United States of America Joins WIPO’s Marrakesh Treaty as 50th Member

ACB Joins all of its U.S. partner organizations in celebrating the final diplomatic step for the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland on February 8, 2019. ACB President Kim Charlson is a member of the Board of Directors of the Accessible Books Consortium, the WIPO entity working on implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty with the fifty member countries. She is also working with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped/Library of Congress in planning for the implementation of the treaty in the U.S. The World Intellectual Property Organization issued a statement on February 8, 2019 from its headquarters in Geneva announcing that the United States has become the 50th member of the Marrakesh Treaty. Because the European Union comprises 28 states, the number of countries now adhering to the treaty comes to 78. The official notification ratification document from Washington signed by Donald Trump has been accepted by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director Francis Gurry, with Mark Cassayre, the Chargé d’Affaires for the American mission to the United Nations’ installation in Geneva. And with that, as many as 550,000 accessible texts have become immediately available to visually impaired people in the countries that have signed the treaty. A full list of those countries is here. The treaty is designed to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled by creating a universal copyright exception that will allow authorized parties to “travel” accessible formats to appropriate consumers. “The Marrakesh Treaty is WIPO’s fastest-growing treaty and we hope it becomes a universal one soon, so visually impaired people in every corner of the globe can more easily benefit from learning and culture no matter where it is created," said Mr. Gurry. “The US already houses the world’s largest repository of accessible English-language material, representing a major increase in the global resource base for visually impaired people living in countries that have joined the Marrakesh Treaty.” “I’m proud of American leadership and the USPTO’s efforts in the negotiation of the Marrakesh Treaty, and the opportunities that our ratification creates for the blind and visually impaired community in the United States and around the world,” said Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “This treaty establishes an important mechanism to both protect intellectual property rights and expand access to information and resources.” “We pause to celebrate this moment as the United States formally joins the Marrakesh Treaty," said Maria A. Pallante, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers. “Having worked so tirelessly with so many talented partners to realize a better legal framework for accessible formats, publishers now salute the many readers throughout the world who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise living with print disabilities. Congratulations and happy reading!" “The United States’ formal membership in the Marrakesh Treaty marks a major achievement for our country and a significant positive step forward for the millions of persons who are blind and visually impaired throughout the world,” said Karyn A. Temple, Acting Register of Copyrights and Director of the United States Copyright Office. “The United States will now join our fellow nations in promoting greater accessibility to print materials around the globe.” Information about the Marrakesh Treaty is available at the WIPO site here, and the documents, including a summary, are available here. They include versions in Braille, full audio, and Daisy format.

WBU and ACB Announce Results from the First Worldwide Survey of Audio Description Activity

A new international survey reveals that audio description (AD) is an important assistive technology worldwide providing access to people who are blind or have low vision to the arts and many other visually-rich events. The new international AD survey (69 countries and the Pacific Disability Forum) finds that: 67% of respondents said that AD is available in the respondent’s country; cinema, television, live performing arts, and DVDs lead the list of the type of AD experiences available (followed by museums, the web, smartphones, in educational settings and in visitors’ centers); almost 45% said that AD is required by law (64% of those respondents reported that it was required for broadcast television); and 99% of respondents said that they believe AD or more AD should be available. The World Blind Union and the American Council of the Blind are long-time supporters of the growth of AD.  Both groups are eager to learn more about the use of AD by people who are blind or have low vision in its member nations, including some of the barriers to its use.  (The World Health Organization reports that an estimated 253 million people live with vision impairment.)  Audio description makes visual information of media and the visual or performing arts, in particular, more accessible to persons who are blind or vision impaired.  For media and in the performing arts, language, carefully crafted and timed, is voiced usually during the natural pauses in a program’s original soundtrack. Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind, emphasizes that “Cultural activities are an important element of our society, often expressing values, trends, fads, historical perspectives, or future directions.  People who are blind or visually impaired want and need to be a part of society in all its aspects.  Audio description provides the means for blind or visually impaired people to have full and equal participation in cultural life, accessibility to an event, and the right to be first-class citizens. In short, the ability to contribute to, participate in, and enjoy the treasures that society offers.” Jose Viera, CEO of the World Blind Union, says that “Throughout the world unemployment among people is a significant problem.  I am certain that with more meaningful access to our culture and its resources, people become more informed, more engaged with society and more engaging individuals—thus, more employable.”    The full report from this survey is available at: http://acb.org/adp/docs/WBU-ACB%20%20AD%20Survey-FINAL%20REPORT.pdf Additional information about ACB’s Audio Description Project is available at: www.acb.org/adp.   About the World Blind Union The World Blind Union (WBU) is the internationally recognized organization, representing the 253 million blind and partially sighted persons in 190 member countries. We are the voice of the blind, speaking to governments and international bodies on issues concerning blindness and low vision in conjunction with our members. WBU brings together all the major national and international organizations of blind persons and those organizations providing services to people with low vision to work on the issues affecting the quality of life for blind people. Globally, we are divided into six regions, with each region having its own President and volunteer executive team to assist the needs of the local members. For more information about the World Blind Union, contact Jose Viera, CEO, World Blind Union, 1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario  Canada M4G3E8; phone 1-416-486-9698, e-mail: info@wbu.ngo   About the American Council of the Blind The American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization. Its members are blind, visually impaired, and fully sighted individuals who are concerned about the dignity and well-being of blind people throughout the nation. Formed in 1961, the ACB is one of the largest organizations of blind people in the world, with more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates and a nationwide network of chapters and members spanning the globe. For more information about the American Council of the Blind, contact:  Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1703 N Beauregard Street  #420, Alexandria, VA 22311;  phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666; or  visit the web site, www.acb.org.  

