The August 27, 2020 ACB Board of Directors Meeting was called to order at 8:03 PM Eastern Time by President Dan Spoone.
At the call of the roll, the following board members were present: Dan Spoone, Mark Richert, Ray Campbell, Denise Colley, David Trott, Kim Charlson, Jeff Bishop, Donna Brown, Sara Conrad, Dan Dillon, Katie Frederick, Jim Kracht, Doug Powell, Pat Sheehan, 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, Claire Stanley, ACB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, Kelly Gasque, ACB Executive Assistant and Media Design Specialist, Sharon Lovering, ACB Braille Forum/EForum Editor, Cindy Hollis, ACB Membership Services Coordinator, and Nancy Marks-Becker, ACB Chief Financial Officer.
Contractors present: Debbie Hazelton, ACB Radio Managing Director and Jason Castonguay, ACB Radio Technical Director.
Guests present: Deb Cook Lewis, Peggy Garrett, Gabe Griffith, Zelda Gebhard, Alice Ritchhart, Jill Noble, Michael Garrett.
Review and Approval of Agenda
Dan welcomed Penny Reeder to the Board as this year’s ex-officio representative from the BOP, and then reviewed the agenda. Powell moved and Brown seconded a motion to adopt the agenda as presented. The motion carried.
Dan Spoone and Eric Bridges
Dan and Eric took a moment to acknowledge the passing of Berl Colley, a longtime member of the American Council of the Blind and his many roles within ACB.
Patrick Sheehan then spoke about Berl’s intense interest in the area of leadership. He always pushed leadership as one of the core programs that ACB needed to work on. Sheehan moved and Campbell seconded a motion to rename our Leadership Training Institute the Berl Colley Leadership Institute in honor of Berl Colley. This idea was presented to the Leadership Institute Training Committee, who were wholeheartedly in support. The motion carried.
Embrace, Engage, Empower, Effort and Enjoy – ACB Convention: Dan wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate one more time what he believes to be the amazing spirit of our ACB family. Our convention had five different ACB Radio channels broadcasting content throughout an eight day period to include the exhibits, tours, three concurrent sets of breakout meetings held each day, with a total of 108 breakout sessions featuring over 400 panelists contributing 250 hours of content during the week, a full schedule for the daily general sessions took place with wonderful presentations from our sponsors, testimonials about our ACB Angels, informative interviews with scholarship winners, countless presentations from ACB staff and partners across the country and around the world. The evening prime time shows, the ACB banquet, ACB Community Chats that went on each night after the formal agenda ended, 1600 people registered, and successful fund-raising activities took place all week long this was all done by volunteers, including those behind the scenes, and Dan just wanted to say “Thank You” for such a well-run event. He also thanked the ACB Radio team for all of their hard work, and the many podcasts that have been generated for people to continue to listen to for the excellent content.
2021 DC Leadership Conference: Virtual: The L10 Leadership Team has met, and since it was time for Kelly and Eric to begin finalizing the hotel negotiations for the 2021 DC Leadership Conference, it seemed appropriate to bring the issue to the Board for consideration. Given the environment we find ourselves in right now, the L10 Team questioned the practicality of holding an in-person DC Leadership Conference in February. The Team unanimously recommended that a virtual conference would be the most appropriate way to proceed. Eric shared information about the meetings he and Kelly had with the hotel, and it was felt that the landscape was not really going to look any different in early 2021 than it does right now. Eric said he believes there are a lot of innovative things we can do virtually from an advocacy standpoint, engage our members, and help them reach out to their senators and representatives locally. Dan said that if we make the decision earlier, rather than later, it gives our affiliates an opportunity to really plan creative ways to engage their legislators through Zoom, and local team meetings where even more representative and senate appointments can be scheduled.
It was moved by Richert and seconded by Thom that ACB should hold our DC Leadership Conference virtually in February 2021. After a lot of discussion the question was called for and the motion carried.
