by Melanie Brunson

It may be hard for some to believe, but it's almost time for ACB's 2005 national convention! As I write this, folks are busy putting together the pre-registration forms and if my estimates are correct, you should be getting one very soon after you read this article. There are a number of exciting programs and activities planned for this year's convention. I want to encourage each of you to attend this convention, and to plan to stay for the legislative seminar on Saturday, July 9. It is my expectation that Day Al-Mohamed and I will have a number of significant legislative developments to report to you at that time.

This has been a very busy time for us in both the legislative and advocacy arenas. Here is a sneak preview of the kinds of items that have kept us all in high gear since our last convention.

ACB and a couple of its affiliates have had significant opportunities to provide input to cell phone service providers on how to make their handsets more accessible. We were part of a program on accessibility during the convention of the Cellular Telephone and Internet Association, and we have provided feedback on prototype phones to both Sprint and Nextel. Our contacts with Cingular and other major cell phone providers continue to be very positive, and we are likely to have several accessible cell phones on display in our convention exhibit hall this year.

We are making some inroads toward making the electronic appliance industry aware of the concerns of people with visual impairments about the increasing inaccessibility of home appliances. It is too early to say much more than that, but stay tuned. We may have more to say about this in reports to the convention.

The Election Assistance Commission has sought input specifically from ACB about access to voting equipment and the election process, and their response to our comments has been very positive. Their work is, of course, ongoing, but Day should have some additional information about these discussions during the legislative seminar.

We have also been very involved in discussions about emergency preparedness procedures around the country. In the course of these discussions, ACB has taken every opportunity to alert public officials and the communications industry to the need for making emergency information that is broadcast on television more accessible to those who can't read the print as it scrawls across their TV screens. These activities have been very rewarding.

Of course, we continue to work to increase the availability of audio description, both in film and television. We are excited to report that the bill to restore description to television will be introduced in both houses of Congress by the time you read this! There will be a number of things to tell you about this issue by July.

As I write, we are still uncertain what the fate of efforts to reauthorize the Rehabilitation Act will be. Negotiations between the administration and Congress are ongoing. We are among the disability groups trying to influence the outcome of those negotiations. I would be surprised if we get to July without some kind of action to report on this issue.

There are some items that are of particular interest to students and teachers. We should be able to give you some information by July about efforts to address concerns regarding accommodations provided for blind people taking exams for graduate school admission, and we may have some interesting things to report about access to textbooks.

We have much to be proud of, and a lot of work yet to be done. Every member of ACB is important to the process of determining the nature of this work and getting it done. I hope each of you will be in Las Vegas to help with this work and to spur your friends and fellow members on.

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