Link to podcast: http://acbradio.org/acb-advocacy-update-11-7-19
Intro: 00:01 You are listening to the ACB Advocacy Update.
Claire Stanley: 00:11 Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of ACB Advocacy Update. This is Claire the advocacy and outreach specialist here at the American Council of the Blind and
Clark Rachfal: 00:21 Clark Rachfal, director of advocacy and governmental affairs. Thank you to everyone joining us over ACB Radio as well as those listening to the Advocacy Update via their favorite podcast player. And as always you can find out more about the American Council of the Blind at our website, acb.org.
Claire Stanley: 00:41 We're really excited to welcome, we're actually going to have two guests today on our podcast. So exciting multiple speakers, but our first speaker, we're really excited to have he wears many, many, many, many hats here at ACB, which we are so thankful for. And as a member of ACB our very own Jeff Bishop, yay! Do you want to go ahead and jump in Jeff and just introduce yourself first to everybody?
Jeff Bishop: 01:07 Sure. I'm Jeff Bishop. I live in Kirkland, Washington. I work as a program manager at Microsoft and I'm also, you know, an ACB board member. So I wear that hat as well. I also serve on the Washington council board and I am also leading most of ACB's IT efforts and really trying to make sure that all of our servers and all of that stay up. But I first want to mention here about that, that we have a tremendous team. It's really not just, you know, a single effort of really making all of this happen. It's a, it's a team of people behind the scenes that, you know, really makes this work. Jason Castonguay, Debbie Hazelton, Rick Morin and others who really are, are pivotal to the success that we're, that we're having and making all of this work as well as Louisville Web Group, which is a really important to building out the next infrastructure for ACB, you know, coming up in the future.
Clark Rachfal: 02:15 Well, we know that our jobs and lives are made a whole lot easier by the work that you all do on ACB Radio that we plug every week on the podcast as well as the website and the listservs, being able to share information with the members. So you really make our day jobs a whole lot easier, but you also have a day job as well, Jeff, and what you do for Microsoft?
Jeff Bishop: 02:40 Yeah, well I work, as I said, as a program manager and I work on the Windows accessibility team and I work on the narrator screen reader. So my job is to work on developing features and working with developers to implement those features. And I work with just an absolutely amazing team of people who are hugely committed to this space and are just you know, some of the best people I've ever worked with. They're deeply committed, they're passionate about hearing feedback from customers and they really want to hear feedback from all of you too. So it's, it's just a wonderful place to work. You know, I love going to work every day that the challenges are immense and but, but they're great and the rewards are, are terrific to be able to, you know, see features and be able to change people's lives. It's truly a tremendous thing.
Clark Rachfal: 03:41 In October, I had the pleasure of joining you all out there in Redmond for the Microsoft summit on accessibility. And it was fascinating to learn about all the work that Microsoft is doing to make their hardware and software more accessible, but also to increase the availability of employment avenues for people with disabilities, whether that's through education, internships or full-on employment. So we often say that the strength of ACB are our members and that's very true when it comes to the work that you all do with ACB Radio and the website. So thank you for bringing your wealth of knowledge and your technical expertise to, to benefit the members.
Claire Stanley: 04:31 That's kind of where I want to jump in and talk about Jeff. So we are so phenomenally blessed to have people like you who really know the ins and outs of the system. I always joke that I know nothing when it comes to technology. But it's because of people like you and the other people you talked about who keeps things like ACB Radio running, but really all of our other systems, our websites and all of our technical information because without it, we're in 2019, we wouldn't be able to do with what we do with the technology. So start wherever you like, ACB Radio or the website, but can you talk a little bit about the different programs we have and kind of how they're chugging along and how they keep ACB going?
