by Kim Charlson
By the time most of you read this message, ACB will be gathering to meet and will be electing its next president. I marvel on how six years could go by so quickly. I have had so many amazing experiences, met many dedicated and committed members, worked hard on serious and important issues for people who are blind, traveled to exciting and not so exciting places around the globe, and learned so much from so many people.
I was honored to represent ACB and the United States in several countries as one of ACB’s delegates for the World Blind Union. I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Antigua, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. There were always challenges in new countries with different customs and traditions, but I hope I left people with positive feelings about the work of ACB and our great nation.
I had opportunities to work with so many of our wonderful staff on many important issues. Their dedication to ACB’s key issues is stellar, and their persistence is noteworthy. The same can be said about the leadership of ACB – the various board members I have worked with over the last six years; the committee chairs, and affiliate presidents – all have strong commitment and intent for making their community, state, or affiliate a strong organization providing advocacy and leadership to people who are blind wherever it is needed. I always knew where to turn for support and assistance on the key issues.
I also had the opportunity to work and advocate with industry on many issues of importance to our community. One area of particular importance to me is access to television and audio description. Let me share with you an interesting Internet access case I worked on with Tom Wlodkowski of Comcast. All involved deserve a big shout-out for working to make something very special happen for a 92-year-old woman in rural Virginia.
An ACB member in North Carolina reached out to me about her cousin’s grandmother, who is totally blind. Her family purchased her an Alexa so she could listen to books and have some entertainment. They were working with Comcast and were told that they would have to pay $1,200 up front in order to get Internet service. The family asked for my help to find a solution to this problem.
As background, she was having a hard time adjusting to using the library player and other technology. When she went into the hospital recently, her social worker and physical therapist requested that her family get her Alexa – which requires Wi-Fi. It was thought that it would be easier for her to learn since she would not be required to learn a computer-like device first. An Alexa device would help with setting alarms, timers, reminders, etc.
After I reached out to Tom Wlodkowski asking for his intervention, he got back to me with the following positive news: “Great news! Just heard from my go-to person in our special operations team that handles escalations for me. She worked with the local market in Virginia and they were able to find a way to get service to this customer with no construction costs! They reached out to the contact to arrange everything.” My thanks to Tom and the Comcast team for making this a reality for someone who really needed access.
I have always enjoyed solving problems, making system change, and working for the good of all. Being president of ACB provided me an opportunity to channel my interests and passions toward positive system change. I will always value my time as ACB president, and know I still have much work to do for ACB in several areas. I will continue to work on international issues with the World Blind Union, there is always work to do with the Audio Description Project, and I have taken on a new leadership assignment guiding the Subject Matter Expert Committee to develop an international certification for audio describers and audio describer consultants for the ACVREP over the next two years. I also anticipate providing support to the next president in whatever way I can moving forward. And I may even have some time to catch up on some recreational reading that has backed up since I was elected president. Whatever I do, ACB will be at the forefront in my heart moving forward. Thank you to all of you for giving me one of the greatest opportunities to serve that I can imagine. It has been an honor!