President’s Message: July-August 2016

By James Kracht

Another issue of the White Cane Bulletin is about to hit the stands, and once again, it’s time for me to update you – our members. This month, I will try to update all of you on FCB'S activities and let you know a little of what is ahead.

First and foremost, thanks to all the FCB convention attendees. They have again elected me to serve for another two-year term as your president. With pride and pleasure, I accepted the unanimous endorsement and will continue striving to do my best. It is an honor and a privilege to lead this wonderful organization. There is much work to do, but together, we will persevere and we will get it done.

The 63rd annual FCB convention was a rousing success. We had absolutely incredible vendor participation, including representation from our 3 top sponsors: ESS Voting Systems, Envision America, and Vanda Pharmaceuticals. There was plenty of activity in the exhibit hall. Every time I stopped by, people seemed to be smiling and spending.

Our kick-off Thursday night barbecue was a wonderful way to start the Convention. It was extremely well attended. The food and music were good, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Special interest affiliate workshops and meetings on Friday went well. Debbie Grubb did a fantastic job with this year's legislative workshop and had a couple of very interesting guests to talk about relevant issues and the lobbying process. We ended the day with a very enjoyable awards banquet. The hotel did a great job with all of our meal functions. Congratulations to all of the deserving award recipients who gave us good reason to celebrate.

Saturday was a full day starting early for me with an Executive Committee breakfast at 6:30 a.m. The meetings, excellent workshops, and panels all went well. It concluded with our annual Saturday night banquet, which featured a tribute and farewell cake for our retiring Sally Benjamin. There was an excellent after-dinner presentation from ACB board member and second-year law student Sara Conrad who told her story. The evening concluded with music by John Richards and our annual raffle and silent auction. A great time was had by all.

Sunday started with another early-morning breakfast hosted by the Braille Revival League of Florida affiliate, which was extremely well attended. Our business meeting concluded with the re-election of me and my fabulous executive committee. Without them, I could never do the job I do. I am blessed to have a really stellar Executive Committee. Thank you all for your strong endorsement.

The success of our convention was in no way due to the efforts of one or two people. So many participated and worked hard to make it happen. Special thanks goes to Sally Benjamin, Mikey Wiseman, Wanda Stokley, Debbie Grubb, Barbara Brown, Paul Kurtz, John Richards, and my wife without whom I never would have made it through the week end. Thank you.

The retirement of Sally Benjamin after 11 years of service to FCB as our behind-th- scenes office administrator is a sad but happy occasion. We are happy for William and Sally as they start this new and exciting retirement phase of their lives. We send every good wish their way for good health and happiness. Sally's leaving is sad, of course, as she has been a behind-the-scenes giant, making sure that so many of FCB'S I's and T's were dotted and crossed. I am sure that with her retirement, we will even better appreciate how much she did for us in keeping the train on the tracks and smoothly moving forward. Our Convention banquet featured a stunning farewell cake. We almost had to serve it with soupspoons because of Sally's tears. We got her to calm down with continuous rousing applause, and hopefully we have sent her off to her retirement feeling good. Don't despair – Sally is not gone from FCB. She will continue serving FCB, working on the convention committee, helping with membership, and otherwise doing what she can.

After learning of Sally's proposed retirement, I appointed a selection committee. My thanks goes to Dan Spoone, Debbie Drylie, Cassandra Jessie, and Debbie Grubb who ably assisted me in soliciting applications, developing questions and methods for interviewing and selecting a candidate, reviewing resumes and writing samples, interviewing the applicants, and recommending the group’s choice to the Executive Committee. On Monday, June 6th, the Executive Committee selected longtime FCB member Kati Lear to be our new executive assistant. Kati comes to us after having retired from a long career with the Division of Blind Services. With her husband, Mark, she resides in Port Orange, Florida. She brings enthusiasm, eagerness, a commitment to dedication and integrity, and a very bubbly personality. I am really looking forward to her joining our team, and I hope that you will all welcome her with open arms and patience as she learns the ropes.

Recently, I signed a legal agreement with outside counsel and am pleased to report that we are moving forward with the long-promised structured negotiations with Publix. I appreciate everyone's patience and am hopeful that Publix will soon provide accessible prescription information to their patrons who are blind and have low vision.

Accessible currency has been a long time coming. Now, almost 10 years after ACB'S court victory against the U.S. Bureau of Engraving, the bureau is seeking another huge delay in delivering the first accessible currency. The delay is being sought under an alleged claim of security. ACB is striking back and vigorously objecting to this further pushback by the Department of Treasury. Eighteen years is just too long.

"Our motion to the judge who upheld the 2008 decision that the U.S. must make currency meaningfully accessible affirms our great displeasure that the Treasury is taking entirely too long to bring accessible currency online," said Eric Bridges, ACB's Executive Director. "When the court ruled in 2008 to uphold our right to equal access, the expectations were that it would take three to five years, not almost two decades."

At the end of July, I have been invited to attend a collaborative meeting with leaders from the Blinded Veterans, National Federation of the Blind of Florida, the Florida Council of the Blind, and Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind to develop strategies for dealing with another attempt to move the Division of Blind Services into a new home. The proposal would combine the delivery of blind services with other rehab programs and agencies, thus jeopardizing the needed strength, quality, and independence of blind services.

The continuation of these projects and the launching of new ones aimed at promoting the independence and quality of life for Florida's citizens who are blind or have low vision takes money. This is why your president and other FCB Walk Team members have been working so diligently over the last several months to raise money for the ACB Brenda Dillon Walkathon.

I am hopeful that those of us who can will either follow the link below or use the address to make-much needed contributions to our Florida Hurricanes team.

The walk team is the Florida Hurricanes.

If you prefer U.S. mail, you can make a check payable to “American Council of the Blind” and mail it directly to:

American Council of the Blind
ACB Walk, Florida Hurricanes
6300 Shingle Creek Parkway
Suite 195
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430

Next month, I will travel to Minneapolis to attend the American Council of the Blind Conference and Convention in order to promote our mission and to learn about new initiatives and needs. I again thank you for the privilege and opportunity to serve as your president. I look forward to our future work in addressing the needs of our community.