American Foundation for the Blind Names James Kesteloot and Oral Miller 2014 Migel Medal Recipients
Special Tribute Medal to be Presented in Helen Keller’s Honor
New York (December 9, 2013)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the 2014 winners of the Migel Medals, the highest honor in the blindness field. The 2014 recipients are James Kesteloot and Oral Miller.
"It is an honor to present these medals to Jim and Oral for their outstanding achievements in the field of blindness and low vision field," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB president and CEO. "They have dedicated their lives to ensuring people with vision loss have equal access and opportunities, and their work has made a huge difference in the lives of many."
The AFB Migel Medal was established in 1937 by the late M.C. Migel, AFB's first chairman, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.
The Migel Medals will be presented to the recipients at the 2014 AFB Leadership Conference in Brooklyn, New York, on March 1, 2014.
About the Awardees
James M. Kesteloot has had a distinguished career in the blindness field. Mr. Kesteloot served over 40 years with The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired and was the President and Executive Director from 1996 until his retirement in 2009. He was appointed by the Illinois Governors Thompson and Edgar to the Blind Services Planning Council and by Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley to the Mayor's Task Force on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Mr. Kesteloot developed the Placement Program at the Lighthouse, which became one of the largest and most successful job readiness and placement programs in the nation. Over the years, Mr. Kesteloot had a hand in starting and improving other programs within the Lighthouse, most notably access technology and low vision services, including the Illinois Instructional Material Center, which supplies Braille and large print books and technology to blind students in Illinois schools.
In 2010, President Obama appointed Mr. Kesteloot to serve as a member on the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (now known as the United States AbilityOne Commission). The Commission works as an independent federal agency that administers the AbilityOne Program, which provides employment opportunities for people with vision loss and other disabilities.
Mr. Kesteloot also served on the Executive Committee of the Board of National Industries for the Blind, as President of the Central Lions Club, and as a member of the United Way of Chicago Council. He is currently a member of the American Foundation for the Blind's Board of Trustees. In addition, Mr. Kesteloot has received numerous awards, including the National Industries for the Blind's Robert B. Irwin Award, and the American Optometric Association's Apollo Award.
Mr. Kesteloot received his B.S. from Loyola University, and his M.S. in Management of Rehabilitation Services from DePaul University.
Oral Miller has dedicated his life to significantly improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired, having first become a founding member of the American Blind Lawyers Association and serving there as treasurer, director, and president at various times. This activity eventually led him to the American Council of the Blind, where he served as president from 1978 to 1981, and as a member of the Board of Directors for many years.
Mr. Miller has been a leader in the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes and is highly regarded for his sustained work on behalf of that organization. His efforts have extended beyond the United States to the international level through the International Blind Sports Association, as well as the World Blind Union, which has enabled him to interact with leaders in the blindness field from many countries.
Prior to his entry into volunteer work on behalf of people with vision loss, Mr. Miller, a concurrent graduate of the Kentucky School for the Blind and Louisville Male High School, received a B.A. Degree from Princeton University and a J.D. Degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
Mr. Miller's extensive background in law and government service has enabled him to work with marked success in representing the interests of people who are blind or visually impaired, especially in the fields of employment, education, and accessibility. He is well known and highly respected for his outstanding work in the blindness field over a period of more than 40 years.
A Special Tribute
At the Migel Medal ceremony, the American Foundation for the Blind will be paying tribute to Helen Keller, the famous disabilities rights activist who worked for AFB for more than 44 years, by presenting her with the Migel Medal, posthumously. Keller served on the Migel selection committee during her time at AFB, and was therefore never nominated for the honor.
Ms. Keller was a luminary who continues to transcend her historical era. Because she was outspoken in her principles, she inspired changes in public attitudes about the capabilities of people with visual impairments. As she pushed for revolutionary changes in the law, people with disabilities were able to transition into mainstream education and employment. To this day, Ms. Keller's legacy continues to inspire millions across the globe.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Headquartered in New York, AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.