On Thursday, November 29, hundreds gathered at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in downtown San Francisco for the LightHouse Gala: A Celebration of Blind Ambition. The event, which was the 116-year old LightHouse’s first independent gala celebration, honored blind role models and boundary-pushers of all kinds, not just for high-achievements but for their level of audacity and ambition.
Capped off by presentations from the three winners of the agency’s Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, the event also featured the new LightHouse awards ceremony to acknowledge longtime leaders from the field of blindness who have had a great impact on the community. The full list of award recipients is below.
“We’re thrilled to bring the community together for an event in our home of San Francisco,” said LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin on the occasion. “To see the spirit and ambition of our Holman Prizewinners alongside the legacies of our LightHouse Award recipients – I am honored and humbled to host them all in one place. But more than just talent and ambition, our gala is meant to celebrate education and advocacy; the noble, never-ending hard work that is required to bring up future generations of blind people so that they may find independence, employment and joy in their daily lives.”
Scott LaBarre, a blind attorney from Colorado who accepted an award for his work to ensure the recent ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, gave a rousing speech. Maryanne Diamond, former president of the World Blind Union, accepted her award from Australia. The 71-country treaty, which allows for accessible book formats to be available around the world, had its toughest time in the most developed countries, namely with the United States Senate who ratified the treaty in October.
George Kerscher, who accepted an award for his creation of the accessible ebook format known as DAISY, echoed LaBarre’s emphasis on education, praising publishers who are now producing ebooks that are “born accessible” for blind readers.
Catherine Skivers, former president of the California Council of the Blind, was also honored for her enduring work in the blindness field, which spans several decades.
Christopher Buckley Award for audacious action through political advocacy which improves the lives of blind people: Scott LaBarre and Maryanne Diamond
Scott LaBarre and Maryanne Diamond, for their work to ensure the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty which will allow for the spread of education and literature to blind readers around the world.
Dr. Isabelle Grant Award for individual initiatives which benefit the blind worldwide: George Kerscher
George Kerscher, inventor of DAISY, the groundbreaking technology that created a new standard format for accessible books. Adopted around the world and by nations as an official delivery format, Kerscher has not only been an innovator but a fierce advocate for blind learners everywhere.
Dr. Newel Perry Award for enduring and effective leadership in the blindness community: Catherine Skivers
Catherine Skivers’ enduring commitment to the furtherance of the blindness community is rooted in California, but felt throughout the world. Holding many leadership roles through her career including president of the California Council of the Blind, Skivers has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to equity, dignity and authenticity for blind people everywhere.
Ceremonial medals were also given to the 2017 Holman Prizewinners, who were honored for the completion of their year-long projects which furthered the cause of blindness across six continents in the fields of adventure sports, entrepreneurship and cultural exchange.
Ahmet Ustuenl – blind adventurer and technology enthusiast
Ojok Simon – blind beekeeper and rehabilitative educator
Penny Melville-Brown – blind chef and cultural ambassador
About the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Founded in 1902, San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired promotes the independence, equality and self-reliance of people who are blind or have low vision. LightHouse offers blindness skills training and relevant services such as access to employment, education, government, information, recreation, transportation and the environment. LightHouse also pursues the development of new technology, encourages innovation, and amplifies the voices of blind individuals around the world. To receive services, volunteer or make a donation, visit lighthouse-sf.org.
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