by Ron Brooks
On Oct. 21 and 22, ACB’s board of directors held a busy and productive meeting at the Nugget Hotel and Casino in Sparks, Nev., the site of the 2017 ACB conference and convention. This article is a summary of the topics discussed by those in attendance. More detailed information will be provided in the minutes, which will be available on ACB’s web site after they are adopted.
Friday, October 21
ACB president Kim Charlson called the meeting to order around 2 p.m. All board members except for Denise Colley, Sara Conrad and Katie Frederick (all of whom were excused) were in attendance. ACB staff members Eric Bridges, Lane Waters and Nancy Becker were also present.
After the roll call and some introductory remarks from Kim Charlson, executive director Eric Bridges introduced Liana Grassi, a vice president with FMP Consulting, a strategic management consulting firm, who facilitated a discussion of strategic issues which the board will be developing over the next several months.
Grassi began by explaining that the development of a strategic plan will take time and that this initial discussion would primarily serve as a launch of the process. For this first discussion, board members took on three tasks: 1) to identify positive developments which have occurred within the ACB since 2012 (the last time the ACB engaged in the development of a strategic plan); 2) to list things that the ACB should consider leaving behind as it seeks to move forward; and 3) to identify three to five key areas where ACB should focus its efforts in the years to come. In future meetings, the board and ACB staff will begin working with ACB committees, state and special-interest affiliates and other members to build on the foundations laid during this initial meeting with the goal of developing a comprehensive plan which will guide the organization’s efforts over the next five years. At the conclusion of the half-day meeting, those in attendance expressed optimism about the plan and satisfaction with the initial meeting’s progress.
Saturday, October 22
The board reconvened at 9 a.m. on Saturday to conduct the rest of its business. After adopting the agenda and approving several electronic votes, the board approved the minutes from the pre-convention meeting.
ACB convention coordinator Janet Dickelman began by summarizing the revenues, expenses and net proceeds from several recent ACB conventions. She then provided information about the 2017 ACB convention, to be held at the Nugget Hotel and Casino in Sparks, Nev., from Friday, June 30 through Friday, July 7. More information about the hotel, the program and an array of exciting, fun and informative tours will be provided online and in future issues of the Forum.
Janet gave the dates for the 2018 and 2019 annual conferences:
- 2018 — June 29-July 6, St. Louis, Mo.
- 2019 — July 5-12, Rochester, N.Y.
Janet then presented two additional proposals for board consideration. First was a proposal to enable ACB to recover more of its ACB Radio personnel and equipment costs by charging ACB state and special-interest affiliates for recording of convention sessions on ACB Radio. The second policy (which did not require board approval) would encourage committees and affiliates to rent assistive listening devices along with podium and wireless microphones for their convention sessions and workshops. More information about these policies will be provided to ACB committees, state and special-interest affiliates early in 2017.
Charlson then gave her report. Topics covered included:
- NELDS Dissolution —The board of the National Education and Legal Defense Service (NELDS) agreed to dissolve and transfer approximately $52,300 to ACB, pending specification of uses for those funds. Those funds have already been transferred to the ACB.
- Charlson proposed, and the board endorsed, a gift of $250 to Father John Sheehan, in recognition of his many years of service through the Xavier Society for the Blind.
- Charlson, with assistance from immediate past president Mitch Pomerantz, provided a summary of the recently completed World Blind Union conference held in Orlando, Fla.
- Voting Task Force Update — Charlson then invited first vice president Jeff Thom to update the board on the work of the voting task force. Jeff reported that the task force has been working with a remote voting company to develop and conduct a pilot project to test the feasibility of remote voting for ACB.
ACB Staff Reports
Eric Bridges then updated the board on a number of national office activities, including:
- IT Infrastructure — ACB has partnered with Louisville Web Group (LWG) for comprehensive website design, maintenance and management services. LWG was responsible for developing the highly successful ACB Mini Mall website, and they have already developed a series of short-term improvements to the accessibility and aesthetics of ACB.org.
- Video and social media — Eric shared positive news about the impact and reach of the parenting video and several convention videos which ACB videographer Dennis Becker shot during the 2016 ACB convention. Thanks to the use of social media, these videos have reached thousands of individuals around the country and beyond.
