by Penny Reeder
President Deb Cook Lewis called the June 30, 2023 pre-convention board meeting to order at 9 a.m. Central time in Schaumburg, Illinois. All ACB board members, except for Chris Bell, who was excused, were present. The board approved the agenda, along with the minutes of the April 25 meeting and the consent agenda. To hear the podcast of the meeting, visit https://tinyurl.com/bdd2b7w9.
President Lewis said that the work of the voting task force and the constitution and bylaws committee will take on a higher priority as ACB makes plans for future conventions. ACB will be establishing additional work groups to evaluate and ultimately determine what formats will work best for the conventions following Jacksonville and Dallas.
Executive Director’s Report
Dan Spoone described two meetings in which he participated along with other advocates for making changes in U.S. paper currency. At a high-level meeting where he was invited to represent ACB, United States Treasurer Marilynn Malerba reassured Dan that the process of making paper currency accessible is — and can be expected to remain — on track. In a June 8 meeting with representatives from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Secret Service, and others, Dan learned about the milestones that have to be reached as the Bureau moves forward toward releasing a tactually accessible $10 bill scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2026, with other accessible denominations to follow.
“I have learned so much about money in these past several months,” Dan enthused, describing some of the complexities associated with printing and circulating paper currency.
Dan described the massive effort, launched at the end of the leadership conference, that resulted in securing most of the sponsors for the 2023 convention. Dan and Jo Lynn Bailey-Page emphasized that much of this success derived from staff members and ACB leaders’ intentional reliance on their personal relationships with colleagues as a means of attracting corporate and foundation sponsors.
Dan discussed the audio-visual team put together by Rick Morin and the ACB Media crew for the 2023 convention. The team will use some equipment that ACB Media owns and will leverage the expertise of many individuals whom ACB has relied upon for various projects. He encouraged convention attendees to share their feedback on the quality of audio and visual streams and recordings.
Director of Advocacy Report
Clark Rachfal stated that ACB is working with Sen. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) on reintroduction of the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act in the 118th Congress.
Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL) has reintroduced the Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act as H.R. 1328. The bill has 48 co-sponsors, including 4 Republicans. Introduction of a Senate bill is a priority, and ACB will work to make it bipartisan as well.
ACB will be submitting comments on the Department of Housing and Urban Development Advance Notice of Proposed Rule-Making and on non-discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Swatha said that ACB had recently led a sign-on letter effort advocating for legislation to create a national framework for the research, testing, and deployment of accessible autonomous vehicles. Congress is negotiating an extension of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, which is set to expire in mid-September. The legislative package for the FAA reauthorization includes several provisions on accessibility for blind and low vision travelers, such as access to airline websites, applications, and kiosks; accessible in-flight entertainment; and improved access for guide and service dog users.
Finally, Clark assured ACB that he and Swatha are available to assist state affiliates which are vigorously advocating for their right to have an accessible way to vote remotely.
The Audio Description Project Report
Tabitha Kenlon, ACB’s Audio Description Project Coordinator, updated the board on the many activities on which the team is currently focusing. She described the very successful and well-attended ADP Conference, which featured seven panel discussions covering key topics in the field of audio description. She previewed the ADP awards presentations. This year’s winners include two blind audio describers. The convention presentation will feature the 2023 winner of the Benefits of Audio Description in Education (BADIE) contest reading her winning essay. Preparations for the Audio Description Awards Gala, scheduled for November 14, are going well, and the Pullman Museum has been selected as the venue for next February’s Descript-a-thon.
Gabriel Lopez-Kafati announced that the Audio Description Awards Gala will be simultaneously streamed in Spanish. He thanked Dicapta for their continuing assistance with ACB’s Spanish translations.
Resource Development Report
Jo Lynn Bailey-Page highlighted the primary fund-raising goals and several first and second-quarter achievements of ACB’s Resource Development team, which includes Jo Lynn, Kolby Garrison, and Bill Reeder. The team has been writing grant reports, applying for new grants, and raising corporate funds in support of the ACB Annual Fund, the Leadership Conference, the convention, and the Audio Description Awards Gala. The team has created two introductory courses, with the goal of establishing a formal fund-raising training program.
Their 2023 goals include retaining 2022 donors, nurturing relationships with them, and launching campaigns to identify potential new donors. In addition, they are focusing on ways to highlight ACB’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility, with the objective of attracting specific corporate and foundation grant funding.
Jo Lynn said that the challenges of the past year have motivated the team to strengthen ACB’s case for support. The team has been revamping the collection of documents that convey ACB’s mission and describe the transformative impact of our work for people who are blind.
