Patrick Sheehan for 2018 ACB Board of Directors
8310 Colesville Rd., Apt. 212
Silver Spring, MD 20910-6371
Phone: (301) 922-2995
1. Introduce yourself and explain why you wish to serve as a member of the ACB board of directors.
My name is Patrick Sheehan. I am an ACB member from the state of Maryland. I have served as state president twice and have served on various positions at the local level. At the national level, I am currently on transportation, environmental access and investment committees. I was honored to serve on ACB’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2012 and I am currently completing my first term as an ACB board member. I am asking for your supportat this year’s convention, as I endeavor to run for another term on the board.
It is the responsibility of the members of the Board of Directors to help establish processes and priorities for the organization moving forward between conventions. Over the last four years, ACB has solidified its financial foundation so that the organization now has a diversified income stream which can be used to invest in ACB’s mission and goals. As a member of the Board of Directors, I would like to be at the table to help prioritize what our future goals will be and time lines for meeting those goals.
A second responsibility of a board member is to communicate between the affiliates and leadership regarding the concerns of our member organization and how the national leadership can assist them in achieving their goals. Many times, the lack of direct communication between affiliates and the national organization can lead to ineffectiveness on the part of national leadership because the affiliate doesn’t believe that they can aid in certain issues. It is imperative that board members make it their responsibility to communicate to the national leadership what information is being shared by the affiliates. This fosters empowerment of our affiliates which prepares them to do the work that must be done to support the ACB mission.
2. Summarize your experience with the national organization and/or with state, special-interest or local chapters that qualifies you for service on the board of directors.
As President of the state of Maryland in the 1990’s and in 2000 I learned the importance of coalition building, understanding the subject matter for areas that I wish to advocate for and how to compromise with other groups so that projects can show progress.
In the state of Maryland we needed to build a coalition with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), State Highway Administration (SHA), and Maryland Department of Transportation to begin the installation of accessible pedestrian signals (APS) throughout the state. Building the coalition took over a year and convincing both the SHA and NFB that designing aps into intersections that were being upgraded was a good thing for the disabled community and a safety feature for SHA. Using data which showed that aps increased safety and that designing accessibility up front as intersections were being upgraded convinced both groups that this was a sound plan. As a compromise the disability community agreed to have this access implemented as intersections were being upgraded. The result was that over 2500 intersections had aps installed over 10 years. In addition, all new intersections have this level of accessibility implemented as a standard feature.
I learned that honest communication, backed up by data helped to create a win win situation for the disability community.
In advocating for positions at the national level, having sound arguments that are fact based and can provide a winning solution for everyone involved is the ideal goal. Sometimes compromises need to be made so that the long-term goals can be achieved over time.
3. If you could strengthen the ACB’s performance in any area, where would you focus your efforts, and what would you do?
One of ACB’s underserved programs is in the area of employment. Increasing the employment of blind people is a complex task that involves internal planning and communication, coordination of resources and activities. At present leadership has established a working partnership with the US Business Leaders Network that could, over time, prove useful in helping to recruit blind people for career’s in industry.
While waiting for this partnership to mature ACB should reactivate its employment issues task force and charge it with developing a strategy to improve the overall employment of blind people. As a Board member I would like to work with this group to develop and implement this strategy. Employment issues are very complex and progress over time may prove to be slow but it is a task that is worthy of ACB’s best and brightest talent.
ACB currently has special interest affiliates such as ACB Students, ACB Government Employees, and its Rehab Issues Task Force which has a stake in employment issues. Discussions with ACB Enterprise Services group should also be pursued to see how employment services can be integrated more fully into the fabric of ACB. Other organizations such as National Industries for the Blind (NIB), American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) should be consulted so that efforts can be coordinated and access to future employment facilitated by ACB can be efficient and effective.
4. How would you strengthen the cohesiveness among the ACB and its state and special-interest affiliates?
The most effective program that ACB currently has to achieve and maintain cohesion with affiliates is the Board liaison program. This program was established three years ago by national leadership in an effort to increase communication between Board members and ACB’s state and special interest affiliates. Each Board member is assigned 5 affiliates which they are expected to contact and offer support. The nature of this support, its frequency, and Board involvement is defined by the state or special interest affiliate President according to their needs. In addition to serving as a Board liaison to an affiliate, attending Board meetings is an excellent way to learn about their programs, what their concerns are, and what they consider important. I have learned a great deal from the affiliates that I am currently assigned to and have taken back some of the best practices, programs and instituted them in Maryland. Imitation is the best form of flattery; it is always good to see what practices are working elsewhere.
If it is financially possible attending an affiliates conference or convention helps to build and cement the trust and partnership between the Board liaison and the affiliate. Sometimes with the special interest affiliates the only possibility to interact with members is at the national conference which should be encouraged. In working with all my affiliates I consider it an honor to be invited to their meetings and treat it as though I have been invited into their home. I try to be respectful of their needs and wishes and appreciate any assistance that I can render to them if needed.
5. What are the most important areas where the ACB should focus in the 21st century? How can you assist the organization to excel in those areas?
The areas that ACB should focus on in the 21st century are access to employment, universal accessible transportation and user friendly accessible technology. Each of these areas could consume all of ACB’s available resources so it will be important that ACB construct some short term achievable goals while working on a long-range plan that can be tracked and measured. As has been stated ACB leadership has established high level strategic partnerships in all three areas but it will be important for leadership to involve the rank and file ACB membership to implement these high-level goals. These goals should be considered tier 1 goals for the organization.
As an advocate I have worked for the last 25 years in both transportation and in technology. In Washington DC I served as chair of a disability advocacy group which implemented accessibility in a complex transit system that dealt with bus, subway, and paratransit. Over time the disability advocacy group was able to implement processes whereby accessibility was part of procurements that involved bus, subway cars, and paratransit vehicles. We were able to show that designing accessibility up front made financial and good business sense for the entire system.
In much the same way I introduced accessibility processes into IT accessibility at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Over time we have introduced accessibility practices into ELearning, mobile products, on web based applications and web sites. In both areas of transportation and technology I have had experience that I would like to bring to ACB.