- Guide dog and audio description surveys — ACB has assisted in the development and distribution of two significant surveys, both of which received hundreds of responses.
- Wayfinder.org — Eric described a potential partnership with a company from Great Britain which is using beacon technology (a technology which allows a blind user to obtain wayfinding information through a Bluetooth-enabled smart phone) to improve the accessibility of transit stations, shopping centers, airports and other large public spaces. This technology may offer opportunities for improving the accessibility of our conferences and conventions.
- Development Report — Eric invited Tom Tobin, ACB’s director of development, to give a report on ACB’s development efforts. Tom, who presented by phone, shared positive updates regarding a number of ACB fundraising efforts, including the Monthly Monetary Support program, annual giving societies, grant writing, and the development of potential large bequests.
The board adopted a motion to pursue legal action against a major medical provider for its refusal to make on-line registration forms and other documents accessible. It also adopted a motion to partner with RSVA in a legal action against the Department of Defense for violations of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and authorizing up to $5,000 for this effort.
Minnesota Staff Updates
Nancy Becker and Lane Waters then provided updates from the Minnesota office regarding membership, budget and financial activities. Topics included:
- AMMS — In recognition of the fact that processing of membership records for affiliates who are not utilizing AMMS takes longer for national office staff and is less accurate, the board urged all state and special-interest affiliates to begin utilizing AMMS by the end of 2018. The board also requested the board liaisons and the national office staff to assist in whatever ways affiliates need to complete this transition. The board also adopted a motion simplifying the visual status field in AMMS to permit all members to be classified as either “blind/low vision” or “sighted.”
- Membership Certification Date — There was a discussion about the need for a specific cut-off date for certifying members within the current year vs. certifying them for the upcoming year. It was decided that this issue needs additional study before any action can be taken.
- Finally, a motion was made to update signers on all accounts to reflect Eric’s hiring as the executive director and the retirement of Lane Waters.
ACB treasurer Carla Ruschival then gave a report on the 2016 budget and on the development of the 2017 budget. As of August, ACB’s financial position is strong. ACB has not yet had to spend budgeted reserves, and thanks to the liquidation of a stock donation in September and strong convention revenues, has not had to begin spending reserve funds.
Resource Development Committee Report
Committee chairman Dan Dillon provided an overview of RDC activities, including the Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk, the auctions, “The ACB Braille Forum” raffle, the Angels Wall, and the Monthly Monetary Support (MMS) program. For each program, Dan summarized the 2016 proceeds and the goals which the RDC has established for 2017.
Ruschival then gave an update on the upcoming Holiday Auction, which will take place from 7 to 11 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. To date, the committee has received approximately 70 items. The next steps are to post item descriptions on the website and then start reaching out to friends, family, colleagues and others to ensure a good auction turnout.
ACB Radio and ACB Link
ACB Radio Manager Jeff Bishop provided an update on these two critical and popular services. Jeff updated the board on several program-related changes at ACB Radio, including 24 hours of Halloween programming on Halloween and additional holiday-related program on Thanksgiving and Christmas. He then described several upgrades being planned for ACB Link. These include: a new and improved user interface, the implementation of push notifications which could be used for a variety of specific app or organizational needs, and implementation of some new functionality including the ability to listen to podcasts offline and the ability to make donations to ACB through the app. When asked about making the app available for Android users, Jeff reported that this is being considered, but no developers have come forward who can perform this service at a reasonable cost.
Board Representation on Committees
The board then elected the following representatives to the following key committees:
- Public Relations – Jeff Bishop
- Credentials – Pat Sheehan
- Membership – George Holliday
- Budget and Finance – Carla Ruschival, David Trott and Dan Spoone
Goal Group and Committee Updates
Near the end of the meeting, several board members provided brief updates on a number of committees, including:
- Goal Group 1 — Carla Ruschival reported that affiliate pages are now available on the ACB website. She encouraged affiliates to consider placing pages on the ACB website. As the site improves in look, accessibility and functionality, more people will be attracted to the site and the pages of affiliates on the site.
- Goal Group 3 — Jeff Thom described a plan to formalize an orientation mentorship program for new board members.
- Special Education Task Force — The task force is planning a webinar for early 2017 that will focus on the rights of parents in the special education process.