The July 16, 2021 ACB Conference and Convention Board of Directors Meeting was called to order at 10:02 AM Eastern Time by President Dan Spoone.
Roll Call and Introduction of Guests
The call of the roll was conducted by the secretary, Denise Colley. Members present: Dan Spoone, Mark Richert, Ray Campbell, Denise Colley, David Trott, Kim Charlson, Jeff Bishop, Donna Brown, Dan Dillon, Katie Frederick, Jim Kracht, Doug Powell, Pat Sheehan, and Jeff Thom. Board of Publications member Penny Reeder was present representing that body.
Board members absent: Sara Alkmin and Michael Talley
Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Clark Rachfal, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Tony Stephens, Director of Development, Swatha Nandhakumar, ACB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, Kelly Gasque, ACB Executive Assistant and Media Design Specialist, Sharon Lovering, ACB Braille Forum/EForum Editor, Jennifer Flatt, Manager of Communications, Cindy Hollis, ACB Membership Services Coordinator, Kolby Garrison, Membership Services Administrative Assistant, Nancy Marks-Becker, ACB Chief Financial Officer and Debbie Brown, Administrative Assistant.
Contractors present: Debbie Hazelton, ACB Media Managing Director, and Rick Morin, ACB Media Technical Director
Guests present: Janet Dickelman, ACB Conference and Convention Coordinator
Review and Approval of Agenda - Dan Spoone, President
President Spoone reviewed the agenda. Brown moved and Trott seconded adoption of the agenda as amended to add an Item E under the President’s Report to include an update on our resolutions process for 2021. The motion carried.
Review and Approval of Minutes
April 29, 2021 telephonic ACB Board of Directors meeting minutes – Denise Colley, Secretary
Trott moved and Powell seconded a motion to approve the April 29, 2021 meeting minutes. Powell said there was confusion in the section talking about the Fall Board Meeting in that no action was recorded on whether to make the meeting a hybrid one or a possible change of dates, as was discussed. The minutes then jumped right to the motion to authorize staff to look at moving the DC Leadership Conference to the first weekend in March at the Holiday Inn in Alexandria. Colley indicated that the action item was to make the Fall Board Meeting hybrid, and Janet would look at other potential dates. The corrections will be made in the April minutes. The motion carried and the minutes will be corrected.
Review and Approval of Two Email Board Motions
Adoption of Changes to Standing Rules and Approval of Changes to Employee Retirement Plan - Denise Colley, Secretary
Two email motions were made and adopted in between the April telephonic Board Meeting and the Convention Board Meeting. Both occurred in May. The first dealt with the recommendation to adopt the 2021 Conference and Convention Standing Rules. The second adopted a resolution outlining a change in retirement plan for ACB employees. Both motions were adopted unanimously by email votes.
Campbell moved and Thom seconded a motion to ratify the two email motions as described above. The motion carried.
Mission Moment: Dan Spoone and Eric Bridges
This Mission Moment focused on the opportunity to thank our Convention Broadcast Team for the amount of work they have invested in the coordination of organizing and executing a virtual convention of our size including: countless hours of video production, scheduling, and volunteer time spent covering breakout session hosting, streaming, broadcasting, recording, interviewing, etc. This year, there will be 166 breakout sessions.
Jeff Bishop also shared with the Board that we launched an entirely new streaming platform for the ACB Media Network, which has also required significant people resources, both inside and outside of the organization, to help facilitate that transition. As of this meeting, ACB had almost 12,000 visits to our website since its launch on July 1, 2021, with over one thousand visits within the first hour of the Board Meeting.
Consent Agenda: Dan Spoone
All staff reports were sent out in advance and placed in the Board Dropbox for reading and review prior to this Meeting.
It was moved by Richert and seconded by Brown to approve the reports and the consent agenda. The motion carried.