Dan said he felt that the Advocacy Steering Committee was the place for taking on the responsibility for the whole activity for putting a plan together that can be socialized to move the Leadership Conference forward. He then announced that Ron Brooks had tendered his resignation as chair of the Advocacy Steering Committee due to increased work obligations. Dan has appointed Jeff Thom as the new Advocacy Steering Committee Chair.
Resolutions Ad Hoc Committee
Chair Ray Campbell and Vice-Chair Mark Richert
Dan announced the other members of the Ad Hoc Resolutions Committee. They are: They are: Gabe Griffith and Jill Noble from the Resolutions Committee; Jeff Thom, Eric Bridges, Dan Spoone, Regina Brink, President of the Capital Chapter of the California Council of the Blind, Gabriel Lopez Kafati, president of BPI, and Maria Kristic, a member of ACB Next Generation and GDUI. Clark Rachfal and Claire Stanley will also sit on the committee.
Ray shared a little about his objectives and timelines for this committee. The Committee will begin meeting shortly after Labor Day. Any thoughts or ideas about the resolutions process can be sent to either Ray or to Clark Rachfal. The hope is to have a draft for the Board to review by the fall board meeting.
DKM First Timers Guidelines and Policy Change
Kenneth Semien Sr.
One of the requirements for applying for the First Timer scholarship is that you must not have participated in, or attended, an ACB convention. With this year being a virtual convention, we had many first timers applying and subsequently attending the convention virtually. The DKM First Timers Committee was concerned that they might be disenfranchising the first timers who originally applied for this year if the virtual convention eliminated them from being considered as a first timer applicant at a future in-person convention. The Committee brought to the Board some policy language changes to the DKM First Timer Guidelines, as well as some policy language changes to the JP Morgan Leadership Fellows Guidelines. These changes would allow the committee to be a little more flexible and allow them to work with the ACB president and/or executive director in special circumstances such as what we experienced in 2020.
(NOTE: The guidelines changes were attached to the August 27, 2020 Board of Director’s meeting minutes.)
Trott moved and Charlson seconded a motion to adopt the proposed language changes to the DKM First Timers and JP Morgan Leadrship Fellows guidelines submitted by the DKM First Timers Committee. The motion carried.
Dates for ACB Fall Board of Directors Meeting
Dan reminded the Board of the fall Board meeting which will be held on Friday, November 13 from 4:00 to 8:00 PM EST, and Saturday, November 14 from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM EST.
ACB Staff Reports
Eric Bridges, Executive Director
Media and ACB Radio strategy planning session: Eric said that one of the outstanding highlights of our convention was the effective use of ACB Radio and all of its streams used to push out content. One of the results of ACB’s Radio’s efforts is the massive amount of content that has been made available through podcasts as well as all of the video that is now on our YouTube channel. We have the ability for people to access all of our content through the use of Alexa skills, and the prospect of doing even more with Alexa in the future. Eric thanked Debbie Hazelton and Jason Castonguay for the endless amount of time and effort they have put into the day-to-day management and upkeep of ACB Radio. He also thanked Jeff Bishop for all of the behind the scenes work he has done with Eric to ensure that all of our digital assets, including ACB Radio made it into Microsoft Azure in time for the convention.
As we reflect on what we have gone through and accomplished this year, and all we have been able to achieve with ACB Radio, we asked the question “What do we want ACB Radio to be and to look and sound like in the future?” Conversations ensued with President Spoone and the ACB Radio Steering Committee about taking some time to do some envisioning about what the future might be for ACB Radio. Eric reached out to Erin Pitera, ACB Advisory Board member and the CEO of FMP Consulting to facilitate the discussion and make sure that everything that is expressed gets captured. On September 2, 2020, Erin will be facilitating a discussion with Eric, Dan, and the members of the ACB Radio Steering Committee.