Jeff Bishop: 05:15 Yeah. Let me start by talking a little bit about the ACB servers and the infrastructure that we have and kind of describe the changes that we made here first. We, we lost a really great friend and employee of ACB and I want to first send out some you know, ask for prayers and you know, best wishes for Larry Turnbull. He's recovering from some pretty major stuff and we all want to wish him well. Okay. So back in July, we had to really learn a lot about the infrastructure and with the help of friends within organization as well as Louisville Web Group, we were able to do that. And the first thing that we needed to do is, is we really needed to stabilize the system and we needed to learn why was it that, you know, email lists and, and outages were happening so frequently and that truly was the first thing we needed to address.
Jeff Bishop: 06:20 So in combination with myself and Louisville Web Group and others, we, we learned a lot, pretty quickly about what we needed to do to change the infrastructure for the server. And really it was a matter of increasing resources for the services that we run. We currently have a server that houses all of ACB's activity, which is, which includes ACB, ACB Radio, the Mini Mall you know the BANA websites, all kinds of activity. And, and it really was struggling. It would go down, you know, we had services crashing about every five minutes or so. And it was a pretty dire situation. We resolve that by adding significant amounts of CPU power to the server as well as memory. Luckily it was easy. It was really easy to do that due to it being, you know, somewhat of a cloud infrastructure in that the control panel allowed us to, you know add these things without actually having to touch a physical machine.
Jeff Bishop: 07:37 So that was, that made life really easy. So that was the first thing that we did. And then we needed to, to really learn the ropes of how a lot of these systems were set up. And, and the first focus was on ACB email lists and making sure that we got people back on board there. And I'll speak to what our future plans are in this space, you know, coming up in just a couple of minutes. Then we wanted to focus our attention on ACB Radio, which has needed some love for a pretty long time. And you know at the last couple of board meetings I have been talking about this, that really it's, it's really truly ACB's voice, especially ACB Radio mainstream. And so we took a couple of actions to, to really beef up ACB Radio. The first thing that we did is we are going to be eliminating the ACB world and news information stream from our lineup. It, it doesn't really serve the mission of the organization and it just causes a lot of time and energy that, that really we should be devoting to other things. So we're, we're going to be doing that. You'll see that that will be changing both on the on the actual website as well as an ACB Link. And I'll talk about Link too.
Clark Rachfal: 08:59 For the, the members that are used to listening to the Advocacy Update via Apple podcasts or another podcast player, what is ACB Radio?
Jeff Bishop: 09:10 Yeah, ACB Radio is a collection of channels that you can stream on the internet. There's about six of them comprising all kinds of different types of, of content. We have ACB Radio mainstream, which is really, a place where you can learn all about what's happening with affiliates and activities centered around ACB as well as friends of ACB. You'll hear content from them as well. We have ACB Radio Interactive and the ACB Radio Cafe, which will actually be merging into one stream called ACB Radio Cafe. And ACB Radio Interactive is the interactive part of, of our music streams where people can broadcast and play music and talk to listeners and you know, all of that. And then the cafe is really, you'll be able to listen to music from blind musicians. So it's a, it's really kind of a neat thing and we're going to, we're going to bring those two together and really, you know, kind of lessen the burden on maintaining streams, but also try to make some magic happen around that as well.
Jeff Bishop: 10:26 So really the focal point will be ACB Radio Cafe, you know, with an interactive twist. And we think we're going to really like that. We have a couple of other streams too. We have ACB Radio Treasure Trove for all of you who really enjoy old time radio. That's the place you want to be at. We spend about 20 to 30 hours a week gathering and posting content and, and dealing with the schedule and all of that for that. And it's, it's actually our most popular channel actually. And I, and I think that's because it's been around a really, really long time and I think it's also listened to not only within our organization but outside of it as well. It's, it's very, very popular and we hear from lots of people about it. Then we have our ACB Radio live event and special event streams where we broadcast conventions and other activities centered around affiliates and the national organization.
