by Sharon Lovering, Penny Reeder, Katie Frederick, Cachet Wells, and Cheryl Cumings
After a wait of three years, the American Council of the Blind finally got to hold its convention in Schaumburg, Illinois.
The 2023 conference and convention activities officially began when interim president Deb Cook Lewis called the convention to order on June 19. The nominating committee met immediately after the call to order. Many ACB special-interest affiliates held meetings or other virtual programming during the following six days.
Those attending the in-person event began making their way to Schaumburg the last week of June as conference and convention hybrid activities began June 30.
Saturday, July 1
Interim president Deb Cook Lewis called the session to order. Ray Campbell, president, and Rachel Schroeder, immediate past president of the Illinois Council of the Blind, welcomed everyone to Schaumburg.
Opening session traditions included reports from the president and executive director, life member presentations, recognition of the JPMorgan Leadership Fellows, DKM First-Timers, and Mentorship, Access and Peer Support program’s Explorers and Guides, as well as the ACB Angels tributes (Warren Toyama, Camille Caffarelli, and Billie Jean Keith). Also given were reports from the nominating and credentials committees. The evening concluded with the roll call of affiliates.
Sunday, July 2
Sunday morning, the convention took a break from general sessions. Instead, there were several break-out sessions on a variety of topics, from success with accessible pedestrian signals to an update on legal issues impacting the blind and low-vision community, and structured negotiations to paratransit.
Monday, July 3
After the Pledge of Allegiance, led by the 2023 scholarship winners, and a reading of this year’s corporate and individual convention sponsors, the morning’s events proceeded with the agenda. Ryan Jones, Vice President of Software and Product Management for Vispero, talked about several planned software improvements, including a new ability to deliver verbal descriptions for what the camera is displaying on Zoom and Teams calls, and to generate simultaneous braille output for two separate areas displayed on-screen. Nurse educators from Vanda Pharmaceuticals celebrated the company’s long relationship with ACB and encouraged anyone who suspects that they are experiencing Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder to contact them for help. Then, President Lewis made the surprise announcement of a life membership bestowed anonymously to Dan Spoone, interim executive director. Dan – who was taken completely by surprise – thanked his benefactors and celebrated his ongoing commitment and service to ACB.
Next up was a roll call vote for a proposed amendment to Resolution 2023-16. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 64 percent in favor and 34 percent opposed.
Following the resolution, the convention learned who the scholarship winners were. (See “Congratulations to the 2023 Scholarship Winners!” elsewhere in this issue.) All recipients who were present introduced themselves and described their fields of study. Patti Cox introduced the scholarship winners selected by the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI), and Denise Colley, chair of ACB’s scholarship committee, introduced the remaining winners.
The next order of convention business was a presentation by the National Library Service narrator who had been invited by Library Users of America to participate in 2023 ACB and LUA convention program events. The audience was rapt as they listened to narrator Jake Williams’ presentation.
Morning business concluded with a vote on Resolution 2023-16 as amended. A hybrid vote was taken by shows of hands in the room and via Zoom. Although slightly more than 25 people voted against adopting the resolution as amended, only 11 endorsed holding a record vote, and Resolution 2023-16 was adopted.
Tuesday, July 4
Tuesday’s general session opening (July 4) honored America’s birthday. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Kolby Garrison sang “America the Beautiful.” Following the reading of corporate sponsors, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer, Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., delivered a Diamond sponsorship presentation. ACB Angels Dan Sippl, Terry Camardelle, and Richard Bird were remembered. Denise Colley, ACB secretary and presiding officer for the morning, introduced and welcomed partner presentations from international guest Martine Abel-Williamson, President, World Blind Union, Auckland, New Zealand; Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Foundation for the Blind, Arlington, Va.; Jason Yasner, Deputy Director, National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled; and Steve Sroka, Associate Director of Events, Foundation Fighting Blindness, Libertyville, Ill. Listen to the individual remarks by ACB’s great partners via the business feed of the ACB podcast.
Wednesday, July 5
Wrangling up another day, President Deb Lewis got us geared up like a parent, reuniting lost items with their owners and runaway guides making a dash for the exhibit hall. The DKM First-Timers led a resounding Pledge of Allegiance, followed by beautiful Angel presentations (Don Thomson, Amelia Cetrone, and Liz Klein). Presiding officer Kim Charlson did an amazing job navigating the session. Clark Rachfal facilitated a comprehensive panel discussion on increasing vision certifications for occupational therapists, discussing the complexities of finding viable solutions to ensuring we have qualified service providers and competently trained professionals in the field who understand our medical needs as it pertains to vision loss. The Audio Description Project presented awards to some great recipients. The grand prize winner, a 13-year-old girl, May, read her expressive essay, which gave an invigorating description on her perspective of audio descriptions and her experience with it on her favorite show, “Wednesday,” and detailing its impact in her life.
With the closing of our last voting day for the year, we resolved that we would leave Schaumburg a bit sweeter after today’s tour to the candy store.
Thursday, July 6
Thursday was the final day of convention. After call to order, the JPMorgan Chase fellows led the convention in the Pledge of Allegiance. David Trott, the newly elected first vice president, presided.
Dan Spoone, interim executive director, and Nancy Marks-Becker, the CFO, reported on the financial stability of the organization. This was followed by a video of our newly elected treasurer, Rev. Michael Garrett, on ACB Enterprise and Services. Additional updates on the Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk, the auction committee, membership and the convention were given. Two hotel representatives thanked ACB for choosing the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel. Moving tributes were given of new ACB Angels (Joan Hill, Gardenia the guide dog, Delbert Aman, Travis Johnson, and Raymond Washburn) throughout the morning.
The banquet was a great evening as attendees joined in person and online. Ray Campbell, newly elected second vice president, was the emcee for the evening. The contributions and achievements of many ACB members were celebrated and recognized through the awards given by the awards committee and the BOP. Louie Sharp, our banquet speaker, challenged us to remember that, irrespective of what is happening, we always have control over our response. The evening ended with a message of empowerment.