The April 29, 2021, American Council of the Blind Board of Directors meeting (via Zoom) was called to order at 8:05 PM Eastern Time by President Dan Spoone.
Trott moved and Campbell seconded a motion to adopt the agenda as presented.
Approval of the February 20, 2021 Meeting Minutes: Katie Frederick
The minutes were sent out as a part of the material for the meeting. Corrections or additions were requested.
Mission Moment: Dan Spoone and Eric Bridges
Dan and Eric took a moment to acknowledge and thank the Advocacy Steering Committee and Clark Rachfal for a fantastic job on collaboration, so many hours of wonderful content, great panels, and excellent participation across the board.
Eric reported there were approximately eighteen hours of content and a lot of high-quality breakout sessions. This really gave us an opportunity to see how the steering committee structure can work in tandem with, and be complimentary to, the work of both the staff and members. Eric also recognized the work of Tony Stephens, Kelly Gasque and Rick Morin who helped facilitate the logistics of all the video and zoom.
Katie asked if we had gotten any results back from the survey that was sent out about the leadership conference. Dan indicated that we had and asked Tony if he could get the results out to the Board. Tony indicated that this will be done.
President’s Report: Dan Spoone
WBU update: Dan announced that Kim Charlson is officially the new president of the North American/Caribbean region of the World Blind Union. Mitch Pomerantz announced that he would be stepping down as the regional vice president, and the board gave him a rousing send off. He will also be stepping down as, ACB’s second ACB WBU delegate. Dan will move into that position, serving with Kim at the World Blind Union General Assembly meetings in late June.
Voting Task Force: Pat Sheehan
A contract has been signed with Vote Now, the system we will be using to conduct our voting process at the convention. The task force consisted of thirteen ACB members and five staff. In an attempt to get the word out about how the voting process will work, members of the taskforce have done fifteen community calls with about eight more coming up. They have also done two president’s calls, a Tuesday Topics, a Visibility community call, an advocacy podcast, Sunday addition and several affiliate calls.
Ad Hoc Committee to Evaluate Role of Executive Committee
Mark Richert and Kim Charlson have been appointed as co-chairs of an ad hoc committee to look at our executive committee, its roles and responsibilities moving forward. Reach out to Mark, Kim, or Dan if you are interested in serving on this committee.
Volunteer Hours Exceed $1 Million
Dan reported that this year ACB logged over 42,000 hours of volunteer service which added up to over a million dollars of in-kind donations.
Fall Board meeting: The hotel in Omaha has reached out to ACB about holding a hybrid, if not a full in-person, Board meeting there the weekend of October 8-9, and they do have availability then. Dan said that given the progress that has been made with the vaccines and the way things are opening up across the country, he would like the Board to consider at least having a hybrid fall Board meeting. The question was asked if those dates were locked in or if there was any flexibility because of other blindness/related professional groups meeting around that same time. Janet said those are the dates we do tentatively currently have booked with the hotel as of a couple of years ago.
Trott moved and Campbell seconded a motion to authorize staff to look at moving the DC Leadership Conference to the first weekend in March at the Holiday Inn in Alexandria and securing a multi-year or three-year contract with the hotel. The motion carried.
ACB Staff Reports
Eric Bridges, Executive Director
ACB Job Posting Updates: ACB’s most recent job posting announcement went out April 29th to recruit for an administrative assistant for the Alexandria office. Since last November, Eric and Erika Keller have been working on updating existing staff position descriptions, as well as developing future position descriptions. They have also worked on developing a more formal process for recruiting new employees, and with engaging hiring managers in the selection process. New staff were then introduced.