President’s Report: Dan Spoone
WBU Quadrennial Meeting Report: Kim Charlson
The General Assembly of the World Blind Union was held virtually from Madrid June 28-30, 2021. There were 4,000 registered attendees which is roughly three times larger than the previous in-person WBU General Assembly held in person.
Martine Abel-Williamson from New Zealand was elected president of the WBU. She is the second woman to serve in this role. She previously served previously served as WBU treasurer. The next WBU Quadrennial Meeting will be held in Madrid, Spain in 2025.
WBU resolution topics included: the right to an education for all children who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind; strengthening participation of blind and partially sighted women and girls in society. The WBU conducted a study to assess methods of communicating and meeting as an organization taking advantage of what was learned during the pandemic. The WBU also prepared a report for the World Health Organization discussing key areas where blind and visually impaired people were facing obstacles including transportation, mobility, independent living, mental health and well being. Out of those major areas, eight thematic recommendations were put forward to help return the global blind community to what will be the new normal following the pandemic. They came up with eight thematic recommendations were put forward to help return the global blind community to what will be the new normal following the pandemic. There was also emphasis on the continuing implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, now with over 100 nations that have signed and ratified the Treaty agreement.
Dan took the opportunity to publicly thank Mitch Pomerantz for his service as one of ACB’s delegates to the WBU and the first vice president of the North American/Caribbean Region. He was also very involved on the Employment Committee.
Ad Hoc Committee Formed to Evaluate Role of Executive Committee: Mark Richert and Kim Charlson Co-Chairs
An ad hoc committee has been established to research the role and function of the Executive Committee of the Board. Along with Kim and Mark as co-chairs, other committee members include: Jeff Bishop, Doug Powell, David Trott, and Denise Colley. The committee will bring recommendations back to the Board for consideration.
Motion to Hold Special Membership Meeting to Allow Remote Voting in 2022
Dan reported that the one thing the Voting Task Force heard at all of the presentations they made was how important it was for all members to be able to vote at this year’s virtual convention. Members expressed that they don’t want their right to vote taken away when we go back to an in-person convention in 2022.
Therefore, to make this possible, there will be a motion put before the membership on Sunday night at the opening session of the convention requesting that the membership adjourn the annual business meeting on July 23, 2021 and reconvene on Saturday, August 14 to consider necessary amendments to the ACB Constitution and Bylaws to align our governing documents with the DC Code related to membership involvement in the annual meeting and the voting process. Plans are to read the motion on Sunday, July 18th and then it will be voted on after discussion on July 23rd. When passed, the motion will allow ACB to convene on August 14 and 15, where amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws will be considered.
There will be significant added cost to the budget as we move forward and put processes in place, we will need to look for funding sources. We also will need to be cognizant of the human cost of this step, because it will be added work for staff and volunteers.
Update on 2022 DC Leadership Conference: Eric Bridges and Kelly Gasque
Eric reported that in late May staff was contacted by the Holiday Inn, the site of the 2020 DC Leadership Conference. They were informed that the hotel had been sold and was closing in early July. They were prepared to make referrals to other hotels in the area that might meet our needs. Kelly and Eric have visited several hotels and believe there is one in particular that would meet our conference needs. ACB is looking at establishing a contract with this nationally owned franchise, in a prime location in Old Town Alexandria. The hotel is part of a nationally owned franchise and is in a prime location in Old Town Alexandria.
The 2021 Resolutions Process
Dan reviewed the resolutions process for 2021 and recognized the hard work the Resolutions Committee had already been putting into this year’s process. Many resolutions have already been submitted to the committee for review, with the submission deadline at the end of convention. The Resolutions Committee will be holding weekly resolutions community events, to allow members to hear the resolutions, ask questions, get feedback, and speak with the original makers of the resolutions. On August 31st, there will be a telephonic Board meeting where the resolutions will be reviewed and approved by the Board.
Campbell moved and Powell seconded a motion to accept the president’s report. The motion carried.
