The Friday, November 13, 2020 afternoon session of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) Board of Directors Zoom conference call meeting was called to order at 4:05 PM Eastern Time by President Dan Spoone.
At the call of the roll, the following Board members were present: Dan Spoone, Ray Campbell, Denise Colley, David Trott, Kim Charlson, Jeff Bishop, Donna Brown, Sara Conrad, Dan Dillon, Katie Frederick, Jim Kracht, Doug Powell, Pat Sheehan, Michael Talley and Jeff Thom. Mark Richert was absent. Board of Publications Member Penny Reeder was present representing that body.
Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Kelly Gasque, ACB Executive Assistant and Media Design Specialist, Clark Rachfal, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Claire Stanley, ACB Advocacy and Outreach specialist, Tony Stephens, ACB Director of Development, Nancy Marks-Becker, ACB Chief Financial Officer, and Cindy Hollis, ACB Membership Services Coordinator. Following roll call, several guests introduced themselves.
The Friday afternoon meeting functioned as a workshop for the board, during which ACB officers and staff members provided informative updates on various projects and issues and described the systematic approach ACB has adopted to organize and track progress with respect to the work that engages the American Council of the Blind. President Spoone told the board that the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), outlined in the book, “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” by Gino Wickman, which has been adopted to assure that progress on meeting the goals of the organization, as defined by our mission, has launched successfully throughout ACB. As steering committees and ACB staff members become more familiar with the EOS structure and vocabulary, the value of implementing the EOS approach for operating the business of ACB becomes more and more apparent. Dan explained that the Entrepreneurial Operating System which has been successfully utilized by for-profit businesses and organizations, has been modified to accommodate ACB’s not-for-profit mission and core values, and officers, staff, and steering committee members are feeling good about the ways this systematic approach is allowing them to identify and handle issues and track and measure progress toward meeting goals. The EOS system relies on efficiently collecting, understanding, and utilizing data and trusting the commitment and skills of committees and staff who meet regularly and measure and track progress.
ACB’s Executive Director, Eric Bridges described accomplishments that had occurred over the year. These included: Hiring a director of development; collaborating with two state rehabilitation agencies to support hiring two interns, one to assist with membership and community outreach, another to assist with communications and development; and establishing a major donor advisory board.
Although the ongoing COVID pandemic has had terrible effects all around the world, Eric reminded the board that ACB can take pride in many of the ways the organization has stepped up to meet COVID-related challenges and to help members cope with them. ACB’s Community Events, which have provided support, entertainment, connection, education, training, and social interactions during a time of social isolation for people who are blind, have been of incalculable benefit to our members and our organization. ACB’S investments in technology and training have allowed us to expand our community outreach via platforms like ZOOM, Amazon’s Alexa, and multiplying channels and diverse programming on ACB Radio. We have participated with Procter & Gamble to deliver daily necessities to low-income people with disabilities in several cities across the country. Our virtual 2020 convention was even more successful than our most optimistic members might have anticipated, garnering praise and admiration for ACB from all sectors of the blindness community.
Even though our staff has been working from home, ACB’s mission was never in jeopardy. Phone calls were answered, our community outreach program was launched, our convention was planned and accomplished, affiliates received the assistance they needed to legislatively secure accessible absentee ballots in several states, and ACB remained the viable organization our members and our community have come to expect.
The thrift stores which support the work of ACB maintained profitability, and hard work by our CFO, Nancy Marks Becker; Director of Development, Tony Stephens; and the staff in the Minneapolis office led to our securing needed funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the pandemic stimulus bill passed in March 2020.
The public’s awareness and positive impressions of the American Council of the Blind have expanded dramatically because of, among other accomplishments, our successful community outreach phone calls, programming on ACB Radio, podcasts, and a Facebook group. We launched the ACB Voices Blog and joined and expanded our involvement as subject matter experts on the BeMyEyes platform. Our recent online events celebrating the tenth anniversary of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) brought ACB to the attention of tens of thousands of people who follow Apple CEO Tim Cook, when he joined in our celebration via Twitter.
Despite working remotely, ACB’s advocacy staff achieved success in advocating for improved access to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and expanded audio-description on television. ACB’S outreach led to demonstrable recognition of the value of audio description by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a settlement agreement with HBO Max. ACB consulted with the Department of Education as they developed a report on COVID, and with Apple TV to assure realistic portrayals of blindness in the TV series, “See.” ACB was the only blindness organization appointed to the Air Carrier Access Act Advisory Committee which has spent months deliberating on the rules that will affect guide dog users’ civil right to fly on planes with their dogs. If you are finding the screens for Patreon interactive games or the Peloton biking exercise interface accessible even though you can’t access those screens visually, you can thank ACB’s advocacy team for those improvements.
In May 2020, ACB secured Mt. Vernon Consulting to conduct analysis of ACB’s communications activities and procedures, with the express intent to deliver a communication plan for ACB. Tony Stephens described the consultants’ initial findings, their report, and their recommendations for streamlining and improving ACB’s communications. Research findings were derived from in-depth interviews of ACB staff and volunteers, market research, and an audit of existing communication channels.
Consultants were able to describe how ACB communications channels have evolved over the years to include numerous distinct channels, many of which are duplicative, some of which are under used or not used at all, and which are hard to manage and would benefit from simplification and reorganization.
During September, ACB conducted a series of focus groups which helped guide the recommendations included in the communications plan which emerged. Goals are to assure that all of our communications reflect ACB’s core message and values, to grow our audiences, and to assure our communications channels efficiently describe who we are, how we interact with our members and the external world, and what we need to do to achieve the goals we agree upon.