Jeff Bishop: 11:28 We need two of those because sometimes there's multiple activities going on at the same time, especially with affiliates. You might have California and Missouri going at the same time or you know, something like that. So we needed to and we're going to keep those, those two together. So again, it's really just a collection of streams allowing you to get at a lot of really great enriching content. One of the things that we did with mainstream as we, we took out a lot of the third party content that we were streaming, especially from radio reading services and things like that. And we greatly enhanced the schedule on mainstream to make sure that, as I said, you know, it's the voice of ACB. So we wanted to make sure that we were talking about ourselves and, and really putting us at the focal point on mainstream. And we've done that for the most part and we're going to continue to do so.
Jeff Bishop: 12:26 There's more shows coming to mainstream and we have a great team of people who are leading the effort. The ACB Radio steering committee is just a tremendous group of people with lots and lots of energy with a broad focus of, of people across the organization who are working really hard on things like production and sales and marketing to market, ACB Radio internally and externally and you know, public relations and all kinds of different activities. And it's just amazing to see the, the energy that has really been lit in this space to, to get excitement around it. You know, it's, it's going to take all of us though to make this successful. And as I said at the last board meeting, we just, you know, had in, in Chicago that it's really something that our leadership needs to get behind and that affiliates need to get engaged with and bring content to ACB Radio.
Jeff Bishop: 13:34 So we're going to be talking a lot about that throughout the rest of this year and into 2020. And you'll see even more changes coming because of the work that we're doing. So stay tuned for that. It's, it's pretty darn exciting. I wanted to talk now about the ACB email lists, which really is, is integral to the way that we communicate across the organization. It's, it's amazing, you know, sighted people use forums and other things and we just love our email lists and some people, especially people who are IT related are like wow. You know, man, that stuff's back in the 90s. You know, some of us don't like change because it works because it works well for us. Right? It's just something that works well for us. So we've been struggling a bit with our, with our email list situation, and I won't go into all of that technical detail, but I wanted to talk a little bit about what the future holds for our email lists and what we're doing to try to remedy the situation.
Jeff Bishop: 14:40 You know, we send out literally tens of thousands of email a day across our email lists and it goes out to thousands and thousands of people for each message. And we get noticed by internet service providers and a lot of times some of our people get what we call blacklisted. So we have to unblock that and you know, where we can. And so we've been trying to think about how do we solve this and, and make this situation that we don't have to maintain as much and also add some stability and features to the organization where we think we can, you know, bring significant value as well as saving significant budget for the organization. And we think we've found a way to do that. So over the next few weeks we are going to be working toward moving over a small subset of our email lists, those basically on ACB Radio, first on the ACB Radio.org website and then we'll then tackle those on ACB lists.org but we're going to be moving all of our email lists to groups.io. Groups.io is a great set of tools and a lot of blind and visually impaired people already using these resources for email lists that they run outside of our organization.
Jeff Bishop: 16:02 You won't really notice a change in that everything will just magically work. Everything will be tied to acblists.org and so you won't really notice any significant changes, but it brings lots of really great feature sets for us. It's things like polling and, and you can even put up files for each of the email lists if you want. And some, some really great features there that we think users are going to like and it's going to save the organization money, which is really important. So we think we're going to have a win-win here. And the best part of all of this is that that the stability and the issues of, of blacklisting we hope will be significantly curtailed and make everyone's life, including mine and Jason's and others, a lot freer as far as time is concerned because we devote a lot of time to this specific activity. So stay tuned for that. We'll have a lot of communication coming out about this. Don't worry, it's nothing that you need to be concerned about. It's just, it will be a change. You'll notice some, some things probably changing and we may have a period of down time for our email list for a short period of time as we transition them across. But we'll give people a significant advanced notice when that activity takes place.
Claire Stanley: 17:27 That's a really cool tool to hear about Jeff. And Clark and I were just nudging each other cause we love the idea of that helping to enhance lists as an advocacy tool. We already have many lists that we use on a fairly regular basis to, to shoot out comments to our members and ask if they're experienced or certain issues and things like that. So that's an ongoing tool that I think we can expand to use to reach our members and be able to take you know, polls on what people are dealing with and get information. So that's a really exciting thing for us to hear.
