by Penny Reeder
President Dan Spoone called the meeting to order at 8 p.m. Eastern. The meeting, which was conducted via Zoom, was also streamed on ACB Radio Mainstream. To listen to the whole meeting, or download the podcast, visit https://acb-events.pinecast.co/.
All board members were present except for Kim Charlson, who was excused. Sara Conrad updated the board on her newly married status and change of last name to Alkmin. Several staff members were present, including recently hired Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, ADP Coordinator and Grant Writer; Jennifer Flatt, Manager of Communications; Kolby Garrison, Membership Services Administrative Assistant; and Swatha Nandhakumar, Advocacy and Outreach Specialist.
April’s mission moment celebrated the outstanding collaborative accomplishment of the Advocacy Steering Committee and ACB’s governmental affairs staff, who were responsible for planning and presenting ACB’s excellent legislative seminar. Eric told the board that the seminar featured 18 hours of content, including a number of break-out sessions. Clark noted that next year’s legislative seminar will represent another innovation, as ACB expects the 2022 event to be a hybrid meeting.
Dan began his president’s report with the official announcement that Kim Charlson has been elected president of the North America-Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union (WBU). Mitch Pomerantz will be stepping down as ACB’s delegate to the WBU, and Dan will move into that position. Dan explained that since the Blinded Veterans Association has withdrawn from the WBU, and bylaws require organizations representing people who are blind to have equal representation, ACB and NFB will now each have two and a half delegates.
Voting Task Force
Dan asked Pat Sheehan and Jeff Thom, co-chairs of the voting task force, to talk about how they have been getting the word out about the voting process for this summer’s virtual convention elections. Pat described his committee members’ participation on ACB Radio and ACB Community streams and events, as well as their attendance at ACB presidents’ meetings, on affiliate calls, and their written contributions to “The ACB Braille Forum” and the convention program. He thanked Koni Sims, who put together a draft that includes some of the feedback they have been hearing from ACB members, and said he would share that document with the board and affiliate presidents. Jeff expressed the committee’s appreciation to Dan.
Penny described the process that candidates should follow to answer the questions that the BOP would pose on the Candidates’ Page, as well as the candidates’ forums that the Board of Publications has planned.
Dan reminded board members to contribute to this year’s ACB auction, and announced that Mark and Kim will co-chair the ad hoc committee that will examine the role of the board’s executive committee. He also congratulated ACB’s committees, ACB Radio and community volunteers, and convention planners for having logged over 42,000 hours of volunteer service this past year. He said that number added up to over $1 million of in-kind donations.
Dan asked Brian Charlson to update the board on the agreement with HBO Max. Brian told the board that the panel on streaming services that is scheduled for Monday night of convention week now includes eight separate streaming service providers. He said, “This is just one indication of the esteem in which the industry holds ACB.”
Brian noted that the HBO agreement will likely serve as a prototype for future discussions with video streaming providers. He said that HBO Max has already exceeded their commitment of producing 1,500 hours of described content in year one. He expects them to double that by the end of year two, and to double and likely exceed that number yet again at the end of year three.
HBO Max is a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Media. Although Warner has requested an FCC waiver for a previously required percentage of described video for the legacy film content on the Turner Classic Movie network, the corporation is offering to describe 100 percent of self-produced content on its TNT and truTV networks.
Fall Meeting and Leadership Conference
The fall board meeting is tentatively scheduled for October 8 and 9. The Omaha hotel confirmed that rooms are available. After discussion, during which board members expressed their eagerness to meet in person again (assuming the incidence of COVID-19 continues to decrease), the board voted unanimously to hold a hybrid fall board meeting which would allow for both in-person and Zoom participation. The board also voted unanimously to pursue a contract – possibly for as many as three years – with the Holiday Inn in Alexandria, Va., beginning in March of 2022.
Executive Director Eric Bridges reported that a notice of recruitment for an administrative assistant in the ACB Alexandria office had been released that very day. He thanked Erika Keller for all her assistance developing position descriptions and during the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process.
Director of Development Tony Stephens expressed appreciation for the good work Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, Rick Morin, and Debbie Hazelton are doing in their expanded roles as members of his team. He welcomed Jennifer Flatt, ACB’s newly hired Manager of Communications, and described her background in health and communications, as well as her experience in marketing, branding, advertising, and working in the areas of diversity and inclusion, and her understanding of accessibility and disability-related issues as qualifications that make her perfectly equipped to address and meet ACB’s many communications needs.
Jennifer said, “I look forward to getting to know each one of you, and helping you tell me the stories that I need to tell for you, and that I need to tell with you. I need to walk with you and represent you.”
Cindy Hollis told the board how grateful she is to welcome Kolby Garrison as her new administrative assistant. Kolby told the board that her background is in communications and court reporting, she is a guide dog user, and how thrilled she is to be working for ACB.
Eric talked about ACB’s recently acquired Verizon Communications grant funding. In conjunction with their focus on accessibility and digital inclusion, Verizon will be donating $830,000 worth of visual ad space to ACB. Our ads will appear on Verizon’s premium brands, including all of the Yahoo sites, as well as AOL, Tech Crunch, and others.
Tony explained that this kind of exposure will help us reach not only people who are blind and visually impaired, but also their friends and colleagues, parents, sisters and brothers, and many others. The timing of the grant is so fortuitous, he said, because much of the public relations work we have recently focused upon serves as good preparation for advertising to a broader audience.
