by Penny Reeder
President Dan Spoone called the Oct. 22 hybrid board meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. Central time. All board members were present, either in person or via Zoom, along with several guests. To listen to the podcast, visit https://www.acbmedia.org/2022/10/22/20221022-acb-board-meeting-1/.
Following adoption of the meeting agenda and approval of the minutes, everyone congratulated the ACB advocacy team on the introduction of the Website and Software Application Accessibility Act bill in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the expected introduction of the Communications, Video and Technology Accessibility Amendments (CVTAA) in mid-November.
Clark Rachfal, ACB’s Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, described the effective collaborative strategy that has enabled ACB to rally support for both pieces of legislation. “Work on the legislation was begun by organizations of and for people who are blind,” he said. “But it became clear that this legislation is not only for people who are blind and have low vision. It will also benefit people with speech and communications disabilities, people with mobility and dexterity impairments, and people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The bill has the support of 21 organizations that represent the entire disability community.”
The board approved several staff and committee reports under the consent agenda before revisiting the ACB Policy on Prohibited Conduct and Applicable Complaint Investigation Procedures (formerly the “Code of Conduct”), which were addressed at the July 1 board meeting and discussed at subsequent meetings. Deb Cook Lewis and Mitch Pomerantz explained that the committee had been working to develop one comprehensive document which includes a complete definition of prohibited conduct and a description of related processes. She stated that the committee had developed more prescriptive timelines for handling complaints, and had made several revisions and handled several technical conditions in revised language.
Following the meeting, the committee prepared a document defining prohibited conduct, detailing the investigatory process, the pathways toward complaint resolution, and an appeals process, and shared it with the board electronically. The board unanimously accepted the Prohibited Conduct Policy statement via online vote, and ratified the vote at their December meeting. To view the policy, visit https://acb.org/code-of-conduct.
With respect to changes in the ACB Leadership list, Dan said that he, Deb Lewis and others working on the project have accomplished two major goals. First, they updated list membership, removing some members (including several who had passed away), and identifying current leaders who should be included – all state and special-interest affiliate presidents; committee chairs, co-chairs, and vice-chairs; members of the board of directors, the board of publications, and the ACB Enterprises and Services board (ACBES); all living past presidents of ACB; staff members; and winners of the JPMorgan Chase fellowship and DKM First-Timers Awards over the past three years. The group also developed guidelines for assuring a well-functioning list. The board approved both sets of guidelines.
After lunch, the board heard reports from ACB staff members and committees. Eric Bridges, executive director, described the hard work that every ACB staff member, members of the Audio Description Project steering committee, and the Audio Description Gala planning committee have been involved in.
Eric said that, within the next week, ACB would be posting the Audio Description Project coordinator position. The person who is hired will report to Clark Rachfal. The coordinator will also be assisting Clark and his team with legislative and governmental priorities, of which audio description is a component, and Eric and others in collaborative projects with representatives from the entertainment industry.
Eric also announced that ACB would be looking for a new location for the national office, because the Alexandria, Va. school district, which owns the building where the office is currently located, will be converting the building to a public school.
Next, Jeff Thom and Kim Charlson reported on actions ACB has taken in response to resolutions from 2021 and 2022, which criticized Success Beyond Sight, Inc. (SBS), an online registry for teachers of the visually impaired (TVI) which allows individuals to include themselves as TVIs on the registry, regardless of their certification status. Jeff reported that the committee met with the Special Education Task Force to become familiar with the registry and to develop recommendations for any actions by ACB. When they investigated, Jeff said, they found that the disclaimer did not adequately inform website visitors that people who self report their status as TVIs do not have to indicate whether they are certified as TVIs. ACB was also concerned about a badge or logo that appears beside each listed name.
As a result, Dan Spoone, Jeff Thom, Kim Charlson, Clark Rachfal and Swatha Nandhakumar met with Kathie Zeider, executive director of ACVREP, and representatives from SBS, a subsidiary of ACVREP. SBS representatives indicated that the registry was created to identify TVIs for purposes of engaging them in research. They agreed to rewrite the disclaimer to clarify that a name’s listing on the registry should not be taken to mean that the person named is a certified teacher of the visually impaired, to move the disclaimer to a more prominent location on the web site, and to remove the badges/logos printed beside the listed names. ACVREP did not agree to remove wording that defines the list as a national registry of teachers of the visually impaired.
Jeff asked the board to approve sending a letter to ACVREP, commending them for re-writing the disclaimer and removing the logos, while also expressing ACB’s concern about the implications associated with a listing that identifies itself as a national registry of teachers of the visually impaired. The board unanimously approved sending the letter to ACVREP, with one change in wording.
As part of her financial report, CFO Nancy Becker explained the process which she, ACB committees, ACB’s officers and executive director, the board’s budget committee, and ultimately the whole board utilize to develop and approve the ACB budget for the coming year. The process is well under way; the board will meet in December to discuss and approve the 2023 budget.
Nancy said that interest in earning continuing education units (CEUs) increased dramatically during the pandemic. As a result, ACB is investigating whether it would be possible for professionals to earn CEUs from attendance at community events. And, as the members’ web site, https://members.acb.org/, continues to expand its capabilities, ACB is investigating ways for members to access the links for community events.
Nancy and David Trott summarized ACB’s current financial status via the 2022 year-to-date report. The board then reviewed and approved the 2022 Legacy Endowment drawdown to help with cash flow in the new year.
Penny Reeder reminded everyone that the Board of Publications meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m. Eastern. Meetings are streamed, and guests are encouraged to participate in discussions. She discussed the ACB Voices blog, which has recently featured expanded formats and content, including audio interviews, recorded music, and photographs
The ACBES board met separately and re-elected Michael Garrett as president, and David Trott and Kim Charlson to continue in their current roles.
Dan and Nancy reported on data that has emerged from adding voluntary gender identification and race and ethnicity fields to the membership database. Approximately 62 percent of people who chose to share their demographic information identify as female, and 38 percent identify as male. Roughly 33 percent of members chose to share that information. People who identify as Asian constitute 2.3 percent; Black or African-American, 7.3 percent; Hispanic or Latinx, 5.7 percent; Middle Eastern or North African, 0.2 percent; multi-racial or multi-ethnic, about 1 percent; Native American or Alaskan Native, 0.6 percent; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 0.5 percent; those who identify as “other,” 1.1 percent; and 5.7 percent preferred not to answer. People who identify as South Asian represent 0.4 percent; White or Caucasian represent 75.3 percent.
Discussion followed with respect to urging chapter presidents to collect the information. Gabriel Lopez Kafati, who chairs the MCAC Hispanic subcommittee, suggested that community events and open forums can be used to help people understand why it is important to share the information.
Next, Dan called upon the board to evaluate two possibilities for the 2023 Leadership Conference. The first is to hold a hybrid Leadership Conference, including a board meeting, a presidents’ meeting, and a shortened legislative seminar, then following up those meetings when participants return to their home states by scheduling virtual meetings with legislators and their staff members via Zoom. A second possibility is to hold two events: one, the event described above except making it a virtual-only event; and hosting a second in-person event in Washington, D.C., that can include some leadership development activities, an accessible currency rally near the U.S. Treasury and the White House, and several options for tours within the city. After discussion, the board voted unanimously to explore the second option
Following a brief executive session, at which no action was taken, the board meeting adjourned at 6:03 p.m. Central time.