Community Facebook group and Community email list: Eric reported that the email list for people to get the daily Community Events schedule has topped 1,016 subscribers since it started in May, 2020. The ACB Community Group Facebook page has 1,029 likes since it began on June 15, 2020. Before the convention, we had six dedicated Zoom hosts, and now we are up to twenty, with twenty more waiting in the wings. Since March, 2020, we have held 902 Community Events with 30,000 participants.
Jeff Bishop shared that about two weeks after convention, a contact request was received on the ACB Radio website from a program manager on the Amazon Alexa team, wanting to learn more about all the ways ACB is using Alexa. They took notice of the significant spike in ACB’s usage of Alexa during the convention. Amazon has the ability to track listener statistics on the various ACB skills. Jeff and Eric will be meeting with Amazon soon to discuss ways that Amazon can assist ACB to maximize our Alexa skills.
Because of all the hours the Community Calls project is requiring, Cindy Hollis announced that she will be bringing on an intern to assist her with the program. Natalia Ratcliffe will be starting on August 31, 2020, and she will be working 25 hours per week. She is a junior attending Cal State Domingus Hills, majoring in Communications and Public Relations. This internship is being funded by the State of California and runs through the end of November.
Apple’s recruitment of blind/visually impaired musicians: Eric talked about the announcement that had come out the previous day from Apple about their seeking to recruit for blind and visually impaired musicians and vocalists for their TV show, See. The impetus for this started last December when Eric, Kelly and Claire attended an event that Apple was holding at the Carnegie Library in DC. One of the panel presentations was by the leaders of the TV show. Claire stood up and asked if any of the music in the show was performed by people who were blind and/or visually impaired. At that point none were, but keeping this idea out on the front burner and repeatedly asking the question has brought Apple to this point. This all has come about because of ACB.
Clark Rachfal: Advocacy Director
Accessible Absentee voting: We have been working on this issue since the start of Covid, and have had some tremendous success. Some of the success has come through legislation like that passed in West Virginia with the assistance of the Mountain State Council of the Blind, and in Massachusetts with the assistance of the Bay State Council of the Blind. Other progress has come through the filing of lawsuits in New York and in Florida; and ongoing cases in Virginia and North Carolina. This is still very much a live issue, and the hope is that it maintains its momentum and priority even beyond the fall 2020 election. While the current legal cases and legislative work is still pending, one of the areas that the advocacy team is shifting their focus to, along with the cross-disability community, as well as ACB affiliates is voter education.
NAB drops opposition to AD market Expansion: One of the biggest issues in Audio Description right now is the FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to expand covered markets from the top sixty Broadcast Designated Market Areas around the country that must pass through audio description to the top 100 markets, ten markets per year for the next four years. ACB submitted comments supporting this expansion, and received over thirty supportive comments from ACB members from designated Markets as large as New York and Los Angeles, to markets like Topeka, Little Rock, and Jackson, Mississippi. This really showed the breadth of the organization as well as the diverse geographic spread of our members.
Initially, the National Association of Broadcasters filed comments supporting the expansion, but opposing how soon it would be implemented. They wanted to delay the implementation. ACB filed reply comments rebutting their delay. We pointed out that it shouldn’t be a blanket delay. There is already economic hardship waivers in place in the CVAA, so any individual broadcaster facing economic burden can apply for that waiver, and every broadcaster should already have this technology in place because they’re required to pass through accessible emergency alerts. We have since received word that the National Association of Broadcasters is going to drop their opposition to the expansion. It is anticipated that the FCC will finalize their rulemaking with this expansion in place.
There has also been conversation with the National Association of Broadcasters about the upcoming fall TV lineup and what that means for the available number of hours of audio description. Their studios are shut down and new content is not being produced. The network, in lieu of showing new shows is only going to show ones from the past couple of years, which have already been audio described. Due to the rerun rule, after the second airing the hours won’t count toward the regulatory 87-1/2 hours for audio description content.
