WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 23, 2018)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the three honorees who will receive the prestigious Helen Keller Achievement Awards at a special gala on February 27, 2019, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.

The awardees are Amazon, for improving access to its numerous products and services; Northrop Grumman, for its tremendous efforts in fostering an environment of diversity and inclusion; and Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib, for his passion and dedication to creating enriching and helpful environments for people with disabilities.

"This year’s recipients very much embody Helen Keller’s values and beliefs, from the ability to change the world to pursuing passions,” said Kirk Adams, AFB president and CEO. “These awardees have all made great strides in improving the lives of people with disabilities, and we are proud to honor them for their work."

Amazon is being recognized for its culture of inclusion, resulting in the innovation of its products, services, and website, which has benefitted people of all abilities. For Amazon devices, the company has integrated its VoiceView screen reader into Kindle devices and Fire TV devices; integrated VoiceView with braille input and output support into the last several generations of Fire tablets; added ALT text and accessible math support to Kindle for PC and Fire OS; brought audio description to hundreds of Prime Video titles, including new Amazon Studios movies and TV shows; and pioneered voice interfaces with Alexa and the growing family of Echo devices. Additionally, Amazon has made ongoing improvements to the accessibility of the retail shopping experience, including requiring third-party sellers to provide ALT text for their product images; adding a voice interface to Amazon Lockers; and creating a dedicated customer service line for customers with disabilities. With these efforts, Amazon is allowing individuals with visual impairments to enjoy the same entertainment and consumer options and functionality as their sighted peers.

Northrop Grumman is being recognized for its efforts to foster an open and trusting environment that values diversity, is truly inclusive, and creates strong engagement for all members of its team. For three years in a row, Northrop Grumman has been recognized as a leading disability employer by the National Organization on Disability, for its exemplary disability hiring and employment practices. For the last four years, Northrop Grumman has received the highest ranking on the Disability Equality Index, a ranking produced by the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN. The company also received their 2018 Employer of the Year award for significant policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measurable results in disability inclusiveness in the workplace. This is the result of a concerted effort to work with external stakeholder groups to recruit and develop diverse talent by creating a space for employees with different backgrounds and perspectives. For example, Northrop Grumman’s Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) program, which was created in 2005, provides personalized placement assistance, community outreach and workplace accommodations for severely injured service members transitioning to civilian employment. Additionally, through programs such as Employee Resource Groups and Heritage Events, Northrop Grumman has built a foundation that benefits from diverse inputs and ideas. And by encouraging those same employees to pursue leadership positions within the organization, Northrop Grumman has ensured this thinking and commitment hold true from the top down.

Cyrus Habib is being honored for a career built on advocacy and a fierce commitment to pursuing one’s passion. Habib lost his sight at age eight to cancer, but has since gone on to build a particularly impressive resumé, one that includes graduating from Columbia University, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and Yale Law School, where he served as editor of the Yale Law Journal. Habib has combined this academic drive with an equal desire to serve his constituents in the state of Washington. From serving in the Washington State House of Representatives and the State Senate, to his current role as the youngest presiding officer in the country as Washington’s 16th Lieutenant Governor and Chief Opportunity Officer, Habib has proven that blindness will not stand in the way of living a life of no limits.

About the Helen Keller Achievement Awards

For more than 40 years, Helen Keller was AFB's leading ambassador, inspiring millions of people around the world. Since 1994, AFB has honored her legacy by recognizing exceptional individuals and organizations that expand possibilities for those who are blind or visually impaired. Artists and musicians, including Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, have been honored, as well as leading corporations such as Apple, Comcast, Google, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Marriott International, and Netflix. For more information, please visit www.afb.org/hkaa.

About the 2019 Helen Keller Achievement Award Recipients

Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. The company believes that creating a work force and a workplace that values diversity and fosters inclusion is pivotal to promoting innovation and increasing productivity and profitability. Our goal is to continually support and nurture the large number of Northrop Grumman employees whose backgrounds, characteristics and perspectives are as diverse as the global communities in which we reside.

Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in Washington. He attended Columbia University, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and Yale Law School. He is also a Truman Scholar and a Soros Fellow. He practiced law at Perkins Coie, where he helped startup technology companies raise venture capital funds and license their software. He went on to represent east King County in the Washington State House of Representatives and the State Senate. In 2016 he was elected Washington’s 16th Lieutenant Governor, becoming the youngest presiding officer in the country. In his role as Lieutenant Governor, Habib presides over the State Senate, serves as acting-Governor when the Governor is out of the state, and oversees a portfolio of issues including Economic Development, Trade, and Higher Education. A three-time cancer survivor, Lieutenant Governor Habib has been blind since age eight.

About The American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org

John Mackin