INSIDE ACB - Fall 2018

A publication of the American Council of the Blind | Fall 2018

Eric Bridges, Executive Director of the American Council of the Blind.
Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind.

A Message From the Executive Director

In the spring issue of Inside ACB, I shared some information about major accomplishments in 2018, including the establishment of The Legacy Endowment Fund which, over time, will allow ACB to perpetuate our work for many years into the future. Per our investment policy, bequests and other planned gifts will be added to this endowment fund, ultimately providing ACB with financial stability in the years to come. Moreover, I’ve worked hard to establish corporate partnerships. In collaboration with Cisco, we helped them modify their telephone software, so their hand-held devices could be used by blind people — an important advancement, as call center work is often a good employment outcome for someone with a vision impairment. So, that particular outcome is all about jobs and addressing the horrific under/unemployment rate of blind people, which stands at a staggering 70 percent. In addition, in 2018, we launched version 2.0. With this new and improved website, people visiting our website can gain information about vision loss, the myriad of programs and services ACB offers, how to reach our staff, etc. and is now more strategically laid-out and functional. As we continue to achieve successes, I will be sure to communicate them to all of you, as it is your generosity that enables ACB to successfully fulfill our mission and, for that, we are all most grateful!

ACB Applauds House on Final Passage of Marrakesh Treaty

The American Council of the Blind applauds the U.S. House of Representatives after passage of the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act. The House vote moves the implementing legislation to the President’s desk for his signature, and the treaty to the State Department for final preparation of the diplomatic papers allowing the U.S. to become one of the official Marrakesh countries committed to the expanded availability of accessible published works from around the world.

“We’re excited that Congress was able to move Marrakesh over the legislative finish line during its final days of business before leaving for the October recess,” said ACB President Kim Charlson. “But what is most exciting is that U.S. citizens who are blind or have other print disabilities will soon be able to have access to special format materials available in other countries in English and other languages, as well as people with all types of print disabilities around the world who will soon be able to gain access to American published works for the first time in an accessible format.”

“We’ve had a countless number of advocates who have helped make this treaty a reality in the United States,” said ACB Executive Director Eric Bridges. “We wish to thank the U.S. Congress, particularly House Chairman Goodlatte and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker for showing true leadership by shepherding this treaty through the legislative channels.”

The Marrakesh Treaty was the product of years of deliberations between the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), publishers, libraries, and disability rights advocates. The treaty was a response to the grave concerns over the cumbersome international copyright laws that make it difficult to gain access to published works in accessible formats like braille or audio format.

California Council of the Blind members Susan and John Glass stand in front of a brick casement housing a civil war cannon as theyem listen to audio description of Fort Point on the UniD app.
California Council of the Blind members Susan and ​​John Glass stand in front of a brick casement housing a civil war cannon as they listen to audio description of Fort Point on the UniD app.

Good News for National Park Visitors

ACB is excited to announce that Google will continue its funding of the University of Hawaii UniDescription Project in 2019 with a $100,000 award. This national research project focuses on media accessibility and brings together collaborators at the National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center, and the University of Hawaii. The original 2017 $75,000 grant was used to audio describe print brochures at 15 National Park Service sites in California. The principal tool used to deliver description is the free, open-source UniD mobile app for Android and iOS operating systems. The National Park service has provided valuable in-kind support through ranger-led tours, tactile elements, and additional on-site audio description.

California Council of the Blind members have served as app testers, providing feedback after visiting park sites. In late August, Silicon Valley Chapter members John and Susan Glass tested Fort Point National Historic Site’s new audio-described brochure. Fort Point, the “Gibraltar of the West,” sits directly below the Golden Gate Bridge, so they were treated to the sounds of bridge traffic overhead, cargo ships’ warning signals, and raucous seagull cries while hearing the description of the fort itself. As part of the tactile tour, Ranger Nate Tusa described the intricate details of the 1684 San Martin cannon as the Glass’s explored its ornate decoration.

Looking north from San Francisco, Fort Point nestles under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Looking north from San Francisco, Fort Point nestles under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Thanks to Google’s renewed support, an additional 28 National Park Service sites, clustered in New England and several Mid-Atlantic states, will update their park brochures to include description. In January 2019, staff from each park will participate in Descriptathon 4, a combination audio description writing workshop and good-natured competition. Once completed, the brochure descriptions will be loaded onto the UniD app and turned over to ACB members for testing.