Clark Rachfal: 18:04 On last Friday we sent over announce, leadership and advocacy that there will be an advocacy committee open call on Wednesday, November 20th. So what a great way for us to communicate another communication channel that we have with our members. But by using the lists to be able to send out the conference information, stay tuned, and the agenda for the call and then for us to have conversations with the members about things that, like Claire said, that they're experiencing or for us to ask questions and receive feedback about the work of the national office.
Claire Stanley: 18:45 Good plug, Clark. I love it. Yeah, keep November 20th on your calendar, everybody.
Jeff Bishop: 18:50 Okay, I'll do that too. That's first time I heard about that too. So, you know, I think it's important for all of our members and our leadership to really remember to utilize all of the resources that we have. We have, you know, you guys in the national office, we have ACB Radio and Main Menu, which is our technology program that comes out, you know, every other week. Lots of great vehicles to get messaging out on products, services, advocacy, wanting to really make sure that people understand these are also available as podcasts. So a lot of our content that's aired on ACB Radio is available for you to subscribe to so you can get that out as well. And we're actually working really hard on getting that content up quicker for all of you.
Jeff Bishop: 19:45 All of this year's convention activities for the most part are now up and available. There's a few things that we'll be continuing to add as we get permission to do so. But it's a really great thing and, and I really want to make sure that all of the affiliates and you know, all of the members across the organization utilize the resources that we have to get their word out. Cause this is not just about national activity, it's about what's happening across the organization as a whole. And that's extremely important.
Clark Rachfal: 20:18 Jeff, you just glossed over, are they a podcast that you personally are involved with? Would you like to talk a little bit more about that as well?
Jeff Bishop: 20:28 Main Menu you mean?
Clark Rachfal: 20:30 Yes, exactly.
Jeff Bishop: 20:31 Yeah. Main Menu is a podcast that actually, again, there's a, there's a tremendous team. You know, I don't play as much of a role in that as I had in the past. Because we have just an absolutely amazing team who, who runs that now. I'm part of it, but really I'm kind of, you know, mostly hands off just because I'm so busy working on other things. I'll definitely appear and, you know, participate from time to time and I feed them content and, you know, all that kind of fun stuff. But it's, it's really a program that has been airing now for, wow, 20 years, about 20 years, maybe just a little under 20 years on ACB Radio, you know, and we bring technology content from a blindness perspective to the community.
Jeff Bishop: 21:25 And so we've, we've talked to people, you know, like Microsoft and Amazon and others. We evaluate product. We talked to leaders in this space who are, who are doing some pretty amazing things. It's just a really great show to be able to stay up on, you know, the activities of, of what's going on in the world of technology from a blindness perspective. And it's something that I would really encourage everyone to tune into. It airs on, you know, the first time new episodes, come out on Friday evening at nine Eastern time and then repeats throughout the, throughout the schedule. You can find out all of that information out at acbradio.org, and go to the mainstream schedule, and you can go to mainmenu.acbradio.org as well. Although back content, a part of the work that we're doing too is we're going to be actually doing away with that website and moving everything over to ACBRadio.org/MainMenu. So that we bring, we bring it into our modern infrastructure. That right now is based on a really, really old system that someone built for the organization many, many years ago. And yeah, we're just, we're going to be moving all of that content you know, into our Drupal website itself.
Claire Stanley: 22:58 Gotcha. Well, we are so, so impressed and so thankful. I don't know how you do it all. You must have something like 48 hours in your one day. We need to learn how you get that extra time. We don't ask.
Jeff Bishop: 23:12 Jokingly, you know, we have this Microsoft research building you know, on campus and they have figured out the ability to add about three days to my week. And that's really the only way that it works. [Laughter]
Claire Stanley: 23:25 You'll have to share that with us.
