American Council of the Blind Announces Audio Description Awards

­­For Immediate Release Contact: Joel Snyder, Director, Audio Description Project (202) 467-5083   WASHINGTON, July 10, 2018 - The American Council of the Blind (ACB) proudly announces the 2018 Achievement Awards in Audio Description, an initiative of the Council’s Audio Description Project (ADP).   In conjunction with ACB’s 57th annual conference and convention in St. Louis, MO, the awards were presented at a plenary session of the conference before over 1000 people who are blind, ACB members/convention attendees.  The prestigious awards included: Achievement in Audio Description – Performing Arts:  MindsEye Radio, Belleville, IL (for its work providing description for the MUNY in St. Louis, the St. Louis Shakespeare Theater, Shakespeare in the Streets, The Rep, the Black rep, Straydog Theater, Inevitable Theater Company, Metro Theater Company, the Tennessee Williams Festival and its work with LAMP Interpreting Service providing audio description for a series of medically-oriented films produced in several languages--its description activity extends to audio description at the St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Molah Shrine circus, Disney on Ice, the VIP Parade, the solar eclipse, and the establishment of a seminar on website accessibility through its Arts & Culture Accessibility Cooperative) Achievement in Audio Description – Media: Rooted In Rights, Seattle, WA (for its video and social media advocacy program focused exclusively on stories about disability rights—all of the nearly 200 original videos produced since 2015 have featured audio description) Achievement in Audio Description – Visual Art / Museums / Visitor Centers: Tennessee School for the Blind and Julia Cawthon, Nashville, TN (for their hosting of a unique event on August 21, 2017 to bring a live audio description of the Solar Eclipse to all the blind and visually impaired students at TSB and to thousands of blind people around the world through the live broadcast on ACB Radio) Achievement in Audio Description – International:  Amos Be’er, CEO, The Central Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals, Tel Aviv, Israel (for work establishing an audio description service, an operation that allows the inclusion of hundreds of blind and visually impaired people in theater performances, movies, museums, ceremonies and live events) Special Recognition Achievement in Audio Description — International:  Antonio Vazquez Martin, Aristia Producciones SLU-Madrid, Spain (for his work with students in the Spanish Translation Program at Montclair State University developing a free-of-charge 20 hour training course on audio description) Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description – Research and Development:  Dr. Francisco Lima, Recife, Brazil (for his work developing guidelines for scientific audio description, focusing on entomology descriptions. Dr. Lima details how audio description in scientific settings differs from audio description for films and theater and can benefit audio describers who are interested in applying their skills in a science setting. He also developed an app--Snap Sects—designed to make it easier for people who are blind or hEave low vision to access scientific audio description. This app promises to greatly facilitate access to scientific exhibits from museums to zoos) Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description:  The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH (NCAM) (for its more than twenty years researching, developing, and customizing tools, guidelines, and technology that lowers the barriers to providing and accessing high-quality image and audio description) The Achievement Awards are made to individuals and/or organizations for outstanding contributions to the establishment and/or continued development of significant audio description programs.  The Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description recognizes an individual for outstanding contributions to the field of audio description over an extended period of time, leading, inspiring or providing significant service to others. “Audio Description uses words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative to convey the visual image from television, film, DVDs, theater, museums and many other settings,” stated Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind.  "The organizations and individuals honored with these awards are among the leaders in description.  They help make so many aspects of our culture accessible to people who are blind or have low vision; they deserve this special recognition.”  Additional information about ACB’s Audio Description Project is available at: www.acb.org/adp.    About the American Council of the Blind The American Council of the Blind is a national membership organization. Its members are blind, visually impaired, and fully sighted individuals who are concerned about the dignity and well-being of blind people throughout the nation. Formed in 1961, the ACB is one of the largest organizations of blind people in the world, with more than 70 state and special-interest affiliates and a nationwide network of chapters and members spanning the globe. For more information about the American Council of the Blind, contact:  Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1703 N Beauregard Street  #420, Alexandria, VA 22311;  phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666; or  visit the web site, www.acb.org.

American Council of the Blind Awards Sharon Lovering for 25 Years of Service

At the opening session of the 57 annual Conference and Convention, ACB presented Sharon Lovering with an award for her 25 years of service to the organization. “Sharon is a dedicated, hardworking, passionate employee who has made outstanding contributions to the American Council of the Blind. We are grateful for Sharon’s work proofreading materials, assisting with membership certification, editing The ACB E-Forum and the ACB Braille Forum, managing the Communications Center at conferences, and many more duties,” said Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director. “Sharon is always willing to help when and where needed, ensuring ACB tasks are completed with the utmost attention to detail." Since joining the organization in 1993, Sharon has experienced office relocations, technology advances and organizational leadership changes, but her passion and dedication to the American Council of the Blind has remained. Thank you Sharon, for everything you do, helping ACB ensure all Americans who are blind or visually impaired have a brighter future. Above Photo Caption: Sharon Lovering is recognized by Eric Bridges for her service to ACB. 

