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Table of Contents President’s Report to the Convention, by Kim CharlsonAudio Description Allows ACB Members to ‘See’ the Eclipse, by Joel Snyder
Meet Us in Saint Louis, by Janet Dickelman 2017 Walk Was Sparkling, by Donna Brown Gettin’ Ready for the Holiday Auction, by Carla Ruschival ‘Guiding Miss Melinda:’ Reflections from a Blind Cross-Country Skier, by Melinda Hollands Some Thoughts on Getting Elected to ACB Boards, by Doug Powell Summary of the August Board of Directors Conference Call, by Debbie Lewis 2017 ACB Membership Seminar Discusses Successful Meetings, compiled by Ardis Bazyn 15 Ways to Maximize Your ACB Membership, Revised, by Kenneth Semien Sr. Affiliate News Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action Lawsuit Here and There, edited by Sharon Strzalkowski High Tech Swap Shop ACB Officers, Board of Directors, and Board of Publications Accessing Your ACB Braille and E-Forums Are You Moving? Do You Want to Change Your Subscription? Contact Sharon Lovering in the ACB national office, 1-800-424-8666, or via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Give her the information, and she’ll make the changes for you.
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President’s Report to the Convention
by Kim Charlson ACB continues to address many issues and advocacy challenges since we last gathered together. I’ll cover the highlights and how we are dealing with them over the next several minutes.
As you all know, the real work of the organization isn’t the moments of success with press releases and passage of legislation, but rather the daily work advocating, writing letters and testimony, and developing and supporting ACB’s infrastructure to ensure that we have the financial resources to work on our mission and get the job done.
Earlier this evening, we hosted our Annual Giving Society reception. This year, we had 223 individual donors and 40 corporate donors. These supporters are the backbone of our fund-raising which then allows us to accomplish our valuable work. One corporate example of our growing capacity is the generosity of JPMorgan Chase, whose support has allowed ACB to once again this year bring five Leadership Fellows to this conference.
Last year, ACB’s Volunteer Hours Reporting Program collectively logged a total of 17,758 volunteer hours, worth $418,388 of in-kind contribution value to ACB. This effort shows funders our commitment to our mission, and documents the hours of work contributed by our hundreds of faithful members in all capacities.
Public education is an important part of ACB’s work. Eric and Rebecca Bridges are featured in ACB’s latest video discussing raising their adorable nearly 3-year-old son, Tyler. Their positive message about blind parenting has been watched on YouTube and Facebook by over 16,000 viewers. Check out the ACB YouTube channel to view the video.
Needing more data to support our advocacy efforts, ACB developed a national survey on described audio content. More than 479 people completed the survey, which identified major demand for the increase in available audio-described programming carried through television broadcast, satellite, and cable programming. A tremendous amount of solid research data was gathered, and has helped ACB to support its advocacy with statistics reflecting our perspective. Research findings indicated that three out of four respondents felt the current amount of available audio-described content was significantly below demand, and other obstacles still exist for accessing currently available content.
In mid-November, the Federal Communications Commission withdrew the agenda item to consider the expansion of hours of audio-described content for television. Because of ACB’s continued efforts, I am pleased to report that on July 13th, the FCC will be reconsidering the report and order which would increase the required hours of described programming that covered broadcast stations must provide to consumers.
This year, we have been dealing with several attacks from a variety of directions to the Americans with Disabilities Act. In December, I sent a letter to CBS on behalf of ACB expressing my deep disappointment with the “60 Minutes” segment aired on December 4, 2016. Anderson Cooper’s segment mischaracterized the ADA as an instrument of opportunism for drive-by lawsuits, rather than focusing on the role it has played, along with the courts, in protecting the fundamental human and civil rights of more than 55 million Americans with disabilities.
On another note, ACB is working to prevent passage of the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620) by Congress. This bill, if passed, would prohibit civil suits arising out of a failure to provide adequate access to public accommodations for the disabled unless the plaintiff provides offending property owners with a written notice specifying the deficiency. Owners would then have 60 days to respond with a written plan for improvement, and an additional 120 days to correct the deficiency, or at least demonstrate sufficient progress toward a correction.
Today, any citizen with a disability denied access can immediately file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. The passage of H.R. 620 would mean that individuals with disabilities would be forced to wait 180 days to seek resolution of their federally protected civil rights. Please do what you can to protect our rights under the ADA.