Tony described key take-aways from the consultants’ analysis and recommendations that are already guiding the work of ACB leaders and staff. He said, ACB is comprised of passionate and articulate voices who embody ACB’s core values, particularly in the areas of choice and acceptance. Steps are already underway to streamline communication channels like our mailing lists and audio/video platforms including ACB’s YouTube channel, ACB Radio and ACB Podcasts. Next steps will center around implementing the communication plan’s guidance, which has already been beneficial toward crafting ACB’s end-of-year fund-raising campaign.
Dan and Eric wrapped up the meeting by describing how the methodology presented in the Entrepreneurial Operating System is migrating to decision-making venues throughout the organization, and how, after getting used to the terminology and structure, the approach is finding a positive reception among ACB’s leaders, staff, and committee members.
The Friday meeting recessed until 11:00 AM, Eastern Time, the next morning when the official board meeting reconvened.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
The Saturday, November 14, 2020 meeting of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) Board of Directors meeting was reconvened at 11:05 AM Eastern Time by President Dan Spoone via ZOOM, and broadcast on ACB Radio Mainstream.
At the call of the roll, the following Board members were present: Dan Spoone, Mark Richert, Ray Campbell, Denise Colley, David Trott, Kim Charlson, Jeff Bishop, Donna Brown, Sara Conrad, Dan Dillon, Katie Frederick, Jim Kracht, Doug Powell, Pat Sheehan, Michael Talley and Jeff Thom. Board of Publications member Penny Reeder was present representing that body.
Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Kelly Gasque, ACB Executive Assistant and Media Design Specialist, Clark Rachfal, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Claire Stanley, ACB Advocacy and Outreach specialist, Tony Stephens, ACB Director of Development, Nancy Marks-Becker, ACB Chief Financial Officer, Cindy Hollis, ACB Membership Services Coordinator, Sharon Lovering, ACB Braille Forum Editor, and ACB Radio contractors Debbie Hazelton and Jason Castonguay. Following the roll call, several guests were introduced.
Approval of Agenda: Dan Spoone, President
President Spoone reviewed the agenda, and a motion was made by Donna Brown and seconded by David Trott to approve the board meeting agenda, and the motion was adopted unanimously.
A motion was then made by Doug Powell and seconded by Ray Campbell to approve the minutes of the August 27, 2020 board meeting. The motion passed unanimously.
Mission Moment: Dan Spoone and Eric Bridges
President Spoone announced that November’s Mission Moment would celebrate Clark Rachfal’s achievements in advocating for accessible voting.
Dan said that it has been outstanding to see what ACB has been able to accomplish in this area this year, and the driver of this success truly was Clark, with all of his hard work for well over a year helping to coordinate and support our affiliates’ efforts. His hard work really put ACB in the forefront as an advocacy/consumer group that is able to react quickly and do what is right for our members.
Executive director, Eric Bridges pointed out that helping ACB state affiliates to advocate for accessible voting procedures and equipment is not a new objective for ACB, but the pandemic of 2020 drastically shifted voting procedures nationwide. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACB has become one of the leading disability rights organizations ensuring voters with disabilities maintain access for in-person voting and gain access to absentee voting. ACB is a founding member of the National Coalition for Accessible Voting, and we have lead multiple sign-on letters to Congress, influencing the conversation around national vote by mail.
Clark consulted with affiliates and members from more than 25 states. In many cases, their joint efforts resulted in administrative, legislative and legal initiatives to improve voting access. As a result, at least 18 states and the District of Columbia are newly offering some form of accessible absentee voting solution, and five states are allowing voters with disabilities to use a fully electronic voting system including e-ballot submission.
ACB’s advocacy team continues to share voting information with our members and the broader community. We have conducted community events with two accessible absentee voting venders, Democracy Live and Voting Works, including a demonstration of their accessible absentee voting solution. We have hosted several voting-related Advocacy Update podcasts, widely shared information, via news release and other communications channels regarding significant voting accomplishments and participated on voting webinars and panel discussions with government, cross disability, and corporate partners. Dan stated that our focus on accessible voting has presented an opportunity for ACB and NFB to participate on an issue of mutual interest.
Clark expressed gratitude for the Mission Moment recognition and said he certainly could not – and would never want to – do this alone. Thank you to all of our members and affiliates who spearheaded efforts and initiatives in their states, and working locally, in advocating for these policy changes. Clark further thanked Claire Stanley for helping to generate content for the online Accessible Voting Toolkit, as well as her work with the states, her representation of ACB on the National Coalition on Accessible Voting, of which ACB is a founding member, and her work with several election equipment partners.
President’s Report: Dan Spoone
Dan opened his president’s report, stating that ACB is well aware that we need to make the opportunity for our members to vote at the 2021 ACB convention a reality. He invited Pat Sheehan to update the Board on the Ad Hoc Voting Solutions Committee that Pat is chairing. Pat said that he has invited twelve ACB members to participate on the committee. He expects responses from the final two invitees soon, and the committee will begin working on their two goals immediately. A First goal is making sure that ACB has the legal authority to vote remotely. Then, the committee will look at the available processes for voting in a virtual environment and decide on which approaches to recommend to the ACB Board. Pat said he expects the committee to begin working on these goals quite soon, and that the committee plans to recommend remote voting options to ACB at the February Leadership meetings.