Apply to Become a 2019 ACB & JPMorgan Chase Leadership Fellow

Step Into the Leadership Spotlight by Kenneth Semien, Sr. For the fourth consecutive year, JPMorgan Chase will provide full access to the ACB Conference and Convention for 5 ACB members who have demonstrated leadership abilities. Get connected with previous classes of Leadership Fellows who have taken advantage of this enlightening experience while meeting other members and active leaders from around the country. By attending the 58th annual ACB Conference and Convention in Rochester, New York, as a Leadership Fellow you will be introduced to  tools for success through participation in informative workshops, seminars and leadership development sessions that are sure to prepare you to serve well in future leadership roles within ACB, your local chapter, and your state or special interest affiliate. Do you meet the qualifications of the ACB & JPMorgan Chase Leadership Fellows Program? If so, the leadership spotlight is shining in your direction. Read below to confirm your eligibility and necessary commitment to become a member of the 2019 Class of Leadership Fellows! To be a qualified applicant you are required to meet specific criteria, including but not limited to the following three elements: 18 years of age or older Blind or visually impaired An ACB member in good standing   Eligible applicants must be endorsed by the president of their state or special interest affiliate. The application process for this award also consists of submitting two letters and participating in a telephone interview with a team of DKM committee members. The applicant’s letter will include the objectives in applying for the leadership award; a brief summary of your education and relevant experience; number of years of membership in ACB, as well as, previous conventions attended, if any; description of one’s role as a leader; and examples of what you bring to ACB. Be sure to add your full name, physical address, telephone number where you can be reached, and your primary email address. The affiliate president’s letter of recommendation should address the applicant’s contributions to the affiliate, ACB and community organizations; and describe the applicant’s demonstrated leadership skills and leadership potential. Thirty minute telephone interviews will be scheduled for mid-April. All recipients receive round-trip transportation; hotel accommodation (double occupancy), per diem stipend for meals and incidentals, convention registration fee and reception and banquet tickets. Recipients are expected to attend the convention from the opening meeting, Saturday evening, July 6th, through the Thursday evening banquet, July 11th, and to participate actively in all designated convention activities, including the daily general sessions, special-interest presentations, seminars and workshops.  Send application documents to Kelly Gasque in the ACB national office, kgasque@acb.org. Deadline for receipt is April 3rd. Apply today, don’t be late! Selected awardees will be notified during the latter part of April. Questions regarding the application process and required documentation should be directed to DKM Chair, Kenneth Semien, Sr., semien.k@att.net. Other beneficial information will be shared once your application has been received.

