Audio Description Awards Announced

We proudly announce the 2014 Achievement Awards in Audio Description, an initiative of the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project (ADP).  
In conjunction with ACB’s 53rd annual conference and convention in Las Vegas, Nev., the awards were presented at a gala luncheon during the Audio Description Project’s conference and shared with almost 2,000 ACB members/convention attendees.  The prestigious awards included:

Achievement in Audio Description – Performing Arts:  Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center, Miami, FL

The Arsht Center’s audio description program provides more complete access to full-length opera — masterpieces of the classical repertoire — as well as exciting musicals.  The describers used are professional, eloquent and succinct in the crafting of their descriptions; the system used is of top quality, and everyone at the center is knowledgeable, welcoming and encourages participation in audio-described performances.

Achievement in Audio Description – Media:  Diane Johnson and Descriptive Video Works, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Diane Johnson and Descriptive Video Works have described thousands of hours of film and television programming, including over 300 feature films and 179 hours of “I Love Lucy” alone!  (That’s a lot of Ricky and Lucy and Fred and Ethel!)  Diane was a founding member of the Canadian Described Video Broadcast Committee and she has been a tireless advocate for people who are blind.

Achievement in Audio Description – Museums:  Sandy Malmquist and the Connecticut Children’s Museum, New Haven, CT

The Connecticut Children’s Museum in New Haven is a community resource inspired by the tenets of universal design and dedicated to nurturing children, their families and teachers in a literacy-based and arts-rich, textured place.  They developed an audio-described tour for children and all visitors to the museum; they researched the application of audio description for the support of increased literacy in all children; and the museum is accessible in innovative ways:  visitors are greeted by four life-size, touchable, flat metal sculptures of children frolicking right side up, upside down and in a wheelchair on the grassy lawn; on each landing is a large wooden floor map to direct visitors to the rooms.  They’re wall-mounted, tactile and in braille.

Achievement in Audio Description – International:  Steph Kirkland and the VocalEye Descriptive Arts Society, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The VocalEye Descriptive Arts Society’s season has grown from 15 productions in 2010-11 to 26 productions this past season.  During the most recent season, the group described 81 productions for more than 400 audience members with vision loss.  A highlight of VocalEye’s programming is their Touch Tours.  They invite AD consumers to the stage to tour the set and handle some of the props and costumes and to meet some of the cast and crew.  

Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description – Research and Development:  Dr. Louise Fryer, London, UK

Louise Fryer is one of the few individuals, world-wide, who possesses a Ph.D. with a focus on audio description.  She is a leading media and performing arts describer and specializes in the analysis of dance movement and its “translation” to words for the benefit of people who are blind or have low vision.

Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description: Dr. Joel Snyder, Takoma Park, MD

In developing the ACB’s Audio Description Project, now in its sixth year, Joel Snyder has accomplished more than could have been imagined:  we’ve created consumer-focused guidelines for audio description; with the expert assistance of webmaster Fred Brack, we’ve created a top-notch web site that has established itself as the go-to site for information on all forms of audio description; each year we’ve honored leaders in audio description and we’ve given prizes to children who write reviews of described programming; we’ve sponsored three international conferences on audio description; and just this year ACB published an adaptation of his doctoral dissertation — one of the few worldwide focused on audio description.  Indeed, he has literally “written the book” on audio description; he was one of the first audio describers in the world, beginning with The Washington Ear in 1981.  Joel has described hundreds of performances in all genres, as well as hundreds of nationally broadcast television programs and feature films —including both of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations on ABC television and the first-ever audio-described tour of the White House; and he has trained describers and introduced audio description in over 30 states and 38 countries. 
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