National Conference/Convention Report, Part I

by Mitch Pomerantz

Ladies and gentlemen: For the fifth time since being elected president of the American Council of the Blind, I come before you on a Sunday evening in July to offer my report to you, the thousands of men and women comprising our ACB family.  Whether you are attending our 51st annual national conference and convention in person, listening throughout the nation and the world on ACB Radio, or reading these words in the pages of "The Braille Forum," you are a part of our dynamic and democratic organization.  I welcome all of you regardless of how my remarks are reaching you, and I want to publicly acknowledge that without your support and participation, there would be no American Council of the Blind.  With this conference and convention we conclude the first year of ACB's second half-century as a grass-roots, consumer advocacy organization.

Since addressing you a year ago in Reno, Donna and I have lived through "interesting times," as the Chinese proverb euphemistically defines the notion of a challenge.  When I last came to Louisville in early October for ACB's fall board meeting, I was unaware that I'd somehow contracted a staph infection in my neck which ultimately led in late October, in the midst of the CCB convention, to my hospitalization for six days.  The prayers and support so many of you offered us during that time were sincerely appreciated.

I need at this point to personally thank our friends Michael and Peggy Garrett.  Michael was ACB's national representative at the CCB convention, and the Garretts were pillars of strength for Donna during that weekend since I insisted she still had a convention to run.  Thanks guys!

And of course, I want to publicly recognize and thank Donna for nursing me back to relative health and for putting up with me as a patient for almost four months.  I am now recovered, or at least as recovered as I'm probably going to be without the disk surgery the doctor wanted to perform almost immediately upon my arrival in the emergency ward.  I refused his generous offer; I recovered anyway, so here I stand.

ACB has addressed its own interesting times since last we gathered.  I'll cover some of them and what we're doing to deal with them over the next several minutes but first, some well-deserved "thank-you"s are in order.

As I've stated in previous reports to the membership, the everyday work of ACB is carried out by our small but dedicated professional and administrative staff working in our Minnesota and Virginia offices.  Our executive director, Melanie Brunson, controller, Lane Waters, director of advocacy and governmental affairs, Eric Bridges, director of development, Steven Obremski (even though he works from his home in North Carolina), and "Braille Forum" editor, Sharon Lovering, all work tirelessly to make our lives and the lives of blind and visually impaired people everywhere better.  And to Barbara in Arlington, Lori and Chi in Brooklyn Center, and our other support staff who keep the wheels turning and the gears oiled, a special acknowledgement and salute for your efforts.  On behalf of the ACB membership, I thank you.

I also want to recognize and thank the 15 other members of the ACB board of directors and the five members of the board of publications.  I've worked hard to keep the board of directors busy while Paul Edwards, the BOP chair, has kept that group active as well.  In turn, both entities have made sure to keep us honest and on our toes.

At the close of this convention, two directors, Billie Jean Keith and David Trott, will conclude their second and final terms while Ken Stewart will wrap up his third and last term on the BOP.  All three have made valuable contributions as members and leaders on their respective boards and I want to thank them for their service to ACB.

Let me also mention the contributions of a former member of the board of publications, Jenine Stanley, who resigned for personal reasons at the end of 2011.  I was sorry to lose Jenine's experience on the BOP, but have her commitment that we'll be able to draw upon her expertise as a techie when we need it.

Jenine's replacement on the BOP is no stranger to veteran ACB'ers as he was the editor of "The Braille Forum" a number of years ago: Nolan Crabb.  He has definitely hit the ground running, as they say, assuming the chair of ACB's web task force, which is responsible for updating and managing our web site and presence on the Internet under the auspices of the board of publications.

Speaking of such things, ACB's new web administrator, Annette Carter, joined us in January, right around the same time as Nolan.  Annette has considerable experience, most recently managing CCLVI's web site.  She comes from California, and thanks for Annette's recruitment go to a CCLVI board member and the CCB president, none other than Donna.  Fortunately, I didn't have to pay her a recruitment bonus.  That could have been really expensive.

Let me begin by talking about what started as a serious challenge over this past year, but is about to become a noteworthy success for ACB.  As you know, in 2011 ACB commenced working on the problem of the inaccessibility of information on prescription drug labels with the introduction of H.R. 4087, the Accessible Prescription Drug Labeling Promotion Act, by an old friend of ours, Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.  This lack of access has jeopardized the health and safety of every blind and visually impaired person who takes prescription medication.  Mr. Markey understood the seriousness of the problem.

Stay tuned for the next installment in the October-November issue.