ACB Hires New Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs

We are pleased to announce the hiring of Clark Rachfal to be ACB’s Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs. Since 2017 Clark has served as the Program Manager, Public Policy at National Industries for the Blind. In his role at NIB he was responsible for researching and promoting legislative and regulatory policies that support the NIB mission. He cultivated relationships and collaborated with policymakers, national blindness organizations, and the cross-disability community on public policy priorities. He managed the NIB Advocates for Leadership and Employment Program, directly mentoring and training more than 50 grassroots employee advocates. Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, got to know him during his 9 years with Verizon, where he served as a legislative analyst. Their paths crossed during the negotiations for the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). In addition to his policy background, it is also important to mention that Clark is a competitive cyclist. He competed as recently as 2012 in the Paralympics.     Clark holds bachelor of science degrees from Towson University in political science and economics, and currently lives in Alexandria, Va. with his wife, Greta. His first day will be February 11th, and his email address will be crachfal@acb.org. Please join us in welcoming Clark to the ACB team!

Apply to Become a 2019 DKM First-Timer

March to the Beat of a Different Drum By Kenneth Semien, Sr. Right, left, right, left, right. Step up to the plate to take advantage of future leadership opportunities. The DKM First-Timers Committee encourages members who have never attended an ACB Conference and Convention and have a desire to learn more about ACB and its rich history to march forward to participate in the DKM Experience while joining the class of over 40 current DKM First-Timers and interact with hundreds of other members during the 58th annual ACB Conference and Convention in Rochester, New York this July, by completing all required steps. To be eligible for consideration, each applicant must meet specific requirements, which includes being age 18 or older; blind or visually impaired; an ACB member in good standing, and never have attended a previous ACB national conference and convention. In addition, two letters must be submitted for each applicant — a letter of application from the interested member and a letter of recommendation from a state or special interest affiliate president. The letter of application introduces the applicant to the committee and contains reasons for applying for the award, a brief summary of education and experience related to the applicants community service, contributions to the affiliate, and the significance of the First-Timers award to the applicant’s personal or career development.  The letter of recommendation should include the applicant’s leadership contributions and potential. Another step of eligibility for applicants will be the expectation of undergoing a 30 minute interview with a team of DKM committee members during mid-April. The DKM program and ACB honors recipients by funding round-trip air travel and supporting transportation, hotel accommodations (double occupancy), per diem allowance for meals and incidentals and leadership activities, reception, banquet tickets, the general convention registration fee, and other activities determined by the committee and ACB Board of Directors. Optional tours and other fun activities are not covered by the program. The responsibilities of each recipient include but are not limited to attending the full week of conference and convention activities from Friday July 5 – Friday July 12; participating in daily general sessions, Keys to the Convention Seminar along with special-interest and committee seminars, while interacting with ACB leaders and fellow members. Applications and supporting letters should be forwarded to Kelly Gasque, kgasque@acb.org, and must be received in the ACB national office no later than April 3rd. Incomplete applications will not be considered. The DKM Committee will select the 2019 First-Timers during the latter part of April. Eligible applicants will be notified shortly thereafter. The selection process will conclude with two recipients being awarded as DKM First-Timers — one from east and one from west of the Mississippi River.  The DKM Committee reserves the right to recognize two recipients from the east or west, if there are no qualified applicants from one of the specified areas. All questions should be sent to DKM Chair Kenneth Semien, Sr., semien.k@att.net or dial (409) 866-5838. We look forward to offering support to every applicant in an effort to ensure a rewarding experience.

Georgia Council of the Blind Convention

The GCB 2019 conference and convention committee has been very busy planning the upcoming convention. It will be held May 2-4, 2019 at the Days Inn in Madison. Room rates are $63 per night plus tax. To reserve your room, call the hotel at (706) 342-2121. Tell them you are with the Georgia Council of the Blind. Meetings will be held at the Philadelphia Baptist Church in Rutledge, Georgia.

32nd Annual Iowa Council of the United Blind Convention

The 32nd annual Iowa Council of the United Blind state convention will be held April 12-14 at the Holiday Inn and Suites, 4800 Merle Hay Road in Des Moines. Convention room rates are as follows: standard with two queen beds, $89; executive king, $89. This rate does not include taxes of 12%. The deadline to receive the special group rate is March 22nd. To reserve your room, call (515) 278-4755 or 1-800-HOLIDAY (1-800-465-329) and ask for the ICUB special rate. Our group name is ICUB-Iowa Council of the United Blind of Iowa.

