and transition, which has required some flexibility of staff. With the departure of Erika Keller and Jennifer Flatt, other staff have stepped up and taken on additional responsibilities. New staff that have been hired this quarter include Kaitlyn Herrera, Administrative Assistant in the Alexandria Office; Rick Morin, ACB Media and IT Manager; Larry Gassman, ACB Media Coordinator; and Julie Fischer, Human Resources and Payroll Specialist. In addition, everything is almost in place to announce the hiring of our new ACB Thrift Store General Manager.
ACB Advisory Board: The ACB Advisory Board has been very active over the last couple of years assisting the organization with a number of different projects. As a part of the DC Leadership Presidents Meeting as well as the Legislative Seminar, all seven of them will be profiled and introduced throughout the weekend. They will be sharing about what they do in their jobs outside of ACB, how they came to the ACB Advisory Board, and the types of projects they have been providing assistance. Ultimately, the work of the Advisory Board is to advise, assist and guide, but they all do so much more.
Advocacy Update – Clark Rachfal
COVID accessibility and at-home testing: Advocacy continues in this area. President Spoone sent a letter to the Whitehouse, addressed to the Director of Disability Policy on January 21st. A subsequent letter was sent to the National Institutes of Health after ACB learned that the Whitehouse was tasking NIH with researching accessible at-home testing. That letter was sent on January 31st. We have received a response to that letter, and NIH is scheduling a listening session, which Dan has been invited to attend, on March 24th.
Web Accessibility and Digital Inclusion – Swatha Nandhakumar
ACB has been working on this issue with AFB, NFB, and the National Disability Rights Network. We are taking a two-pronged approach. The first is legislative through a bill being crafted with Senator Duckworth’s office entitled Website and Applications Accessibility Act. This is a new legislative imperative for ACB for 2022. The second prong is with the Department of Justice. A letter was sent to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke, asking DOJ to promulgate enforceable accessibility standards for websites, applications, and the online environment, and to release them under the current administration. The letter was sent out to the disability community, and over 180 organizations signed on, including over 30 ACB affiliates.
Clark and President Spoone attended a national blindness policy collaborative meeting hosted by NFB and moderated by ACB Advisory Board Member Lee Nasehi in mid-February. Nine national blindness organizations were in attendance. A portion of the conversation focused on areas of collaboration when it comes to public policy, and everyone agreed that this issue touches on the work that all of our organizations do. Accessible technology and access to websites and applications is critical and impacts the lives of all of our constituents.
Resource Development and Communications – Tony Stephens
The creation of ACB’s Department of Development and Communications is beginning to bear the fruit of a lot of strategic planning and a lot of work on the part of the Development Steering Committee, the Public Awareness Steering Committee, and all the work to move ACB Radio to ACB Media. ACB Media and ACB Community has become a very advanced and sophisticated communications platform and network.
Member Services – Cindy Hollis
Another successful Community-a-thon took place on New Year’s Eve 2021. It went from 3pm to 3am, and many people were there all twelve hours. Out of the sixteen entertainment pieces they had, over a third of the entertainers were under age 35. Since October 2020, well over 150 hosts have been trained. The hosting guidelines have evolved to ensure hosts are always current, both in terms of training and expectations. There is now a required quarterly hosting check-in meeting. The check-ins are provided monthly, and each host is required to attend at least one of the three quarterly check-ins to maintain their hosting status through the next quarter. Ninety-nine hosts took part in this first quarter, and many of them attended each monthly check-in. Kolby held the first quarterly check-in for event planners and facilitators, and it was also well received, with over fifty people in attendance at that event. The event planners will have a once a quarter check-in and the others will be required to attend one out of three per quarter.
Kolby Garrison was hired eleven months ago and has stepped up to take on more and more responsibility. She has become the contact person for all things events. Her role is to handle the scheduling of and communication with all event planners. Cindy’s role is to oversee all of the volunteers who work as hosts and other supportive roles in the community. Cindy has been having conversations with a few states that are small and struggling about the idea of possible regional resource and activity sharing.
Dan said that one of the first breakout sessions at the Presidents Meeting is going to be a panel taking a look at membership. The discussion will be led by ACB Advisory Board member Bret Humphrey. He has spent a lot of time working with ACB on analyzing our membership data and getting us to think about things even greater than membership. The term we are now using is connections. We touch a lot of people that may not be ACB members, and how do we think about increasing or widening that pool. Are there different ways for us to think about membership than the classic way we currently do? A person becoming a member of a local chapter, and then a state or special interest affiliate, and then of ACB is not a bad model, but may not be the only way of gaining members as we move forward in the 21st century.
