ACB members continued to find treasure throughout convention week in the tours, general session speakers, special-interest meetings, and in the exhibit hall.
After some constitution and bylaws readings and a resolution, Mitch Pomerantz turned the morning program over to Marlaina Lieberg, ACB's secretary, who introduced the first panel, which discussed the future of radio reading services and ACB Radio. Bill Pasco of the Sun Sounds Radio Reading Service described new products and approaches that are revolutionizing how radio reading services are interacting with their users. He talked about new radios, the use of computers and cell phones to listen to radio reading, and the growing use of podcasts that will allow people to listen to programs they want to hear when they want to. He also described a new telephone interface that will allow people to use web pages, read stored articles and access traditional radio reading services fare. Mike Duke, director of the radio reading service in Mississippi, stressed how important it was for members to be a part of local services. He pointed out that many of these services needed our help to survive and, in some cases over the past couple of years, we have only found out there were problems after radio reading services had gone away. Larry Turnbull, managing director of ACB Radio, talked about the growing collaboration between radio reading services and ACB Radio. We are now gradually incorporating programming recorded by radio reading services into our programming and hope that some of our programs will be played on radio reading services so that people who do not have computers will be able to hear ACB Radio. He stressed that members need to go to their local service and urge them to carry some of our programs.
David Hartley-Margolin was our talking book narrator this year. He is from Denver, Colo. and read an Italo Calvino short story as part of his presentation. He indicated that recording talking books is the most challenging and the most rewarding work he does and stressed just how excited he was to be able to get a chance to interact with those who read the books he records. Much of his time was taken up with answering questions from the audience.
Following the break, there was a panel on exercise and fitness. Leslie Spoone, a licensed exercise instructor from Orlando, Fla., led the group in some stretching exercises. Doug Powell, a triathlete from Virginia, talked about some equipment and approaches that folks could use who wanted to stay fit. He recommended using watches that beep every five minutes so that exercisers can keep track of time and work accordingly and drink appropriately. He suggested that, to start, people should start slowly and set goals. One goal to start with: doing four 20-minute sessions a week. Powell provided a fairly lengthy list of local and national organizations that will help people wanting to get started with fitness. He stressed that most local recreation programs offer fitness training and are covered by the ADA. He stressed that this should not be your first approach but, if necessary, remember that such programs are obligated by law to make their programs accessible.
Aerial Gilbert provided specific tips for people wanting to use local clubs or gyms. Go to the manager or fitness director and work with her to design programs that will work for you. Work in advance with class instructors so they can work out with you what they can do to make their classes accessible. Identify one machine and ask the gym to label it with clear Dymo tape so you can use it independently. She also spoke about her passion, rowing, as being a sport where blind people can compete on equal terms with their sighted peers. She indicated that rowing is now a Paralympic sport and also talked about a specific machine which is fully accessible and includes talking software that can be accessed from your computer. Elizabeth Toumajian operates a fitness center in California specifically designed for people with disabilities. She indicated that 56 percent of people with disabilities do not exercise, compared with 36 percent of people who are not disabled. She also suggested that we need to continue to press equipment manufacturers to make their equipment accessible.
Aubrey Webson, Director of National and International Advocacy at the Perkins School for the Blind, spoke on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). It was recently signed by President Obama and has now been signed by 80 countries. He stressed that the convention goes beyond protection to recognize that people with disabilities have civil rights which must be recognized in every country of the world. It is our job in the United States to do two major things. First, we must assure that people with disabilities are included in aid packages in every country where the United States provides assistance. Second, we must make sure, by our advocacy, that the Senate ratifies the convention that our President has signed.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the invocation, and announcements, Margarine Beaman listed several more of the ruby, pearl, titanium, gold, silver, and bronze sponsors of the 2010 convention. Next, John Huffman presided over voting on proposed amendments. A motion to replace all occurrences of the word "convention" with the word "conference" was defeated. The original motion, to replace all occurrences of the word "convention" in the constitution and bylaws with the words "conference and convention," was adopted.
A proposal to add a sentence to Bylaw 6, Section G regarding the responsibilities of the convention committee, was adopted. The sentence reads: "It shall be the responsibility of the convention coordinator to make known to the membership by e-mail, web posting, publication in 'The Braille Forum,' and any other ACB forms of communication, the dates of the convention and the name of the city that will host the upcoming convention as soon as the contract for that convention is signed."
Treasurer Mike Godino, presiding officer for the morning, began by urging everyone to join the MMS program. Executive director Melanie Brunson began her report by saying how much she enjoys speaking individually with ACB members. She thanked all those who assisted in ACB's victory in the Social Security case, and remarked on the historic nature of the proposed telecommunications legislation. Brunson reported that ACB is a founding member of the Justice for All Action Network, which is comprised of organizations specifically involved in grassroots advocacy that have an identifiable membership of and are run by people with disabilities. ACB is also involved in a coalition started by the World Blind Union which is working to make copyrighted materials available internationally to the same extent that they are in the U.S. In closing, Brunson stated that ACB will continue to increase opportunities for e-commerce, and she urged everyone to provide feedback to the Minnesota office regarding their experiences with online registration.
