INSIDE ACB - Spring 2019

Eric Bridges with Marilee Talkington at ACB Convention
Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, and Marilee Talkington, professional low vision actress, at ACB’s 2018 convention.

A Message from the Executive Director

Happy new year! January is named for the Latin word for door (ianua), since it’s the door to a new year and an opening to new beginnings. I hope you all had a safe, happy and healthy holiday season. I’d like to take this time to go back through that door and review 2018.

In January, airlines were reviewing and tightening their service animal policies after a woman tried to board a flight with an emotional support peacock at Newark International Airport. ACB worked with Delta Air Lines, among others, to revise their guidelines and relax many of the stringent policies for individuals with legitimately trained service animals, which have already undergone great scrutiny and training before being released in the community with their handlers.

Around the same time, ACB worked with NCIS producers on the development of the character Annie, a blind attorney played by visually impaired actress Marilee Talkington on “Sight Unseen,” episode 350 of NCIS. An in-depth article on how this episode came to be and ACB’s involvement in it appeared in the Cordillera, Mont. “World Now”; view the article at www.acb.org

In late February, ACB formed a partnership with Disability:IN (formerly the U.S. Business Leadership Network) to increase the rate of employment for people who are blind or visually impaired and advocate for enhanced workplace accessibility. Collaboration is a core value of ACB, and working with Disability:IN provides opportunities to educate and advocate for corporations to hire, employ and support people who are blind or visually impaired, ensuring application, on-boarding and on-the-job processes are accessible. This partnership will strengthen business diversity initiatives, as well as enhance Disability:IN’s current programs and services for talented individuals with disabilities.

In February, ACB established The Legacy Endowment Fund, a fund which will grow, both through investment growth and through new bequests coming to ACB. At some point, to be determined in the future, ACB will begin to draw from this endowment to help with annual operations. But, perhaps most importantly, The Legacy Fund will ensure ACB’s financial future and help to perpetuate ACB’s important work for many years to come.

In March, the Senate introduced the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559). This legislation will pave the way for ratification of INSIDE ACB A publication of the American Council of the Blind | Spring 2019 A Message from the Executive Director Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, and Marilee Talkington, professional low vision actress, at ACB’s 2018 convention. the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty. ACB was the first U.S. blindness organization to go to the U.N. member agency nearly 10 years ago to discuss what would eventually become the Marrakesh Treaty. This treaty will help to overcome the shortage of accessible media around the world for people who are blind or who have other print disabilities. Through our advocacy both here and abroad, ACB has been able to play a significant role in carrying the treaty across the finish line. The legislation passed the Senate in late September, and was signed into law by the President in October.

Claire Stanley joined the ACB national office staff as the outreach specialist. She came to us from the Mid-Atlantic ADA Technical Assistance Center. Originally from southern California, she has a strong background as an advocate for people with disabilities. Joining the staff in Minnesota this year were Nancy Christine Feela and Nicole Beito.

Tony Stephens and Eric Bridges testing phones
Tony Stephens and Eric Bridges test out the new Cisco 8800 phones.

ACB, in collaboration with Cisco, announced the availability of the first enterprise-grade desk phone that includes built-in text-to-speech functionality capable of conveying vital information on the display through audible voice and tone indicators. The software update for Cisco’s 8800 phone system is a huge step toward making the digital workplace more accessible for the blind and visually impaired. This momentous announcement represented a year’s collaboration by ACB and Cisco.

Thirteen disability related emojis
The 13 disability related emoji ACB collaborated on with Apple.

ACB also worked with Apple on a set of new emoji to provide better representation of people with disabilities. The 13 emoji include guide dogs, hearing aids, prosthetic limbs and people using canes and wheelchairs. These new emoji have been approved, and they will be released in 2019.

As a result of ACB’s structured negotiations, CVS pharmacies obtained the ability to dispense controlled substance medications with the AccessA-Med talking prescription labels. Patients seeking Access-A-Med labels for controlled substances should contact their local CVS pharmacist. CVS continues to dispense non-controlled prescription medications with ScripTalk talking labels through cvs.com. To sign up for ScripTalk labels, contact cvs.com at 1-888-861-4363

ACB members Doug Wakefield and Don Barrett were featured in a WUSA9 video about how new technology is making life easier for people with disabilities. You may find the video at www.tinyurl. com/yaznjotw. Wakefield and Barrett were also featured in two “USA Today” articles; you may read them at www.tinyurl.com/ybjv393v and www.tinyurl. com/ycto8ekg.

