Welcome, Reading and Approval of Agenda, Roll Call, and Approval of April 4, 2023 Meeting Minutes
Katie called the May 2, 2023 BOP meeting to order shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern time. Those attending were Katie; Penny; Cheryl; Zelda; Cachet; ACB Treasurer, David Trott; Executive Director, Dan Spoone; ACB Media Manager, Rick Morin; Braille Forum Editor, Sharon Lovering; and ACB President, Deb Cook Lewis. Cachet read the proposed meeting agenda aloud, and it was approved without changes. Minutes from the March meeting were approved following a motion made by Penny and seconded by Cachet.
Public’s Point of View
No guests expressed their points of view at the beginning of the meeting.
Community Schedule E-mail Formatting
Cachet and others pointed out that the e-mails which are sent out daily to share the schedule of Community events continue to be formatted in ways that make reading difficult, particularly for people who have low vision. Deb has met with Cindy and others who create the e-mails, and although formatting issues were corrected for a while, some accessibility issues, including use of colors, have cropped up again. Deb pointed out that there have been personnel changes among staff members who are responsible for creating these e-mails, and that situation has slowed progress toward resolving accessibility problems. Now that ACB has hired Natalie Couch to assist with Community-related activities, Cindy is optimistic that formatting issues can be addressed and improved.
Jeff Bishop, who also attended the meeting, said that he would like to be involved in the meetings which are called to address formatting issues so that he can help by exploring the possibility of applying automation to the Community spreadsheet to create the daily schedule e-mail messages which would then be formatted appropriately. Deb said that she and Cindy welcome his participation and assistance. Deb hopes to schedule a meeting with Cindy and Jeff before convention.
Cachet volunteered to evaluate sample e-mails that Cindy and Natalie will create, to verify that formatting problems have been eliminated, and we hope that accessibility issues will be resolved by summer’s end.
Zelda said that formatting in the Employment announcements which Peter Altschul sends to the ACB conversation list is equally problematic, and people with low vision have a hard time reading these announcements as well. Zelda will e-mail Peter to alert him of the formatting issues, she will share BOP-approved large print guidelines with him, in the hope that he can improve formatting in those announcements, as well.
The ACB Voices Blog
Responding to a question from Penny, Katie said that she would make sure the blog regarding a Braille Forum article written by Deborah Kendrick in the 1980s is posted. Penny and Katie will also reach out to Anthony to discuss next steps for posting Member at the Mic BLOGS and to provide guidance regarding his scheduling of future interviews.
Cachet will be responsible for reviewing blog submissions in May, and Zelda will serve as back-up; Cheryl will review blog submissions in June, and Penny will provide back-up. Katie hopes that the blog will highlight convention activities during the next two months, including topics such as the Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk, or how to earn continuing education units (CEUs) by attending convention programs.
Several people expressed the opinion that convention information is so scattered among various communications vehicles (e.g., the convention e-mail list, Braille Forum articles, Dots and Dashes items) that it can be hard for individuals to find and retrieve the specific kinds of information they need. Cachet will create a summary of convention events and highlights and post a blog periodically from now through the beginning of convention. Cheryl will write about the walk. Katie suggested that a Blog about how a music teacher who works at the West Virginia School for the Blind writes a new song for the walk every year would make for interesting reading. Katie will share the walk announcement e-mail with Cheryl, as well as this year’s song to help her with preparation of the article. Another suggestion is to create a single list that catalogs where to find each of the various convention-related items that ACB makes available.
In response to discussion regarding how little many members of state affiliates and local chapters actually seem to know about the national organization, Zelda will create a blog to discuss all the ways in which members of ACB organizations at every level are connected with one another. Rick added that the blog can also be used to inform national leaders and ACB members who are geographically distant from one another about what local chapters and state affiliates are doing.
Zelda also suggested automatically subscribing members to the ACB-Conversation e-mail discussion list when entering them into AMMS as a way to acquaint people who may be primarily interested in local or regional issues with ACB programs and services that are wider in scope.
