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President's Report - February 11th, 2014

Hello, AEBC!

2014 is upon us, and we're getting geared up for the conference and annual general meeting in Ottawa, this April 25th to 27th. Because of the importance of that event, and because there is so much information to be communicated to you, details about the AGM will have been sent in a separate message. See http://www.blindcanadians.ca/programs/conf/2014 for all the details, including the registration form.

As we start looking toward the AGM, we must now also begin looking toward the next year, and next two years. More information will be coming your way about the strategic planning process, and the recommendations that will be flowing from that. What is certain is that the AEBC will be making a decision at this upcoming conference about its future direction that will be significant: some might love it, some might hate it, but this will inform the next Board of Directors on which direction to take your organization.

Work with us, folks. Contribute. Comment. Get involved. Show us how important this all is to you. There is a lot we can do together. Let's try to have some fun doing it!

A. Announcements and Reminders

1. Membership Renewals -- There's still time.

Memberships were due on December 31st, 2013, as our membership year runs from January 1st to December 31st. If you haven't yet renewed for 2014, you needn't panic -- there is still time to get your membership in and you can still vote at the upcoming conference and AGM. Just be sure to renew before March 12th, 2014. Members who join or renew after that date cannot vote at the AGM (although they can run for office).

2. Upcoming Events

3. Other Community Announcements

4. Blog Posts

5. Important Upcoming Dates

  • In order to be eligible to vote at the AGM, your membership must be paid and recorded in the national membership database no later than March 12, 2014.
  • The deadline for submitting resolutions (other than bylaw amendments), which are called "proposals", to be considered at the meeting, is February 25, 2014. (Send to tibbs@blindcanadians.ca.)
  • The deadline for submitting bylaw amendment proposals, to be considered at the meeting, is March 12, 2014. (Send to tibbs@blindcanadians.ca.)
  • The deadline to book your room at the hotel is March 24th, 2014. (Do this directly with the hotel.)
  • The final call to the annual general meeting, including all proposals to be considered, will be distributed by e-mail no later then April 5th, 2014 (21 days prior to the meeting).
  • The deadline to register for the conference is April 12th, 2014.

B. Priority Issue Updates

1. Braille Camp (Natalie Martiniello)

As of February 2014: We're still raising funds to help the camp. Use this link to donate directly to the Braille Camp initiative: https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/16296

More importantly, we'll be looking for interested people to serve as mentors during the camp, which will take place July 28-August 1, 2014. If you are a braille reader (uncontracted and contracted braille), and would like to work with kids age 8-12 for a week on braille and other skills, this is the opportunity for you. Your food and board will be covered for the week. Transportation will be available from Sudbury and Toronto to Lake Joseph.

For more information, or if you are potentially interested in being a mentor, contact Natalie Martiniello (nmartiniello@gmail.com). A more official description of the mentor position as well as the form to apply will be circulated soon.

See http://www.blindcanadians.ca/programs/braillecamp for the latest details.

2. Accessible Point-of-Sale (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of February 2014: The committee has preliminarily met and begun considering its next options. We have recently learned that some taxis, at least in the United States, are equipping themselves with self-voicing payment machines, allowing blind passengers to pay with their credit card entirely independently. More research is being done on this and other leads.

3. Accessible Websites (TBD)

This committee is currently without a chair and largely without members. Are you interested in helping come up with a plan or working on this issue? Do you have an interest in web accessibility, or ideas for projects or initiatives related to web or mobile app accessibility?

Email tibbs@blindcanadians.ca and we'll try to get you started.

C. Committee News

1. Accessibility in Procurement (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of February 2014: Sharlyn is finalizing a "position paper" on the issue of accessibility in procurement. This will be circulated to the board shortly and shared with the membership for comment before being sent along to the CAG (Consumer Accessibility Group) for consideration.

2. AGM & Conference (Stephen Ricci)

Details about the conference are now available! See http://www.blindcanadians.ca/programs/conf/2014. A separate e-mail message will be distributed to everyone with a lot of the same information.

3. Bylaws & Governance (Anthony Tibbs)

The AGM is scheduled for April 25-27, although actual business will only be conducted on April 26-27. The following dates are therefore important:

  • In order to be eligible to VOTE at the AGM, your membership must be paid and recorded in the national membership database no later than March 12, 2014.
  • The deadline for submitting resolutions (other than bylaw amendments), which are called "proposals", to be considered at the meeting, is February 25, 2014.
  • The deadline for submitting bylaw amendment proposals, to be considered at the meeting, is March 12, 2014.
  • The final call to the annual general meeting, including all proposals to be considered, will be distributed by e-mail no later then April 5th, 2014 (21 days prior to the meeting).

If you want to submit a resolution/proposal, it must not be more than 250 words long. You may also submit a short statement or explanation in support of the resolution but, if you do so, the proposal and your statement cannot, together, exceed 500 words.

All proposals will be subject to review by the board to ensure that they are technically correct and should not be summarily ruled "out of order" at the meeting. Proposals that have been submitted will be published in the President's Reports leading up to the AGM so that members can begin discussion and consideration prior to the meeting.

A word of warning to chapters who are sending representatives to the meeting: You may want to plan to have a chapter meeting sometime between April 5th and the conference. The proxy form will not be available this year until the final call to the AGM.

As of this writing, one resolution has been received for consideration by the membership.

Proposed Resolution (Bylaw Amendment) 2014-01: Proxy Votes

Submitted by Heather Rupert (Montréal)

Whereas an individual is entitled to hold no more than five proxies at a membership meeting;

And whereas the members wish to be able to carry ten proxies to a membership meeting;

Therefore be it resolved that the word "five" be replaced with the word "ten" in article 17.5 of the Bylaws.

4. Communications (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of February 2014: Ongoing work in growing our social networks continues to attract new twitter followers and organizations which have an interest and stake in our future as an organization and individually as blind, deafblind and partially sighted customers of programs, products and services.

5. Fundraising (Charles Bailey)

Donate today. Every dollar helps, and a small donation over a longer period of time adds up. $5 or $10 a month helps to pay for conference call phone lines, for example. And there are a number of ways you can donate. The easiest for us (because they take care of the paperwork and sending you a receipt) is if you donate via CanadaHelps, which will accept both single donations and monthly recurring contributions by credit card, Interac Online, gift cards, or PayPal. To donate online, visit https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/3315. You can also call 1-800-561-4774 to donate with your VISA or MasterCard over the phone.

6. Library (Sharlyn Ayotte)

As of December 2014: We have received word that a group of public libraries is devising a "consumer advisory committee" to assist with the development of a national alternative format library initiative. Details are especially scant at this time but more will follow.

We've also recently received -- albeit many months later -- a response from Library and Archives Canada to our access to information request regarding the Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA) project. We're currently reviewing those documents and will report on our findings in due course.

7. Scholarship (Anthony Tibbs)

The Scholarship Committee is revamping itself and re-arranging for the 2014 scholarship program. Details to come, but if you want to participate and help, contact Anthony Tibbs (tibbs@blindcanadians.ca)!

8. Strategic Planning

The strategic directions that have been identified are as follows:

  1. **First Wave Strategies** (3-6 month implementation horizon)
    • Create a Board committee structure that reflects the current needs of the organization.
    • Clarify the AEBC brand.
    • Engage with members through proactive communication.
  2. **Second Wave Strategies** (6-12 months implementation horizon)
    • Create a national fundraising strategy.
    • Improve the quantity/quality of members.
  3. **Third Wave Strategies** (12 months and ongoing implementation horizon)
    • Increase organizational capacity

The Board is now converting these broad objectives into more specific, timed projects that can be undertaken over the next six to twelve months. More information will be coming forward in the next few weeks to begin the discussion prior to the AGM.

D. Chapter Updates

Halifax

The AEBC Halifax Chapter celebrated our Christmas party on December 19th at the Bloomfield Centre. We had a fantastic turn-out, including guests and our guide dogs. We had our "Secret Santa" gift exchange, ate way too much food, got the guitar out and sang a few songs and even a story to end the evening about Santa's little helpers, and I don't mean his reindeers! Smiles. These little fellas like to bark!

However, the night ended with the following President's Awards given to members of our chapter who have given endless hours of advocating and fund raising over the past year.

  1. Bradly and Shayleen received the 2013 Youth Advocate of the Year, and it was certainly deserved. I have never seen youth work so hard in their community doing something they enjoy doing. They have gone out with us on all our fund raising events, enjoyed mingling with those who approached our information tables and discussed who we are and what we do in our community and at the national level, as well as going door-to-door with selling home made fudge and chocolate chip cookies. These two youngsters did a fantastic job at our 2013 AEBC National Conference and Annual General Meeting and we are looking forward to bringing them along to Ottawa.