Are you getting hungry? Well, ACB is working to protect your right to buy a good meal. Have you tried ordering with one of those inaccessible tablets on many restaurant tables? How about an inaccessible app? Well, Eatsa, the self-proclaimed “Restaurant of the Future” with New York, Washington, D.C. and California locations, is excluding blind customers. Its high-tech ordering and food pick-up process fails to include existing, readily available usability features for blind and low-vision individuals. ACB, in cooperation with Disability Rights Advocates, has filed a class action federal lawsuit, along with individual plaintiff Michael Godino, a New York resident (and ACB member) who is legally blind and cannot access Eatsa independently.
Eatsa employs no waiters or cashiers. Patrons order their Eatsa meals through a smartphone app or at one of the in-store ordering kiosks. These kiosks consist of Apple iPad devices mounted and framed on a stand. When the food is ready, the customer’s name appears on a screen along with a number. The number directs the customer to a cubby where they can retrieve their food. The entire process is silent. The audio jacks and home buttons required for accessible options are covered by a frame, and no tactile features exist on the kiosks. Eatsa’s phone app is also incompatible with screen-reader technology, and the food pickup process has no audible or tactile cues. While Eatsa’s kiosks contain an option to request assistance from an employee, this feature is inaccessible to blind customers. ACB is seeking an injunction against Eatsa’s further discrimination of persons with disabilities and a comprehensive plan from the chain to provide blind patrons independent access to Eatsa restaurants.
On the legislative front, our thanks to Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Steve Cohen (D-TN) on reintroduction of the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage of Low Vision Devices Act of 2017 (H.R. 2050). This legislation will establish a national demonstration/research project tasked with identifying the impact to Medicare and Medicare recipients who are prescribed low-vision devices over a certain threshold cost. As Congress looks for ways to improve health-care costs, ACB will urge the House of Representatives to support H.R. 2050, and move toward expanding greater independence for the millions of older Americans with severe vision loss.
I need to comment briefly on continuing developments surrounding ACB’s efforts regarding accessible currency. In 2016, the government moved back the target date for the next currency redesign involving the $10 note from 2020 to 2026. Frustrated by the delays on the part of the government, ACB sought an order from the district court requiring that the $10 bill be made accessible by 2020, and all the remaining denominations be made accessible by 2026. While this order was under consideration, the Treasury secretary advised the court that he has already complied with his legal obligation to make currency accessible by furnishing external currency readers to people with visual impairments. While the secretary indicated that he still intended to proceed with adding a tactile feature in the next major redesign, he was doing so as a matter of policy, as opposed to fulfilling a legal requirement.
The district court denied ACB’s motion in January 2017, and the case is now under appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. We are asking the appeals court to do two things: 1) to order that the $10 bill be made accessible by 2020 and all the remaining denominations be made accessible by 2026, and 2) we are asking that the court issue a ruling that external currency readers do not provide meaningful access to currency. We expect a decision within the next 6 to 12 months.
To help ACB achieve its mission and goals, ACB has ventured into the development of a new Strategic Action Plan to help guide the organization in the future across five critical focus areas, including:
advocacy, policy, and legislation;
affiliates and membership;
convention and meetings;
and marketing and communications.
The five focus areas were identified by the board of directors as having the highest potential impact for our organization moving forward. The ACB Strategic Action Plan was then developed by the board, the executive director, the national office staff, and select representatives from ACB state and special-interest affiliates.
Each focus area has a set of goals, associated action steps, timeframes, and accountable leaders to help drive change and ensure completion of the objectives. Additionally, the plan identifies any resource requirements such as people needed to work on the task, funding to get the job done, or outside resources needed, measures of success, and an evaluation process for each goal to ensure that the organization is moving in the right direction to get the job of the ACB Strategic Action Plan completed. An executive summary is being drafted to share with leaders, and it will be posted on the ACB website.
ACB continues to make communication a high priority. The latest version of ACB Link has been downloaded over 5,000 times since its release last March. It provides access for iOS device users to a wide variety of ACB information and programming. We have an Android version under development, and we are anticipating its release in the fall.
ACB Radio continues to be the pre-eminent radio broadcasting system run and operated by ACB and our broadcasters, with the Mainstream channel as the flagship of ACB’s information programming. ACB Radio continues to be available by telephone, where listeners can hear the seven ACB Radio channels, including this convention. You can also listen to “The ACB Braille Forum” and “The ACB E-Forum” by phone as well.
ACB and its members have a lot of work to do over the next several months, but overall, our affiliates and chapters across this country are making a difference in so many ways. Working together, we can continue to make change happen.
Audio Description Allows ACB Members to ‘See’ the Eclipse by Joel Snyder
On Monday afternoon, August 21, at 1:27 p.m. Central time, the sun above Nashville, Tenn. disappeared from view. The sky went completely dark!