Pat explained that an exemption that permits remote voting under the emergency conditions that exist because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been included in the DC Code for not-for-profit organizations under which ACB is incorporated. The mayor of Washington, DC, will need to extend that provision to apply during the coming year, and ACB fully expects the mayor to do so before the end of 2020.
Next, Dan introduced Board Member Jeff Bishop and ACB Radio Technical Managing Director Jason Castonguay to discuss the proposed migration of ACB’s email lists to Groups.IO. Jason told the Board that Groups.IO has a great reputation and a server configuration that makes it a great option for hosting all of ACB’s lists. Groups.IO has all the necessary capabilities to handle all of ACB’s lists – including the characteristic that they all emanate from one single address, a feature that has led several Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block their customers from receiving messages from ACB lists to which they are subscribed. In addition, Groups.IO offers integration with ZOOM and several calendars, and an archiving capability that will be very useful.
At the time of the meeting, ACB was making plans to move ACB’s lists to Groups.IO in mid-December. Jason said that once the lists are moved over, every subscriber to an ACB list will receive a message from Groups.IO to welcome them to the new platform and to provide details on processes for subscribing and un-subscribing, and so on. Jason assured the board that members will not need to do anything to continue receiving e-mail messages from the ACB lists to which they are subscribed. The move should feel seamless to everyone – except, of course, for ACB staff and volunteers who will be responsible for migrating well over a hundred lists.
Jeff Bishop added that only lists where there has been activity in the last three years from the date of initiating the migration will be moved. He said that ACB Radio will host several community events for list moderators and subscribers during the beginning of December to explain the move and share information with members. During the short period of time when the actual migration is taking place, messages from lists will not be archived, but once a list resides on the Groups.IO platform, messages will be archived once again.
One final announcement from Jeff was that three months after the lists migration to Groups.IO has been completed, ACB will purge any lists that remain on ACB’s server, thus saving money on storage and cutting – yet again – our budget numbers for IT and server-related costs.
The next item on the agenda was a brief discussion of ACB’s use of Constant Contact to distribute messages to members and donors, and an ongoing effort to address accessibility issues associated with those messages. The lack of an HTML header function coding capability in messages distributed by Constant Contact can make navigation through lengthy messages quite time-consuming for people who use screen readers. Dan said that we are still working with the company to solve this accessibility problem. Meanwhile, as a work-around, we have begun posting our longer publications, such as “Dots and Dashes,” “The ACB Braille Forum,” and “The ACB E-Forum,” on our web site, which utilizes all of the accessibility capabilities recommended by the Worldwide Web Consortium.
Dan concluded his president’s report by saying what an honor it has been for him to be able to participate in so many ACB state affiliate conventions during these recent months, when all conventions have been virtual events and many have been streamed live on ACB Radio. A real plus of our virtual conventions, he said, is the opportunity they provide our officers, our staff, and our board to participate remotely in those events. A motion was made by Ray Campbell and seconded by Donna Brown to accept the President’s Report. The motion was adopted unanimously.
Eric Bridges, Executive Director
Eric described the day-long virtual meeting that he and ACB staff members held with the (newly constituted in 2019) advisory board. Even though the pandemic made it impossible to meet face-to-face as had happened last year, Eric said that the meeting was extremely productive and the advisory board’s advice was on target and very useful.
Eric explained that the advisory board exists to provide guidance and assistance to staff, as well as the leadership of ACB. The advisory board has no fiduciary responsibility, but their collective experience and individual subject-matter expertise are invaluable assets for guiding ACB’s leaders.
Recommendations that emerged from the seven-hour-long October meeting included a suggestion that ACB should modify their strategic plan to make it more outcome based, and that data which ACB collects and manages, and from which they derive understanding should be utilized in a more concrete way to inform decision-making.
Eric concluded by expressing appreciation for all of the ways the advisory board’s guidance and assistance benefit ACB and he indicated that ACB’s leadership team is hoping to meet with the advisory board more frequently in 2021, either quarterly or perhaps, three times during the coming year.
Under the heading of Information Technology, Eric discussed ACB’s successful migration of their digital assets to the Azure Cloud, their planned migration of ACB lists to Groups.IO, and their recent off-loading of ACB podcasts from the ACB Radio server to PineCast. This move significantly lightened the load on ACBRadio.org, which will result in cost savings for ACB with respect to the Azure Cloud, and in addition, will allow ACB to collect more and better data with respect to podcasts.
Eric described the events ACB held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which brought a great deal of positive attention to ACB and recognition of ACB’s role in advocating for, and promoting, audio description in diverse media, entertainment and educational venues across the country. ACB planned and hosted several events related to the anniversary of the signing of the CVAA into law, including a Facebook Live event that featured a three-minute video from Stevie Wonder and appearances by Senator Ed Markey and several others who were instrumental in passing the law; a panel of leaders in the field of making audio description available to viewers; and a story-telling community call which featured Mark Richert and Eric Bridges sharing recollections of the early days of advocating for passing the law and the first few years of making the requirements of the law a reality in the homes of people who are blind and visually impaired.
Eric said that October 8 should be a date that we mark on our calendars from now on, to acknowledge the importance of the CVAA. Obviously, we have made great progress in the ten years since the bill became a law, but, as an advocacy organization, we are not satisfied with where we are now, nor should we be. Still, it’s important to acknowledge the good that is achieved when we advocate successfully for an improvement and to take a break from looking at the mountain of things still needing to be done.
Dan said that members can still view the CVAA Tenth Anniversary event on our YouTube channel. Our celebratory events demonstrate the ability and cachet of the American Council of the Blind.
