The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is seeking a Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs to work in its national office in Alexandria, VA. The primary duties of this position will include: Leads the promotion and development of ACB's advocacy and legislative agendas (e.g., strategic goals, initiatives). Recommends actions to be taken and policies to be adopted by ACB. Oversees the implementation of resolutions adopted at ACB Conventions. Represents ACB on advisory committees and consultative bodies seeking organizational input. Monitors bills, speeches, and statements of government leaders, political influencers, regulators and legislative bodies. Monitors media, research reports, and analytics on issues of interest to ACB. Leads the drafting of proposed legislative and regulatory language for presentation to Congressional offices, administrative agencies, and other relevant stakeholders. Prepares written comments on pending legislation and proposed regulations. Presents oral comments on pending legislation at public sessions with regulatory bodies and Congressional committee hearings. Develops and maintains ongoing working relationships with members of Congress, Congressional staff and agency administrators to promote ACB's legislative and advocacy agendas. Establishes and maintains cooperative relationships with other disability and civil and human rights organizations to expand ACB’s sphere of influence. Creates and enhances collaborative relationships with corporations and private stakeholders in order to influence the usability and accessibility of their product and service offerings. Plans for and executes annual legislative seminar and Congressional fly in, including securing policy influencers and other stakeholders to present to ACB members. Serves as staff liaison to ACB committees, including ACB’s Resolutions Committee that meets at the annual conference and convention. Provides technical assistance to ACB members and affiliates pursuing advocacy projects. Oversees, and in complex situations responds to, requests for information and advice concerning the rights and/or obligations of individuals and organizations regarding blindness-related issues, and providing referral to other appropriate sources of assistance. Prepares external communication on legislative, judicial, and administrative developments for ACB content channels (e.g., ACB Radio, social media) and external content channels. Ensures that ACB members receive timely communications regarding ongoing legislative and advocacy initiatives. Other duties as assigned by the Executive Director. The Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs reports to the Executive Director. The successful candidate must have: Strong attention to detail. Excellent written and oral communication skills, including public speaking. Drive to take initiative with limited guidance. Knowledge of service-delivery systems and government programs impacting people who are blind. Ability to manage multiple tasks and priorities simultaneously. Ability to effectively direct and manage the performance of direct reports. Ability to respond promptly and meet deadlines. Ability to locate and quickly comprehend laws and regulations. Knowledge of applicable laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, and executive orders. Knowledge of the democratic political process. General familiarity with assistive devices and technology used by people who are blind or visually impaired. Ability to travel as circumstances require. Ability to work evenings and weekends as needed, including participating in meetings and conference calls with ACB committees and affiliates. Desirable skills or training include general familiarity with assistive devices used by people who are blind, and a degree in political science or law, or other specific disability-related advocacy training. Experience in the use of social media to communicate organizational messages is highly desired. Salary depends upon experience. Applicants must send a resume, cover letter, and brief writing sample by e-mail to email@example.com. Applications must be received in the ACB national office by no later than December 19, 2018.
We’re writing to share some exciting news from our friends at Aira. We’re excited to announce a special shopping opportunity exclusively for ACB members who are Aira Explorers. Aira is offering ACB members 120 minutes of free Aira service for any tasks related to shopping, valid from the Friday following Thanksgiving, November 23, 2018, (Black Friday) through to Christmas, December 25, 2018. How can I take advantage of this offer? Be both an ACB member and an Aira Explorer. Connect with an Aira agent and ask them to add “ACB Member” to your profile. Go shopping with Aira! Make sure you tell the agent that you’re an ACB Member and that you’re using the ACB Shopping Promotion. ACB affiliates should reach out to their members to explain how the offer works, and to ensure members know to update their Aira profiles to reflect their ACB membership. Get ready to make the most of your shopping this holiday season with Aira! Remember, as an ACB Member you’re getting 120 minutes of free Aira service, valid from Black Friday through to Christmas. Just make sure an Aira agent adds “ACB Member” to your profile!