Dots and Dashes 1-25-19

“Dots and Dashes” is a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB stories. This issue features information about ACB’s leadership meetings, the membership focus call, information about ACB’s scholarships, some information about RSVA’s Sagebrush Conference, and much more.   ACB Leadership Meetings The American Council of the Blind annual president’s meeting and legislative seminar will take place from Saturday, February 23, 2019 to Tuesday, February 26, 2019 in Alexandria, Va.  The registration deadline is February 15th, 2019. If you would like to pay with a check, please download the paper registration form from the link at the bottom of the web page.  To register online, visit https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E144393&id=49. To view our legislative imperatives for 2019, visit http://acb.org/legislative-seminar-2019.   2019 Schedule of Events: Saturday, February 23: Board Meeting Sunday, February 24: Affiliate Presidents’ Meeting Monday, February 25: Legislative Seminar Tuesday, February 26: Meeting with Legislators on Capitol Hill   Hotel Information: Crowne Plaza Alexandria Room rates (pretax): $120/night Address: 901 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria, VA 22314 Phone number: (703) 683-6000  Crowne Plaza Headquarters Phone Number: (877) 227-6963 Crowne Plaza Alexandria Website   Reagan National Airport (DCA) & Reagan Metro Station Shuttle From the Crowne Plaza to DCA: Beginning at 5 a.m. and every 30 minutes thereafter until 10:30 p.m.; the shuttle drops you off on the upper level near door 2 or 4 From DCA to the Crowne Plaza: Hourly at 15 minutes and 45 minutes after the hour (approximately), located on the upper floor on the ticketing level, every half-hour The last pick-up from DCA is approximately 10:45 p.m.   Membership Focus Call This quarter’s membership focus call will be held on Sunday, January 27th at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific. The topic is “Using the Affiliate Membership Management System (AMMS) and how it can help your affiliate.” Each affiliate has at least one or two members who use it and we want to make sure affiliates know all the benefits of the system. To participate in the call, and learn more about the membership management system, dial (712) 775-7000 and use passcode 640009.   ACB Scholarships Available Are you legally blind and looking to attend or continue your college or vocational education? Or do you know someone who is? Please share this with them! The American Council of the Blind has a wide variety of scholarships for students who are legally blind, whether you are going to a technical college, an entering freshman, undergraduate or a graduate student. But don’t delay – the deadline is February 15th! Over $55,000 in scholarships are awarded to students each year. To be eligible, you need to be legally blind, maintain a 3.0 GPA, and be involved in your school/local community. Apply online at http://acb.org/2019-scholarship. The page includes instructions and information as to what other documents are needed. Be sure to submit the application no later than February 15th, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. Central time. For more information, please contact Nancy Christine Feela at (612) 332-3242 or (800) 866-3242 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Central).   Sagebrush Conference The Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America will host the annual Sagebrush Conference Feb. 11-15 at the Golden Nugget Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. This year’s theme is “Expanding the Future of Randolph-Sheppard Utilizing Technology.” New this year: the opportunity to earn continuing education credits. To reserve your room, call the hotel directly at 1-800-331-5731. Let them know you are with the RSVA® Sagebrush Conference 2019. Please check the hotel room reservation policy at www.goldennugget.com for complete details. For more information, contact RSVA® by email, rsva@randolph-sheppard.org.   Advocacy Updates In the January 11th Advocacy Update, Claire Stanley and Tony Stephens talk about the beginning of the new Congress and the impact it might have on the blind community. Listen online by visiting http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-january-11-2019. You can also listen by subscribing to the ACB Advocacy Update via your favorite podcast app! The January 19th podcast features an appearance by Diane Bergeron of Ottawa, Ontario, with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. She talks about what’s going on in the North America-Caribbean region of the World Blind Union. Listen online at http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-january-19-2019. Email questions and comments to advocacy@acb.org.   HBO: Audio Description & Screen-Reader Access Disability Rights Advocates and the Disability Law Center are investigating complaints on behalf of the American Council of the Blind from blind individuals who report that the HBO GO and HBO NOW websites and mobile applications are not accessible via screen readers, and from blind individuals who want audio description tracks to be made available on HBO GO and HBO NOW. We would greatly appreciate speaking with you if you are blind and you have chosen not to subscribe to HBO because you have heard about the lack of audio description available for HBO’s programs or about web access barriers on HBO’s websites and mobile applications. We are also interested in speaking with you if you have confronted access barriers yourself while using HBO GO or HBO NOW. To share your experiences, please contact Carson Turner by phone at (510) 665-8644, or by email, cturner@dralegal.org.   T-Mobile Needs Your Help T-Mobile is developing a new television service and has begun to implement accessibility features for the individuals with visual disabilities. They are interested in understanding how blind and visually impaired people access television. The questions relate to finding out what this population likes and dislikes about currently available accessibility features.  What features are most critical to them while accessing television?  What improvements would they like to see?  What features are perfect as is?  They are in search of respondents who are over 18 and have a visual disability such as low vision, or are blind, regardless of if they currently watch television or use accessibility features. Those who complete the 15-minute survey will receive an electronic $15 Amazon gift card for their time. To take the survey, visit https://layer3tv.getfeedback.com/r/aYik1VlQ.