In May, I had the honor to be featured with my son Tyler in a Microsoft video called AI for Accessibility, which is available at www.tinyurl.com/yavxlg49. For the audio-described version, go to www. acb.org/build-ai-accessibility-video-w-audiodescription. This video kicked off the Microsoft Build conference, and was viewed live by more than 700,000 people. It also introduced the AI for Accessibility grants program, which is a $25 million 5-year program to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions to benefit the more than 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities. Through AI for Accessibility, Microsoft will provide support with grants of technology, AI expertise, and platform-level services to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions and build on recent advancements in Microsoft Cognitive Services.

historic Union Station hotel in St. Louis, Missouri
ACB’s annual convention was held at the historic Union Station hotel in St. Louis, Missouri in 2018.

In July, ACB held its annual convention at the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis. It was jam-packed with information, award winners, scholarship winners, recognition of the year’s achievements and ACB members (both past and present) who have made significant contributions to the work of the organization, and major sponsors whose work has positively impacted the lives of ACB members and other blind people throughout America and the world. Among the highlights were presentations from Marilee Talkington, who played Annie Barth, a blind attorney who heard vital evidence needed to solve a crime on NCIS, and Richard Turner, the master card mechanic and star of the documentary “Dealt.”

Also during our convention, we hosted our Annual Giving Society Reception where we acknowledged and thanked ACB donors; this year, special guests Sue Hammann and Kristy Stephenson, from the Delta Gamma Fraternity joined us, sharing their mission and passion about serving individuals who are blind or visually impaired! It was a delight hosting them and the Delta Gamma Foundation has been a financial supporter of ACB over the past three years! You can watch a video of the reception at www.acb.org.

This summer and fall saw many natural disasters: wildfires in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, and hurricanes Florence and Michael on the east coast, Lane, Olivia, Walaka and Willa on the west coast. ACB’s Disaster Relief Fund is still active. Financial contributions to the ACB Disaster Relief Fund may be made at www.donate.acb.org/relief. If you prefer to pay by check, send to: American Council of the Blind, 6300 Shingle Creek Parkway, Suite 195, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430. Be sure to write in the memo field on your check that your gift is for disaster relief. Gift cards can also be sent to the above address. If you would prefer to donate via phone, call 1-800-866-3242.

In September, ACB’s advocacy team began doing podcasts and live Facebook broadcasts. Claire Stanley and Tony Stephens have covered such ACB’s annual convention was held at the historic Union Station hotel in St. Louis, Missouri in 2018. topics as voting, diabetic eye disease, the latest news from Hulu, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the Marrakesh Treaty and associated legislation.

In October I joined Ellee Pai Hong of Comcast for a discussion of ACB’s efforts to increase the independence and quality of life for the blind and visually impaired community through collaboration with companies developing innovative technology solutions for everyday life. The video went live on their blog, www.comcastnewsmakers.com/ Videos/2018/10/4/Smart-Tech-Making-aDifference.

In November, ACB collaborated with Verizon, Aira, General Motors, and The GPS Alliance to hold a panel discussion on artificial intelligence and accessibility. Panelists were Anirudh Koul, Aira, Head of Intelligence and Research; J. David Grossman, The GPS Alliance, Executive Director; Reagan Payne, General Motors, Manager, Emerging Technologies Policy; and ACB’s own Tony Stephens. You may view it on www.facebook.com/ AmericanCounciloftheBlindOfficial.

ACB hosted a meeting of the North America/ Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. Attendees heard from Kenneth Suratt, Executive Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Blind Welfare Association, on the state of blind people in his country. Topics included audio description, the Marrakesh Treaty, quiet cars, braille, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, children and youth, and library services.

t’s a new year, and there will be challenges for us to face. What kinds of challenges? I don’t yet know. But the one thing I do know is this; we will need your ongoing support and assistance!


How You Can Help:

Give the gift of independence and opportunity through planned giving! A planned gift to the American Council of the Blind creates a lasting legacy. Whether you are blind or visually impaired yourself, a relative or friend of someone who is, or a person who wants to make a difference, your support of ACB will:

• Enrich your life and the lives of many others;

• Increase awareness of the capabilities of people who are blind or visually impaired;

• Help remove barriers preventing an equitable level of inclusion in society.

A bequest or other type of planned gift to ACB will be added to The Legacy Endowment Fund, established in 2018 to perpetuate ACB’s mission and goals for years to come! These funds are invested in such a way to ensure that ACB’s important programs and services will be there for individuals impacted by vision loss well into the future. For more information or to communicate that ACB is included in your estate plans, please call Tom Tobin, Director of Development, at (202) 559-2045. Your communication will be kept in the strictest of confidence.