Eric and Jeff Bishop talked about the steps they are taking to reorganize and modernize ACB’s digital infrastructure. The reorganization will allow ACB to have more control over the environment in a more standard generic infrastructure that is manageable by anyone.
Eric told the board about several recent developments that have occurred with respect to our continuing efforts to make U.S. currency tactually accessible. When the British government recently made their last remaining inaccessible pound note accessible (with the release of a new 50-pound note), the Wall Street Journal reached out to ACB for comment. Tony provided a summary of ACB’s multi-year struggle to make U.S. currency accessible. ACB prepared an op-ed under Dan Spoone’s byline, and “The Hill” published it a few days later.
Then, the non-profit organization called Women on the Twenty launched a campaign to advocate for having Harriet Tubman’s image on the $20 bill, and, as part of that campaign, they covered ACB’s struggle to achieve accessible currency. Eric indicated that these three events’ having occurred in such a short time have given him – and ACB – hope that a $20 bill that features the likeness of Harriet Tubman might also include a feature that would make the currency tactually accessible.
Get Up & Get Moving
Tony discussed the prime-time special event which will kick off ACB’s “Get Up and Get Moving” campaign. He encouraged board members to attend the event, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, July 17th. The campaign, which is expected to last three years, will culminate at our 2024 convention in Jacksonville. It seeks to encourage people to take control of their personal health and wellness, and draws attention to the technology and tools that are available to help people who are blind and visually impaired live empowered, healthy lives. The campaign will be reaching out in particular to audiences in communities of color where the prevalence of glaucoma and diabetes leads to increased incidence of blindness, which makes it difficult for people who cannot see or see well to manage their health and wellness.
ACB on Clubhouse
Eric and Cindy talked about how ACB members created an ACB Club on the Clubhouse social media platform. Cindy explained that Clubhouse presents us with an opportunity to make ACB known, to educate, and to be educated. Each morning, Cindy’s team is on Clubhouse at 9 a.m. Eastern, sharing information about the community events scheduled for that day. They also share the daily schedule for ACB Radio and answer attendees’ questions.
ACB members and affiliates are also presenting events on Clubhouse. Information about these events is shared in ACB community e-mails, and when an ACB member follows a link to an event on Clubhouse, that person automatically becomes a member of Clubhouse. If you wish to receive an invitation to Clubhouse, send an e-mail to [email protected].
Jeff Bishop added that, during convention, ACB plans to integrate the Clubhouse and Twitter platforms to bring convention awareness to an ever-expanding group of people.
Eric briefly discussed current developments with respect to accessible voting. He said that an amendment has been proposed in the Senate Rules Committee that would give ACB most of what we want regarding accessible electronic voting and electronic returns. As far as he knows, ACB is still the only disability-related group that has opposed the requirement for paper-only ballots that remains a requirement in the proposed legislation.
Under the “Other Business” category, Dan said that ACB’s law firm has asked us to make a couple of minor changes to our Code of Conduct. He asked the board to approve those changes, and they did, unanimously. The updated code will be included in all of our convention-related materials.
CFO Nancy Marks-Becker reported that ACB had received the highest possible approval rating from their auditor. She also noted that the bequest that ACB received in December of 2020 has been allocated following the legacy endowment policy. Once these funds were received, ACB’s investment increased in value to over $5 million. She said that the forecast for stock market performance during 2021 looks more optimistic than in 2020, and for the first quarter, our 2020 investments realized a net gain of about $124,000. She said that both Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans which ACB received in 2020 were forgiven. She anticipates that the PPP loan received this year will be forgiven as well.
Michael Garrett shared a generally positive report regarding first-quarter performance of the ACBES thrift stores.
Nancy reported that a record number of students applied for ACB scholarships. There were 145 completed applications. She credits ACB’s having placed scholarship applications on our home page, as well as circulating scholarship information through Constant Contact, and hosting several community calls where the scholarship committee could share information with applicants and answer their questions, for this dramatically increased response.
Nancy also reported that the certification process is nearly complete. Notable additions to the AMMS fields this year were the ethnicity field and the gender field.
Penny reported that as of their first meeting in April, all Board of Publications meetings are now being streamed live on ACB Radio. She said that the ACB-Conversation e-mail discussion list has attracted additional members, and lively conversations are taking place on a diversity of topics.
She stated that completed Candidates’ Pages will be made available by June 15, and the two Candidates’ Forums will take place on the last Tuesday and the last Wednesday of June.
Finally, she shared that Zelda Gebhard had hosted the first in what is expected to be a quarterly series of Zoom meetings for affiliate editors who produce newsletters or share information in other ways for their affiliates. An editors’ e-mail discussion list has been established for editors to share information, compare notes, and exchange suggestions and ideas.
Janet Dickelman reminded members to set up their individual accounts at members.acb.org as a first step when registering for convention. Going forward, each ACB member will have only one username and password. Convention registration opened on May 20, and will close on June 28 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. The Minneapolis office will again provide assistance by phone.
Janet reported that ACB has a signed contract with the Jacksonville Hyatt for 2024, and the Hyatt Regency in Dallas for 2025.
The meeting adjourned at 11:25 p.m. Eastern.