Editor’s Report, BOP Awards, and Braille Forum Themes
Sharon provided the following editor’s report:
Editor’s Report May 2023
Issue type: electronic
Page count: 48
Email distributed: 5,365
Email bounces: 83
Spam reports: 2
Return rate: 1.55%
Electronic received: 5,282
Issue type: hard-copy
Page count: 48
Braille distributed: 507
Cartridge distributed: TBA
Large print distributed: 2,154
Email distributed: 5,359
Issue type: electronic
Page count: 64
Email to be distributed: TBA
Deadlines for the Next Issues
July 2023: hodgepodge issue; deadline: May 26, 2023
August 2023: travel; deadline: June 23, 2023
September 2023: convention wrap-up issue; deadline: July 24, 2023
The June issue went to Perkins last week for recording. Its main focus was convention, and boy, did our affiliates deliver their convention plans! There’s also a letter to the editor for the first time in months, and there was room for a fun article, too.
The ACB office move was one of the smoothest I can remember. There was no snow for this move, thank goodness! For the next few months we’re in a temporary space while they finish the construction in our space on the sixth floor. So we’ve only unpacked what we’ll need for the next four months. That will slow down my work on the minutes until we move into our space and unpack all the files.
I continue to work with the history and oral archives committee on preserving and digitizing old recordings and documents from ACB events, and identifying people in photos. As part of that work, I am cleaning up and modernizing old issues of the Forum to the large print standards and organizing them on our Sharepoint drive (at the moment, from the 1990s through today, plus a few from the 1980s that I had loose copies of). I’m including Word, text, and BRF file formats in the Forum folders on Sharepoint. I’ve completed 1982 and uploaded those issues. I have finished what I have of the 1983 issues. Michael Byington is putting together a package of the large print issues he has from the early years and sending it to me when it’s ready. He believes he has the December 1983 issue that I’ve been looking for. This should make things much easier!
In my spare time, I continue working to identify people in prior years’ convention photos. I’m currently working my way through 2011. I also have a hard drive with numerous historical photos on it that I will match up with my descriptions lists as time permits. I have uploaded the 2011 photos to Dropbox, along with the descriptions I have made so far, and will share them with the history committee this week in hopes that they can help me identify the people in them.
I continue to record the Washington Connection, and some of the other boxes on our phone system, such as the national convention box, the scholarship information, and the state convention box. I am working on the Washington Connection now and hope to have it updated by the end of this week.
Sharon Lovering, Editor
American Council of the Blind
Sharon added that she is joining the Information, Referral and Peer Support team, and she reminded BOP members that our nominations for BOP awards are due to her by May 15.
Katie said that the BOP awards will be given at this year’s banquet.
We have themes for every issue through the end of the year.
BOP Convention Events and Participation
The Candidates’ Forum is scheduled for June 14.
We will wait until June to talk about how BOP members can help in the convention communications center.
The BOP Mix and Mingle event is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
ACB Media Update
Rick shared two spread sheets via the BOP e-mail list. They contain statistical information regarding podcast downloads and ACB Media listenership for March and April.
In April, there were more than 30,000 downloads of ACBMedia podcasts, as compared to 22,000 in March. (Inclusion of DC Leadership meetings podcasts among downloads in early April may account for the increases in April.) A third of the podcasts downloaded in April were Community podcasts.
Rick said that Larry Gassman and Joyce Feinberg are able to turn streamed programs into available podcasts very quickly.
He said that ACB Media just added the Employment Committee’s podcast to the MainStream line-up.
Recently ACB Media reorganized some of the MainStream content and removed out-of-date content. Listenership for Mainstream has declined, and Rick hopes that adding scheduled MainStream programs to the ACBMedia calendar will help to boost listenership.
ACBMedia has created two new podcast feeds, one for ACB Business, which will contain ACB meetings and other special events, for example, podcasts of ACB Resolutions Committee meetings; and the other for Spanish-language content. Rick sent a message out to ACB-Leadership and ACB-Conversation to announce the new podcast feeds. In that message, he explained how to subscribe to the feeds using RSS capabilities in Outlook.
Katie suggested that we might want to provide training on subscribing to podcasts on a future BOP community call.
