Netflix, Google and Architect Chris Downey, AIA, Are 2017 Honorees

NEW YORK, April 11, 2017—
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the recipients of its 21st annual Helen Keller Achievement Awards, which acknowledge those who have made extraordinary contributions to improving the quality of life of people with vision loss. Honorees will be celebrated at the organization’s 21st anniversary gala in New York City on June 15.

This year’s honorees are architect Chris Downey, Google, and Netflix.

“The theme of this year’s achievement awards is ‘No Limits,’” said AFB President and CEO Kirk Adams. “Each of our honorees exemplifies the spirit of Helen Keller in their efforts to forge new avenues to independence, social mobility, and a fuller, more rewarding quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired. The examples set by Mr. Downey, Google and Netflix show that building a future of no limits for people with disabilities is everyone’s responsibility, and we are proud to recognize their efforts.”
Netflix, the world’s leading Internet television network, is being honored for its work to broaden access to television shows, documentaries and feature films on its streaming service. The company has added over 3,500 hours of described content since launching its first audio described title over two years ago — Marvel’s Daredevil, a show about a blind superhero — and is committed to increasing the number of audio-visual translations for TV shows and movies to ensure all Netflix members are able to enjoy the stories they love. The adoption of audio description for many of the network’s most popular titles has created a more inclusive environment and opened up entertainment choices for viewers with vision loss. In addition, Netflix has made its website and mobile apps accessible to those who use VoiceOver and screen-reading software.

For decades, Google has poured its considerable talent and resources into developing more accessible technologies that improve how people with vision loss live, work and play. This past year saw significant access improvements in a range of the company’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.

Architect Chris Downey is being recognized for his exemplary leadership in accessible design and dedication to creating enriching and helpful environments for people who are blind or visually impaired. Downey lost his sight in 2008, and has since gone on to found his own consulting firm, Architecture for the Blind. He specializes in designing blind rehabilitation centers, workplaces and museum environments. Downey speaks to audiences nationwide and serves as a role model for professionals with vision loss.

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About the AFB 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, Stevie Wonder, and Ronnie Milsap, have been honored, as well as leading corporations such as Apple, Comcast, CBS Television, JPMorgan Chase and Marriott International.

About the 2017 Helen Keller Achievement Award Winners

Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network, with over 93 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on nearly any Internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

is a multinational technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products. These include online advertising technologies, search, cloud computing, software, and hardware. With more than 60,000 employees in 50 different countries, Google makes hundreds of products used by billions of people across the globe, including YouTube, Chrome and Google Search.

Chris Downey
is an architect, planner, educator and consultant who lost his sight in 2008. Today, he is dedicated to creating more helpful and enriching environments for the blind and visually impaired. His work includes the new headquarters for the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, a new Department of Veterans Affairs blind rehabilitation center, housing renovations for the blind in New York City, a new clinic at the Duke University Eye Center and the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco. Currently, he is consulting on the new headquarters for the National Industries for the Blind in Alexandria, VA; a new facility for the Canadian Institute for the Blind in Edmonton; and a “Sustainability Pavilion” with Grimshaw Architects in New York City for Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE. Chris is also with the HOK architectural team that was just selected for a major new eye center in Pennsylvania. Downey is the president of the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind Board of Directors and is also a guest lecturer for the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, Department of Architecture, for which he teaches a class on accessibility and universal design. He is currently fulfilling a gubernatorial appointment for the California Commission on Disability Access.

About AFB

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB fulfills its mission by 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 & Gallery and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly for AFB.