Eric reported that because of the way that ACB Radio has evolved in importance, especially in light of our successful conference and convention and our community calls and events, the ACB Radio Steering Committee is beginning to take a look at exactly what ACB Radio is and to imagine what the streams and channels and podcasts, the community calls and events, the Alexa skills, and so many more aspects of all that we have grouped under the category of ACB Radio might become.
Eric recognized Debbie Hazelton, Managing Director of ACB Radio, to provide an ACB Radio update.
Debbie said that she likes to think of ACB Radio as bringing the pulse of ACB and the heart of the ACB community together. She anticipates that live events, like the diabetes-focused event that was carried on the ACB YouTube channel the previous week and then streamed live on ACB Radio, will increase in number on ACB Radio in coming months.
ACB Radio producers began working with state affiliates to coordinate streaming of state conventions with the Florida Council of the Blind convention even before the national ACB convention took place. Now, there are teams of ACB Radio volunteers who are helping to plan and coordinate streaming of conventions. She said ACB Radio has streamed 11 state conventions just since the national conference and convention, with two more planned in coming weeks, and even more in the new year. She recognized Rick Moran, Tyson Ernst, Jeff Bishop, Katie Frederick, and Deb Lewis who had all spent many hours coordinating streaming of those eleven conventions.
ACB Radio has also been streaming auctions once a week, with the planned culmination of auctions for 2020 on November 29with the annual ACB Radio Holiday auction.
There are plans to provide more training for streamers and hosts, and ACB Radio managers are very pleased with the new talent that has emerged from so many of Cindy’s community calls.
A motion was made by David Trott and seconded by Donna Brown to accept the report of the Executive Director. The motion passed unanimously.
The board then took up the constitutionally mandated task of assigning board representatives for various committees. A motion was made by Ray Campbell and seconded by Jeff Thom that David Trott, Kim Charlson, and Patrick Sheehan all be re-elected by acclamation to serve their second terms on the ACB Budget Committee.
A motion was made by Kim Charlson and seconded by David Trott to re-elect Katie Frederick to serve as chair of the Public Relations Committee. The motion passed unanimously.
Kim Charlson moved and Donna Brown seconded the motion to re-elect Pat Sheehan to serve as the board representative on the Credentials Committee. The motion passed unanimously.
After a short break for lunch, the meeting resumed with Treasurer, David Trott’s Treasurer’s Report summarizing ACB’s financial health through the first nine months of 2020. David said that this year continues to be a financially challenging time for ACB because of the CoronaVirus, and while operating losses are higher than anticipated, ACB should be proud of the great job we have done at meeting or exceeding budget goals in many areas.
He said that individual and affiliate donations continue to remain high, and ACB fund-raising has exceeded the predicted budgetary amount by more than $20,000. David thanked everyone who has supported ACB through the mini-mall, the auction, and the walk. In addition, our Braille Forum Raffle generated a larger amount than ever before, raising over $23,000.
The temporary closure of the thrift stores because of the pandemic and a subsequent drop in sales revenues have impacted contributions to ACB. We should be proud that we were able to cancel the hotel contract for our July 2021 convention without a penalty. A substantial savings was also achieved by virtue of reduced travel because of the pandemic.
Investments have recovered significantly since the spring when losses were drastically higher, and overall dividend income from investments remains strong.
David concluded his report by recognizing the tremendous success of the 2020 virtual convention because attendees made significant financial contributions and donated their time throughout the entire week. We are looking forward to an even more successful virtual convention in 2021.
A motion was made by Kim Charlson and seconded by Michael Talley to accept the Treasurer’s Report presented by David Trott. The motion passed unanimously.
Dan took a moment of personal privilege to give a shout out to Nancy Marks Becker and her thrift store team. They have done amazing work to navigate the troubled waters in the retail environment. For us to find that we are going to have a positive income contribution from the thrift stores this year is just an amazing and great job all round.
Dan next recognized Nancy Marks Becker to discuss the Legacy endowment and other financial matters. She reminded the Board of their July 2019 approval of a legacy spending policy for budgeting purposes. The amount allocated for budgeting is based on our portfolio’s value at the end of each quarter, over three to five years. She recommended approving a four percent withdrawal from the legacy fund for 2021 operating purposes. The goal is to leave more earned income in the fund than we take out for the budget toward operating expenses so that the Legacy fund continues to grow over the years. The money that we are withdrawing from this fund does not affect any revenues or expenses, it’s just moving our money from one asset category to another asset category. Dan clarified that the policy adopted in 2019 stipulates that this proposed budget withdrawal from the Legacy fund will be voted upon at each year’s Fall board meeting.
The motion was made by David Trott and seconded by Katie Frederick to draw down the Legacy Fund by $44,000 or 4% to be applied as revenue in the 2021 budget. The motion was adopted unanimously.
Dan then recognized Ray Campbell and Mark Richert to report out from the Ad Hoc Committee on Resolutions. As background, at the 2019 convention in Rochester, a resolution was adopted that asked ACB to take a look at the resolutions process so as to encourage more members to participate in this important process which directs the organization’s policies and advocacy work. At the August board meeting, President Spoone appointed Ray Campbell and Mark Richert to co-chair an ad hoc committee to implement the objectives of the resolution. Ray reported that the committee met three times to examine the processes that currently carry resolutions from submission through to adoption or rejection on the convention floor, and finally onto prioritization and implementation. After the three meetings, the committee hosted a community call to hear input from ACB members.
