Chef Christine Ha, Wine Expert Dr. Hoby Wedler, Musician Marcus Roberts to collaborate on special evening of food, wine, music

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 2, 2021)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is launching a series of events throughout 2021 to commemorate 100 years of creating a more inclusive world for people who are blind or visually impaired. First up: Dinner and Music for a Historic Celebration, on February 11 at 7 p.m. EST.

This virtual celebration includes a conversation with three blind individuals who are excelling in creative and sensory pursuits. MasterChef winner, cookbook author, and restaurateur Christine Ha; chemist, entrepreneur, and wine expert Hoby Wedler, Ph.D.; and jazz pianist and composer Marcus Roberts will discuss food, wine, music, community building, and pursuing one’s dreams. All three are also serving as AFB Centennial Ambassadors.

Attendees can participate by preparing delectable dishes from a special menu by Ha, tasting wine from a list created by Wedler, and discovering music from a compilation curated by Roberts. Russell Shaffer, senior director of Global Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Walmart Inc., and former AFB board chair, will host this celebration of the senses, community, and the power of inclusion.

What: Dinner and Music for a Historic Celebration
Who: Christine Ha, chef/restaurateur; Hoby Wedler, Ph.D., wine expert and entrepreneur; Marcus Roberts, composer/pianist
When: February 11, 2021, 7 p.m. EST

“AFB has long been at the forefront of representing the needs of people with vision loss, their families, and the professionals who serve them,” said Dr. Kirk Adams, AFB President and CEO. “Our history of achievement has included everything from inventing Talking Books, the precursor to today’s audiobook, to helping develop HTML and advocating for landmark legislation, like the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our mission is to create a world of no limits for individuals who are blind or have low vision, and to clear the way for those like Christine, Hoby, and Marcus to share their talents. Our centennial year theme is ‘Inclusion Knows No Limits’ because we believe everyone benefits when those who are blind or have low vision have their voices heard.”

The evening is made possible through the generous sponsorship of partners like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, American Printing House for the Blind, Exelon, Google, Northrop Grumman, Pepco, Walmart, Microsoft, Charter Communications, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, and the in-kind sponsorship of Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Visit AFB’s Centennial page for more information around this and other forthcoming celebrations. For those interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Amanda Kolling, Senior Engagement and Brand Manager at

About the Celebration’s Special Guests

Christine Ha is the first-ever blind contestant and season 3 winner of TV’s MasterChef. Ha holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Houston and a Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin. Her first cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food, was a New York Times bestseller. Ha has also spoken about disability advocacy at the United Nations and served as a culinary envoy overseas for the U.S. Embassy as part of cultural diplomacy programs in Jordan, Serbia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Croatia. She was a co-host on the Canadian cooking show Four Senses and a judge on “MasterChef” Vietnam. She also served as an executive producer of the “Blind Love” docuseries on PBS’s Independent Lens. Ha received AFB’s Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award in 2014. She owns two restaurants: The Blind Goat, which opened in 2018, and Xin Chao, which opened in late 2020; both are in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Hoby Wedler is an insightful, disarming, and passionate thinker who loves to bring people together to help them see new possibilities. Hoby has been blind since birth. He is a scientist, an entrepreneur, a sensory expert, and is driven by his passion for innovative, creative, and insightful thinking. In 2016, Hoby earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from UC Davis. In 2011, Hoby founded a non-profit organization to lead annual chemistry camps for blind and visually impaired students. In the same year, he began opening doors to the world of wine aromas by developing Tasting in the Dark, a truly blindfolded wine experience. He has expanded the program to a global market in a variety of industries and special projects. Over the years, Hoby has become a motivational speaker, a mentor, and an educator. He is also committed to making the world an inclusive, equitable, and accessible place for everyone. Numerous people and organizations have recognized Hoby’s work. President Barack Obama recognized Hoby by naming him a Champion of Change for enhancing employment and education opportunities for people with disabilities. Also, Forbes Media named Hoby as a leader in food and drink in their 30 under 30 annual publication.

Marcus Roberts, hailed as the “the genius of the modern piano,” taught himself to play piano after losing his sight at age five, and started taking lessons at 12. At 18, he went on to study classical piano at Florida State University. Roberts has won numerous competitions and awards, including AFB’s Helen Keller Achievement Award in 1998. Roberts’ critically acclaimed legacy of recorded music reflects this tremendous artistic versatility. In addition to his renown as a performer, Roberts is also an accomplished composer who has received numerous commissioning awards, including those from Chamber Music America, Jazz at Lincoln Center, ASCAP, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa and the Saito Kinen Orchestra, and the American Symphony Orchestra. Roberts is an associate professor of music at the School of Music at Florida State University and is currently serving as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Music at Bard College. He holds an honorary Doctor of Music degree from The Juilliard School.

Russell Shaffer is serving as the evening’s emcee and is the senior director of Global Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Walmart Inc., and AFB’s former board chair. He has worked at Walmart for more than 15 years and has held roles managing global internal communications and benefits communications, in addition to previously overseeing corporate strategy and stakeholder relations for aging constituencies and people with disabilities. He has served two terms as chair of Walmart’s inABLE disability resource group, and has been a board member of Sources for Community Independent Living in Fayetteville, Ark., since 2012. His service has included positions on the Disability:IN Corporate Advisory Board, the Disability Equality Index Advisory Committee, and the National Council on Independent Living’s Corporate Development Council. In July 2019, Disability:IN honored Russell as the annual recipient of the prestigious John D. Kemp Leadership Award in recognition of his commitment to advance disability inclusion inside Corporate America.

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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 steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: