Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Outstanding Visionaries to Receive Awards

Each year, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) recognizes corporations, individuals and organizations whose contributions to accessibility for the blind and vision impaired have been significant.

On March 28, 2012, the AFB announced that this year’s recipients are: Lauren Lieberman, Ph.D., Leader Dogs, Major League Baseball, and NV Access.

Lauren Lieberman, Ph.D., founded Camp Abilities, a nonprofit which focuses on physical fitness and adaptive sports for youth with vision impairments and deaf blindness. To date, Doctor Lieberman has 14 camps in the United States and four internationally, with all facilities offering paralympics training, nutrition information, and varied recreational activities. Through Camp Abilities, Lauren Lieberman, also a well-known author and professor, has helped over 1,800 children and provided fitness instruction to over 3,000 future teachers.

In order to take advantage of any opportunity, though, one must first have the mobility with which to go places, and that’s where Leader Dogs comes in. Leader Dogs, in Rochester, Michigan, has provided guide dog training since 1939. In addition to matching dogs with eager owners, Leader also now offers an accelerated mobility and orientation training program for instructors. This free, one-week program was designed to meet the needs of regions of the U.S. where there is an overwhelming shortage of qualified O & M professionals. Through these programs, Leader demonstrates its commitment to safe, independent travel by persons who are blind or deaf blind. Leader is the only school in North America to train deaf blind guide dog users.

Just as fitness and mobility are important, so, too, is entertainment, which can be more fully enjoyed when it is also accessible.

Major League Baseball stepped up to the plate by making live streaming game day broadcasts, rosters, schedules, and stats accessible to computer users who are blind. That information is also available on iPhones and touch iPods through Bat 11, an App. on mlb.com.

Within the past year, MLB further supported accessibility by donating $1 million to a lab and learning center in Arizona which provides sophisticated vision technologies to over 1,000 children.

To say more about access technology, it often comes with a price few can afford. Based on the ideal that vision friendly technology can be affordable, NV Access, an Australian nonprofit, developed NVDA–a free, open source screen reader. By using a USB drive and without the need for installation, NVDA makes information on a desktop computer accessible by displaying it in Braille or reading it with synthetic speech. Additionally, NVDA is compatible with Microsoft Word, and available in 20 languages.

This year’s winners will receive their awards at AFB’S Leadership Conference to be held May 3rd and 4th, in Saint Pete’s Beach, Florida.

I’d love to hear in the Reader’s Forum who you think would be good nominees for the 2013 Access Award, especially persons who are blind, vision impaired, or with any other disability.

Sources: www.afb.org, www.leader.org, and www.perkins.org, with the Perkins School for the Blind having a Camp Abilities.

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