The ultimate goal of the project is to describe all 400 National Park Service brochures. With Google’s generous support and collaboration by the UniD team, the National Park Service, and ACB, individuals who are blind or visually impaired can look forward to equal access at all of our National parks.

For more information about the UniD Project, visit 

Leaving a Legacy…

Since 1961, the American Council of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of tens of thousands of blind people into reality. We represent families, students, workers, seniors — our success is everyone’s business.

ACB brings news and information to thousands of people who are blind or visually impaired through the ACB Braille Forum, ACB E-Forum, ACB Reports, and ACB Radio. ACB also produces educational guides and manuals on a variety of topics to assist ACB members, as well as employers, families, and friends of people with vision loss. ACB’s YouTube channel features videos for hiring managers interested in diversifying their workforce.

ACB advocates for legislation to establish best practices. ACB’s Audio Description Project, in conjunction with the passage of the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act, provides improved access to news and entertainment through the use of audio description. ACB successfully advocated for accessible prescription drug labeling and pedestrian safety enhancements, and is developing strategies on other pending legislation that will impact education, medical care and coverage, and access to information for people with vision loss.

With your support, we can continue to do so for decades to come. We hope you will actively plan to be a part of our enduring future by including the American Council of the Blind in your estate plans. Help us insure that the future dreams and aspirations of blind and visually impaired people will be realized!

“Blindness has always impressed me as being one of the most difficult disabilities to deal with. Even as a young child, I was profoundly affected whenever I saw a blind person struggling to cope with vision loss. After becoming an adult and earning a salary, I realized that I could help people impacted by this severe and cruel disability by donating part of my income to the American Council of the Blind to help support their important programs and services. Since I’ve retired, I’ve continued my donations with annual contributions to the ACB. In addition, I’ve also included the ACB as one of several charities that will be the recipient of the bulk of my estate after I pass away. It’s gratifying for me to know that I have ensured that a significant portion of my residual assets will help improve the quality of life for people without eyesight!”

— David Cozakos, Burbank, CA

Including the American Council of the Blind in your estate plans via a bequest is a powerful way to sustain our work for years to come. It also allows you to leave an enduring legacy. A bequest as part of your will is the easiest and most common way you can provide that sustaining support. When you create a will, it gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and wishes.

“I wanted to do whatever I could to help make this world a better place for blind and visually impaired people to live. I decided to include ACB in my will, so that I could continue to support the good work of ACB even after I was gone.”

— Dan Dillon, Hermitage, TN

Remember, the idea of leaving a legacy is the need or the desire to be remembered for what you have contributed to the world. In some cases, that contribution can be transformative. Most of us, however, will leave a more modest legacy that doesn’t necessarily change the world but does leave a lasting footprint that will be remembered by those whose lives you touched.

“Most of us aspire to a successful career often measured by a rewarding job, a stable family life and an accumulation of assets to support our retirement years. At some point, we contemplate our legacy to family, friends, and perhaps organizations which touched our lives. This latter point is especially significant to me. I can say without reservation that no organization has affected my life more than the American Council of the Blind (ACB). When I lost much of my sight at the peak of my professional career, I was introduced to ACB and the support, friendships and opportunities it freely offers to the blind and visually impaired. While I could never repay ACB for all it has given me, at the very least I can and have included ACB as a beneficiary in my will. If my action enables ACB to help just one person, lobby for the enactment of one accessibility regulation or heighten public awareness of the abilities and contributions of one blind or visually impaired person, then I have created a legacy of value.”

— Allen Casey, Graham, NC

In 2014, the American Council of the Blind created The Legacy Society to honor and recognize individuals who have communicated that they have included ACB in their estate plans. We proudly publicize this list on our website and in many of our other donor communications. If you would like to learn more about how to include ACB in your estate plans, or wish to communicate your intentions, please contact Tom Tobin, Director   of Development, at (800) 424-8666 extension 5. Your conversation will remain strictly confidential. With your help, just imagine what ACB can accomplish in the years to come!