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blind ambition

And the 2022 Holman Prizewinners Are…

And the 2022 Holman Prizewinners Are…

We are pleased to announce the winners of the sixth annual Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. The Holman Prize awards up to $25,000 each to three blind people who have ambitious ideas that challenge misperceptions about blindness while also challenging themselves. The Holman Prize is named for James Holman, a 19th century blind explorer who was the most prolific private traveler of anyone, blind or sighted, before the era of modern transportation.  

In July, an international panel of 10 blind leaders spent two days selecting the three winners of this year’s prize. 

Introducing The 2022 Holman Prizewinners  

Abby Griffith, 28 – United States 

Photo caption: Abby Griffith sitting at her desk

Griffith will empower blind and low vision youth in Ethiopia by providing Braille reading and writing devices to students at the School for the Blind in Wolayta. When told over Zoom that she had won, Griffith covered her face in astonishment and cried tears of happiness, grateful for the opportunity to fund services for economically disadvantaged blind youth in her native Ethiopia.   

Holman Prize judge and blind chemist, Dr. Hoby Wedler said, “Abby is a truly extraordinary blind leader. She came to the United States, learned how to use assistive technology, and wants to bring her learnings of access tech and braille back to her homeland! This is truly remarkable and game changing.  

Cassie Hames, 33 – Australia  

Photo caption: Cassie standing at a bus stop wearing a reflective vest and holding her cane

Hames will develop “See Me,” an app that communicates with bus drivers to request them to stop to allow a visually impaired person to board, making independent travel on public transportation safer and more accessible for the blind. Hames’ exact response upon being told she is one of this year’s winners was, “Holy moly!” followed by an eruption of laughter and tears of shock and joy. 

Holman Prize judge and blind author, Dr. M. Leona Godin, said, “I was struck by Cassie’s tenacity demonstrated in her 90 second video pitch. Cassie is a woman with a clear and important project, and the will and ability to make it happen.”  

Tafadzwa Nyamuzihwa, 38 – Germany 

Photo caption: Tafadzwa speaking into a microphone

Nyamuzihwa, an experienced DJ, will open recording studios in Zimbabwe and Uganda that will employ and train blind and low vision people to become radio presenters. When informed that he had won, Nyamuzihwa began dancing around the room.  
Sarah Harris, Disability Rights Advocate and Holman Prize judge said, “Tafadzwa’s insight and passion to change perspectives and stigmas in regard to blindness are thoughtful and heartfelt.” 

LightHouse is thrilled to have Waymo as a partner and thanks them for their generosity in sponsoring of one of the three prizes this year.  

For more information contact 
Christina Daniels at 415-694-7315 or press@lighthouse-sf.org 
About the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired 
Founded in 1902, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is the largest organization in Northern California providing skills, resources and community for the advancement of all individuals who are blind or have low vision.  
Email: info@lighthouse-sf.org and visit: 

Introducing This Year’s Holman Prize Semifinalists

Introducing This Year’s Holman Prize Semifinalists

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired San Francisco, and the Holman Prize team are thrilled to announce this year’s Holman Prize semifinalists! Each year the Holman Prize awards up to $25,000 each to three blind people with ideas that will challenge misconceptions about blindness worldwide. LightHouse thanks Waymo for their support of the Holman Prize for the second year.

This year, 37 contestants from 18 countries will advance to the next round of judging. Three of these bold, boundary-pushing, blind leaders will become a 2022 Holman Prizewinner. Which three will win? Continue to follow this year’s Holman Prize journey to find out!

2022 Holman Prize Semifinalists (in no particular order)

Click on each name to watch their YouTube pitch or watch the entire 2022 Holman Prize Semifinalists Playlist.

Emilee Schevers, age 20
Country: Canada
Proposal: “The Tru Faces of Change,” a social media campaign to bring awareness and positive social change for those with disabilities

Sunny Ezurike, age 52
Country: Portugal 
Proposal: Transcription of university textbooks into accessible formats for students in Nigeria who are blind or have low vision

Dennis Gallant, age 69
Country: United States
Proposal: A walk across the country on the America Discovery Trail with his guide dog

Gerda Oosthuizen, age 52
Country: South Africa
Proposal: Create and manufacture Velcro eye patches for people recovering from eye surgeries

Andrey Tikhonov, age 36
Country: Poland
Proposal: “Blind Power” will create conditioning and trainings, accessible workout books, and a sports camp for blind athletes

Philip Thorn, age 52
Country: New Zealand
Proposal: Create “Survivor to Thriver,” a mentorship and motivational service for those recovering from illnesses or accidents that have made them disabled

Kesah Princely, age 24
Country: Cameroon
Proposal: Blind Youth Leadership Development Program will provide blindness training and advocacy to youth in Cameroon who are blind or have low vision

Duel Adams, age 52
Country: United States
Proposal: Create a YouTube series, “Sensory Explorations with the Blind Traveler,” documenting different sensory experiences traveling the world

Greg Christie, age 69
Country: Scotland
Proposal: Turn Millport, Scotland into a VI-friendly tourist destination by creating an accessible mountain climbing trail as well as accessible signage and trail maps

Abby Griffith, age 28
Country: United States
Proposal: Empower blind and low vision youth of Ethiopia by providing Braille reading and writing devices to students at the school for the blind in Ethiopia

Paschal Baute, age 92
Country: United States
Proposal: Write and publish, “Guide for the Pursuit of Blind Ambition,” a book of interviews and stories from previous Holman Prizewinners to inspire and encourage other blind people

Tafadzwa Nyamuzihwa, age 37
Country: Germany
Proposal: “Shining Star” will open recording studios in two African countries that will employ and train blind and low vision people to become radio and audio entertainers