Jeff Bishop: 23:34 I'm just kidding. I don't know how I do it sometimes, either, to be honest with you. And it's, it's a lot of work, but really, again, it comes down to having great people you who work really, really hard. I couldn't do it without all of them. And and I know I keep repeating that, but it's true. It's, you know, it truly takes a village to make things happen. And you know, that's a strength of our organization, which is everyone pulling together and really working toward, you know, making sure that everyone is successful in building something, you know, great for our community.
Clark Rachfal: 24:13 And this isn't just a tool for our community that yes, it helps us share information and communicate with one another. But the work that you all do with acb.org and ACBRadio.org that's really an external face for the organization as well.
Jeff Bishop: 24:28 Absolutely.
Clark Rachfal: 24:28 That allows us to share our content, whether that's the e-forum, share information about the legislative seminar and ACB annual convention. And then we hear, here at the national office from numerous partners and folks in the policy space about what a great tool, the acb.org slash audio description.
Jeff Bishop: 24:59 ADP.
Clark Rachfal: 25:00 Yeah, ADP on acb.org what a great tool that website is. Especially now that we have the proliferation of streaming services. Folks want to know what's available where and who has an accessible user interface. So I imagine some sites are getting a lot of traffic right now by ACB members as well as the broader community.
Jeff Bishop: 25:19 Well if you have time, I'll just briefly mention ACB Link here cause it kind of plays into that as well as some projects, projects that we're looking at bringing to everyone too. So ACB Link is our mobile app that works across Android and iOS, and iOS 13 came out this year and it, it has kind of broken links audio player. So we're working diligently on a, on a new version. You'll see that come out probably in December or early January. We'll start testing it here in the next few weeks. But yeah, we're bringing some interesting changes to that.
Jeff Bishop: 25:56 We're bringing in an enhanced player, which we think will help those people who have lower bandwidth type environments. You'll be able to speed up the content as long as it's not streamed. We're going to be bringing, don't know that it will make it in this first release that's going to be coming out soon. But soon after download, you can download podcast content offline so you can listen to it, say on a plane, you know, things like that. So that's that, that's going to be coming. And the ADP project as well as myself are working on, I'm trying to see what we can do about bringing a lot of that content that's on that website where you can go up and look and see, you know, what television shows, have audio description, what movies and all of that. We want to bring that to your A lady devices so that you can you can ask your Amazon, you know, device, I'm trying to, avoid saying the word.
Clark Rachfal: 26:57 She who shall not be named. [laughter]
Jeff Bishop: 27:05 Yeah, she who shall not be named. We're, we're looking at seeing if we can integrate that data into it such that you can ask with your voice, you know, what's, what's on television tonight that has audio description, things like that. So there's some work going on behind the scenes there too. So lots of, lots of projects, lots of activities. But you know, all to better the community within the organization as well as outside. And that's what it's all about. It's, it's making a difference for everyone.
Claire Stanley: 27:36 Well, thank you so much for us speaking with us today. I know I learned a ton myself already, so thank you for your continued support of ACB and again, the 20 million different hats you wear and we're so thankful.
Jeff Bishop: 27:50 Thank you so much guys.
Clark Rachfal: 27:51 Yeah, there's so much to squeeze into one podcast episode, but thank you for sharing with us Jeff and everyone. What initially was planned to be a single podcast with two interviews, well, a single podcast just can't contain all this goodness.
Jeff Bishop: 28:08 Oh, come on, do an hour. [laughter]
Clark Rachfal: 28:11 Here we've got Jeff Bishop talking with us about everything that's new and exciting with ACB Radio and acb.org and all the content where you can find it, how you can listen to it. And our next podcast, dovetailing off this one will be with Kelly Gasque from the ACB national office, and she will share with us all the work that she's doing with social media for ACB as well as our affiliates.
Claire Stanley: 28:42 Great. Thanks everybody.
Clark Rachfal: 28:43 Yeah, thank you so much, Jeff. Thanks for all the work that you do. And Claire as we always say,
Claire Stanley: 28:48 Keep advocating!