Executive Director’s Report: Eric Bridges
Launch of ACB Media Network: The concept of modernizing a one-stop repository for all of ACB’s various media requirements has been discussed for several years, and it was finally launched on July 1st. Much work went into setting up the site and ensuring that everything was working correctly. ACB Media is now a part of the Microsoft Azure environment. What this does is move ACB and all of our digital assets and media content into the realm of unlimited possibilities and many opportunities to innovate.
Update on Information Technology Infrastructure: ACB’s increased stability and speed with which our digital assets are now able to operate when being put under stress, such as convention week, is amazing. This includes ACB Media, ACB.org, and the Audio Description Project. May and June were very important for the replatforming of these sites, and it happened through our work with the Louisville Web Group. All sites are more secure and working at an optimal level. The ADP website was also integrated into ACB.org. Strategically ACB is now light years ahead of where we were previously.
ACB Job Posting Updates: Staff completed the final hire per our 2021 budget. Debbie Brown joined the Alexandria staff on June 21st. She is in the office on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. This completes five new hires this year.
Over the past twelve months, we have also had three interns. Due to this increase in interns, staff will be developing an internship policy looking at the supervision, as well as the performance of interns throughout the duration of their time with ACB. Along with providing necessary performance feedback, there will be detailed objectives, monitoring, and final review. Eric is hopeful to bring this policy to the Board in October for discussion and adoption.
Eric and Erika Keller have established a hiring process, which will be incorporate into a handbook.
An in-person meeting of the ACB Advisory Board was held on June 11. It focused on membership, and how to enhance our computer infrastructure and processes for data gathering in collaboration with our affiliates. They also discussed what ACB has done concerning the communications channels that we have, how we are utilizing them, and the benefit of bringing on a communications manager to further professionalize our messaging from an advocacy, development, and a general public awareness standpoint.
Charles Cooper, joined the Advisory Board for this meeting. He is Vice President at the Signal Group, which is a governmental affairs firm in Washington, DC.
Convention Update: Janet Dickelman, Convention Committee Chair
As of the first day of convention, there were over 1,400 people registered. This number does not reflect the people who will be listening over ACB Media. The number of convention breakout sessions, from sponsors, affiliates, and committees is 30% higher than 2020. Many exhibitors have their own Zoom rooms for attendees to drop in and speak with them. Exhibitor presentations will be playing in an eight-hour loop beginning at 10:00 AM each day. The audio described tour channel will play in a six-hour loop, also beginning at 10:00 AM daily. on opening day. All convention sessions, minus a few mixers and social events, will be made available as podcasts. The ACB Broadcast Team has a target date to have all podcasts released by the end of August.
The Fall Board Meeting in Omaha is the weekend of October 8-9 at the Hilton Hotel. Board members were asked to send Janet their hotel reservation information after August 1st. The dates for the National Conference and Convention in 2022 are July 1-8 at the Hilton Hotel. Room rates are $96 per night. The convention dates for 2023 are June 30 to July 7, back in Schaumburg at the Renaissance Hotel. The dates in 2024 are July 5-12 at the Hyatt Hotel in Jacksonville, and the dates in 2025 are July 4-11 at the Hyatt Hotel in Dallas. Room rates are all under $100 per night.
Advocacy Update: Clark Rachfal
(See the report contained in the consent agenda.)
Clark briefly went through the status of the 2020 ACB resolutions, primarily focusing on those that are still ongoing.
Resolution 2020-1 related to Compliance with Digital Accessibility is ongoing with advocacy efforts, including government agencies and potential legislation.
Resolution 2020-02 related to Non-Vocational Services for Persons with Vision Loss is ongoing with advocacy from ACB and the broader vision community including VisionServe Alliance, the National Policy Collaborative, and with the Department of Education.
Resolution 2020-5 related to Services for Older Individuals Who are Blind. Mark Richert and Jeff Thom are taking the lead in this area, especially through the Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition, of which ACB and AAVL are both organizational members.