Suman Kanuganti, Aira CEO, announces Aira Messages and Lower-price Plan

Aira Messages We are excited to announce that Aira Messages, a new product feature, is now available as a free update to the Aira app and experience. Appearing today in the updates section of the iOS App Store, and coming soon to the Google Play Store, Aira Messages enables Aira Explorers to communicate with Aira agents via typing while in a session (similar to texting). Visit this page to learn more about how Aira Messages works.   Starter Plan Aira, for the first time, is offering a new service-only plan at this year’s Summer Conventions! At just $50 per month, you can sign up to be an Explorer and gain access to Aira’s platform and its professional agents using your smartphone. Please note this plan is only available at the convention, so take advantage by getting your friends to sign up with Aira at our booths or by calling 1-888-200-7680.   Back to School welcomes ACB scholarship winners Aira will offer each recipient of the 2018 ACB scholarship class access to our Back to School program for the 2018-2019 school year. These students are guaranteed nine months of free Aira services, with all the advantages that Aira Explorers enjoy everyday. As these scholars study, play, and develop as contributing members of their communities, Aira will play its part by offering these students additional tools to enhance their academic efforts.   ACB Members to receive access to Aira’s Employment Program ACB has a tremendous focus on employment. In furtherance of our partnership and to show how Aira can impact ACB’s focus areas, we’re proud to announce an agreement establishing that all ACB members be granted access, as Aira guests, to Aira’s free Employment Program. This program will be available during October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month.   ACB Members to receive 5 shopping days Aira will provide a simple code for ACB members to redeem for five (5) “shopping” days using the Aira service. Stay tuned for more details about this community-focused program.   “Good things are on the Horizon!” Horizon has computational power, improved camera specifications, network stability, and the simplicity of Chloe dialogue, which provides not only a stable platform for our Explorers, but also creates an exponential advantage for obtaining more value from the entire Aira service. Horizon does not need a smartphone to operate. By simply holding down a button, you instantly have your professional autonomous agent at your fingertips. We are optimistic that Horizon is going to make our service much easier to use, for those who don’t yet have smartphones, as well as for those who want a simple, straightforward, hands-free approach to using Aira.   Have any questions or issues? Contact Customer Care at 800-835-1934 or email support@aira.io. Want a free month of Aira? Refer a friend and you both will receive a free month of service. Visit the Referral page on your Aira app to send an invite.

Microsoft Receives ACB’s James R. Olsen Distinguished Service Award

ST. LOUIS, June 30, 2018 — The American Council of the Blind presented Anirudh Koul, Senior Data Scientist, and his team at Microsoft with the James R. Olsen Distinguished Award for their Seeing AI application, which has significantly enhanced the independence and quality of life for Americans who are blind or visually impaired. This award is given to individuals or organizations that have made important contributions which have advanced opportunities for the blind community. “When adding up the cost of the single-use products that Seeing AI replaces, it is easy to see why this mighty little application deserves recognition by the members of the American Council of the Blind,” said Brian Charlson, Director of Technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind. “This program has changed the world of technology for people who are blind or have low vision.” Seeing AI is a free application that is available in 35 countries and includes features such as: Short Text - Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera. Documents - Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognizes the text, along with its original formatting. Products - Scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available. (Works with iPhone 6 and later.) People - Saves people’s faces so you can recognize them, and get an estimate of their age, gender, and emotions. Scenes (early preview) - Hear an overall description of the scene captured. Currency - Recognizes currency notes. (Requires iOS 11) Color - Identifies color. Handwriting - Reads handwritten text such as in greeting cards Light - Generates an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the surroundings. Due to its no-cost and multi-use capabilities, the application has been downloaded over 150,000 times and completed over 5 million tasks for users. The American Council of the Blind is the nation’s leading grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired.  With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.  

U.S. Senate Advances Marrakesh Treaty

For Immediate Release Contact: Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs astephens@acb.org ST. LOUIS, June 29, 2018 — The American Council of the Blind commends the United States Senate on the eve of ACB’s 57th national convention after the Senate passed through unanimous consent the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559). Their action ratifies through the “Advice and Consent of the Senate this landmark treaty agreed upon by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2013.” “Passage of the Marrakesh Treaty by the Senate sets the stage for the United States to play a major role in ending the global shortage of accessible books for people who are blind or have other print-reading disabilities,” said ACB President Kim Charlson. “As we gather in this Gateway City five years after Marrakesh was introduced to the world, we’re excited by the new frontier that lies ahead for the tens of millions of people who are blind worldwide who had challenges gaining access to accessible written material.” ACB has been actively involved with advocating for the treaty’s principles and was represented in Marrakesh on June 27, 2013 when the final document was passed by WIPO. Commonly referred to as the Marrakesh Treaty, it aims to facilitate access to materials in a specialized format to eligible individuals. The final step necessary for the U.S. to begin participating in the sharing of accessible books is passage of S.2559 by the U.S. House of Representatives, which will fine tune the necessary copyright provisions to allow for the exchange of such materials. “Having received unanimous consent in the Senate, we believe that the House of Representatives has no reason to hold up passage of the minor amendments to U.S. copyright law,” said ACB executive director Eric Bridges. “ACB stands committed to working with the other nations that have already ratified the treaty, assuring that accessible materials can begin to be made available for both Americans living abroad and other individuals who are blind seeking published works from the United States.” To learn more, visit www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/marrakesh/ The American Council of the Blind is the nation’s leading grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.   Link to PR Newswire Press Release