Ernie Heredero, age 32
Country: Philippines
Proposal: Open a “Dining in the Dark” style restaurant in Palawan and employ all staff who are blind or have low vision

Arron George, age 31
Country: Trinidad and Tobago
Proposal: Record seven studio albums and provide studio time, instrumental creation, mixing and mastering, social media marketing, website creation, photo shoots and music videos for blind artists

Sergei Panus, age 44
Country: Russia
Proposal: Create an app designed to teach blind people to speak English

Raquel Alim, age 38
Country: United States
Proposal: Empower, educate, and enhance the lives of individuals who are blind or have low vision  by creating art

Josh Tseng, age 24
Country: Singapore
Proposal: Produce an online video series “Blind Guy Tries Everything” that will document adventures and try as many things as possible that would be considered unfathomable for people who are blind or have low vision

Fiona Demark, age 45
Country: Australia
Proposal: Video series “Dougherty Dares Downunder,” will challenge blind perceptions by completing a series of dares and activities

Griffin Pinkow, age 29
Country: United States
Proposal: Create a ranch-style program for youth who are blind or have low vision ages 8 to 18 where they can participate in activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing and learning about nature

Keisha Bass, age 32
Country: United States
Proposal: Make clothing shopping accessible for the blind by creating descriptive labels in Braille, large print, and QR-coded accessible digital labels

Cassie Hames, age 32
Country: Australia
Proposal: Create “See Me,” a fully integrated app that communicates with bus drivers and notifies drivers of approaching bus stops, making independent travel on public transportation safer and more accessible for the blind

Pawan Ghimire, age 43
Country: Nepal
Proposal: Train girls who are blind or have low vision how to play cricket and host a tournament for blind cricket players.

Kaiya Armstrong, age 21
Country: United States
Proposal: Learn to fly an airplane and pilot a flight from Arizona to Washington D.C.

Patrick Sheridan O’Donnell, age 32
Country: United States
Proposal: Develop, research, and write a feature film script that will be directed and filmed by a blind filmmaker

Krystle Allen, age 38
Country: United States
Proposal: Hold a global search for the ultimate title holders for a pageant created for women who are blind or have low vision called the Ms. Blind Diva Empowerment Pageant

Parkhat Yussupjanov, age 38
Country: Kazakhstan
Proposal: Adopt Uyghur Braille script for blind Uyghurs in Central Asian Countries

Ben Fox, age 39
Country: United States
Proposal: Start a monthly online media and storytelling workshop specifically created for people who are blind or have low vision

Saksham Kumar, age 17 – The People’s Choice Semifinalist! Saksham received the most likes on his YouTube pitch.
Country: India
Proposal: Inform people about misconceptions of educating blind students in India and advocate for accessible solution such as blind students being able to write their own test answers instead of having to use a scribe.

Julie McGinnity, age 31
Country: United States
Proposal: Interview blind parents from all over the country and tell their stories in a published anthology with a blog and resource center online called the Blind Parents Collective

Courtney Cole, age 24
Country: United States
Proposal: Create an international documentary about people with disabilities travelling around the world

Jeanetta Price, age 44
Country: United States
Proposal: Hold “WRITE 2 HEAL: Take Back Your Name” seminars for blind writers, artists, and performers

Minh Ha, age 28
Country: United States
Proposal: Create tactile art and coloring books for adults and children who are blind or have low vision

Joshua Aveno and Madison Javier, ages 30
Country: United States
Proposal: “Fresh Access” will make farmers markets accessible for blind and low vision people

Oluwakemi Odusanya, age 29
Country: Nigeria
Proposal: Provide leadership training to women who are blind or have low vision in Nigeria

Flor Jimenez, age 46
Country: United States
Proposal: Promote and support adaptive sports for blind and low vision youth in Latin America

Stay up to date with announcements and follow the journeys and achievements of former Holman Prizewinners by following the Holman Prize on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Applications for the LightHouse for the Blind – San Francisco 2022 Holman Prize open January 21

Applications for the LightHouse for the Blind – San Francisco 2022 Holman Prize open January 21

Now in its sixth year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition annually awards up to $25,000 each to three blind people from around the world who have an incredible idea that will shatter misconceptions about blindness.

The Holman Prize is named after James Holman, a blind 19th century explorer who is the most prolific private traveler of anyone, blind or sighted, before the era of modern transportation.

The only qualifications for the Holman Prize are that you must be blind or legally blind, speak English and that you must be 18 years old by October 1, 2022.

When applications open on January 21, all you have to do is make a 90-second video pitching your idea and upload it to YouTube, and fill out the application form on the Holman Prize website.

Your idea can involve great personal growth or literally be on any topic, as long as you are the originator and leader of your ambitious Holman Prize objective and you are blind or legally blind: technology, the Arts, Braille, accessibility, transportation, travel, community, learning a skill, teaching a skill, launching a business, providing a service – smashing any boundary and changing perceptions.

You will have until March 20, 2022 to submit your application, but don’t leave it to the last minute because during the application period, you can be collecting as many ‘likes’ on YouTube as possible, so you’re in the running for the “People’s Choice Award.” The applicant whose video has the most “likes” automatically becomes a semi finalist.

We are thrilled to announce that Waymo is again sponsoring the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition this year. Thank you Waymo for your continued support of this global prize.

For more information on the Holman Prize visit the Holman Prize website and if you don’t find your answer there, email us at holman@lighthouse-sf.org.

Spread the word about the Holman Prize and follow Holman Prize on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

We can’t wait to watch your videos and celebrate your blind ambition!

For inspiration, check out the 2021 Holman Prize finalist video playlist.

More information about the Holman Prize!