Kelly Gasque, ACB’s Manager of Communications, highlighted the opportunities for wider outreach and enhanced communications that the major events on ACB’s annual calendar represent. She said that ACB can take pride in the fact that every event associated with the virtual D.C. Leadership Conference was streamed in real time, in both English and Spanish. The Audio Description Awards Gala offers even more opportunities for widening our outreach to the Spanish-speaking community via advertising on Spanish-language radio and promotions through Telemundo and Dicapta.
Kelly pointed to several innovations that enhanced ACB’s communications during the rally, including construction of a lengthy timeline that illustrates just how long our struggle to achieve accessible paper currency has been; utilization of pre-populated tweets directed to the Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Biden Administration; extensive use of social media; and the use of QR codes to direct people to resources for further information.
She said that recently increased availability of artificial intelligence applications has allowed ACB Media to save time and increase outreach through extensive use of our podcasting capability for reading the content of documents and materials, such as the proposed constitutional amendments and resolutions.
ACB Media has introduced two new podcast feeds, one for special events which are aggregated on ACB Business, and a Spanish-language podcast feed. The enhancements to the ACB Link app will also streamline convention-related communications. ACB’s efforts to increase our social media outreach are paying off, with a 71 percent increase in Instagram followers and a 99.75 percent increase in LinkedIn followers.
Dan added that ACB is averaging 30,000 podcast downloads a month. Preparing these podcasts requires a massive amount of effort, and he and Kelly both expressed their appreciation to Larry Gassman, Sharon Lovering and the many volunteers who promote community programs and assist with these conversions.
Kelly noted that she and others are investigating what needs to be done to establish ACB’s presence on Mastodon, the popular Twitter alternative to which many blind people have recently migrated.
Membership Engagement Report
Cindy Hollis, Manager of Membership Engagement, expressed her thanks and appreciation to Natalie Couch, who had stepped up to assure that all of the tasks associated with keeping the ACB Community up and running smoothly were accomplished.
She shared a summary of membership statistics derived from the annual certification report. Since 2020, membership in many of ACB’s special-interest affiliates has increased, while membership in nearly all state affiliates decreased. The number of ACB state affiliates decreased by one. The end-of-year totals for individual membership increased by 5 percent over the count reported in March. She expects to welcome a new South Carolina affiliate in 2024.
CFO Nancy Becker updated the board on ACB’s financial status. She included an income statement as of the end of the first quarter of 2023 and a summary of income associated with various programs, and David Trott, ACB’s treasurer, shared the financial narrative with the board. Nancy stated that ACB received a clean audit report.
Following acceptance of the staff reports, Michael Garrett, chair of the ACB Enterprises and Services board, sang the praises of the team that makes ACBES successful, paying special attention to the many innovations which day-to-day manager Chris Sawyer has brought to store operating practices. Chris’ experience in retail continues to make a positive difference in the stores’ revenue. His creative ideas have allowed the stores to build a stable customer base, and to see it grow. ACBES’ contribution to ACB for the first quarter of the year was $106,800, which is 40 percent higher than predicted in the annual budget.
Michael said that his goal for ACBES is to contribute 20 percent of ACB’s overall budget.
Penny Reeder reported that the BOP has thrived under the leadership of Katie Frederick, who has served as BOP chair for the past several years. Katie announced her resignation, and the board applauded to express their gratitude. Penny encouraged ACB members to visit the ACB Voices blog (https://acbvoices.wordpress.com/), to subscribe, to listen to some of the “Member at the Mic” pieces, and to submit their own content.
Clark and Swatha reported on the status of 2022 resolutions. Clark began by thanking and praising Sharon Lovering’s ingenuity and commitment to the goals of our organization, so well represented by her posting of a complete index of all of ACB’s resolutions on the ACB Resolutions web page (https://acb.org/resolutions).
Clark told the board how Sharon was able to locate a resolution which was adopted in a year for which ACB had no easily accessible paper records, to unearth the hard-bound volume of that year’s Braille Forums (which was buried inside one of the moving boxes). She found the requested resolution, scanned it, and shared it with a standards-writing committee who had requested ACB’s input.
Clark and Swatha reported progress toward reaching essential goals of a number of 2022 resolutions, and ongoing work to achieve the goals of others.
Donna Brown reported that the walk committee had already raised more than half of this year’s monetary goal for the walk.
Ray Campbell thanked the host committee members for their hard work.
The fall board meeting will be held Sept. 29-30 in Jacksonville, Fla.