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Throughout the award show, the screen will feature a black backdrop with an abstract gold design on either side and the words 2022 AccessAbility Awards prominently featured in gold letters at the top and Interpreter Box will be featured in the top right corner, as well as a gold version of the Helen Keller Services logo in the bottom right corner.
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This welcome screen also includes the words award recipients, Accessible Pharmacy for the Blind, Cleanlogic, ServiceSkills, The UniDescription Project, Wunderman Thompson Health. Good evening and welcome to the second annual Helen Keller Services AccessAbility Awards. My name is Doug Roland and I’m honored to be your host and this evening we are stepping things up from last year as evidenced by the blue blazer that I broke out of my closet to further my image description.
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I am a white male in my late thirties I’ve short brown hair, a little scruff on my face. I’m wearing a white and blue button up shirt underneath that blue blazer. And behind me I have a couple of bookshelves that have many things on them. Including a bunch of awards that I won with Helen Keller Services for our film Feeling Through.
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It’s been an honor to partner with Helen Keller Services over the years, and I’m so thrilled to watch this AccessAbility Awards grow and flourish. We’re still celebrating DeafBlind Awareness Week, but also honoring a number of individuals and organizations that have done a tremendous job to provide greater access for individuals who are deaf, blind, blind and low vision. Tonight we’ll be honoring organizations that are providing accessible packaging with Braille on it to organizations that are proliferating.
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Audio Description and much more. Before all that, I’d like to kick things over to Dr. Sue Ruzenski, who is the CEO of Helen Keller Services. Sue?
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Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Sue Ruzenski. I am the Chief Executive Officer of Helen Keller Services. I am a 60 year old female. I have blond hair, shoulder-length. I’m wearing black rimmed glasses, a black shirt, and I have a black backdrop behind me. It’s my pleasure to open up this event and welcome all of you and take a moment to talk about the meaning of this event to all of us.
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HKS is thrilled to be able to recognize partners and leaders in our field who have made it their business to take action and advance accessibility within their companies and organizations. The recipients of this year’s awards demonstrate the importance of accessibility and how thoughtful action can bring about impactful change. Together we can make this world more inclusive, respecting, and adapting to the differences among us.
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Imagine the possibilities if all companies made accessibility a first thought a priority, a revered value, rather than a second thought, or not a thought at all. Each of our recipients today, they’re beacon they’re shedding a light on the path of accessibility, taking us a distance further so that we can reach our goal where everyone enjoys the same access to information, education and leisure activities, software programs, physical environments, services and products and more.
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We all benefit when everyone is welcomed, considered, and has an opportunity to contribute or share equally in shared experiences. So to open our event. It is my utmost pleasure to welcome back last year’s recipient, Jessica Rafuse from Microsoft. Our keynote speaker. Jessica will talk about the work at Microsoft this year and about their cornerstone value of accessibility in the creation of their products and services for their diverse and valued customers. Jessica.
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Hi, everyone. I’m Jessica Refuse. I’m a white woman with blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. I’m here in my home office sitting in my wheelchair. I lead Microsoft’s approach to strategic partnerships and policy all around accessibility. And it is really great to be here with you all. A year later, where we are just starting to creep out of this global pandemic, lots of people are returning back to the workplace, to school, to socializing, to real hugs.
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Yay! Since we were last together, more and more people are joining this group of people with disabilities. Folks have acquired disability directly from COVID and also indirectly from the stress and the mental health related illnesses that have come around. Well, welcome to this cool game. Unfortunately, at the same time, more disabled folks have lost their jobs. They’ve incurred medical expenses, they’ve been excluded from education, and the disability divide continues to grow.
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That is why we partner with organizations like Helen Keller Services, and we work together to help close the disability divide. We’re focusing on three areas. First, technology. At Microsoft we believe that we have a responsibility. We’re going to raise the bar for what is possible through technology to empower people with disabilities. And this extends across the whole spectrum of disability, including customers who are deaf, blind and DeafBlind.
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We take our role very seriously. Let’s look at narrator, for example. This is our built in screen reader. It’s really good buddies with a wide variety of Braille displays. Right at the lock screen DeafBlind users can prompt Braille supports. This means that they can be independent and productive from the get go. We believe that this will truly help to close the disability divide.
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Next up, we focus on accelerating workplace inclusion. We have got to empower those students with disabilities in order to create more disabled leaders of the future, by supporting teachers with tools and training. They can monitor student well-being, know how they’re doing. Encourage them to identify their feelings and even have a little fun with the new Minecraft Education Edition.
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Last up. This workplace talent with disabilities is welcome once they get to that workplace. Hey, let’s pay them competitive wages. Did you know that it’s legal in the U.S. and other countries to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage? Not okay. So at Microsoft, we pay our employees competitive wages, and we do not do business with suppliers that pay less than minimum wage.
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On campus for continuing to innovate. This built environment is truly accessible. A blind person at Microsoft can use tactile strips to find their way to the front door. We can simply wave a hand or shimmy a shoulder to open those automatic doors. And it’s all about empowerment. We still have a lot to work to do, but we’re learning and we’re striving to create independence for all.