And the 2021 Holman Prizewinners Are…

And the 2021 Holman Prizewinners Are…

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco is pleased to announce the winners of the fifth annual Holman Prize for Blind Ambition.

Last month an international panel of blind leaders came together virtually to select the three winners of the 2021 Holman Prize.

Launched in 2017, the Holman Prize awards up to $25,000 each to three blind people with ambitious ideas that will challenge misperceptions about blindness worldwide. We’re pleased to partner with Waymo whose support is deep and continuing as a sponsor of one of these prizes. The Holman Prize is named for James Holman, a 19th century blind explorer who was the most prolific private traveler of anyone, blind or sighted, before the era of modern transportation.

Aaron Cannon

Aaron Cannon, 41 – USA

Cannon will use the Holman Prize to build accessible math training modules containing many lessons showing how blind people can learn to do math. These will be shared on a website. Of the endeavor, Cannon says, “This is a project I really believe in. There is something particularly impactful for a student being taught a complex subject that they think they are going to have difficulty with because of their blindness. But if there is a blind person teaching it to them, that kind of goes away. The subject may be hard, but not because of blindness.”

Robert Malunda

Robert Malunda, 33 – Zimbabwe

Malunda will use the Holman Prize to provide computer, orientation & mobility and social skills training to blind Zimbabweans in rural locations. Malunda will personally visit these areas were there are no government services of any kind for blind people. Says Malunda, “Blind people in Zimbabwe often experience isolation. I envision a Zimbabwe where blind people are knowledgeable, independent and socially interactive.”

Maud Rowell

Maud Rowell, 25 – United Kingdom

Rowell will travel across Japan independently including visits to rural and remote areas, solely by foot and public transportation. “I truly believe my project – travelling the length of Japan and writing a book – embodies the spirit of the Holman Prize: it’s ambitious, adventurous, and creative, and it’s absolutely driven by passion and a desire to challenge myself and others’ perceptions of the blind,” she says.

Bryan Bashin, LightHouse CEO, says of the winners, “This year the Holman judges selected three ambitious people from three continents to push the boundaries of blindness. In Zimbabwe, Robert Malunda will go to  the most distant parts of his country to expose blind people to modern attitudes and innovative techniques blind people use. In Japan, Maud Rowell will complete a Holmanesque journey to the most remote and little-visited parts of the Japanese archipelago, doing it solo and sensitively. And in the USA Aaron Cannon will develop a series of blind-friendly tutorials and methods for blind people to learn mathematics, a key subject for later academic and vocational success. We look forward to seeing how each of these three remarkable people will change attitudes about blindness and our ambition.”

Meet the Distinguished 2021 Holman Prize Jurors

Meet the Distinguished 2021 Holman Prize Jurors

A few weeks ago, we introduced you to the fourteen 2021 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition Finalists. Three from this ambitious group of blind people who want to challenge misconceptions about what it means to be blind will be selected as winners of our fifth annual Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. A special thanks goes to Waymo for sponsoring one of this year’s winners.

But who chooses the winners? Each year a panel of esteemed blindness leaders from around the world come together for discussion and debate to select the winners of the Holman Prize. All committee members are themselves blind.

For the second consecutive year, our committee will meet virtually. The fifteen members of this year’s committee reside in six countries and work in a variety of fields from law to computer science, to academia, to leadership roles in blindness organizations.

Learn more about them below.

The 2021 Holman Prize Committee

Martine Abel-Williamson, QSM
Auckland, New Zealand
President, World Blind Union

Martine is employed as a Senior Human Rights Advisor for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. She’s on the boards of the Accessible Books Consortium, Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and Blind Citizens NZ. She also holds pan-disability roles as a board member of Disability Connect, a pan-disability service provider.

Bryan Bashin
Berkeley, California, USA
CEO, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Bryan has led a diverse life since he graduated UC Berkeley in history and journalism. He first spent 15 years as a journalist in television, radio and print, specializing in science news. In 1998 Bryan was hired as Executive Director of the Sacramento Society for the Blind, where he quintupled the number of hours of teaching and developed innovative programs such as the Senior Intensive Retreat and summer immersion camps. In 2004 he was hired as the Region IX assistant regional commissioner for the United States Department of Education’s west coast branch of RSA, overseeing funding for $500 million in federal disability programs. In 2010 he was hired to lead the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco, leading a staff of 140.

Jason Fayre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
National Lead, Accessibility and Assistive Technology, CNIB

Jason has been working in the accessibility and assistive technology field for more than 20 years. In his current role at CNIB, he ensures that any staff who are blind are able to take full advantage of the multitude of technologies available to them. He works directly with companies such as Microsoft and Google to assist them in providing the most accessible products possible. Prior to CNIB, Jason worked for Freedom Scientific, one of the largest providers of assistive technology for people who are blind or have low vision.

Karla Gilbride
Silver Springs, Maryland, USA
Senior Attorney, Public Justice

A graduate with honors of Georgetown Law, Karla clerked for Judge Ronald Gould on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Her current legal work focuses on fighting mandatory arbitration provisions imposed on consumers and workers that prevent them from holding corporations accountable for wrongdoing in court. She is also a board member for the National Employment Lawyers Association, and a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. She is an avid baseball fan and fantasy baseball nerd and enjoys hiking, cycling and playing goalball.

Georgina Kleege
Berkeley, California
Professor in Creative Writing and Disability Studies, UC Berkeley

Georgina has been teaching at UC Berkeley since 2003.  Her recent books include: Sight Unseen, Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller and More than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art.