“Dots and Dashes from Washington” is a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB stories. Many are success stories. This issue also includes a dash of sad news. Accessible Voting The Oct. 24th episode of ACB’s Advocacy Update podcast features Claire Stanley and Tony Stephens from ACB’s advocacy team as they focus on equal access at the voting booth going into the November 6th mid-term elections. They share the current state of accessible voting in America and offer resources for when access barriers rise. Email question and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Link to podcast: http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-october-24-2018 Looking for a job? Sign up with Aira for 100 free minutes! To recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), Aira is pleased to announce a special program available to ACB members to foster employment opportunities. Aira, the service that connects people who are blind or low vision with remote sighted assistance, supports employment by providing customers (also known as Explorers) free service for activities related to finding and securing employment. The Aira Employment program has been available to our Explorers since February 2018. We offer free service to job-seekers as they navigate employment sites, fill out applications, build resumes, choose outfits, and travel to and from meetings with prospective employers. Aira will extend this opportunity to ACB members who are not Aira customers yet, so they can use the Aira app on their smartphone for 100 minutes of free employment-related service. Individuals will be able to initiate this temporary Aira Account for employment services starting November 12, 2018. How Does This Offer Work? ACB affiliate leaders are asked to reach out to their members to collect the names, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members who are not already Aira Explorers and who wish to use Aira to help find a job. Then, we ask that affiliate leaders send the contact information they’ve collected to Paul Schroeder at Aira who will ensure that ACB members are validated to use Aira as a Guest for the employment-related offer. To reiterate, this is for ACB members who are not currently Aira Explorers. How Will ACB Members (Aira Guests) Access the Offer? To use this opportunity, individuals must download the Aira app onto their smartphones (iPhone or Android). The Aira app is available in the App Store, Play Store, or at https://www.aira.io/app. Sign up for a free Guest account by tapping the banner at the top of the home screen that says “Tap to use Aira as a Guest for FREE.” A Guest can use Aira at many locations where Aira Access has been deployed, as well as with certain offers in the “Call using a Free Offer” section of the app. From November 12, and once Aira receives the name, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members interested in this opportunity, we will authenticate temporary Aira accounts for 100 free minutes for conducting job-finding activities. Aira will also offer a free month of service for any ACB Guest who finds a job and signs up for an Aira plan. As this offer is specifically designed to help foster employment, please be aware that our agents will be asked to end sessions that are not related to job-seeking. In addition, the 100 minutes will only be available for use through the end of December 2018. Aira is truly enthusiastic about its partnership with ACB and the opportunity to improve the employment situation for people who are blind or have low vision. Focus on Diabetic Retinopathy The Halloween episode of the ACB Advocacy Update is now available! Listen in this week as Tony Stephens and Claire Stanley focus on one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States — diabetic retinopathy. They share some good news from several months ago out of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and discuss the challenges toward leading an active life and access to good nutrition for people who are blind. Listen to the podcast on our website by visiting: http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-october-31-2018. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast treats from, and feel free to leave comments (please, no tricks). Email email@example.com with questions or comments on the latest episode. ACB 2019 Leadership Meetings ACB will hold its 2019 leadership meetings Feb. 23-27, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Alexandria. Room rates are $120 per night, plus tax. Make your reservations by calling (703) 683-6000, or visiting the Crowne Plaza’s website, https://tinyurl.com/y8suupom. Tony Stephens Leaving ACB We regretfully announce the resignation of Tony Stephens as Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, effective November 14th. He is leaving us to become executive director of a community-based nonprofit in Baltimore. In his nearly three years with ACB, Tony has clearly elevated our legislative, regulatory, and direct advocacy efforts through his passion, optimism, and humility. Simply put, he has been a great teammate and we are all far better for having worked alongside him. He will most certainly be missed. He has agreed to work with me and others in ACB to complete projects that are in process after his departure. Furthermore, Tony has expressed a sincere desire to remain an active member. I plan to take him up on his offer. With his departure, Tony leaves big shoes to fill. Stay tuned for a position announcement and the beginnings of the recruitment process. We wish Tony much success in his future endeavors and encourage folks to reach out to him in the coming weeks. The next issue will have even more news and successes, so stay tuned!
To recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), Aira is pleased to announce a special program available to ACB members to foster employment opportunities. Aira, the service that connects people who are blind or low vision with remote sighted assistance, supports employment by providing customers (also known as Explorers) free service for activities related to finding and securing employment. The Aira Employment program has been available to our Explorers since February 2018. We offer free service to job-seekers as they navigate employment sites, fill out applications, build resumes, choose outfits, and travel to and from meetings with prospective employers. Aira will extend this opportunity to ACB members who are not Aira customers yet, so they can use the Aira app on their smartphone for 100 minutes of free employment-related service. Individuals will be able to initiate this temporary Aira Account for employment services starting November 12, 2018. How Does This Offer Work? ACB affiliate leaders are asked to reach out to their members to collect the names, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members who are not already Aira Explorers and who wish to use Aira to help find a job. Then, we ask that affiliate leaders send the contact information they’ve collected to Paul Schroeder at Aira who will ensure that ACB members are validated to use Aira as a Guest for the employment-related offer. To reiterate, this is for ACB members who are not currently Aira Explorers. How Will ACB Members (Aira Guests) Access the Offer? To use this opportunity, individuals must download the Aira app onto their smartphones (iPhone or Android). The Aira app is available in the App Store, Play Store, or at https://www.aira.io/app. Sign up for a free Guest account by tapping the banner at the top of the home screen that says “Tap to use Aira as a Guest for FREE.” A Guest can use Aira at many locations where Aira Access has been deployed, as well as with certain offers in the “Call using a Free Offer” section of the app. From November 12, and once Aira receives the name, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members interested in this opportunity, we will authenticate temporary Aira accounts for 100 free minutes for conducting job-finding activities. Aira will also offer a free month of service for any ACB Guest who finds a job and signs up for an Aira plan. As this offer is specifically designed to help foster employment, please be aware that our agents will be asked to end sessions that are not related to job-seeking. In addition, the 100 minutes will only be available for use through the end of December 2018. Aira is truly enthusiastic about its partnership with ACB and the opportunity to improve the employment situation for people who are blind or have low vision.
Welcome to “Dots and Dashes from Washington,” a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB success stories. Everybody loves a little good news, right? White Cane Day ACB’s advocacy department celebrates International White Cane Day! View the video at https://tinyurl.com/ybs7jkx6. Marrakesh Treaty The second episode of ACB’s new Advocacy Update Podcast is now available. Listen as ACB’s National Office celebrates the Marrakesh Treaty moving out of the House, and look ahead into the new 2019 federal fiscal year. The podcast is now available on iTunes & Overcast, and can also be accessed by visiting our website, or by subscribing to the RSS feed at http://acbradio.org/acb-advocacy.xml. The Marrakesh Treaty now has the President’s signature on it! Find out more at http://acb.org/marrakesh-signed. Technology “Smart Tech: Making a Difference” features ACB’s Executive Director, Eric Bridges, in an interview with Ellee Pai Hong to discuss ACB's collaboration with companies developing innovative technology solutions for everyday life. Find it at https://tinyurl.com/yd2udjex. Bay State Council of the Blind’s own Brian Charlson – ACB’s First Dude – talks about some of the best new technology for people who are blind and visually impaired with “Here and Now’s” Robin Young. Curious about smart glasses or talking appliances? Listen to the interview at http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/10/15/technology-for-the-blind. Advocates say the Justice Department is failing disabled people and businesses. Hear Eric Bridges’ interview with WUSA9 at https://tinyurl.com/yc5w4a2q. ACB and the Bay State Council of the Blind have settled with Hulu to make their streaming service accessible. Find the details at http://acb.org/hulu-accessibility. National Disability Employment Awareness Month ACB’s Advocacy Update podcast features Tony Stephens and Claire Stanley discussing National Disability Employment Awareness Month and unpacking the employment gap for people who are blind and visually impaired. To listen to it, visit http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-october-16-2018. Braille Some people call her the Energizer Bunny. Others know her best for making sure the vending machines, elevator lobbies and such have braille and large print signage at ACB’s national conventions. She’s also responsible for the braille on drive-through ATMs. Who is she? Margarine Beaman! Learn more at https://tinyurl.com/ydbjumj9. ACB 2019 Leadership Meetings ACB will hold its 2019 leadership meetings Feb. 23-27, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Alexandria. Room rates are $120 per night, plus tax. Make your reservations by calling (703) 683-6000, or visiting the Crowne Plaza’s website, https://tinyurl.com/y8suupom. Stay tuned for more good news in the next issue!