Resolution 2020-06 related to USPS Informed Delivery is ongoing. Last year, ACB and the Information Access Committee sent a letter to the U. S. Postal Service regarding the inaccessibility of the Click and Ship feature of their website. They quickly addressed many of the concerns. The Information Access Committee determined it would be considered an undue burden, due to the state of technical limitations, to make the Informed Delivery process of the USPS website accessible. As technology continues to evolve and innovate, the IAC thinks that this will become a more reasonable expectation.
Resolution 2020-07 related to accessible notetaking in classes evolved into a bigger issue needing a broader conversation with the Department of Education’s new appointee at the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for technical guidance reminding schools of their responsibilities for students with disabilities related to alternative formats.
Resolution 2020-10 related to Policing and equity-related advocacy is something ACB is working on as part of the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities and several other task forces, working equity and intersectionality into a lot of the work that CCD is doing amongst their policy development.
Resolution 2020-11 related to Racial Justice. ACB has begun internal trainings, and this is an ongoing area of focus for the organization.
Resolution 20-12 related to access solutions for transit systems continues to be an ongoing area of advocacy for the national office, as well as state affiliates and local chapters. There is work that the Transportation and Environmental Access Committees and the national office are doing on the federal level, and they will be looking at providing more training and assistance at the grassroots level.
Communications & Development Report: Tony Stephens
(See the report contained in the consent agenda.)
Jennifer Flatt, Communications Manager, provided updated data and metrics with regard to our Verizon grant and our 15-second ad spot that is running about our 60 for 60 campaign on Yahoo Finance. On June 21st, we started a banner box ad promoting the convention. It had over 360,000 impressions. We saw 200 click throughs directly from that banner box ad to our website. The
average person spent about four minutes on our website. Currently, the 15 second video is uninterrupted, and it plays during content, with no skippable moments. ACB has been given fifteen million views to be used for this spot. To see the video, go to the ACB homepage on acb.org or on our Youtube channel.
Member Services: Cindy Hollis
(See the report contained in the consent agenda.)
Cindy reported that, as of June 30, 2020, ACB had held 384 Community Events. From July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, we added 4,220 events, and to date we are at 4,735 total Community Events. We are averaging around 20 people per call. Community Events have been broken into categories including: technology, peer support, personal growth and development, health and wellness, and specific focus topics, and fun/social events.
Many of our events are streamed on ACB Media with listeners getting to know people’s names and voices. This gives ACB the opportunity to begin engaging with them, and turn those positive connections into members.
We are doing more events in Clubhouse, and we are finding new ways to engage people who don’t know about ACB, and bringing them into our community.
We have 47 volunteers hosting, moderating, and broadcasting in Clubhouse, as well as facilitating Community events, and hosting breakout sessions for convention.
The Posse has been reactivated and is now being made available to affiliates for assistance with such things as surveying their membership, calling members and reminding them about Board meetings, or reaching out to individuals whose memberships have lapsed.
Cindy is also working to expand the concept of the Hump Day Happy Hour to make it available to local chapter leaders. She is hoping to have this in place by the fall providing those leaders with a monthly call where they can connect with each other and receive peer support. An email list for chapter presidents will also be created for increasing networking. She will be helping them to utilize the resources of the Berl Colley Leadership Training Institute.
Chief Financial Officer: Nancy Becker
Update on members.acb.org: The members.acb.org account is now being used for the scholarship application process, for members-at-large joining ACB, signing up for the holiday auction, and convention registration. Right now, we have over 3400 individuals who have created accounts. Those individuals with records in the system can now update their own profiles. The changes individuals make in their record will now link directly with AMMS.
Along with making the member certification process easier, the office wants to be able to use the members.ACB.org site to reach out to individuals to more easily communicate with them by providing them with chapter, state or special interest affiliate information.
Sheehan moved and Charlson seconded a motion to accept the staff reports. The motion carried.