Karen Knight
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
General Manager of Client Services, Vision Australia

A proud Australian, Karen spent the first fifteen years of her career as a psychologist specializing in youth suicide prevention and mental health promotion. It is her lived experience and many years involvement in the consumer movement of blind people in Australia that has shaped her views about best practice in blindness service delivery. Karen is passionate about blind and visually impaired people living their dreams without the shackles imposed by others. Being out there telling blind positive stories is one way to change attitudes.

Karen has two young adult children and is a keen ballroom and Latin-American dancer.

Trisha Kulkarni
Dayton, Ohio, USA
B.S. Candidate in Computer Science, Stanford University

Trisha is an incoming senior at Stanford University studying computer science with a minor in creative writing. This summer, she is working as a software engineering intern within the Office Experience Organization at Microsoft, while also proudly serving as the President of the National Association of Blind Students. Kulkarni is humbled to be taking part in this incredible opportunity and looks forward to building our future together.

Jim Kutsch, PhD
Morristown, New Jersey, USA
Retired President, The Seeing Eye

Jim served as President and CEO of The Seeing Eye from 2006 until he retired in December 2019. He served as Chair of the Board of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), Chairman of the Morris Animal Foundation Board, President of the Council of U.S. Dog Guide Schools, and Chairman of the Board of National Industries for the Blind. Earlier, Kutsch was a Professor of Computer Science, a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories, VP and Chief Information Officer at AT&T Universal Card Services, and VP of Strategic Technology at Convergys. His degrees include a Psychology BA and a Computer Science MS and PhD, as well as an honorary Doctorate for lifetime service to people with disabilities, including designing the first talking computer.

Jim Marks
Helena, Montana, USA
Program Director, Area IV Agency on Aging, Rocky Mountain Development Council

Previously, Jim served as the Director of Disability Services for Students at the University of Montana and as Montana’s director of vocational rehabilitation. Jim is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Montana. He lives with his wife, Kathy. They have four adult children and six grandchildren.

Natalina Martiniello, PhD
Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Research Associate, Université de Montréal; President of Braille Literacy Canada

Natalina is a Research Associate and teaches in the Graduate program in Visual Impairment and Rehabilitation at the Université de Montréal, in Montreal, Canada. She is the President of Braille Literacy Canada (the Canadian Braille Authority) and a strong advocate for braille literacy and accessibility. As a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, she has taught braille and access technologies to children, adults and seniors with visual impairments. Her research focuses on braille, adult learning and aging and on developing evidence-based strategies to support working-age and older adults who learn braille. An avid traveler, her most memorable trip was visiting the house of Louis Braille.

Florence Ndagire
Wakiso, Wakiso District, Uganda

Florence is the first visually impaired female lawyer in Uganda. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from Makerere University and a Master of Law in international and European human rights law at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. She is currently enrolled at Makerere University in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine for her PhD research on access to reproductive health services by persons with disabilities in Uganda. She is the chairperson of the UN Women Regional civil society advisory group of East and Southern Africa. She is the current UNPRPD advisor. Florence is the primary author of “Will the proposed reforms in the mental health treatment act be consistent with Article 12 of the Convention on the rights of Persons with disabilities in Uganda?”

Walt Raineri
Northern California, USA
Partner Emeritus, Fenwick & West LLP

Walt’s legal and accounting professional, academic, philanthropic, entrepreneurial, and adaptive athletic sports careers span 45 years, and counting. He has practiced in the areas of international taxation, multinational mergers and acquisitions, and large group consolidations. Walt is also a CPA, a former Associate Professor at Golden Gate university, former Lecturer at UC Berkeley, and Stanford University. He founded four for profit companies, notably Ariat International, the equestrian clothing and footwear company. He is an alumnus of UC Berkeley School of Business Administration  and Georgetown university School of Law. Walt is a Paralympic level athlete in multiple sports and has a passion to help others achieve their fitness objectives. He has helped guide dozens of nonprofit organizations focused on supporting the visually impaired community.

Will Schell, J.D.
Washington, D.C.
Deputy Chief of the Disability Rights Office, Federal Communications Commission

Among other things, Will manages the Disability Rights Office complaints team, drafts various guidance and orders and engages in outreach with the disability community. He also serves as the Designated Federal Officer of the Commission’s Disability Advisory Committee, which provides advice and recommendations to the Commission on a wide array of disability issues within the FCC’s jurisdiction. Prior to that, Will was a disability rights attorney at the Office for Civil Rights and at Disability Rights California where he represented people in litigation to prevent them from unnecessary segregation.

Abby White
Oxford, England, UK
Co-founder and  Volunteer CEO, World Eye Cancer Hope

Abby’s mother was raised in France and her father in Kenya, where he was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma in 1946. Her globally scattered family inspired her love for travel and study of geography at university, with emphasis on development in sub-Saharan Africa. Abby co-founded World Eye Cancer Hope, responding to the needs of one child with retinoblastoma in Botswana, and the desire to help many more worldwide.  While working with the charity in 2015, Abby’s guide dog, Annie, became the first to visit Kenya – during a conference circuit that also took in South Africa and the USA.

She enjoys audio books, creative writing, open water swimming and long country walks. She lives in Oxford, England, with her current guide dog, Ritzie.

Joe Xavier
Elk Grove, California,
Director, California Department of Rehabilitation,

Joe Xavier has over 36 years of experience in business and public administration, as well as many years participating in advocacy and community organizations. As an immigrant, a blind consumer, a beneficiary of the DOR’s services, Joe has the experience and understands the challenges and opportunities available to individuals with disabilities, and the services required to maximize an individual’s full potential. Joe: believes in the talent and potential of individuals with disabilities;  in investing in the future through creativity, ingenuity and innovation; ensuring decisions and actions are informed by interested individuals and groups; in pursuing excellence through continuous improvement; and  preserving the public’s trust through compassionate and responsible provision of services.


