American Council of the Blind Announces Audio Description Awards

by Joel Snyder, Director, Audio Description Project

At the Columbus gathering, ACB's Audio Description Project proudly presented the 2013 Achievement Awards in Audio Description.  Chris Gray, chairman of ADP's awards committee, announced the awards at a plenary session attended by over 1,500 ACB members. 
The awards are designed to recognize leadership in the description field within the wide range of its applications.  We acknowledge young consumers of description, present achievement awards in the field of Performing Arts, Media, Museums, and in the International arena.  And we also remember the contributions of Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl and Barry Levine with the Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award for Research and Development and the Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description.
 The prestigious awards included:

  • Achievement in Audio Description – Media: Hollywood Access Services, Los Angeles, Calif.
    • The innovative work of Los Angeles-based Hollywood Access Services is epitomized by its Solo-Dx initiative.  With the use of Solo-Dx, description consumers can download an audio description soundtrack for playback on his/her computer, MP3 player, or mobile device.  For more information, visit
  • Achievement in Audio Description – Performing Arts: Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, Ill.
    • One of the leading regional theaters in the nation, this group developed a top-notch AD program several years ago where none existed before.   
  • Achievement in Audio Description – Museums: The White House, Washington, D.C.
    • With the leadership offered by Kareem Dale, Ellie Schaefer, the director of the White House Visitors Office and, of course, President Barack Obama, we now have an accessible public tour of the President's home in Washington, DC.  
  • Achievement in Audio Description – International: Accessible Media, Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Among a great many achievements in audio description, Accessible Media, Inc. maintains Canada's Accessible Channel, where everything aired is described.
  • Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description – Research and Development: Ryerson University and Dr. Deborah Fels, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Under Dr. Fels' leadership, researchers at Ryerson have performed experiments that explore alternative styles of audio description and whether they can provide better understanding and greater entertainment value.
  • Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description: Rick Boggs, Los Angeles, Calif.
    • Rick Boggs lost his sight early in life and has developed successful careers as an actor, musician and audio editor. He has also pioneered the inclusion of blind professionals in the production of audio description that has been broadcast over network TV, exhibited in movie theaters and included on DVDs.

Finally, the winner of our Young Described Film Critic contest was announced in Columbus.  Every year we encourage kids who are blind to watch described videos and write a review about their experience.  This year our award goes to Hannah Werbel from Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. for her review of "How to Train Your Dragon." 
Kim Charlson, newly elected president of the ACB, sums up our commitment to audio description: "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. This year's awards are particularly appropriate coming during the first full year of the implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility mandate for audio description on broadcast television. The organizations 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