Chief Financial Officer – Nancy Becker
AMMS Update: We are in the first part of the member certification process. Affiliates have been doing a great job of updating current membership records and adding new member information into AMMS. March 15 is the last day to add new members during the initial process. Affiliates will have until March 31 to submit their certification reports. Then starting May 1, new members can be added, and will be eligible to vote at the Conference and Convention, if they are added before the members of record date, which is May 23rd. In 2021, there was an increase in special interest affiliate and individual memberships.
Scholarships: Along with the scholarships awarded last year, there will be two additional scholarships this year. The Tech For All Scholarship will be $4500, and it is for a student majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The Bay State Council of the Blind Scholarship will be for $4500, and the student needs to be a Massachusetts resident and can be a parttime or fulltime student. The Scholarship Committee is starting their initial review of the 75 eligible applicants and is on schedule to contact the scholarship recipients in early May.
Financial Audit: As we move through March and into April, ACB will be having our 2021 financial information audit. That will happen the week of April 4th. The Minneapolis Office is in the process of providing documentation to the auditors to confirm the financial information presented on the income statement and balance sheet. Nancy anticipates that ACB will have a clean audit.
Payment Protection Program Loans: In 2021, ACB received funds from the second Payment Protection Program. These funds were used by ACB and ACBES for payroll, rent, and utility expenditures. Earlier this year, we applied for forgiveness for this second PPP loan, and we were recently notified that both loans were forgiven in full. The cash was received in 2021 and was reported as a loan or liability on the balance sheet. Now that the loan has been forgiven, the revenue will be recognized on the income statement, and the liability will be removed from the balance sheet.
ACB’s Investments: For 2021 the rate of return on the Endowed and Legacy Investment accounts was above the benchmark, and the Reserve account was a little below. The Reserve account was 9.48% and the Index was 10.07%. The Endowed account was 10.77% and the Index was 9.3%. The Legacy account was 11.65% and the Index was 9.3%.
On February 17, Treasurer David Trott requested and made a motion that the board approve the withdrawal of up to $150,000 from the Reserve account to help ACB meet our operating expenses. The motion was seconded by Bishop and was approved unanimously by the Board via email. The motion still needed to be ratified by the board.
So far, $100,000 worth of investments have been sold. $50,000 was deposited into the operating account, and is being used to meet expenses, and the remainder is in the Investment Cash account.
Board members were reminded that there is an annual Conflict of Interest document that each of us needs to complete, and Nancy Christine will be emailing the document through DocuSign out to each board member.
It was moved by Trott and seconded by Campbell that the Board ratify the vote approved by email to authorize the withdrawal of up to $150,000 from the Reserve account to help ACB meet our operating expenses. The motion to ratify passed unanimously.
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Charlson to approve the staff reports. The motion carried.
Financial Narrative for 2021 Year-to-Date – David Trott, ACB Treasurer
The treasurer’s report through December 2021 was presented to the board. (See the written report for this meeting.) It was moved by Powell and seconded by Sims to approve the treasurer’s report. The motion carried.
Board of Publications (BOP) Report – Penny Reader, BOP Director
The BOP has become really busy with the ACB Blog (ACB Voices). They are happy they are getting more submissions, and they want to encourage any Board members who have not subscribed to ACB Voices to do so, and to contribute. Because we’re going into almost a week of advocacy with the DC Leadership Conference and Legislative Seminar, the BOP thinks it is a good time to encourage people to write about their advocacy stories and send them to the Blog.
In the large print March ACB Braille Forum there is a sample of new large print guidelines that the BOP is proposing be adopted. There is one article that has been written in conformance with those guidelines, and the BOP would like readers to let them know what they think.
It is also the time to begin thinking about submitting nominations for the three BOP awards. Those award nominations are due by April 1 and need to be sent to Sharon Lovering.
Once again, this year the BOP will be having a Candidates Page, and the instructions for completing the Candidates questions will appear in the April ACB E-Forum. It was moved by Trott and seconded by Sims to approve the report of the Board of Publications. The motion carried.
Report from the Executive Committee Task Force – Kim Charlson, Task Force Chair
(See the written report prepared for this meeting.) The assigned task for this working group was to determine if the Executive Committee operated within the scope of the provisions of the ACB Constitution, Article VI, Section C, relating to some decisions that were made at the January 8, 2021, Executive Committee meeting that was called by the president. The written report clearly lays out the issues that were discussed and recommendations made by the working group. The Constitution and Bylaws Committee is prepared to bring two amendments to the Convention floor; one to Article VI, Paragraph C, and one to Article IV, Paragraph H. which both relate to the method and length of time the Constitution currently requires advance notification for the president to schedule a board meeting. The working group is recommending that the Constitution and Bylaws Committee bring forward an amendment to the ACB Constitution that will change the length of time for notification of intent to call a special Board meeting from 14 days to either 7 or 5 days respectively. The working group is also recommending that the Constitution and Bylaws Committee bring forward an amendment to the ACB Constitution that will change the way in which the communication notice of a special meeting of the Executive Committee is sent out. The Constitution and Bylaws Committee is seeking board input on the number of days to be prescribed for sending out a request to call a special Board meeting prior to the proposed meeting date. If the Constitution were to be amended to lessen the time frame and notice provisions presently required to hold special Board meetings, the need for executive committee meetings would be greatly reduced. A special meeting of the entire board could be called in a much more rapid timeframe, and not need to require the duties of the Executive Committee.