Help Your Favorite Holman Prize Candidate Advance to the Semifinals

Help Your Favorite Holman Prize Candidate Advance to the Semifinals

Submissions for the 2021 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition have now closed and now you can help your favorite advance to the semifinals as the People’s Choice Semifinalist. The person with the most likes on their YouTube video will automatically advance to the semifinals and have a chance to compete to become a finalist.

Watch the 2021 Holman Prize Candidate Playlist and Vote Today!

Red Szell reflects on how the Holman Prize got him to the top of the rock

Red Szell reflects on how the Holman Prize got him to the top of the rock

Each year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, funded by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, provides three blind people up to $25,000 each to carry out an ambitious idea. On June 22, 2019, Holman Prize winner Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon, which included a 10-mile off-road tandem bike ride, an open-water swim and a 213-foot climb up Am Buachaille, a vertical rock formation off the coast of Scotland. We interviewed Red shortly after his successful climb to get his reflections on training for his Holman Prize adventure.

Red’s triathlon training began in earnest last October. “I had a pretty high level of fitness from climbing and swimming,” Red, age 49, says, “but I had to ramp it up because I would be outside for twelve hours.” Red began incorporating running on a treadmill into his training regimen but injured his right Achilles tendon in January. With the help of twice-weekly physiotherapy sessions and some modifications to his training techniques, Red was able to continue preparing to climb Am Buachaille. Despite the ordeal, Red’s injury ultimately provided some benefits. “It actually helped my climbing because we worked on ankle stability and stretching,” he explained.

Besides the physical training required to successfully complete his Holman Prize goal, Red also had to navigate logistics, such as planning a practice climbing trip to Sardinia, finding a videographer to film the triathlon, getting the tandem bike from London to Scotland and more. “Being the CEO of my own project is something that I never really expected to do,” he admits. “That is a very difficult challenge but also immensely enjoyable and character-building. I feel a genuine sense of achievement and personal growth that has resulted from being awarded a Holman Prize.”

Red has always loved climbing, spending his teenage years climbing in the Welsh mountains in Wales. When he was 20, he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive condition that eventually causes blindness. As Red’s vision continued changing, he became depressed and stopped climbing. More than twenty years later, Red, now a father and journalist, had learned blindness skills. His passion for climbing was reignited at a birthday party for his daughter at a climbing gym. He decided it was time to learn to climb as a blind man.

In 2013, Red became the first blind man to climb the Old Man of Hoy, another sea stack in Scotland. Red declares that was “a personal achievement.” Successfully climbing Am Buachaille was different, however, because of the scope of the Holman Prize as a worldwide competition. Red remarks that the Holman Prize demonstrates to everyone “what blind people can achieve with the right support and determination.”

Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.
Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.

Going forward, Red will include his Holman Prize experience in the presentations he gives about being a blind climber, but more importantly, he will encourage other blind people to apply for the Holman Prize. From applying for the prize, to winning it, to carrying it out, Red views the Holman Prize as “a journey of self-discovery.” Listen to Red talk about his harrowing adventure here. Red’s experience will be documented in a forthcoming audio-described documentary of his “Extreme Triathlon” full of Red’s humor and outrageous Scottish scenery, called Shared Vision.

Do you have Holman Prize aspirations? Holman Prize submissions open in January 2020. For more information about the Holman Prize, visit HolmanPrize.org.

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prizewinners

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prizewinners


San Francisco, CA, Thursday, July 11

All inquiries and interview requests to: press@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Holman Prizewinners will each use their $25,000 awards to promote blind empowerment by building a tool for blind people to find exoplanets, taking a plunge into public transit in six cities around the world and developing a network of blind mentors for the first time in rural Gambia.

In just a few months, three intrepid blind individuals will set off around the world in a daring series of groundbreaking adventures as the 2019 winners of the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition.

We announce the three 2019 Holman Prize winners: Yuma Decaux, Alieu Jaiteh and Mona Minkara after a rigorous, multifaceted judging process. Each winning project embodies its own sense of adventure and ambition – Yuma plans to give blind citizens advanced tools to participate in astronomical research, Alieu will create a network of blind mentors in his home country of The Gambia, where this is unheard of, and Mona will immerse herself in an adventure on mass transit systems worldwide, documenting the experience on film.

Created to change perceptions and popularize the concept of “blind ambition”, the San Francisco LightHouse’s Holman Prize Holman Prize annually awards three blind adventurers up to $25,000 to support their ambitious dreams.

Now in its third year, the prize is named for James Holman (1786-1857), a Victorian-era adventurer and author. As the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe, he holds the further distinction of being the most prolific traveler in history, sighted or blind, prior to the invention of modern transportation.

“While many awards in the blindness field look toward past accomplishment, the LightHouse is determined to spark new initiatives for future growth by some of the world’s most ambitious blind people,” said LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin.

The LightHouse was first introduced to the three applicants through their 90-second video pitches. You can see their original pitches here:

Yuma Decaux

Alieu Jaiteh

Mona Minkara

Yuma Decaux, Alieu Jaiteh and Mona Minkara were part of a competitive pool of 111 applicants from six continents.

View all 15 Holman finalists’ video pitches.

The three Holman Prizewinners will fly to San Francisco in September 2019 for a week-long orientation before starting their project year on October 1. Once they land in San Francisco, the winners will not only meet and learn from each other, but they will engage with other blind teachers, technologists and leaders from LightHouse’s extended network. The winners will also create comprehensive plans to document and share their experiences along the way through video, audio, writing and other media. 

Our 2018 prizewinners are each in the final stages of their Holman projects. Stacy Cervenka launched the Blind Travelers’ Network last month, Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon and Conchita Hernandez will soon host a blindness workshop in Mexico. 