Kelly also sent out an announcement to promote the Business and Spanish-Language podcast feeds. Rick and Kelly are planning to send out similar promotional announcements, every two weeks. Rick is particularly interested in promoting the Advocacy Update, which he believes is one of the most informative ACB Media podcasts, but which doesn’t have a large listenership.
Katie suggested the possibility of turning the ACB Voices blog into a podcast, in the same way we provide the convention newspaper as an audio file, using the Microsoft Reader voice. The Member at the Mic BLOGS could also be easily provided as podcasts.
Rick said that dial-in access continues to present problems, especially for people who live in certain parts of the country. Inconsistencies from one day to the next which make it impossible to duplicate poor performance for purposes of reporting and resolving problems make the situation especially frustrating both for ACB Media and for the people who cannot call in and access programming. Zeno continues to maintain that the connection problems are not occurring at their end, i.e., that ACB Media, not Zeno, has to resolve them. He said that the number of people who rely on connecting with Zeno’s dial-in service is relatively large, and it is particularly frustrating for them not to be able to connect to the programs they want to hear. ACB Media encourages listeners to connect via phone numbers in ZOOM when this is possible, but it isn’t always possible, and people are frustrated.
Regarding the plan to contact members who subscribe to hard-copy formats of the Braille Forum, Deb said that Penny had created a script for calling members to find out if the formats to which they are subscribed continue to meet their needs. Before calling individual members, ACB will invite members to call a designated person to let them know if they are satisfied with the format they currently receive, and also provide a one-question survey form which members can complete and return by e-mail. Then, the only people left to call will be those who have not responded via telephone or e-mail. We also plan to host a community call to inform members about the project, explain our reasons for reaching out to subscribers and assure members that we have no plans to eliminate any reading formats. Because it may not be possible to hold the call until after convention, we may not launch the project until later in the summer.
With respect to the information regarding the costs for producing each braille and each large print page and then using those figures to estimate the cost of doubling the number of hard-copy Braille Forum monthly issues, Deb said that, actually, we should use the 64-page count which right now applies only to the online e-forums to base our estimates of projected costs for producing 12 hard-copy issues. If we were to produce 12 hard-copy braille issues, we would also need to produce 12 large print issues. She said, we should consider whether we would choose to produce 12 48-page issues (with a lesser amount of content in each), or do we already know that readers who appreciate the greater amount of content that we can include in the online e-forums would most likely prefer all 12 issues to contain 64 pages. She believes that readers would not choose more hard-copy (braille and large print) 48-page issues if that would preclude making more, and more diverse, content available in each of the 12 issues.
Another consideration that must be applied to a goal of making 12 hard-copy issues available is the shrinking number of braille and print producers who respond to our annual requests for bids. This year, only one print publisher responded, and the number of braille producers continues to decrease, as well.
Acknowledging that ACB is committed to making information available to members in braille, Deb said that our commitment to braille doesn’t necessarily mean a commitment to paper braille. She suggested that the electronic braille equipment that NLS is now distributing to patrons may make it possible for many more braille readers to read the Braille Forum using refreshable braille. Perhaps the BOP can consider providing training to subscribers who choose to use refreshable braille displays for accessing the magazine and other materials published in BRF format, as well.
Cheryl suggested that we could seek specific donor support for producing 12 hard-copy braille issues. Deb said that we already seek donor support in the form of the Braille Forum raffle each summer, but even when we sell all of the tickets, and even when some affiliates dedicate annual donations specifically to the Braille Forum, and we receive dedicated grant funding from Delta Gamma each year, the amount raised is far exceeded by the cost of producing the magazine. In addition, she said, any dedicated funding would need to be sustainable.
She believes it would not be proper to apply dedicated funding to the magazine while neglecting to fund other ACB priorities.
Deb said that she and Katie would be attending the BRL board meeting scheduled for Monday, May 8, to discuss the board’s decision not to fund an additional six braille issues this year, as well as the plan to contact people who subscribe to hard-copy issues of the Forum to make sure their format choices continue to meet their needs.
The meeting adjourned at 9:53 p.m. The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Publications will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern on June 6.
Penny Reeder, Member
ACB Board of Publications