For Immediate Release: Boston, Massachusetts—Hulu and advocates from the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) have reached a settlement agreement to increase the accessibility of Hulu’s streaming service to individuals who are blind or have low vision. As a result, Hulu will undertake efforts to make its website and software applications accessible via screen readers and will provide audio description tracks for streaming content where possible. With these efforts, Hulu will join the list of online streaming providers, like Netflix, that are prioritizing accessibility features and making the entertainment industry more accessible to the disability community. Hulu offers online streaming services to over 20 million subscribers across the nation. However, none of Hulu’s streaming content currently includes audio description—a separate audio track that narrates the key visual elements of video content between portions of dialogue to provide blind and low vision users a full media experience. For more on audio description, visit ACB’s Audio Description Project. Under the settlement agreement, Hulu will begin obtaining these tracks for as much streaming content as possible and will adapt its video player so that users can enable and disable this feature, similar to the closed caption option that currently exists on Hulu’s video player. Users will also be able to filter the Hulu streaming library based on the availability of audio description. Blind community members are enthusiastic about the new opportunity to fully enjoy Hulu’s extensive programming selection. According to ACB President Kim Charlson, “These improvements by Hulu will provide people who are blind or have low vision with access to the same online video entertainment services currently enjoyed by millions of Americans. ACB commends Hulu for working with us to enhance access to its services for people who are blind. Our goal is to open up Hulu’s services to the blind community and to increase the availability of audio described movies and television programming. Movies and television are a central pillar of American culture. As television and movie content are increasingly delivered through streaming services, this agreement ensures that the blind community will receive and be able to independently use accessible Hulu content. This access is critical to making certain that people who are blind are included as equal participants in today’s society.” In addition to providing audio description, Hulu will update its website and multiple software applications to ensure that screen-reader users can navigate and interact with the platform. A screen reader is software that enables blind individuals to access and interact with online services by converting the text displayed visually on the screen into audible speech or by outputting that information on a digital braille display. For a screen reader to work, website and app developers must program for compatibility. A single unlabeled button, like those for entering a password or submitting payment information, can render a website wholly unusable. By January 2020, Hulu will ensure that its website and applications are compliant with standard web-accessibility guidelines and that updates are tested for usability. “So many times it is that last step—an inaccessible website—that keeps those who are blind or experiencing low vision from fully enjoying what others take for granted,” says BSCB President Brian Charlson, “and now Hulu will be working with us to make sure that their service can be accessed by everyone.” Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit disability rights legal center, and Disability Law Center, Inc. (DLC), the Massachusetts Protection and Advocacy agency, represented ACB, BSCB, Kim Charlson, and Brian Charlson in these negotiations with Hulu. Rebecca Williford, Senior Staff Attorney at DRA, said, “This settlement will significantly improve access to movies and television for the blind community, moving people with disabilities one step closer to full inclusion in society, which was the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Marlene Sallo, Executive Director of the Disability Law Center, said, “Online-streaming of videos has become an increasingly important source of entertainment. DLC is extremely pleased that, as a result of this significant agreement with Hulu, our clients and other individuals who are blind and visually impaired will now be able to enjoy the streaming of programs from Hulu.” A copy of the agreement can be found at www.dralegal.org/press/hulu-becomes-latest-streaming-service-to-commit-to-accessibility-for-blind-users. This agreement resolved a lawsuit filed against Hulu in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Civ. No. 1:17-cv-12285-PBS. Media Contacts: Meredith Weaver, Disability Rights Advocates, Staff Attorney: (510) 665-8644 Marlene Sallo, Disability Law Center, Executive Director: (617) 723-8455 About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) Founded in 1993, DRA is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org. About Disability Law Center (DLC) The DLC is the Protection and Advocacy system for Massachusetts and is authorized under federal law to protect and advocate for the legal rights of individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts. DLC worked with Bay State Council of the Blind in a series of negotiations with Fleet Bank, Sovereign Bank, and Citizens Bank to ensure that their ATMs, websites, and other banking services were fully accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. For more information, visit www.dlc-ma.org. About American Council of the Blind (ACB) ACB works to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all people who are blind or visually impaired. ACB advocates for policies that provide services, opportunities, infrastructure, and equipment that are necessary for an inclusive society, in federal, state, and local governments, and among service providers and industry. For more information, visit www.acb.org. About Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) BSCB is a membership organization of blind, visually impaired, and sighted individuals committed to an enhanced quality of life for Massachusetts’ residents who are blind or visually impaired. BSCB convenes meetings and conferences, organizes recreation activities, provides publications, radio programs, and information, and advocates for services and legislation that improve access for people who are blind. For more information, visit www.acbofma.org.