LightHouse is still interested in finding corporate or philanthropic supporters for the 12 finalists who we found irresistible but simply couldn’t fund this year.  For possible support please contact Jennifer Sachs at jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org 

Applications or the 2020 Holman Prize will open in January 2020. Please consult www.holmanprize.org for details.

 The Holman Prize is determined by a prestigious international group of judges, all of whom are blind.  

The prize is a flagship  program of the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco, who will salute each winner in an annual gala now set for the fall of 2020 in San Francisco.

Meet the blind judges who picked the winners. 

About the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

In 2017, LightHouse for the Blind, headquartered in San Francisco, launched the Holman Prize to support the emerging adventurousness and can-do spirit of blind and low vision people worldwide. This endeavor celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them.

Created specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types, the Prize provides financial backing – up to $25,000 – for three individuals to explore the world and push their limits. Learn more at holmanprize.org.

About the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, is actively seeking sponsorships and support for the Holman Prize, including donations of equipment for the winner’s projects. To offer your support, contact holman@lighthouse-sf.org. Individuals may donate any amount using LightHouse’s secure form. For sponsorship inquiries, email us or call +1 (415) 694-7333.

For press inquiries, contact press@lighthouse-sf.org. 

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prize Finalists

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prize Finalists

A photo collage of the 2019 Holman Prize Finalists.
A photo collage of the 2019 Holman Prize Finalists.

The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, a set of annual awards of up to $25,000 each for legally blind individuals with big ideas, is proud to announce its 2019 finalists. We received 111 applications from six continents, and narrowed down the field to 41 semifinalists. The semifinalists’ proposed projects were incredible, and highlight advocates, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and more; that made it a tall order to narrow it down to just fifteen finalists.

This week, we’re proud to announce our elite group of fifteen finalists, including a “People’s Choice” finalist who we honor for receiving the highest number of YouTube ‘likes’ for his ambitious idea. These finalists will all be in the running to make their ambitions a reality when our Holman Committee meets in San Francisco this June.

The fifteen finalists include an activist, a pole dancer, a bird expert, a snowboarder, a few sailors and more. Over the next month, we hope you’ll sound off on which Holman Prize candidate you want to see take their ambitions on the road. Feel free to tag Holman Prize on Twitter, Instagram and head to the LightHouse’s Facebook page for more updates.

Meet the 2019 Finalists

Abdullah Aljuaid (People’s Choice)

Abdullah is interested in e-commerce. With the Holman Prize, he would create a global consultation app for blind people to find information on learning, mobility, fitness and e-commerce.

Krystle Allen

Krystle, who once advocated for people with disabilities in Tokyo, would use the Holman Prize to pay for fifteen blind women to participate in the Miss Blind Diva Empowerment Fellowship Program. This is a sixteen-week program that provides personal and professional development and ends with the Miss Blind Diva Empowerment Pageant.

Trevor Attenberg

Trevor loves science and the outdoors. With the Holman Prize, he would travel and teach blind people to identify birds by sound and explore other natural soundscapes.

Natalie Devora

Natalie is an author and activist. With the Holman Prize, she would travel and collect stories from people of color with albinism around the world and share these stories in an anthology and documentary.

Yuma Decaux

Yuma loves hiking and surfing. With the Holman Prize, he would build an online community to make astronomy more accessible to blind people, with the hopes of a blind person discovering an exoplanet.

Deniz, Yunus, Utku and Mina

Deniz, Yunus, Utku and Mina are from Turkey. With the Holman Prize, they would take the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Beijing and create a documentary about it to inspire blind children to travel independently.

Pauline Dowell

Pauline and her guide dog live on a sailboat on the Boston Harbor. She would use the Holman Prize to form an all-female crew of blind sailors to compete in the 2020 Newport to Bermuda Race, which goes from Newport, Rhode Island to the island of Bermuda.

Stephanie Campbell

Stephanie is a newlywed whose wedding received media coverage when she requested her guests wear blindfolds during the vows. With the Holman Prize, Stephanie would film the pilot for a sensory travel show, that explores destinations non-visually through the senses of sound, smell, touch and taste. She would then shop this pilot to television executives with hopes for a series pickup.

Dennis Gallant

Dennis worked as a teacher ranger with the National Park service. With the Holman Prize, he would create a podcast to highlight the specific sounds from various national park locations, which would help blind people learn about the natural world in an accessible way.

Alieu Jaiteh

Alieu is the founder of Start Now, a training program for blind people in The Gambia. With the Holman Prize, he would provide eighty blind people with rehabilitation training in rural Gambia.

Lisamaria Martinez

Lisamaria has been active in sports all her life. Recently, she’s discovered pole dance. With the Holman Prize, she would use workshops, training and audio description to make pole dance accessible to blind people across the United States.

Bonface Massah

Bonface is a human rights activist. With the Holman Prize, he would create parent circles, so parents could discuss how to raise children with albinism and change the perception of children with albinism in Malawi.

Mona Minkara

Mona is working on postdoctoral research in computational chemistry. With the Holman Prize, she would film a documentary series called Planes, Trains and Canes, where she would navigate and access the public transportation systems of five cities around the world.

Kris Scheppe

Kris is the North American representative for Blind Sailing International and would use the Holman Prize to form a crew of blind sailors to complete in the Race to Alaska, a 750-mile race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska.

Pamela Thistle

Pamela, an extreme sports enthusiast, enjoys many sports but her favorites are mountain biking and snowboarding. She would use the Holman Prize to train to heli-snowboard off the mountains of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prize Judges

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prize Judges

In its third year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition received 111 applications from six continents. The semifinalists’ proposed projects are incredible, and highlight advocates, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and more. It won’t be an easy task to choose the three 2019 prizewinners from such a strong and diverse group.