Dan reported that the Audio Description Project and the Media subcommittee worked to send a letter to David Reuben, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is best known for hosting the Academy Awards. The letter asked the Academy to consider engagement in four different areas:
ACB’s disappointment that the Best Picture of the Year, Parasite, was not audio described. ACB requested that the Academy consider requiring all best picture nominated movies to be audio described in the future;
The second issue related to the new museum that the Academy is opening at the end of 2020, and that they give full consideration to accessibility and audio description capabilities at the Museum;
The third issue was for the Academy to look at offering an Academy Award associated with audio description through their Science and Technology award division; and
The fourth issue was looking at their back catalogue of Academy Award winning films to see if there might be an opportunity for adding audio description.
We recently received a reply from Mr. Reuben announcing that by the 94th Oscar Awards Ceremony in 2022 their expectation will be to require all movies nominated for Best Picture to include audio description. In the letter was a listing of all the things they are doing, from making their website fully accessible to all of the accommodations being planned for the Museum. Our letter was also forwarded to the Science and Technology Division of the Academy to consider our request for an Oscar in the area of audio description.
Clark mentioned that exercise and fitness is an area where ACB has made some significant strides this year. ACB jointly announced with Peloton Interactive the addition of the Google Talkback screen reader to the Peloton bike, which went public just before the ACB convention. Over the past two weeks, we have participated on a panel with Achilles International, as a Community Event. This is an organization that provides guides, and during Covid, virtual workouts for people who are blind or visually impaired. We are also talking with USABA about how we can create, host, and encourage participants to get involved in National Blind Sports Day coming up in early October.
Update from Tony Stephens, Development Director
Convention fundraiser results: ACB has surpassed all goals and expectations going into convention. The auction raised more than 20% higher than previously; over $33,000. Individual sponsorships were significantly higher. The Braille Forum raised well into the mid twenty thousands and all raffle tickets were sold. We raised over $265,000 in corporate sponsorships. The ACB Walk had a goal of $90,000, and we are now at $90,240. Collectively we are looking at well over $430,000 in convention revenue. This does not include what has been raised with MMS, and revenue is already coming in from the 80+ individuals that signed up during convention. The mini mall was like the day after Thanksgiving.
Major donors committee: Since convention we are still focused on a major campaigned, both in terms of direct mail and an online campaign as well. A small major donor committee has been developed to include Jim Kracht, Alice Ritchhart, Cathy Schmidt Whitaker, and Roger Bridges from the ACB Advisory Board. Bill Reeder is assisting serving in a consultant roll.
Gibney Family Foundation meeting: Jo Lyn Bailey-Page, Eric Bridges and Tony Stephens had a positive meeting the previous week with representatives from the Gibney Foundation. Their focus is on giving toward blindness-related projects around the country. There is a lot of opportunity as we integrated ourselves so their leadership team could learn who we are. There appears to be momentum to help sustain the work we are doing in terms of community engagement and membership. Tony and Jo Lyn have also been working to try to recalibrate our grants and focus in on strategic key targeted areas.
Communications plan initiative: Kate Vendemio, Mount Vernon Consulting, who is working with our senior leadership staff has completed a communications audit. This will transition into message testing and working through developing key targeted messages and narratives that are really going to resonate as we begin to focus through our communications audit as a tool to pare down what audiences we can get the strongest return from in terms of engagement, both from a donor perspective and from all aspects of communication across the organization. Kate is still on track to provide a primary communications plan by the next Board meeting.
Nancy Marks Becker: Chief Financial Officer
Investment portfolio: In March our overall investments had declined only about 11% compared to the overall stock market. At the end of May ACB still had unrealized losses of $237,400 in the investment accounts. As of the day of this meeting, the value of our investments are back up to where they were earlier this year. There is $4.3 million in our investment accounts and $1.6 million of this is in our reserve account. The investment committee does have a policy in place to protect our investments.