But through the use of succinct, imaginative and vivid language – audio description – the event was made accessible to the millions of people who are blind or have low vision, or anyone who wanted to experience a verbal version of the visual.
ACB’s Audio Description Project, along with the Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind, the Tennessee School for the Blind, and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, provided this opportunity for people who are blind world-wide to experience the total eclipse of the sun.
Between 1 and 2 p.m. Central, Dr. Joel Snyder hosted “A Total Eclipse — Audio Described!” on ACB Radio. Snyder, the director of ACB’s Audio Description Project, presented an hour of songs (Bill Withers’ “Ain’t Got No Sunshine,” The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”), and an interview with ACB board member and Nashville resident Dan Dillon — with the main event described live from the Tennessee School for the Blind between 1:15 and 1:45 p.m.
Nashville-based audio describer Julia Cawthon described the eclipse as it happened and provided a vivid “translation” of the visual event into words for the benefit of anyone who tuned in. And the reviews have been ecstatic.
“This was so awesome!!!!! I really enjoyed listening to the excellent description. What a great idea this was. Hopefully we can do it again in 2024. Thanks to all!!!!”
— Margie Donovan
(Note: The next total eclipse with totality over North America will occur on April 8, 2024.)
“Great eclipse coverage, lots of fun facts with good musical choices. I learned a new word, syzygy. Thanks so much for doing this for us!”
—Denise M. Decker, PhD
“Thank you for the audio description of the solar eclipse today! Enjoyed it immensely from Louisiana.”
— Deborah Baxley
“Julia did a great job in describing the eclipse. It was very detailed and it made me think that I was right there. Thanks to her and the rest of the AD team and to ACB Radio for bringing this event to us. Thanks much!”
— Brian Sackrider
“Bravo! That was a very nicely done presentation. I’ll admit I was initially a bit skeptical on the idea of having something like an eclipse described. The excellent presentation changed my skepticism to thinking how good it is that the ADP project has branched out into a wide variety of types of description.”
— Bob Hachey
If you missed the event when it was broadcast live, no worries; it’s available for all to hear on ACB Radio at acbradio.org/sites/default/files/archives/eclipse/solar-eclipse2017.mp3. Audio description of the eclipse was also available in St. Louis from describers trained by the Audio Description Project’s Audio Description Institute.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that, “With the help of memories, imagination and narration, the visually impaired enjoy the eclipse. …” Bill Wilcox, a volunteer with MindsEye, described the eclipse at the Missouri Council of the Blind in south St. Louis.
“An hour before totality, Naomi Soule arrived at the eclipse party Monday with the help of her dog, Farbee. Soule, 61, was ready to experience the eclipse, although she would not be able to see it. Instead, she would join about 25 other visually impaired and blind people for a ‘watch and listen’ party. The majority of those attending wore headsets as Wilcox shared trivia about the eclipse, then did a play-by-play of the action in the sky.
“‘The moon is continuing to slide across the sun,’ Wilcox said, standing on the council’s small asphalt parking lot, his voice streaming through MindsEye’s website and live on Facebook. ‘It's now a fairly small crescent. Still kind of an orange and peachy color.’ …”
Listeners were delighted with what they heard. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that “‘The description was perfect,’ said Janet Shobe, as she and others ate Ted Drewes custard as an after-eclipse dessert. ‘It was amazing!’
“As totality neared, Soule said she could feel the change in the air. ‘I could tell the temperature dropped a little bit, the heat of the sun disappeared and I could hear the cicadas getting louder and louder,’ Soule said. Soule’s husband, Terry Moses, who is sighted, joined her for the event. … He wanted to be by his wife as she experienced the eclipse.”
More information about ACB’s Audio Description Project is available at www.acb.org/adp; the website for the MindsEye Radio program in St. Louis is www.mindseyeradio.org/.
Meet Us in Saint Louis
by Janet Dickelman
Our convention home for 2018 is Saint Louis Union Station Hotel, located at 1820 Market Street. Convention dates are Friday, June 29th through Friday, July 6th. The opening general session will be held on Saturday, June 30th, and the banquet will be Thursday evening, July 5th. The exhibit hall will be open Saturday, June 30th through Wednesday, July 4th. Our first tours will be on Friday the 29th, with final tours on Friday the 6th.
Traveling to St. Louis will be easy and convenient for all conference and convention attendees. Saint Louis is served by Lambert-St. Louis International Airport; airport code STL. The following information was provided by the St. Louis convention and visitors bureau. “St. Louis is situated at the geographic hub of the United States. Our location makes it possible for your attendees to fly to St. Louis from most major U.S. cities in just two to three hours. On average, there are 250 daily departures from St. Louis to 67 non-stop destinations. Ten airlines, along with their affiliates and charter companies, offer service to/from St. Louis.”