The Holman Team is in the process of selecting finalists for the judging committee to select from, but in the meantime, we invite you to peruse the whole group of semifinalist submission videos to experience the diversity of people and proposals in the field.

This week, all semi-finalists have submitted their complete application packets, hundreds of pages of ambitious detail which will help them change the world’s perception of blindness. In just a few weeks, we’ll welcome our judges at LightHouse in San Francisco to review the finalists’ proposals and select the 2019 Holman prizewinners.

As always, the prestigious Holman judge panel represents a leading cross-section of blind talent and experience, a group devoted to the highest ideal of blindness, both personally and professionally.

Meet the Holman Committee:

 A headshot of Jennison Asuncion.

Jennison Asuncion, Engineering Manager, LinkedIn

“I lost my sight before I was two. So to me, being blind has always felt normal. It is part of me but does not define who I am.”

Jennison Asuncion moved to the Bay Area in November 2013 to lead LinkedIn’s digital accessibility efforts. Originally from Montreal, he has been working in digital accessibility for over ten years. In 2012, Jennison co-founded the annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Held annually on the third Thursday of May, GAAD is dedicated to raising awareness of digital access and inclusion by and for the more than one billion people with disabilities. Jennison sits on the Board of Directors for the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired San Francisco, AMI (Accessible Media Inc.), and Knowbility. 

A headshot of Bryan Bashin.

Bryan Bashin, CEO LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Bryan Bashin has led a diverse life since he graduated UC Berkeley in history and journalism. Mr. Bashin first spent 15 years as a journalist in television, radio and print, specializing in science news. In 1998 he was hired as Executive Director of the Sacramento Society for the Blind, where he quintupled the number of hours of teaching and developed innovative programs such as the Senior Intensive Retreat and summer immersion camps. In 2004, Mr. Bashin was hired as the Region IX assistant regional commissioner for the US Department of Education’s west coast branch of RSA, overseeing funding for $500 million in federal disability programs. In 2010 he was hired to lead the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco, where he works today with a staff of 140. Mr. Bashin is a relentless innovator, working with a remarkable idealistic staff. Throughout his career, Mr. Bashin has worked in the confluence of high technology, social advocacy and governmental partnerships.

A portrait of Eric Bridges.

Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind

“I believe that people who are blind or visually impaired should strive to be the best they can be, and I believe that each blind or visually impaired person has the right and responsibility to define success on his or her own terms.”

Eric joined the staff of the American Council of the Blind in 2007. In 2013, he became the Director of External Relations and Policy, cultivating many key relationships with business, industry, government officials, and agency staff. Two years later, the Board appointed him executive director. He is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of both of ACB’s offices. 

A portrait of Kerryann Ifill.

Kerryann Ifill, President of the Senate, Barbados

“The art of living with blindness demands absolute creativity; creativity in attaining and maintaining your own independence, creativity in charting a path that encourages others to emulate your example, creativity in ensuring that others value and recognise your individuality and the right to be the whole person you were designed to be.”

Kerryann’s life continues to be characterized by landmarks. As the first totally blind student completing mainstream education to post graduate level; becoming the first female to hold the office of President of the Senate, the only person with a disability and the youngest person. She has served both professionally and personally in various organizations for persons with disabilities, both locally and regionally and currently hold the office of President of both my the National United Society of the Blind Barbados and the Caribbean Council for the Blind. She represented her country and at several local, regional and international fora on a cadre of issues related to disabilities. The Holman Prize embodies her belief that blindness is not a burden, but an exciting opportunity.

A portrait of Anil Lewis.

Anil Lewis, Executive Director, National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute

“Blindness is a paradigm shift.”

A passionate advocate for the rights, education and employment of blind people everywhere, Anil currently serves as the executive director of Blindness Initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, MD, where he leads a dynamic team of individuals responsible for the creation, development, implementation, and replication of innovative projects and programs throughout a nationwide network of affiliates that work to positively affect the education, employment, and quality of life of all blind people.

A portrait of Sile O’Modhrain.

Dr. Sile O’Modhrain, Professor, University of Michigan

A professor in performing arts technology at the school of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan, O’Modhrain brings a wide breadth of personal and professional skill to the Holman Prize committee. With past careers in sound engineering, technology, music and more – and passionate study in the fields of arts, assistive technology, and haptics – O’Modhrain is constantly in search of better ways for blind people to access information and work in the world. 

A portrait of Sassy Outwater-Wright.

Sassy Outwater-Wright, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of the Blind

“There is no one right way to do vision loss. There is your way, and individuality is essential to accessibility. We’re writing history now, deciding how to combine technology and our own humanity to redefine what independence means to us as individuals who are part of the same community. Dignity, opportunity, innovation and accessibility feed off each other.”

Sassy is the executive director of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually impaired (MABVI). She lost her sight at 3 due to retinoblastoma, and has had several rounds of cancer since then. She is a passionate digital accessibility advocate, specializing in technology for people with multiple disabilities, and studying how intersectionality, artificial intelligence, and intersecting marginalizing factors affect people. She lives in the infamous Salem, Massachusetts, and it fits her perfectly.

A portrait of Britt Raubenheimer.

Dr. Britt Raubenheimer, Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

“Losing vision was a hurdle, but it forced me to grow. When I lost my sight I thought I would need to discontinue my work and many of my activities. But instead, overcoming my inability to see taught me self-confidence and encouraged me to explore.”