Drawdown of ACB board reserve: So far, $115,000 in the ACB Board reserve account has been withdrawn from the Board authorized $325,000 amount, which has been used for operations. There is still $210,000 in funds that can be moved over to the operating account before additional funds would need to be requested. The Investment Committee met earlier in August, and at that time they knew additional funds would need to be withdrawn from the reserve account before the end of the year. With the uncertainty of where the market will be in several months, it was decided to convert some of the stock in the reserve accounts to cash while the portfolio value was higher. If additional funds are needed above the $325,000, they will be requested at the next Board meeting.
Minnesota office move complete: The moving of the office furniture went very smoothly and everything was put away within two days. However, they did encounter some issues with our internet provider not setting up the service correctly, which resulted in not having internet or phone service for almost a week. The amount of square footage added is minimal, but has gained staff another suite and lunch room space.
Board of Publications Report: Deb Cook Lewis
The BOP, in collaboration with the Public Relations/Communications Steering Committee is moving forward with the process of reorganizing and consolidating ACB’s email communications strategy. The goal relates to consolidating our email lists and reducing duplication as much as possible, and making sure that all of our email communications adhere to ACB’s core values. That will be resolved through a variety of tactics around email delivery. We have a lot of communication preferences within ACB, and a lot of different interests and skill levels in how people get communication from the organization. Email is actually one of our smaller communication channels overall. A final product will be shared with the Board based on the recommendations of the Steering Committee and the public input received.
Review and Approval of Rehabilitation White Paper
Doug Powell, Rehab Task Force Chair
The Rehab Task Force has attempted to influence policy in the rehab realm through resolutions and other means. It has developed an updated white paper to consolidate the complexity of issues that the Rehab system encompasses. It addresses where rehab for the blind is different from other disability groups, and how WIOA has affected our population more negatively than others.
(NOTE: The white paper document was attached to the August 27, 2020 Board of Director’s meeting minutes.)
Powell moved and Campbell seconded a motion for endorsement of the Rehabilitation Taskforce White Paper. The motion carried.
Multicultural Affairs Committee Budget Request
Peggy Garrett; MCAC Chair
The Multicultural Affairs Committee brought a request to the Board for a small budget increase to support securing the services of an outside facilitator for the continuation of an organizational conversation on how to improve inclusion and diversity within ACB. In light of all that has been going on in our communities, and all of the racial unrest in our country, MCAC thought that ACB could benefit from such training. There are individuals of diverse cultures within the organization who are capable leaders, but just not in leadership roles presently. One of MCAC’s missions is to reach out and make sure that people of all cultures are being included, embraced and mentored to step up and take on leadership roles. The facilitator being considered for the training has over fifty years of experience working with diverse groups including people with disabilities. MCAC is proposing she conduct two sessions, which would be approximately two hours in length, and cover thinking outside the box, welcoming and sharing ideas, and how to go about being more inclusive.
The Committee is requesting $1,000 to cover the two two-hour sessions of training. After this, the MCAC Committee would implement additional steps to assist people in making sure that they are not missing out on those areas where they could recruit people with blindness and even dual disabilities from diverse cultures to get involved and take on leadership roles in the future. The current plan would be to hold two training sessions in September as a kickoff, and then holding a joint focus call session with the Membership Committee in October. The hope would be to follow up with a session during the February leadership meetings.
Dan will be attending the August MCAC Committee meeting and more can be discussed there. He said that he believes the Committee wants to move forward and keep the momentum going while still making sure to keep the direction and the intentionality going for the future. There needs to be that balance.
It was moved by Trott and seconded by Campbell to open the current budget to increase the Multicultural Affairs Committee’s line item by $1,000. The motion carried.
Review and Approval of 2020 ACB Resolutions
Gabriel Griffith, Resolutions Committee Chair; and Jill Noble, Co-Chair
(NOTE: All resolutions were attached to the August 27, 2020 Board of Director’s meeting minutes.)