  2. Yvon received the 2013 Advocate of the Year. Yvon has spent more hours than anyone I know, in our community, raising the profile of our small chapter. He attended all fund raisers, all exhibits we hosted, was appointed to the HRM Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities, and was usually the chatty one at our table when everyone walk past, even if they were not interested in what we were doing; he always had to say "hi" to them and smile. Yvon also recruited four members over the past year.

  3. Rene received our 2013 Volunteer of the Year award. When in doubt, Rene is always there to help out. Rene has spent many hours coming out with members and getting to know more about our organization and will always volunteer before anyone else has the opportunity to say a word. We thank you for your hard work and dedication!

  4. Drew and Kelly received the "Unsung Hero" award on behalf of Darren James who passed away this past summer. Darren contributed many hours to our chapter, volunteering when ever he could. Darren joined our family in May 2012, however, he said that he felt like he was "comfortable and at home" with all his fellow AEBC members. He attended our national AGM in Toronto and realized that there was life after blindness. You are truely an inspiration to everyone who knew you! We will carry on with Darren's memory next week with the release of the "Darren Lee James Memorial Bursary". A true inspiration to all those hearts he touched.

I'd also like to thank my partner in crime, Ms. Guylaine, for helping make such difficult decisions pertaining to the award recipients.

January is here and it's a brand new year with many items on our agenda which I'm quite certain we will accomplish.

We'd like to welcome Nick Ogden who is the newest member of our family! Welcome aboard, Nick!

Our AGM committee is meeting tonight and we have several huge fund raisers planned for the upcoming months so stay tuned. More to come in the next few weeks.

We have events planned for the first week in February for our members. We will be hosting an audio described movie night on February 8th and will be heading down to the Oval to lace up some skates and enjoy a couple of hours skating on February 9th. We are going to speak to students at a local high school and will have exhibits set up over the HRM. Other events are in the works, however, not yet finalized.

Last, but not least, we will be celebrating our chapter's sixth anniversary by having a party on February15th. We may be a small chapter, but we're feistey. Smiles.

Until next time, on behalf of all members of the AEBC Halifax Chapter, I'd like to wish you all, a healthy and prosperous new year!

E. Partner News

1. Council of Canadians with Disabilities

The CCD National Council, of which AEBC is a member, will be meeting by telephone conference call later in February to discuss, among other things, an update on the creation of a new funding stream for national disability organizations.

The next face-to-face council meeting will take place in Winnipeg on June 6th and 7th, 2014.

F. Question of the Month

Historically, the organization has been effectively run by way of the annual general meetings. Resolutions have been drafted, debated, and passed by those in attendance which have defined everything from the organization's stance on copyright laws to the institution of disciplinary policies.

On the one hand, this has seemingly provided members with a great deal of control over the direction of the organization. I say "seemingly" because many cannot, for one reason or another, attend the AGM, and although they can appoint a proxy, that is hardly the same thing as being a part of the conversation.

On the other hand, it arguably makes AEBC slow to respond to changing environments, changing circumstances, and has been known to tie the hands of the board who are unable to take a contrary position until the next AGM, which could be 3, 6, or 9 months away. We now have mechanisms whereby votes could be taken by phone or Internet to vary a resolution, but this still requires quorum and a special meeting -- which is not something that is easy or inexpensive to pull together.

This leads me to two related questions.

First, do you think that it is a good use of our time and resources to meet each year for the annual general meeting, to discuss and vote on "resolutions" or "proposals"? If those "resolutions" or "proposals" could be discussed and voted on in some other way -- e.g. by telephone or Internet voting -- would this suffice? Should we really have all these "resolutions", some of which are contradictory, many of which are outdated, or is there a better way?

Second, a year or two ago, I suggested that all voting be done after the meeting itself. Resolutions or proposals could be drafted and circulated at the end of the meeting. Board candidates could be nominated before, at, or after the meeting. Voting on the board composition and any pending resolutions would be done by phone or Internet after the meeting itself, thereby giving everyone, including those not present, the same opportunity to have their say by way of a vote. And we wouldn't spend 2 hours of precious time handing out shapes to conduct board elections. Some thought the idea had merit. Some foamed at the mouth and quietly plotted my demise. What are your feelings on the idea?

We look forward to seeing you in Ottawa.

Sincerely yours,
Anthony Tibbs
President, AEBC

Disclaimer:

This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.