The committee recommends that resolutions be submitted not less than forty-five days prior to the day of the opening session for each ACB Conference and Convention, and they recommend that notice of this deadline be communicated not less than ninety days prior to the day of the opening session. Recognizing that issues can occur which members may want to address via resolution after the deadline has passed for submitting resolutions, the committee pledges to exercise discretion and work with members wishing to submit resolutions to accommodate such situations, and to ensure that all resolutions submitted and accepted by the committee will be presented to the conference and convention with or without a recommendation.
The committee has prepared two amendments to ACB Bylaw 6, Section B to codify these deadlines.
The task force feels strongly that they need to work with the ACB President and Program Committee to make sure resolutions are presented for discussion and adoption throughout convention week. Having most of them submitted ahead of time should make that easier. To speed up the presentation process, the committee recommends that, for resolutions that contain a great deal of background information inside the “whereas” introductory material, only the resolve clauses should be read aloud on the convention floor. Members’ questions can be addressed by reading only the relevant whereas clause aloud. Or the committee chair could summarize the whereas clauses and then follow up by reading the resolve clauses aloud.
The committee recommends leaving the resolutions prioritization process to ACB staff members, who have a realistic grasp of how long it is likely to take to respond to the demands contained in resolutions. If the committee feels strongly that a specific priority needs to be applied to a particular resolution, that requirement can be included within the resolve clauses.
The status of resolutions can be reported, throughout the year, on the ACB web site, and a progress report on achieving the goals of all resolutions adopted at a specific conference and convention can be required to be presented at the subsequent convention the following year.
Recognizing that the process of writing resolutions can seem intimidating to some, the committee pledges to work with any ACB members or affiliates who wish to craft resolutions to make the process easier and to encourage more members to come forward with ideas for resolutions.
Finally, not every resolution has to wait to be presented to the membership and voted upon at a convention. ACB Bylaw 5 gives the board authority to prepare and adopt resolutions. The committee urges the board to use that authority to address important issues that come up between annual conventions.
Mark added that the committee’s recommendations are not in any way meant to whittle away at ACB’s tradition of democracy. We were looking to identify ways by which we can streamline the process for accepting, reviewing, editing, and presenting resolutions in a way that empowers the ACB membership.
A motion was made by Doug Powell and seconded by Kim Charlson to approve the report and recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee on Resolutions. The motion passed unanimously.
A motion was made by Ray Campbell and seconded by David Trott for the ACB board meeting to briefly recess at 1:50 PM in order to convene a meeting of the membership of ACB Enterprises and Services in order to elect three representatives from the ACB Board to serve on the ACBES Board. The motion passed.
The membership meeting of ACBES was then convened. David Trott ACBES Secretary was identified to record the minutes of the meeting.
A motion was made by Ray Campbell and seconded by David Trott to re-elect Michael Garrett, Kim Charlson, and David Trott to the ACBES Board of Directors. The motion was adopted and the three named were elected by acclamation.
David Trott asked Tony Stephens if he would be willing to look around and recruit a representative from the retail business community to possibly serve on the ACBES board, and Tony readily agreed.
A motion was made by Ray Campbell and seconded by Sara Conrad to adjourn the ACBES Membership meeting at 1:56 PM and reconvene in the ACB Board of Directors meeting. The motion passed.
The next item on the meeting agenda was Steering Committee Reports, and Dan and Eric led with their update on how the steering committee structure has been working out at the end of its first year of operation. Dan stated that there is tremendous value in defining program areas and then assigning officers, staff members, and committee chairs, and members with expertise in those areas to corresponding steering committees. The nine steering committees amplify the value to ACB of implementing this new organizational structure.
Eric said that the steering committee structure, which relies on concrete contributions from staff, officers, and ACB members is helping to get ACB further down the road to maximize productivity, and he sited the successes of two steering committees in particular: The Advocacy Steering Committee which is planning our February legislative meetings, and the Convention Steering Committee, which has been able to make timely decisions about our next conference and convention and is already making tangible progress toward making that event a success.
The Convention Steering Committee
Member Lead, Janet Dickelman reported that the Convention Steering Committee has been meeting weekly or every other week since August. Recently, Janet met with the Convention Planning Committee on which there is representation from every special interest affiliate with a convention program chair. This year, there will be five separate streams available from ACB Radio for streaming convention programming. The current plan for the convention is to hold the opening general session on Sunday evening, beginning at 7:00 PM, ET; daily general sessions Monday through Friday, beginning at 11:00 AM, ET; afternoon sessions, standardized Friday through Friday, beginning at 2:30 PM, ET and continuing in 75-minute blocks until mixers begin at 10:00 PM, ET. The Friends in Art Showcase will kick off convention events on the first Friday evening of convention week. The auction is planned for Tuesday, and the banquet for Friday. ACB will try to schedule events so as to enable streaming of every event that needs to be streamed.
Video will be available for those affiliates who want to include the visual component in their break-out sessions, and virtual tours will include audio description when it’s available.
Planning for general sessions will begin at the first Program Committee meeting, scheduled for December 1st. The Program Committee is planning to pre-record a number of sessions, such as Angel presentations, scholarship recipients, DKM and JPMorgan Chase award winners, and a suggestion may be to pre-record resolutions to make it easier for members to process sometimes lengthy material.
A Zoom hospitality room is included in plans for 2021, and, in advance of the convention, the Committee hopes to hold some Zoom training sessions to help attendees feel more comfortable accessing the events they want to attend with Zoom.