Britt is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, MA. Working with a team of other scientists, students, and engineers, she collects and analyzes measurements to understand interactions among coastal waves and surge, beach and dune evolution, groundwater, and winds and precipitation during extreme storms. When others evacuate before a hurricane, Britt often is on her way to the beach. Deploying her instruments in the ocean requires SCUBA, and Britt is the only legally blind, certified, university research diver. Britt resides in northern Idaho, where she serves on the board of the Idaho Commission for the Blind, and enjoys skiing, hiking, and knitting.

A portrait of Jason Roberts.

Jason Roberts, Author, ‘A Sense of the World’

An accomplished author, Roberts’ acclaimed work, about the intrepid blind traveler (and namesake of this prize) James Holman, “A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler,” was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, long-listed for the international Guardian First Book Award, and named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and Kirkus Reviews. Born in Southern California, Roberts earned his high school diploma at fourteen, then took a five-year hiatus from education. He worked as a day laborer, dishwasher and late-night disc jockey before matriculating at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives in Sausalito, California, with his wife, a chemical engineer, and their two young children.

A portrait of Sharon Sacks.

Dr. Sharon Sacks, Retired Superintendent, California School for the Blind

Dr. Sacks is recently retired from her post as Superintendent of the California School for the Blind. During her tenure, Dr. Sacks led a staff of 150 and promoted education excellence for students served on campus and through outreach programs throughout the state. Prior to her role as superintendent, Dr. Sacks was the Director of Curriculum, Assessment, & Staff Development at CSB. After receiving her doctorate, Sharon coordinated programs, and was a university professor in moderate/severe disabilities at San Jose State University, and programs in visual impairments at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Sacks worked as a TVI for eight years as a resource and itinerant teacher prior to assuming leadership positions.

Dr. Sacks is a strong advocate for ensuring quality services for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired through her direct work with families, consumer organizations, and professional organizations. She is the recipient of the Mary K. Bauman Award for Distinguished Service in Education, and a past president of AERBVI. Dr. Sacks currently serves on the Lighthouse’s Board of Directors.

A portrait of Zack Shore.

Dr. Zach Shore, Historian

A historian of international conflict, Dr. Shore is the author of five books, including “A Sense of the Enemy.” Shore is Associate Professor of History at the Naval Postgraduate School and Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He earned his doctorate in modern history at Oxford, performed postdoctoral research at Harvard, and held a fellowship at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

A portrait of Kathryn Webster.

Kathryn Webster, President, National Association of Blind Students

“Though a single inconvenience, blindness has the power to ignite strength, resilience, and confidence. We may grow exhausted of educating society of our abilities, but who more qualified than blind communities to shatter the glass ceiling that eternally perpetuates negative misconceptions?”

Kathryn graduated from Wake Forest University with high honors, receiving Bachelor of Science degrees in Statistics and Computer Science in 2017. Her scholastic achievements propelled her into a career with Deloitte & Touché, LLP where she specializes in strategic transformation and data analytics. Kathryn recognizes the value in intertwining corporate prowess with civic engagement, thus jumpstarting a statewide transition program for blind and low vision youth, designed to ignite confidence and independence, demonstrate the value of mentorship, and encourage Virginia’s youth to shoot for the stars. Kathryn proudly serves as President of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS), Kathryn lives each day with true authenticity, bringing difficult conversations to the table and engaging in a persistent challenge to be the best version of herself. 

Holly Scott-Gardner stands outdoors on a lawn, in front of a tree and a potted plant.

Holly Scott-Gardner, Blindness Advocate and Blogger

“I view my blindness as an integral part of who I am. It has shaped my experiences and more often than not presented me with opportunities I don’t believe I would have had if I could see. The so-called difficulties of blindness more often than not result from a world that is not built with blindness in mind. Whether I’m faced with an inaccessible payment terminal, or a stranger who insists I shouldn’t cross the street alone, I am wrestling with an inaccessible world and the misinformed views many hold on blindness. My blindness isn’t the thing that needs to be changed.”

Holly is a public speaker, blindness advocate and Youtube creator in the U.K. When Holly was still a teenager in school, she realized that she could use her voice and experiences to change how blindness is viewed. Eight years after setting up her blog she has spoken in Parliament, lobbying the government to alter its provisions for disabled students, advocated for the rights of disabled survivors of domestic abuse at the European Parliament in Brussels and represented disabled students at her university by winning the seat of disabled students counsellor. She aims to ramp up her advocacy work after graduation, with an outlook on international blindness movements. Read Holly’s essay about her experience as a camp counselor at Enchanted Hills Camp.

Ahmet Ustunel stands in a park with red rock craters, holding his white cane.

Ahmet Ustunel, Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired and 2017 Holman Prizewinner

“As a blind person to educate the public about blindness and as an educator to inspire my Blind students, I am trying to foster the same qualities Holman demonstrated: immense courage and passion, persistence, a curious and adventurous spirit, strength of purpose, and belief in one’s self. As a blind teacher of blind students, I tell my students that being blind should never prevent them from achieving their goals, although they might need to deal with prejudices, discrimination, and an inaccessible physical and educational environment. I let them know that limits and barriers they encounter are not results of blindness itself; they are just products of prejudice and discrimination in society. Even worse, sometimes they are our own mind’s products. I want my students to understand blindness as a characteristic of a person rather than a limitation.”

Ahmet is a full-time teacher of the visually impaired in San Francisco. He is also an avid outdoorsman and one of the inaugural recipients of the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. He began solo kayaking in San Francisco Bay shortly after moving to the United States from Turkey a decade ago. With the Holman Prize, Ahmet achieved his ambitious goal in July 2018 by paddling across the Bosphorus Strait, which divides the European region of Turkey from its Asian counterpart, completely alone. Read about his solo kayaking journey from Europe to Asia.