Kim’s intent is to provide this report with recommendations, once approved by the Board, to the Constitution and Bylaws Committee. They can then take the two recommendations for amendments and incorporate them into their work.
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Brown to approve the report of the Executive Committee Working Group. The motion carried.
Report from the Resolutions 2.0 and Voting 2.0 Task Forces – Ray Campbell, Resolutions Chair and Pat Sheehan, Voting Task Force Chair
The Resolutions 2.0 Task Force believes that the Resolutions process and voting on them needs to be back in the hands of the membership, and the question is how to do this in a hybrid world. The first issue dealt with by the task force was how far in advance of the convention should resolutions have to be submitted to allow time for the introduction of amendments, wordsmithing, etc. The recommendation is to make the resolutions deadline May 1. They will begin announcing this right away and using all communications channels to do so. Once the deadline has been met the Resolutions Committee will begin meeting twice a week at Community Events. They will be on the daily Community list and will detail which resolutions will be covered in each session, so that if someone has an interest in a particular resolution, they know to attend that Community event. The goal is to get to the convention floor with resolutions that are pretty much in final form and can be voted up or down. The Task Force recognizes that many things can come up after the Resolutions deadline. The Resolutions Committee is going to have the leeway to consider accepting the Resolution if the person(s) bringing it forward can make a good case for the need to consider it. They are going to be coming to the Constitution and Bylaws Committee with two bylaw amendments that will basically codify the deadline for submitting resolutions as sixty days prior to convention.
The second issue was determining the process for voting on the resolutions. The reading of resolutions is going to be done from the recordings that will be played on ACB Media. Someone from the Resolutions Committee will be there to answer any questions, and then the question will be asked if there is any objection to adopting this Resolution by consensus. If there is no objection, or less than 25 people ask for a roll call vote, the Resolution will be considered adopted. Any Resolutions or amendments to Resolutions that require a roll call vote will be held over and voted on during the three zoom days designated for conducting business, July 11, 12 and 13. If a roll call vote is requested for a particular Resolution it will then be put on the electronic ballot where people can cast their individual votes and the roll call votes can take place.
Jeff Thom first talked about how Constitutional Amendments and Bylaws are going to differ from Resolutions. It wasn’t felt that there would be adequate time to deal with both constitutional amendments and resolutions during the in-person part of the Convention. Therefore, all debate on constitutional amendments will take place during the three day Zoom business session. The other difference is that, unlike Resolutions, constitutional amendments and amendments to amendments require a roll call vote. They will actually be on the electronic ballot and voted on during the three day Zoom business session beginning July 11.
Voting for contested elections will be handled as described by Janet in her Convention Report. Everyone will use the Vote Now system whether they are attending virtually or in person. There will be some polling stations set up for those who are attending in person who might need some extra assistance or don’t have their own equipment on which to vote. There will have to be delegate votes for all constitutional amendments and any contested elections or resolutions where a record vote has been requested. All resolutions requiring a delegate vote will appear on one ballot, and all constitutional amendments will appear on one ballot. When the delegate gives the vote counts, he/she will give the vote counts down the entire ballot before moving on to the next affiliate. It was moved by Semien to approve the reports from the Resolutions 2.0 and Voting 2.0 Task Forces. The motion carried.
Review and Approval of Changes to the Expectations for Community Events Policy – Cindy Hollis, Membership Services Director
(See the written Policy document prepared for the meeting.) There are three additions/changes being proposed to the Community Events Policy, and all have been approved by the Community Support Committee. Suggestions for language clarification were proposed by the board.
(1) In the copyright provisions taken from Zoom, they call upon us to seek approval for the use of any copyrighted material, but doesn’t say approval in writing, and it needs to. It is suggested that the first time this is referenced the Policy should say approval in writing. The second time copyright approval is referenced the language should say written approval.
(2) To ensure the security of events and regardless of account, Zoom information must not be shared via social media or public websites.
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Brown to approve the proposed changes to the Expectations for Community Events Policy. The motion carried.
There being no further Board meeting business, it was moved by Bell and seconded by Powell to move into executive session for the purpose of discussion of legal and advocacy issues. The motion carried and the board moved into executive session at 6:11pm Eastern time.
It was moved by Powell and seconded by Campbell to move out of executive session. The motion carried. Legal and advocacy issues were discussed, but no board action was taken.
It was moved by Bell and seconded by Campbell to adjourn. The motion carried. The meeting was adjourned at 7:23 PM Eastern time.