Verizon Communications Grant: Eric was contacted by Larry Goldberg, who leads Verizon Media’s accessibility efforts. Verizon Media wants to donate digital ad space to ACB. They are donating to three disability organizations to start and at the end of this year, three additional organizations will be added. Verizon wants to focus on accessibility and visual inclusion. Because we are a trusted partner with Verizon, they would like to donate $830,000 worth of digital ad space to ACB. They have in-house staff who can help with the creation and dissemination of the ads. The project is designed to run until the end of the third quarter. Our ads will appear on their premium brands including all the Yahoo sites, as well as AOL, Tech Crunch, and others. This is one of the areas where we will be able to reach people outside of just the traditional blindness sphere. The way this advertising opportunity works is that it will drive traffic to ACB and increase our visibility. All the communications work, focus groups, and messaging that we have been highlighting as important are the things we want to focus on moving ahead. We want to capture people once they come to our website, moving them from connections to friends to members/supporters. This will give ACB huge bandwidth and approximately 700 to 900 thousand pairs of eyes and ears a day viewing our messages.
Information Technology Infrastructure update: Now that we have moved all of ACB’s digital assets over to Microsoft Azure Cloud, we now need to re-platform where those digital assets will be residing. ACb.org, the ADP Project, as well as what we are now building with media.org and where we house our YouTube videos and podcasts. Much of this has already been done by moving our podcasts and video content infrastructure off our existing platform. Within the next six weeks, we will be working with the Louisville Web Group to move what is remaining. This will allow ACB to have more control over the environment in a more standard way as well as having a generic infrastructure that is manageable by anyone.
Harriet Tubman $20 Bill and Accessible Currency: In the first part of April, a Wall Street Journal reporter wrote an article covering the fifty-pound note in the United Kingdom being made accessible and that it was the last note to be made accessible in the UK. The reporter reached out to ACB for comment, and we were able to provide a statement regarding our extensive efforts with the government and the numerous delays. Our statement was fully included in the article and got ACB significant visibility. The national office was also able to put together an op ed piece that was sent to several newspapers. It was picked up by the Hill, which did a nice job making the correlation between Harriet Tubman and Louis Braille. We received a lot of positive feedback. Along with all of this, the Women On The Twenty, which is a nonprofit organization, also did a campaign to raise the visibility of having Harriet Tubman on the $20, and, in addition, they raised the accessible currency challenge that we’ve been facing as part of their messaging as well.
Get Up and Get Moving Campaign: Tony Stephens
Get Up And Get Moving is ACB’s health and wellness campaign which will launch publicly this summer as part of the ACB Convention. The official kickoff event will take place Saturday evening of the convention. The focus of the event will be on health and wellness, celebrating the opportunity we have coming out of the pandemic to get back out into our communities. Tony said ACB is working to garner support from corporate sponsors and donors. The campaign is set up on three pillars to include public awareness, advocacy, and partnerships. In all these areas, the two goals are to draw greater attention to the systemic structural issues that have led to psychology, health, wellness, and physical well-being, and working to inspire industry and bring awareness to the technology and tools available for blind people to live a healthy accessible lifestyle. We will be primarily reaching out to communities of color where blindness and vision loss is more prevalent. The campaign will take place over the next three years.
Jeff Bishop said we currently have a combined total of 609 followers and members. The plan is to integrate Clubhouse and twitter spaces into the convention platform so ACB can be available across multiple platforms where people will be able to listen to and discuss activities that pertain to convention.
HR1 and S1 and Accessible Voting: Eric shared that there have been a number of things that have happened related to voting accessibility. Some language was proposed in the Senate that would seek to give our community most of what we need with respect to electronic voting, balloting and return. We have not yet seen the actual text of the amendment. ACB put out a press release in opposition to the language contained in HR1 which dealt with our community not seeing all the advances made in various states to be arbitrarily erased. That generated a lot of attention and opened doors to ACB staff to schedule meetings with legislators on key committees.
Dan reported that the Board has been asked by the Convention Committee, along with the work that has been done with ACB’s law firm, to make a couple minor changes to the Code of Conduct. The Convention Committee wants to have updates made as soon as possible so that the document can be included in all convention materials.
The stock market looks more favorable in 2021 than it did at the end of 2020. For the first quarter our 2021 investments have a net gain of about $124,000.
Scholarships: We have 145 completed scholarship applications this year. It is believed that the reason for the increase was because this information was shared on ACB’s homepage, sent out through Constant Contact emails, and on several partner websites. There were also several community calls to help students walk through the application process and answer questions. AFB has approved the individuals that ACB recommended.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 11:15 PM Eastern time.