Janet and the Steering Committee have been working from information that they gathered from the 2020 Convention Survey, to which there were nearly 700 respondents, as well as a comprehensive Lessons Learned document as a basis for making plans for the summer of 2021.
Audio Description Project:
Officer Lead, Kim Charlson reported that the steering committee has created several subcommittees to direct their various diverse projects. Each subcommittee meets throughout the month and then the full Steering Committee hears reports from them at their once-a-month meeting. Kim reported that criteria for some of the ADP awards has been expanded, and she urged board and ACB members to encourage students to participate in the Benefits of Audio Description in Education competition by submitting reviews of the best audio-described videos in their educational environments.
Kim expressed the steering committee’s sadness at the death of Denise Decker who chaired the ADP Performing Arts, Museums, and Parks sub-committee. She worked so hard to achieve the objectives of the subcommittee. Kim announced that the ADP Steering Committee had scheduled a call-in memorial service for Denise on November 16th. She said that the Committee plans to share recordings of the remembrances of Denise with her family.
Planning will begin soon for the next ADP conference, and preparations are underway for a special holiday event that will feature audio description of one of the “Elf on the Shelf” series films, as well as an opportunity for children to call and talk with Santa.
Kim outlined recent successes that ACB has achieved with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as an effort to persuade Facebook, Google, and YouTube to include a mechanism for turning audio description on and off. The Section 508 subcommittee is developing a primmer to educate the federal government about audio description and plans to develop training curricula. Finally, the Steering Committee is working with ACB contractors and staff to achieve the goal of integrating the ADP website into the ACB web environment in 2021.
Membership Services Steering Committee:
Staff lead, Cindy Hollis reported that the Membership Committee continues to host a membership-focus call, via Zoom, every other month, and the scheduled calls are included on the Community Events Calendar. Participation in these calls has been increasing. The Leadership Institute has also created a series of trainings which will be offered on the third Thursday of each month, continuing through the beginning of our convention. They hope that, not only affiliate leaders, but also chapter leaders and anyone who may be thinking about becoming a leader will take advantage of these trainings. An exciting aspect of this project is that affiliates are planning to provide links to the trainings on their affiliate web pages through the ACB website.
Cindy also reported that Tyson Ernst, the new president of Visually Impaired Veterans of America (VIVA), is working closely with Membership Services to update their constitution and other documents, and grow the affiliate.
Membership Services has updated their state and special interest affiliate leaders survey and is distributing it again this year with a deadline for responses in late November.
She reported steady growth in the number of community call events which has nearly doubled since April. Her goal is, by the end of the year, to define and develop processes for administering community events. She said that six Zoom hosts had been trained in June, and now there are 38 trained Zoom hosts, with more being trained over time. The Steering Committee’s expectation is that many of these Zoom trainees will be taking what they learn back to their own state and special interest affiliates and launching their own local community call events.
Dan shared with the board the news that Cindy was the recent recipient of the Roxann Mayros Organizational Champion Award, which the VisionServe Alliance established to honor senior leadership members of member-driven organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary service to the field.
Cindy concluded the report by telling the board that ACB through Membership Services has expanded their BeMyEyes participation as a subject-matter expert in blindness to up to five hours a day. Their goal is to participate in the information sharing program for eight hours a day by the end of the year. She said that they don’t get a huge number of calls, but their goal is to assure that no one ever calls ACB through BeMyEyes and doesn’t get an answer to their questions and that the responses are reliable and helpful.
The Advocacy Steering Committee:
Staff lead, Clark Rachfal listed the five states which, because of successful advocacy have been able to procure accessible electronic ballots in recent primary and national elections. They are: Maine, Massachusetts, Delaware, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Clark said that there are still 29 states which offer electronic ballots to uniformed military and overseas citizens, so there is still a lot of work to be done to make this accommodation available to people who are blind and require accessibility accommodations. ACB wants to collect voting stories from our members, and Clark encouraged state affiliates to help by collecting their own members’ stories about voting. Stories can be submitted to [email protected], as well as to the ACB Voices blog.
The Biden/Harris Disability Transition Plan released during the campaign does include goals to expand vote-by-mail, address the accessibility of polling places, and expand the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The plan is somewhat quiet on accessible absentee (or remote) voting, so this goal is something ACB will be sharing with the new administration. ACB will continue their work with the Election Assistance Commission, as well as the National Coalition on Accessible Voting.
There is speculation that voting and voting reform could be the subject of one of the first bills introduced in the new Congress, which may well mean that the fact that our legislative seminar takes place early in the year represents fortunate timing.
The steering committee is focusing on the upcoming legislative seminar, scheduled to begin on Monday, February 22. They are working to inform affiliate presidents of advocacy opportunities. Leading up to the legislative seminar, the committee is planning and hosting community events to discuss meeting etiquette, arranging appointments, and what to expect at a legislative seminar. They are organizing content around subject matter tracks.
Clark said that at the American Printing House for the Blind fall conference, ACB’s President Dan Spoone had proposed organizations’ coming together for grassroots advocacy conferences. Once we have our track-centered content ready, we will work with partner organizations in the blindness space so that we can come together and advocate with a single, larger, more amplified voice on issues such as rehabilitation, health and wellness, and transportation.
Clark asked Claire Stanley to discuss the latest information regarding ACB’s currency lawsuit, which was begun in 2002. when ACB won its case, the Department of the Treasury was ordered to make the various Federal Reserve notes distinguishable for blind and visually impaired individuals whenever the Treasury redesigns a denomination of paper currency. Despite this ruling, the process continues to be considerably delayed.
