by Mitch Pomerantz

In September, this column covered the first portion of my report to the membership at the ACB national convention. Here's the second installment of that report.

I want to mention at this point a brand-new initiative related to audio description. In January ACB contracted with Joel Snyder, one of the nation's foremost experts on the subject, to oversee what we're calling the ACB Audio Description Project. Our goal is to expand the use of audio description on television, the movies and DVDs, and to raise public awareness regarding the value of this technology. At our convention this week, ACB is holding a describers' conference and training seminar, and Joel will be seeking grant opportunities to promote this initiative. You will be hearing much more about the Audio Description Project through 2009 and beyond.

As you know if you've reviewed the convention program, ACB's two outstanding attorneys, Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian, were unable to be with us this year. They have, however, provided a comprehensive update of their activities on our behalf. This is the 14th year ACB has worked with Lainey and Linda using structured negotiations to increase accessibility across the country for blind and visually impaired persons. Since last July, there have been five new settlement agreements signed and five new negotiations begun. These include:

- Last year in Louisville, several members met with Dollar General corporate representatives at a local store. Discussion concerned the training of store staff and those present tested a tactile point-of-sale (POS) solution for the chain's existing flat-screen devices. In December ACB, the California Council of the Blind, AFB and Dollar General announced that the company would install tactile keypads in all 8,000 of its stores by the middle of next year.

- Also in December, the Illinois Council of the Blind signed an agreement with TCF Bank, which agreed to install talking ATM's and provide materials in Braille, large print and audio formats.

- In April ACB, CCB and the Bay State Council of the Blind jointly announced an agreement with the Staples office supply chain to install tactile POS keypads in all its stores by mid-2010, and to make its web site comply with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

- In May, a settlement was signed with Target regarding tactile POS's. Devices will be installed in every store by the end of 2010. ACB and AFB were the other parties in the negotiations.

- A settlement has just been signed with CVS Pharmacies calling for installation of tactile POS devices and the accessibility of its web site.

Currently, structured negotiations are proceeding with three high-profile entities:

- ACB, CCB and Bay State have been negotiating with Major League Baseball about accessibility of information and services available on While things are still not perfect, there have been significant improvements this year.

- In May, the American Cancer Society agreed to work with ACB in structured negotiations to ensure that its health and cancer prevention information is accessible to us. We are working on braille, large print and audio formats, as well as the accessibility of its web site.

- ACB is also announcing that Wal-Mart has agreed to work with us on the important issue of access to prescription information, including prescription labeling. Lainey and Linda had previously engaged in successful structured negotiations with Wal-Mart relating to POS devices.

- We have just learned that Best Buy has signed a structured negotiations agreement and discussions are under way about POS devices in Best Buy stores across the country.

- Finally, as the result of individual advocacy efforts by a member in Washington state, ACB is involved in structured negotiations with the Whole Foods grocery chain about its point-of-sale devices.

The second aspect of the job of ACB president involves the handling of internal organizational matters. This includes the appointment of members to approximately 25 committees and task forces. I'd like to briefly spotlight a few of those committees and task forces with the understanding that the ones not mentioned are doing valuable work as well.

- At our 2008 national convention, the rehabilitation issues task force conducted a very successful workshop focusing on our Rehabilitation White Paper. They will be holding a follow-upworkshop tomorrow afternoon specifically addressing the topic of informed choice.

- Our women's concerns committee will be hosting several timely and informative sessions this week. Earlier this year, the committee established a monthly telephonic support group for survivors of breast cancer.

- The employment issues committee will also be conducting a workshop, as well as (and this may be a first for ACB) a Thursday afternoon job fair.

- Toward the beginning of the year, the public relations committee undertook the training and mentoring of state and special-interest affiliate public relations representatives. So far, more than a score of our members have participated.

- The board also recently established task forces on health issues and fitness equipment, which I expect to yield positive results as well.

These committees and task forces are prime examples of what strong, active committees can do. I'm proud of their accomplishments and fully anticipate this same level of commitment in 2010 and beyond.

I'll wrap up my report to the membership in November.

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