Airlines serving the airport are: Air Canada, Air Choice One, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and XTRAirways.
Go Best Express is offering ACB a rate of $38.25 round trip from the airport; a taxi from the airport is $50 each way. You can also take Metrolink, St. Louis’ light rail system, for $4 from the airport. The reservation link and phone number for the shuttle will be posted closer to convention.
St. Louis is also served by Amtrak, Greyhound and Megabus; all three stop at the Gateway Transportation Center at 430 S. 15th St., five blocks from the hotel. If taking Amtrak, make sure to specify you want the downtown station; there is another stop in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb.
Room rates at Union Station are $89; this rate applies for up to 2 people in a king room and up to 4 guests in a room with two queen beds. Taxes are currently 16.92%. Information regarding hotel reservations will be posted to our website and in future issues of the Forum.
Staying in Touch Once again, the convention announce list will be filled with information regarding the 2018 ACB conference and convention. You can subscribe to the list today by sending a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you received updates for the 2017 convention, you need not subscribe again.
2018 exhibit information: Michael Smitherman, (601) 331-7740, email@example.com
2018 advertising and sponsorships: Margarine Beaman, (512) 921-1625, firstname.lastname@example.org
For any other convention-related questions, please contact Janet Dickelman, convention chair, at (651) 428-5059 or via email, email@example.com.
2017 Walk Was Sparkling Let the Sparks Fly on the First of July! That was the title of the lively song that on-site walkers woke up to before the actual 2017 ACB Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk. This song was written by Joshua Haza, the music teacher at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind.
Once again, the team and individual fund-raising efforts were fierce. A total of 20 teams were signed up, and five of them were special-interest affiliates – a new record. The Florida Hurricanes raised well over $18,000, which makes them the top fund-raising team again. The Tennessee Mall Walkers finished a distant second with more than $3,600 raised. In third place was the West Virginia Walkers with just over $3,300. The president’s team also topped the $3,000 mark. The top special-interest team was the CCLVI Firecrackers, who raised more than $1,500. As of this writing, walk participants have raised $64,511 for ACB and its affiliates.
On behalf of the walk committee, thanks to everyone who played a part in making this year’s walk a huge success. Thank you to everyone who registered for the walk and worked hard at seeking donations. Thank you to those who made such generous donations. Thank you, Janet Dickelman, for your assistance with the logistics of the actual on-site walk. A great big thank-you to the Minnesota office staff for all of their hours in preparing the website, entering donations into the website, and for their willingness to help us in any way they could. Without all of you, this event would never be the biggest fund-raiser for ACB that it is. The $64,511 is the most that has ever been raised for the walk. I hope more people will meet me in St. Louis for the 10th annual ACB Walk.
— Donna Brown
Gettin’ Ready for the Holiday Auction
by Carla Ruschival ACB’s sixth annual Holiday Auction will come to you live from Louisville, Ky. on ACB Radio on Dec. 3 from 7 p.m. to midnight Eastern time (4 to 9 p.m. Pacific).
Individuals, chapters, affiliates, and businesses can contribute items to the Holiday Auction and help make this year’s event the best ever. Some examples of popular items include candy, cookies and other holiday treats; jewelry; techie stuff; handcrafted items; music boxes; gift cards; and holiday decorations. Items that represent your state, such as Louisiana pralines, Pennsylvania whoopie pies, Chicago popcorn or Kentucky bourbon balls, are always a good choice.
All items donated to the Holiday Auction will be displayed on our auction preview page, available on the ACB website at www.acb.org. We plan to post items as they are received, so visit the preview page often to see what’s new. All donors will be acknowledged both on the website and on ACB Radio during the auction. Donors and winning bidders will also be spotlighted in “The ACB Braille Forum” in early 2018.
You can help us be sure we have a balanced auction with enough items in each category by letting us know in advance about the item(s) that you are contributing. Contact Carla Ruschival, auction chair, at (502) 897-1472 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lori Sarff in the Minnesota office at (612) 332-3242 or email@example.com, by Oct. 15 to discuss donations. Then send all items, except homemade goodies, to the ACB Minneapolis office as soon as possible; the deadline is Nov. 1. The address is: American Council of the Blind, Attn.: Holiday Auction, 6300 Shingle Creek Pkwy., Suite 195, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430.
Watch for our article next month to discover all the ways you can listen to the ACB Radio Holiday Auction. Thanks in advance for your generous support of ACB Radio.
‘Guiding Miss Melinda’