Left to right are: unidentified man, M. Robert Barnett (AFB Executive Director), Marta Sobieski, Peter J. Salmon (Executive Director, Industrial Home for the Blind, Brooklyn), Helen Keller, Polly Thomson, and Gregor Ziemer. The room has wood panelling and a painting of Helen Keller by Albert H. Munsell is visible in the background. Image from documentary Helen Keller in Her Story.
Helen Keller trying an electric braillewriter at the offices of the American Foundation for the Blind in New York City, 1954.

This Thursday evening, the American Foundation for the Blind will be honoring Google for pouring its considerable talent and resources into developing technologies that improve how people with vision loss live, work, and play. This past year saw significant accessibility improvements in a range of Google's products, including the Android mobile operating system and TalkBack screen reader, the Chrome Web browser and operating system, the ChromeVox screen reader and the G Suite apps on the Web, iOS, and Android platforms.

AFB is thrilled that Google is working so diligently in a field that AFB has long championed. From its earliest days, AFB saw the potential for technology to create a world with no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB helped pioneer the audio book and our champion, Helen Keller, was herself an avid adopter of new technologies. She helped promote the distribution of radios in 1928 and frequently tested new equipment such as the electric braillewriter (pictured in the photograph above).

Last winter, AFB collaborated with Google on a hugely successful multi-day seminar exploring the accessibility features of Google's business and classroom tools. The training was led by Google engineers and facilitated by AFB staff. Participants received hands-on experience using the inclusive features and functionalities built into Chromebooks, Android devices, and Google apps—such as Google Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Play.

Trainers left the seminar excited about the possibilities these technologies offer their clients for work, education, and recreation. As one attendee said, "It was great to meet such an amazing group of AT specialists from all over the country! This was a wonderful training and I am so grateful for the generosity and hospitality of AFB and Google."

Helen Keller would be overjoyed to see the products that are now available to people with sensory disabilities, and we know she would be using all of them. She had an unshakable belief in the power of human innovation and would be the first to honor Google for its enormous achievements.

Helen Selsdon showing Helen Keller artifacts to Google employees Google employees visiting the Helen Keller Archive

Congratulations to Google and to the other Helen Keller Achievement Award recipients, Netflix and architect Chris Downey—all of whom are working to create a more accessible, usable, and inclusive world. We look forward to honoring them all at the 21st Annual Helen Keller Achievement Awards!