This audio recording and corresponding article from NPR news program "Here and Now" features Brian Charlson, President of ACB affiliate Bay State Council of the Blind. Link to article & audio recording: http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/10/15/technology-for-the-blind From smart glasses with an integrated camera for reading, to apps that offer more independence and freedom, what's some of the best new technology for people who are blind or visually impaired? Here & Now's Robin Young learns more from Brian Charlson, director of technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind, and gets an in-studio demonstration of how some of these tools work. Note: You can watch a demonstration of the smart glasses-linked smartphone app Aira at https://youtu.be/jw0I6a_tDd4 Interview Highlights On technology around taking medications "I'm going to start with the simplest of technologies, one that has a lot of impact on blind or visually impaired people, and that is our ability to take the right medicine at the right time. I've got a medicine bottle here, and attached to its side is a little digital recorder. ... So now, instead of having to put rubber bands on to indicate whether or not this is a once-a-day or twice-a-day or three-times-a-day med, what it actually does for me, I can rely on this kind of labeling. "This is one example of two or three different companies out there who are doing this. The one that I tend to get my medications from is a mail-order place, but I can also get this from just down the street at the local pharmacy." On a tool for taking blood sugar readings "A lot of people these days are having to deal with diabetes, as am I, and therefore you have to take your blood sugar on a regular basis. So I've just taken a test strip out, and I'm going to slide it into my glucose monitor. ... [The female voice in the monitor is] just acknowledging this, and then she's going to tell me, 'Please apply blood to the test strip,' so I could prick my finger, put the blood on there and it will tell me my blood sugar. It keeps track of it over time, so that when I go to see my physician, they can download the data from it." Here's more information about blood glucose monitors from the American Foundation for the Blind. On using smart speakers like Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot at home "In my household, we have a big Echo in the living room, and little [Echo] Dots here and there throughout the house. "There's a lot of chatter that goes on in the house, no doubt. I'm very lucky that I know Braille, so a portion of my access to information comes tactilely, so nobody gets to hear what's going on. But one of the absolute phenomenons in my household is I get out of bed first, head to the bathroom, I turn on the shower, the sink, flush the toilet and step onto my talking scale — because I don't want the rest of the household to hear what the bad news of the morning is from that talking scale. So we learned to mask it, we control volume and with the new Echo family, only the one closest to you responds. So you don't have this problem of saying something down the hallway, only to have it change something in the living room, that kind of thing." On gadgets for cooking "I love the kitchen. In my household, it's my favorite room. I love to cook. And so I'm forever looking for gadgets that will make my life easier. So in my kitchen I have a talking microwave oven. I have talking kitchen scales, so that when I'm baking, I can measure by weight rather than by volume, those kinds of things. But I also have a talking thermometer. I like this one because, among other things ... this I can switch from Fahrenheit to centigrade, and it can take very high temperatures." Here's more information about tools for cooking from the American Foundation for the Blind. On the Orbit Reader, a tool for reading Braille "Braille hasn't been around that long — just a couple of hundred years — and it's still under development. But the big change in Braille is what's called refreshable Braille. I'm going to turn on this Orbit Reader. Little dots, electromechanical dots, are raising up in the pattern of Braille characters. A couple of years ago, I was showing you a refreshable Braille display, and you were astounded at the price of $3,000 to $4,000. This one now costs $500. So Braille is becoming more affordable than it's ever been before." This segment aired on October 15, 2018.
For Immediate Release Contact: Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs (202) 467-5081 firstname.lastname@example.org WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2018 — The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act was signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday, October 10th. The treaty now moves to the U.S. State Department to prepare the official diplomatic documents for delivery to Geneva where it will be deposited at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) headquarters, joining the list of other ratifying countries committed to expanding access to published works in accessible format for people who are blind and visually impaired, along with those who are print-disabled. “We’re excited that the United States has cleared the way to help in ending the global accessible book famine,” said ACB President Kim Charlson. “It’s been a long journey, and we’re thankful for the hard work and determination that the publishing industry, lawmakers, and all advocates have demonstrated over the years to get us to this point.” The President signed the treaty legislation after coming to his desk with unanimous support from both the Senate and House of Representatives. Treaties typically just require passage by the Senate; however, Congress had to pass additional legislation to assure that U.S. copyright law was aligned with the treaty’s language and other participating nations’ laws. The new treaty removes copyright constraints when accessing and sharing special format works in braille, audio, and other accessible formats internationally. “ACB recognizes that nations should not stand in the way of literacy, and the Marrakesh Treaty guarantees that people with disabilities can share equally in that right,” said ACB executive director Eric Bridges. “ACB is humbled to have been at the table since this landmark treaty’s inception, and we look forward to working with our counterparts abroad to help expand the availability of published works into the hands of people who are blind all over the world.” The treaty was a response to the grave concerns over the cumbersome international copyright laws that have made it difficult to gain access to published works in accessible formats like braille or audio. Agreed upon in Marrakesh, Morocco, on June 27, 2013, the U.S. will now join 71 other nations, including the 28 countries of the European Union, who ratified earlier this month. The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.
Comcast Newsmakers Video link: https://comcastnewsmakers.com/Videos/2018/10/4/Smart-Tech-Making-a-Difference Eric Bridges, Executive Director of the American Council of the Blind, joins Ellee Pai Hong to discuss 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.