by Winifred Downing

The board met in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 21-23, 2005. The first day was given over to a retreat focusing on the perception of ACB's mission by the board of directors, the general membership, donors, and those institutions with which the organization has contacts. We were led to consider the working relationships of officers, board and committee members, staff, and the general membership; and we questioned the organization's philosophy and practices exemplified in its fund-raising activities. The involvement in ACB of employees, benefactors, and volunteers and a comparison of ACB with other non-profit organizations in the same field were also discussed.

When the regular board meeting convened on Saturday morning, everyone was present except Brian Charlson, who was delayed in his return from a business engagement by a snowstorm. He was not able to join the meeting until around 2 p.m.

President Gray initiated discussion on a variety of issues:

1. In stores like Safeway and Target, point-of-sale machines are being introduced which have no buttons or other tactual features and are operated by pressing with a ball-point pen to select choices. The blind person in such a situation must, therefore, say his pin number to a neighbor in line or a store employee, thus making available to anyone nearby very private information. A motion was passed calling on the American Council to take a leadership role toward developing an accessible point-of-sale machine.

2. Problems with accessibility in public accommodations led to the passage of Edwards' motion to support and encourage ACB's executive director in her effort to "intervene, with the leave of the court, to oppose foreclosed settlements concerning accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act of places of public accommodation arrived at without the consultation of consumer blindness organizations, including the ACB."

3. Ideas were advanced to assist the information access committee in its task of ensuring better arrangements for blind people in operating electric appliances, cell phones, and the like. Edwards offered his help in this area.

4. Because it has been more than 10 years since ACB's last effort, attention will be given to developing a new long-range plan. Central to the consideration are the cost of this activity, strategies for financing it, and the time frame involved. Reports will be secured from the road map meetings of last summer and the Future Place activity. The document "Affiliate and National Organization Expectations," drawn up several years ago, and copies of the last long-range plan will be circulated to board members.

5. The tremendous success of the ACB Radio broadcast of the deliberations of the World Blind Union occurred largely because of the monetary contributions and hard work of Dave Williams and Geoff Shang. Edwards will prepare a board resolution of commendation which will be sent to the people who were responsible for the broadcast. William Rowland of South Africa will be the new president of the World Blind Union; hopes are high that he may attend the ACB national convention next summer.

Last year the National Telecommunicating Institute anticipated that, using computers, many disabled people would be able to perform a variety of jobs in their own homes. Unfortunately, the software involved proved to be incompatible with screen readers, thus depriving blind and visually impaired persons of this employment possibility. ACB is exploring all options toward solving this problem.

ACB Enterprises and Services Report: Paul Edwards set forth some of the difficulties currently faced by thrift stores. He explained some of the difficulties of operating these stores; but in spite of the problems, ACBES achieved enough success that ACB will not need to take funds from its reserve this year.

Convention Report, Cynthia Towers: The Riviera Hotel has 2,000 rooms distributed among five towers. The two towers in which ACB members and guests will be staying are the Monaco and Monte Carlo. The hotel is 30 years old, and room arrangements and contents differ from one place to another. There are six restaurants in the hotel, but quick meals will still be available for breakfast and lunch.

Mississippi State University will be holding a training session for rehabilitation counselors at the same time as the ACB convention, providing an opportunity for 150 or 200 counselors to learn about the work of ACB, examine the extensive exhibit area, and become aware of the special-interest affiliates and how they can relate to clients' needs.

Treasurer's Report, Ardis Bazyn: Because of the budgeting arrangement ACB follows, figures are available only to November 30, 2004. Revenue, $963,615; expenditures, $942,104; revenue over expenses, $21,511.

Executive Director's Report, Melanie Brunson: Day Al-Mohamed joined the office staff early in January; and hiring another support staff person is anticipated. The position of editor of "The Braille Forum" will be announced in the next issue of the magazine. Some changes in office locations and telephone extensions will be occurring to promote greater ease and efficiency.

Meetings have occurred with the public relations committee and the board of publications to more clearly define the relationship between the Forum editor and these entities. It was decided to postpone the discussion of that policy until the pre-convention board meeting in July.

The Currency Litigation: In the phase where information is being collected. Melanie has engaged in two depositions, each consuming several hours.

Acting Editor's Report, Sharon Lovering: Four issues of the Forum have been produced since the convention, making eight in this budget year. For the February 2005 issue, there were 2,270 braille readers, 7,775 cassette readers, 13,200 large print readers, 773 disk users, and 1,202 e-mail readers. There were increases in percentages in all media except braille, which stayed the same. A large number of press releases were produced; contracts were completed for the publication of the Forum in all media. From December to mid-January, Lovering sent out to all affiliates their membership lists for updating. She also sent invoices to all organizations, companies, libraries, schools and other institutions that receive the magazine.

Membership and Affiliate Services, Terry Pacheco: Terry reviewed in fascinating detail the events leading to the successful preparation of a DVD of the Ray Charles movie including the ACB involvement. Several articles in the February issue of the Forum described details of this subject. On another matter, a provisional charter and officers have been presented by a group wishing to form a special-interest affiliates for diabetics. The board voted to accept this affiliate after seeing the charter.

Fund-Raising: Individual officers and board members spoke of the particular fund-raising efforts under way. M.J. Schmitt's St. Patrick's Day raffle was discussed in the February Forum, and the lucky winners will be known by the time this is printed. Bob Seliger described the time share that has become available for ACB use; more information will be available in coming months. In addition to ordinary sources of funds, vehicle donations, the Monthly Monetary Fund, ACBES support, legacies and bequests, investments, and membership dues, many other avenues are being used: cruises, blue skies sky-diving event, special ATM's project and donations from corporations like Verizon, Microsoft, and Bank of America. Donations in kind have been of great assistance with the convention and the legislative seminar: braille paper, copy machines, braille printers, etc.

Direct Mail Campaign: Gray and Ralph Sanders explained the direct mail campaign initiated last fall. Unfortunately, the first mailing reached prospective donors a few days before the disastrous Indian Ocean tsunami. Sanders had hoped that this first effort would break even. Though the mailing did not achieve its goal, a beginning has been made toward assembling a good donor list. The program calls for six mailings over two years, but the board voted to review the matter after three mailings.

Resource Development, David Trott: The high-stakes raffle of the last few years concerned with scholarships is being replaced by a plan with lower monetary prizes and consequent lower cost for the raffle ticket. Tickets cost $50, and prizes start at $5,000 for the first prize, $3,000 for the second, and $500 each for the third and fourth prizes. This year, profits from the raffle will be used toward expanding the number of issues of "The Braille Forum." The drawing will occur at the national convention in the general session on Thursday morning.

Budget Committee Report, Brian Charlson: A detailed examination of every item in the budget of expenditures was made following upon the massive amount of work by the budget committee to prepare the information. Those who wish a detailed analysis should contact Brian Charlson.

Public Relations Committee, Ralph Sanders: Press releases, mailings of brochures and public service announcements, the broadcast of the World Blind Union meting, and the media award to be given to Jamie Foxx for his work in the Ray Charles movie were high points in recent months.

Board of Publications, Winifred Downing: The BOP had hoped to be able to circulate 10 issues of "The Braille Forum" this year but realizes that the amount budgeted will probably allow only nine. A new editor will be hired, and the Editorial Policy Manual will receive the update required by Bylaw 7. The policy manual is on the ACB web site, and the BOP welcomes suggestions from members.

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