American Council of the Blind Announces Winners of the 2015 Audio Description Awards

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) presents the winners of the 2015 Achievement Awards in Audio Description, an initiative of ACB’s Audio Description Project (ADP).  In conjunction with ACB’s 54th annual conference and convention in Dallas, Texas, the awards were presented at a plenary session of the conference.
These awards are designed to recognize leadership in the description field within the wide range of its applications. And so this year we are delighted to present achievement awards in the fields of performing arts, media, museums, in the international arena, and a special recognition award.
For achievement in the performing arts, we are recognizing one of the most experienced audio describers for live theater. Jesse Minkert is the head of Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences (AVIA) in Seattle, and he recently remarked, “Access is a basic human right. I’m honored to have played a small part in expanding the experience of the arts for so many people over the years.”
In 1985, Minkert, who has diabetic retinopathy, was asked by the Seattle Arts Commission to create a pilot audio-description program for a Seattle theater performance.   Since that time, AVIA has provided audio descriptions for 674 theatrical productions, dance and music performances, and exhibitions over the last 31 years.  One of his innovative contributions is The Package, an integrated access service for audio-described performances. The Package provides tickets, transportation, a sighted guide, and audio description, and makes it possible for many blind individuals to appreciate and participate in the arts who otherwise could not afford or be able to get to a performance. 
In the media category, we are pleased to acknowledge a group that was recognized yesterday by our president, Kim Charlson. Netflix has made an important commitment to making their streaming service more accessible by adding audio description to their service.  Netflix began in April with the new critically acclaimed series, Marvel’s “Daredevil.” Many more described films are on the way.
This year, for the first time, we are presenting a Special Recognition Achievement Award to someone who has contributed countless volunteer hours to the Audio Description Project.  Thanks to him, we were the first organization to offer, on our web site, a comprehensive, day-by-day listing of what’s being broadcast on television with description.  The winner is Sebastian Andrade-Miles of Glendale, Colo.
We are particularly excited to be able to offer our Museums Audio Description Achievement Award to Dallas’ own Meadows Museum of Art at Southern Methodist University.  The Meadows brought Joel Snyder to the museum to train the staff in the intricacies of providing live audio description during guided tours.  It’s that sort of commitment that is so meaningful.
This year, the International Achievement Award goes to a woman that we’ve known about for quite some time.  In the U.K., she is often referred to as the face and voice of audio description. Anne Hornsby is the head of the British audio-description provider Mind’s Eye, and she is truly a pioneer of audio description.  On her own initiative, she researched and introduced audio description at Bolton Octagon, where she was head of marketing, in response to a blind theater-goer who had heard about its development in America.  For almost 30 years, Anne has been a constant, dependable presence on the British audio description scene. She is widely respected not only for her skills as a describer and trainer, but also for her artistic and professional integrity, her communication skills, and her rare ability to blend the ideal and the pragmatic.
The Margaret Pfanstiehl Award for Research and Development is being awarded to Robert Pierson and Accessible Media, Inc. (AMI), based in Toronto. The group maintains Canada’s Accessible Channel, where everything aired is described. But specifically, we are recognizing AMI’s work developing the AMI Player, the first fully accessible online broadcast media player in North America. Available exclusively on, the AMI Player provides an accessible broadcast experience to AMI audience members while giving them the ability to access AMI-TV original content in an on-demand format.  The AMI Player provides content created for broadcast that includes open-described video and optional closed captioning and transcript features.
And last but not least, the Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement.  The study and practice of audio description is widespread throughout Europe. It is considered a form of audiovisual translation.  More than anyone else in the world, Dr. Pilar Orero is responsible for the proliferation and study of audio description. Indeed, it is her understanding of and support for AD not only as an academic exercise but also as a profession that makes her particularly worthy of this year’s Career Achievement Award.  At the University of Barcelona in Spain, Orero teaches audio description and has positioned the discipline as an integral part of the master in audiovisual translation degree and has done more than anyone to encourage young professionals in the study and practice of audio description. She is the leader of two university networks which group 24 Spanish universities devoted to audio description and media accessibility research and training.
Orero’s work with description began almost 20 years ago as the leader of Europe’s Transmedia Group. Her focus since then has been the fostering of new AD leaders and practitioners. With her leadership, AD is understood as both a critical access technology for people who are blind and a legitimate form of translation, worthy of advanced study and consideration as a linguistic discipline.  She has demonstrated a profound influence on description throughout the world, and that has earned her the 2015 Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description.