Dan began by reviewing the resolutions process for 2020, since they could not be submitted, reviewed, and adopted in the standard manner during our virtual convention. Initially, there were thirteen resolutions submitted, but two were withdrawn by their authors. All of the remaining eleven resolutions came out of the resolutions process with a “Do Pass” recommendation from the Resolutions Committee. Since all resolutions had been sent out to the Board in advance, it was agreed that only the resolution title and Resolve Clause would be read.
Resolution 2020-01: Compliance with Digital Accessibility Requirements
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Charlson to adopt this resolution. A friendly amendment was made to expand the text of the first resolve to read “that this organization work with its Advocacy Steering Committee to significantly expand its advocacy efforts toward compliance with the ADA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act with respect to accessibility to websites and other digital platforms”. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-02: Non-vocational services for persons with Vision Loss
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Trott to adopt this resolution. A friendly amendment was suggested to add the listing of examples of non-vocationally-related services in the fourth Whereas Claus to the first Resolve Claus and include braille. The motion carried as amended.
Resolution 2020-03: Thanking NLS
It was moved by Frederick and seconded by Trott to adopt this resolution. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-04: Urging NLS to Produce a Braille Version of the Reader's Digest
It was moved by Bishop and seconded by Brown to adopt this resolution. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-05: Services for older individuals who are blind
It was moved by Trott and seconded by Powell to adopt this resolution. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-06: USPS Informed Delivery
It was moved by Bishop and seconded by Conrad to adopt this resolution. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-07: Accessible Note Taking in Classes
It was moved by Brown and seconded by Thom to adopt this resolution. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-10: Equity in Policing
Kracht moved and Trott seconded a motion to adopt this resolution. A friendly amendment was suggested to add special interest affiliates to the list in the first sentence of the third resolve. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-11: Racial Justice
It was moved by Campbell and seconded by Brown to adopt this resolution. Charlson offered a friendly amendment which was approved by the Multicultural Affairs Committee to add an additional Resolve Claus to read “Be it further resolved that this organization undertake an ACB census to better understand the diversity of this organization at all levels by February 1, 2021”. Campbell added an additional Resolve Claus to read “Be It further resolved that collection of data on ACB’s diversity be incorporated into the annual membership certification process moving forward”. Charlson considered this an addition to her friendly amendment. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-12: Access Solutions for Transit Systems, Government Services, and Public Accommodations
Conrad moved and Sheehan seconded a motion to adopt this resolution. The motion carried.
Resolution 2020-13: Reinstatement of AFB Access World on the iOS and Android Platforms
Bishop moved and Colley seconded a motion to adopt this resolution. Bishop pointed out that there is extensive technical details and expense to maintain such an ap, not to mention that the infrastructure it takes to maintain the data for that ap to be able to retrieve is extremely expensive. He questioned whether it is really our place to direct how AFB runs their business. How they present their data should really be left up to them. Access World can already be read on NFB newsline which can be accessed via smart phone, land line and Victor Reader. The motion failed and the resolution did not pass.
The preliminary ranking of resolutions from ACB leadership, staff and the Resolutions Committee are as follows:
- Resolution 2020-1; priority 2
- Resolution 2020-2; priority 3
- Resolution 2020-3; priority 2
- Resolution 2020-4; priority 2
- Resolution 2020-5; priority 2
- Resolution 2020-6; priority 2
- Resolution 2020-7; priority 2
- Resolution 2020-10; priority 2
- Resolution 2020-11; priority 1
- Resolution 2020-12; priority 2
Both Campbell and Charlson recommended changing resolution 2020-4 to a priority 1 since the last braille issue of the Reader’s Digest is September 2020. All ACB needs to do is write a letter on behalf of BRL and Lua.
It was moved by Powell and seconded by Trott to adopt the resolutions prioritization as presented and amended. The motion carried.
The meeting of the Board recessed at 12:40AM Eastern Time and the Board moved in to executive session. Legal and personnel issues were discussed but no action was taken.
The Board came out of executive session and the meeting was adjourned at 1:41AM Eastern Time.
Date submitted: 11/09/2020