Financial Narrative for 2021 YTD May: David Trott, ACB Treasurer
(See the Income Statement Reports contained in the consent agenda.)
Campbell moved and Brown seconded that the narrative financial report be approved. The motion carried.
ACBES (Thrift Store) Report: Michael Garrett ACBES Board Chair
For the five months from January through May 2021, ACBES made a contribution to ACB of $184,000. This was slightly below the budgeted amount of $193,000. Store sales for that period were below budget, but expenses were also below budget, which enabled ACBES to show profits from Operations of $92,400. This was before recognizing the forgiveness of the PPP loans.
There is a new manager in the Amarillo store who has been focusing on increasing sales by rearranging the way in which merchandise is presented. As a result, the store is seeing a more diverse group of shoppers. The store has started to meet its sales goals.
The Lubbock store continues to be the leader of the two stores. There has been a decline in the number of customers coming into the store since the first of the year, which has impacted sales, but the manager continues to look for ways to bring in additional customers. When they do come in, he also manages to bring in very good sales per customer.
Both stores are using social media to share information to current and prospective customers. These facebook and twitter pages display information several times a week to help customers learn about ACB, show them unique items they can find in the stores and the specials being offered.
Trott moved and Thom seconded a motion to approve the ACBES report. The motion carried.
Board of Publications (BOP) Report: Penny Reeder, BOP Representative
Since the last report, the BOP has remained busy continuing to work on improving ACB Conversation and getting ready for convention. This year, the BOP is not using volunteers to read the daily convention newspaper. It is being narrated by one of Microsoft’s voices, Jenny.
The other major project was the sponsorship of the Candidates Forums, which occurred over two evenings.
It was moved by Colley and seconded by Campbell to approve the Board of Publications report. The motion carried.
Review and Approval of Policy on Reasonable Accommodations at ACB Sponsored Functions: Clark Rachfal, ADA Accommodations Coordinator
The most current Reasonable Accommodation Policy was last reviewed in 2008, and the biggest item to be addressed in this 2021 review was that the Policy did not account for the virtual environment. Along with incorporating suggested edits, the Policy was also linked to the newly revised Code of Conduct. The definition of ACB events from the Code of Conduct was inserted into the newly revised Reasonable Accommodation Policy draft, so that the two policies are in alignment with one another.
Questions were asked about the timeframes around the requesting of accommodations and Clark indicated this is an area that ACB will need to look at more broadly if this updated Policy is adopted. Concerns were around providing needed accommodations for people to be able to participate on the community calls, and associated costs that could be very high. Several issues will need to be addressed and flushed out before final adoption.
Charlson asked if we could replace the term “service animal” wherever it is referenced in the Policy with the term “service dog” since that is the term referenced by the Department of Justice. Reeder suggested using the term “guide and service dogs”. This was considered a friendly edit by Clark and the Committee.
Thom asked for clarification about the section that refers to requested accommodations for a person accompanying an attendee. After some discussion it was felt by the Board that more clarifying language was needed in this area.
Campbell suggested that in the section that addresses accommodations provided to deaf/blind attendees include the term Support Services Providers.
It was moved by Trott and seconded by Campbell to approve the revised Policy as currently presented, and that a report be given to the Board at the October meeting covering the incorporation of changes discussed at this meeting. The motion carried.
Voting Task Force Report - Pat Sheehan, Committee Chair
There were over 30 informational meetings held on the voting process to be used during convention, and the two mock elections helped the Task Force clarify some issues that needed to be adjusted. We had significant interest and participation from the members and affiliates. Strong communication will need to be provided as we move forward.
Powell moved and Brown seconded a motion to approve the Voting Task Force report. The motion carried.
There being no further business Richert moved, and Campbell seconded a motion to adjourn. The motion carried. The meeting adjourned at 4:12 PM Eastern time.
Date submitted: 9/12/2021