In 2016, ACB asked that the Treasury Department be ordered to make paper currency accessible by a fixed date instead of waiting for redesigns to come out. Unfortunately, the district court denied this motion, and the court of appeals, in 2020, upheld the lower court’s decision.
Although ACB was unable to win in the Court of Appeals, the Treasury Department is still bound by its original obligation: it must make future paper bills accessible. The first change must be carried out by 2026, when the $10 bill is planned for redesign. If the Treasury Department wants to delay this obligation, it will have to bring its argument before the court of the District of Columbia. At this time, it is too early to know what the Treasury Department will do. However, ACB believes that the Treasury will continue to push back its obligation by bringing the case before the courts. Therefore, it is likely that a new case will be brought to delay the requirement within the next few years. ACB can only wait and see. Unfortunately, ACB is reasonably certain that the Treasury Department will continue to bring such cases, indefinitely delaying the implementation of accessible paper currency.
Scholarships and Awards:
Staff Lead, Cindy Hollis returned to discuss ACB scholarships and the various awards that fall under this steering committee: ACB’s Awards Committee, the Board of Publications, and the DKM First-Timers and Leadership Fellows Committee. Scholarship applications are now online, and all of the scoring can be accomplished by members of the several categorical subcommittees online as well. The deadline for submitting scholarship applications is February 15, 2021.
Dan commented that all of the awards committees have moved their deadlines up a little bit this year so that, once winners are selected and announced, there will be more time to interview the winners and to get their convention presentations on video in advance of the conference and convention.
Leading up to the deadline for applying for scholarships, the Committee is planning two community events for students, one covering the topic of advocating for disability-related accommodations in the online learning process that is the pandemic norm, and the other offering advice and assistance for completing the scholarship application form and applying for financial aid.
Cindy said that the Steering Committee has begun to apply some of the EOS structure to the ways they do their work, and the structural innovations are proving to be very helpful.
Information and Peer Support:
Staff lead, Claire Stanley reported that the committee has begun hosting a monthly community call titled, “Information Corner.” In September, the theme was voting, and in October, they discussed Disability Awareness Employment Month. She encouraged any ACB member who would like to provide information on a topic in which they have particular expertise to let her Steering Committee know.
The Steering Committee has created a Code of Conduct that peer supporters will sign when they become supporters. They will also sign a confidentiality agreement which stipulates that they will keep all personal information associated with people whom they support private.
The Committee is reaching out to state affiliates whose web pages are associated with the ACB website to share the questions they hear most frequently, and to ask the state affiliates to answer those FAQs with reference to their particular states. Then both questions and answers can be posted on state affiliates’ web pages – providing ACB with another way to point people who are looking for answers to the exact information they need.
The Information and Peer Support Steering Committee is also providing links to community calls that are particularly informative regarding specific topics on the web pages that are associated with the ACB committees whose work is centered on those topics. Claire said that this initiative constitutes one more way for ACB to share expertise and information. While she is in the process of preparing a formal way for the subcommittee to learn about and share particularly informative and focused community calls, she urged community call leaders to share links to any call recordings through which our members can learn about useful resources.
Dan followed up Claire’s presentation with an announcement that Eric has appointed Claire as ACB’s ADA Coordinator. As we grow our community events, we are receiving requests from people who need accommodations in order to participate in our events. In taking on the role of ADA Coordinator, Claire will be the person designated to assist with these kinds of requests.
The Public Awareness Steering Committee: Staff lead, Kelly Gasque reminded the board that the Public Awareness Steering Committee exists to inform and remind the public of all the good work that ACB is doing. She pointed out several areas where the Committee’s efforts have achieved notable success. For example, with the events that celebrated the tenth anniversary of the CVAA, and with the newly launched blog and with the creation of our increasingly active Facebook Community Group, where there has been measurable growth in participation and enthusiasm.
She said that over the last year, ACB has achieved about a 12 percent increase in number of Facebook followers, and a 20 percent increase in followers on Twitter. Increased collaboration with our corporate partners, like Apple, for example, Vispero, and Microsoft, have all been extremely helpful to ACB in getting the word out about who we are and the good work that we are doing. She described several advantages that make YouTube such a good platform for promoting ACB’s work and accomplishments and indicated that ACB will be taking advantage more often of the benefits we derive from posting on YouTube.
Kelly described the social media calendar that the Steering Committee has been creating as a focal mechanism for pointing ACB’s diverse communications channels in similar timely directions while promoting ACB’s goals and accomplishments and bringing collective attention to important issues.
Board of Publications Chair, Deb Cook Lewis, and Public Awareness Steering Committee member lead, Katie Frederick next reported to the board on a joint effort to streamline ACB’s e-mail lists so that messages exchanged on the Leadership list and ACB-L list would better conform to the stated purposes for each of those lists. In addition, forwarded and duplicative messages would decrease throughout the universe of ACB state and special interest affiliates’ e-mail discussion lists, making it easier for subscribers to manage their inboxes and retrieve the information they need.
Deb said that both the Board of Publications and the Public Affairs Steering Committee are well aware of the long-standing importance that many ACB members attach to e-mail as their preferred channel for communication with one another and with the organization. The changes being proposed are meant only as a means to streamline traffic on these communications forums, and to make managing e-mail less overwhelming and the exchange of information more useful to our members and affiliates.
