by Doug Powell
The pre-convention board meeting was called to order at 9 a.m. Central. All board members were present except George Holliday, who was recovering from surgery. Several ACB staff members and guests were also present.
Kim Charlson and Mitch Pomerantz gave an update on the World Blind Union meeting in Orlando in August. The focus will be on CRPD and the Marrakesh Accord (which was officially ratified after the 20th country signed on). The WBU will hold elections, and Fred Schroeder will likely be the next president of the organization. ACB Radio will be streaming the proceedings live.
Charlson and Jeff Thom reported that NELDS’ dissolution is moving along. ACB will receive outstanding funds for use in legal cases similar to those that NELDS funded. The board observed a moment of silence in memory of Sandy Sanderson, who was very active in NELDS.
Charlson reported that she had received a letter from several special-interest affiliates, which she had previously distributed to board members. There were two concerns related to convention policy that were being questioned by the group of presidents. One was the fee imposed on special-interest affiliates to record their convention sessions. After a discussion of the high cost to ACB for recording sessions and the contributions of those affiliates to ACB’s vitality and diversity, the board decided to suspend the recording fees for LUA and GDUI this year, and a working group will look at audio-visual needs and expenses to form a new policy for convention recordings.
The second concern was the proposed schedule change for 2017 convention meetings. It was felt that splitting the general sessions between two shorter meetings in the morning and afternoon would hamper special-interest affiliates’ ability to schedule coherent programming. The board voted to postpone changing the format of the general sessions for 2017, and to gather a working group including the convention committee, special-interest affiliates, the AV team, and the ACB Radio team to discuss and suggest the best formatting for future conferences and conventions.
National Office Reports
Sharon Lovering, editor, gave her report on “The ACB Braille Forum.” Distribution numbers were lower for most formats. She mentioned that 368 members had passed away over the last year.
Tom Tobin, development director, and Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, grant writer, gave their reports. Direct mail, the Angel Wall, and corporate sponsorships are continuing to increase. Telemarketing has decreased markedly and will be discontinued. Grants are increasing and retooling is in process.
Tony Stephens, director of advocacy and governmental affairs, reported that despite pressure from ACB, the current administration will not move forward with ADA website accessibility guidelines for state governments or commercial enterprises. He also mentioned that the final rulings implementing the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act came out as he was leaving for Minneapolis. Congress’ attention is on the fall elections, so he doesn’t think much substantive or controversial work will get done before November.
Greyhound is in class action settlement, and its website is getting better.
The Social Security Administration is doing a demonstration project to see if a 2 for 1 wage offset to ease people trying to work off SSDI is feasible.
The two ACB legislative imperatives we have been working on, the Cogswell-Macy Act and the Medicare low-vision devices demonstration project, are not moving. The FCC is moving on expanding audio description, with more hours and on more broadcast networks. A more specific definition of “service animal” in transportation is being worked on. There are several different definitions in federal agencies, so the hope is that these will be harmonized to reduce fraud.
Some airlines have moved their flight attendant call buttons to video screens at passengers’ seats. Accessibility of this feature is being looked at.
Tony mentioned that convention sponsorships last year were $163,000. This year they have increased to $240,000. Much of the new and increased support is the direct result of relationship-building advocacy. Executive director Eric Bridges and others walk into corporation offices with our accessibility concerns and walk out with partners, ongoing ACB input, sponsors, and other supports.
ACB recently filed papers in court to oppose Treasury’s request for an extension to 2026 for distribution of the first tactile note.
The project to re-imagine acb.org is on hold because of a lack in our infrastructure to make it efficient and effective. Microsoft and ACB are working well together on Microsoft product accessibility. Microsoft is also interested in helping upgrade ACB’s office hardware and software needs.
Eric is also pursuing a new strategic planning initiative for ACB soon.
Minnesota Office Report
Lane Waters, controller, stated that certification with AMMS went pretty well this year and should be continued with the new timeline.
ACB used a new auditor this year and things went very efficiently.
The Minneapolis office acquired a new server in January. Unfortunately, the main accounting software program does not run on the new server, so the old server and old accounting software are being nursed along. New, more relevant software is being identified and vetted for purchase. Lane is retiring, so he is working out a transition plan.
Carla Ruschival reviewed the highlights of the year-to-date activities vs. this year’s budget and last year’s actual activities. The bottom line is that the current status looks OK. She cautioned the board that most of the revenue for the year is collected in the first half of the year, and expenses, including convention expenses, come in the second half. She is cautiously optimistic that the year will end well.
Doug Powell reported that the Candidates’ Pages on the ACB website and plans for the Candidates’ Forum at the convention are going well. The BOP is also working on the request for proposals for duplication and distribution services as we convert from cassette to NLS-compatible digital cartridges.
The board approved the formation of a history committee to update the ACB history, “People of Vision.”
With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 4:45 p.m.