2019 BADIE Award Winners

For Immediate Release Contact: Joel Snyder Director, Audio Description Project jsnyder@acb.org - (202) 467-5083   American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project Announces the 2019 “BADIE”* Awards * Benefits of Audio Description in Education   WASHINGTON, January 22, 2019 -  The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is proud to announce the winners of the 2019 BADIE Awards (the Benefits of Audio Description In Education), a “Listening Is Learning” initiative of the Council’s Audio Description Project (ADP) and the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP).   The winners of this year’s honors (all young people who are blind) are: Grand Prize Winner:  John Xander Holstein – West Virginia School for the Blind-Romney, WV -  Review of Snowflake Bentley and Voyage to Mars   Senior Category (ages 16 to 21): First Place – Michael Gast, South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Aberdeen, SD – Review of Sister Act 2 Second Place – Kimberly Drudge, Goochland High School-Goochland, VA – Review of America’s Symbols Third Place – Alyssa Spillum, North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind- Grand Forks, ND – Review of Work Ethic: A Commitment to Work   Junior Category (ages 11 to 15): First Place – John Xander Holstein, West Virginia School for the Blind-Romney, WV - Review of Snowflake Bentley and Voyage to Mars Second Place – Edward Freer, North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind- Grand Forks, ND – Review of My Brand New Life: Ballet Dancer/Hockey Player   Sophomore Category (ages 7 to 10): First Place – Hunter Knotts, West Virginia School for the Blind-Romney, WV – Review of The Magic School Bus in a Pickle Second Place – Wyatt Kuncl, West Virginia School for the Blind-Romney, WV – Review of The Magic School Bus Cold Feet Third Place – Noel Marinaccio, WV School for the Blind-Romney, WV – Review of The Magic School Bus Works Out   Alternate Assessment Category *: First Place –Hayden Miller, West Virginia School for the Blind-Romney, WV – Review of The Night Before Christmas * The Alternate Assessment category refers to students whose participation in their general statewide assessment program (testing in Math, Science and Language Arts) is not appropriate, even with accommodations.  Academic expectations are written specifically for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The premise of the BADIE program is simple:  kids love movies.  If a young person can’t see or can’t see well, audio description provides access to all the visual images of the movies that their sighted peers enjoy.  Description benefits children who are blind and others who have learning disabilities and it has been shown to boost literacy for all children. The BADIE program asked young people who are blind or have low vision to submit short reviews of any described movie.  “Audio Description uses words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative to convey the visual image from television, film, DVDs, theater, museums and many other settings,” stated Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind.  "The young people honored with these awards not only appreciate the ability to enjoy films and television right along with their peers—description helps them and their sighted friends develop language skills through exposure to varied word choice, synonyms, metaphors and similes.  I love audio description, and wish I’d had access to it when I was growing up!” Additional information about ACB’s Audio Description Project is available at: www.acb.org/adp. More information about the Described and Captioned Media Program is at: www.dcmp.org.   About the American Council of the Blind The American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization. Its members are blind, visually impaired, and fully sighted individuals who are concerned about the dignity and well-being of blind people throughout the nation. Formed in 1961, the ACB is one of the largest organizations of blind people in the world, with more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates and a nationwide network of chapters and members spanning the globe. For more information about the American Council of the Blind, contact:  Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1703 N. Beauregard St., Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22311; phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666; or visit the web site, www.acb.org.