She shared the newly proposed guidance meant to return the focus of messages exchanged on ACB-Leadership to specific topics of interest to ACB’s affiliate leaders, as well as a recommendation to designate ACB-L as a place where blindness-related topics, announcements regarding affiliate activities, auctions, and fund-raisers, and messages of more general interest would be shared. To emphasize the more restricted topic focus for Leadership and the expanded topic focus for ACB-L, the BOP and the Public Awareness Steering Committee propose renaming ACB-L to ACB-Conversation and limiting membership on Leadership to a designated number of subscribers that would reflect the actual current leadership of ACB and ACB affiliates within a given period of time. In other words, as affiliates choose new leaders in annual or biannual elections, the people who represent those affiliates on ACB-Leadership would change, as some representatives would leave the e-mail list while other new representatives would join Leadership.
Although it is within the purview of the Board of Publications to determine how our e-mail discussion lists will function and to assure that discussion is appropriate and well moderated, Deb indicated that because the Board expanded the number of members on the Leadership list in an earlier administration, the ACB Board of Directors needs to be the entity that can approve or disapprove making changes in the composition of the Leadership list. The BOP proposed creating a completely new leadership list and inviting the affiliates to participate in figuring out whom their representatives will be and to evaluate list composition annually, and to restrict the number of members who would be authorized to represent affiliates on Leadership to three for each affiliate.
A motion was made by Ray Campbell and seconded by Katie Frederick that the Board rescind the previously adopted motion expanding the criteria for affiliate leaders to be placed on the ACB Leadership e-mail list and return the ACB Leadership email list to its originally designated three member limit per affiliate on the Leadership e-mail list.
Board members’ discussion of these proposed changes was spirited, and although most members agreed with the suggested changes in the focus for each list, the board was concerned about limiting the number of members on the Leadership list to three from each affiliate, in addition to other designated ACB leaders such as committee chairs, national board members and officers, leadership fellows, staff, and contractors.
Many voices expressed concerns about the lack of inclusivity with a hard number of three members and urged more flexibility. Following much discussion, Ray Campbell proposed a friendly amendment to his original motion and Katie Frederick, the original seconder agreed to increase the number of representatives per affiliate from three affiliate leaders to five affiliate member representatives, and to include the leadership fellows whenever possible.
Following further discussion, Ray Campbell proposed withdrawing his amended motion and Katie Frederick, the original seconder agreed as well, in support of a compromise proposal from Deb Lewis focusing on the lists themselves and their content and purpose.
Ray Campbell then made a motion and Katie Frederick seconded the motion to endorse the BOP’s moving ahead with creation of the ACB-Conversation list, including their encouraging ACB members to join that list and their providing training about what constitutes appropriate message content on the ACB-Conversation list, including appropriate list moderation. Further, the Board agreed that the composition of the ACB Leadership list would remain as it currently is with no change to the number of representatives per affiliate until data is provided from the BOP’s analysis, and that the BOP would conduct such an analysis to determine who is currently on the Leadership list and which ACB committees, ACB and affiliate officers and board members, contractors, staff, or other entities are currently represented by list membership. The Board of Publications will report back to the ACB Board of Directors at the February 2021 meeting. The motion passed with two objections.
Deb noted that streamlining the ACB e-mail discussion lists has been an agendized item on Board of Publications meetings for the last year. She reminded the board that all members are welcomed guests at every BOP meeting. She encouraged members to attend and to add input to any items up for discussion by the BOP. Dan suggested that BOP meetings could be streamed on ACB Radio, and Deb said that the BOP would welcome the opportunity to stream their meetings in the future.
The Development/Fund-Raising Program: Staff lead, Tony Stephens reported that contrary to predictions of a dour future for many not-for-profit organizations that were shared by ‘The Wall Street Journal’ at the beginning of the pandemic, ACB has not had to layoff any of our staff, nor have we had to slow down our important work. Membership has been growing, as have programs and services, and individual financial contributions have grown as well.
ACB recently launched a major donor advisory group comprised of four spirited individuals who have been extremely helpful in guiding our development and fund-raising activities.
He said that toward the end of the year and in the coming year, ACB will be focusing far more significantly on online giving and crowd-sourced opportunities for donating funds to ACB.
With respect to ACB’s grant power grid, plans are to better align grant applications with specific programming and advocacy efforts, including our community outreach programs and calls, and our programmatic emphasis on health and wellness.
Administrative Services: Staff Lead, Nancy Becker described a long-standing situation within ACB where there were as many as four separate ACB websites, each of which required different user name and password log-ins. To address this challenging situation, ACB has created a members site. Right now, they are using the site for scholarship applications and for registering for the holiday ACB Radio auction. ACB will be expanding the site to apply to other purposes as well.
She said that ACB has been building the 2021 budget over the past several months. The budget has been presented to and approved by the budget committee, and the board would be reviewing the projected budget at two separate meetings, scheduled for the end of November and the first part of December.
Nancy reported that, while ACB had unrealized losses with respect to investments at the beginning of the year, the value of investments has rebounded to almost where they were at the beginning of 2020.
Next, the Board divided into two groups so the directors and officers could elect two representatives from each group to serve on the ACB Executive Committee. Representing the officers will be Kim Charlson and Mark Richert, who will join President Dan Spoone and Chair of the Executive Committee. The directors will be represented by Katie Frederick and Pat Sheehan.
The board then moved into executive session to discuss legal and financial issues. The board returned from the executive session and reported back that no motions were passed or other formal decisions made by the board during the executive session.
The board meeting adjourned shortly after 8:00 PM, ET on November 14th.
Kim Charlson, Secretary Pro Tem
Date submitted: February 10, 2021
Date approved: February