Next, Godino gave the treasurer's report. He began by itemizing the budgeted income and expenses for 2009 and compared them to the actual income and expenses for that year. As of July 15, 2010, ACB had total assets of $1,677,324.
Michael Garrett, chair of ACBES, thanked his committee and the Minnesota staff for all of their assistance. He explained that ACBES is a wholly owned subsidiary of ACB comprised of seven thrift stores in six locations. They collect gently used clothing, household items, and small appliances, wash and sort them, and resell them to the general public. All the proceeds go back to ACB. The ACBES board is continually looking for ways to expand the business.
Carla Ruschival thanked the convention committee, the local host committee, and the volunteers for their vital roles in organizing this convention. Then she outlined the conversion process from the old to the new registration system. ACB saved a lot of money because we did not have to spend $17,000 to send out 23,000 paper forms. Paper forms were, of course, sent to everyone who requested them. Telephone registration was very well received. After thanking Mike Smitherman and Margarine Beaman for their excellent coordination of exhibits, advertising, and sponsorships, Ruschival announced the upcoming conventions as follows: 2011, Reno, Nev., July 8-16; 2012, Louisville, Ky. (returning to the Galt House), July 6-14; and 2013, Columbus, Ohio (dates to be determined).
Ron Milliman announced that revenue generated from those signing up for the MMS program at this convention and those who increased their pledges will exceed $5,000.
After the break, Dan Dillon thanked everyone who raised money for, volunteered at, and participated in this year's walk-a-thon. Regal Cinemas, Target, and Vitamin Water were significant sponsors. Marsha Farrow raised $1,250, and the team of Tim and Cindy Van Winkle brought in over $2,000. The Washington Council of the Blind was the affiliate bringing in the most money, and WCB president Denise Colley was presented with a trophy. The walk raised $19,500. Participation increased by 25 percent this year. The winners were: first place, Robert Spangler (while pushing a wheelchair with someone in it); second place, Ken Stewart; third place, Ray Campbell.
Brenda Dillon thanked everyone for helping out with and participating in the auction. The auction raised approximately $16,312.
Godino then turned the podium over to Pomerantz. An experiment was conducted to test the efficacy and efficiency of a secret ballot in conjunction with a roll call vote. A bogus resolution was presented and, for the "debate," there was one speaker in favor of the resolution and one against. A voice vote was recorded, ballots were distributed to the certified voting members, and a roll call vote was taken. The ballot was an index card. Doing nothing to the card indicated a yes vote; tearing off one corner was a vote in the negative.
After voting, each person placed his/her ballot in a basket, and the baskets were taken to the back of the room for the votes to be counted. Lane Waters announced the final count, which was the total of the secret ballot and delegate votes. Jeff Thom, chair of the voting task force, thanked everyone for participating in this exercise and asked for feedback. This issue will most likely be revisited in 2011.
The last order of business was the second reading of a proposal to change the title of Bylaw 6 from Standing Committees to Committees, and to insert a sentence before the list of committees A-O. A motion to remove the word "standing" from the proposed language was defeated. The new language reads as follows: "In addition to the standing committees provided for below, the president, in consultation with the board of directors, is authorized to appoint such other standing committees and/or special committees as deemed necessary to further the objectives of the American Council of the Blind."
Friday is always filled with lots of things like elections, constitution and bylaws amendments, and resolutions, and this year was no different. While what I've just mentioned was certainly typical of a Friday session at ACB's national convention, there were a couple of things that aren't so typical.
For the first time in a long time, we had lots of debate and discussion on some of the constitution and bylaws amendments that were brought forward this year. Unfortunately, there isn't enough time or space in this article to list all of that dialogue here, but you can go to the ACB web site and listen to the Friday session to learn about that discussion firsthand.
The second "behind the scenes" thing that was happening was the fact that S. 3304, the Senate version of the 21st Century Telecommunications Act, was being marked up that morning. So, if you heard a different reader reading resolutions, your ears weren't deceiving you. That was happening because your resolutions chair was preparing the resolution regarding the H.R. 3101, the House version of the 21st Century Telecommunications Act, for Eric to send to the legislature. You'll be happy to know that the resolution was sent and we expect great things as a result.
Elections for the board of directors as well as the board of publications were held on Friday morning. All of the incumbents for the board of publications remained on the BOP. The board of directors realized three new members: Janet Dickelman, George Holliday, and Allan Peterson.
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