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We recently announced that we’re opening the inclusive tech lab. This is a really cool space. It’s dedicated to modern life, education, accessibility, productivity, gaming for people in disabilities. Our facility is for people with disabilities, not about people with disabilities. That means we’re welcoming the community to help us to create some cool tech for the future. I know there’s a lot here, and we don’t have a whole lot of time, but it is truly a pleasure to work together to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more These partnerships,
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Helen Keller services you are so important to us. You keep challenging that status quo. You keep prioritizing accessibilites, and you keep empowering people with disabilities for the future. And we know that together we are going to achieve a whole lot more. So thank you for your work. Thank you all. And please enjoy the rest of your Gala.
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Now, let’s move on to the award portion of the evening. Our first award recipient is Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind. Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind is a comprehensive home delivery pharmacy service specializing in the needs of the blind, DeafBlind and low vision communities and their families. Helen Keller Services recognizes them for revolutionizing the pharmaceutical industry by providing an accessible brand, including packaging and labeling for free.
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Here to accept the award as CEO Andy Bernstein and Chief Marketing and Accessibility Officer Dr. Alex Cohen.
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Hi, everyone. My name is Andy Bernstein. I’m a white male. I’m 53 years old. I have a shaved head, a trimmed, beard, eyeglasses, and I’m wearing a white shirt. Thank you so much. I want to thank everyone who is joining us today. Thank you for everyone from Helen Keller Services.
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For this incredible honor. I want to acknowledge the other recipients of this
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year and last year. I want to acknowledge our third business partner, Dr. Jason Barrett. And the rest of the team from Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind.
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For those of you who are not familiar with us, we
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are Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind. We are a home delivery pharmacy service. We specialize in patients who are blind, DeafBlind, and have low vision. We’re the only provider of its kind, we’re the largest blind owned health care company in the country. Everything that we do is focused on merging
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accessibility and healthcare.
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And the knowledge that we are
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from Helen Keller services and the entire Helen Keller.
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has been invaluable for us
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in the way that we support our patients.
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with dual sensory loss. So I’m very grateful for everyone. I’d like to introduce my business
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partner, Dr. Alex Cohen, who will also share some thoughts.
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Hello, everyone, and my name is Alex Cohen. I am a middle aged white male with short brown hair clean shaven, little grayer than I’d like to be. But it’s such an honor to be here with such a wonderful, wonderful recipients for this fine award.
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The pursuit of accessibility is ongoing, and we have not met our last patient and continue to learn new ways to make healthcare and medication and diabetes management more inclusive and more accessible. Look, it’s difficult for anybody, but adding blindness, deafness and dual sensory loss creates even more challenges and we understand this. And so we strive at accessible pharmacy services for the blind to make every part of what we do as accessible as possible, freeing, alleviating those barriers and creating a more independent environment from information search, taking pills to re-ordering and all of the steps in between.
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And again, we could not be more honored and grateful for being included in this year’s award ceremony. So thank you so much.
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Now on to our next award recipient Cleanlogic. Cleanlogic is an inclusive and socially conscious beauty brand that offers high quality, sustainable bath accessories. Inspired by founder Isaac Shapiro’s mother, who became blind at age seven, Cleanlogic incorporates Braille onto its packaging to help blind in low vision individuals lead a more independent life. Since 2006, Cleanlogic is funded adaptive technology to promote independent living and employment skills to the blind and low vision community.
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What impressed the Helen Keller Services team was that rather than being an afterthought, accessibility is at the core of their product. Here to accept the award is CEO Isaac Shapiro.
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The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind received a $30,000 donation from a beauty brand.
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Cleanlogic is an inclusive beauty brand offering bath and beauty accessories and even has Braille on all packaging. The company wanted to make this generous gift today, which marks White Cane Day.
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My mom Dee has been blind since age seven, but she’s never let that stop her. This is why I’m inspired to be a social entrepreneur.
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The partnership between Clean Logic and H-E-B was phenomenal, and being able to get back to the Lighthouse of the Blind was just the icing on the cake. I mean, the amount we raised together was just phenomenal, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.
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How can you help us.
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In this mission?
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Hi, I’m Isaac Shapiro. I’m a Mexican-American with a blue collared shirt, short hair and brown eyes. Thank you Helen Keller Services for recognizing Cleanlogic for putting Braille on our packaging. Cleanlogic is the leading skincare tool manufacturer. And we are most importantly proud about our Braille packaging and our inclusive message around hiring blind and visually impaired individuals.
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And we continue to look forward to telling our story and inspiring more companies to hire blind and visually impaired individuals to the work that we’re doing, and creating awareness out in the market.
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Our next award recipient of the evening is ServiceSkills. ServiceSkills provides world class e-learning courses, which help companies improve the way they communicate with customers and coworkers. Helen Keller Services for the Blind participants attended ServiceSkills online courses, learning about customer service. ServiceSkills provided extensive accessibility support for the learners, assisting with screen reader setups for their e-learning platform.
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Here to accept the award is President Nancy Friedman.
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Forbidden phrase number two. When you ask for something, isn’t it abrupt and shocking when the answer is “We can’t do that?” Why don’t they just tell you what they can do?
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Good afternoon, county assessor’s office. This is Eric.
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Yes, I need to meet with your appraiser.
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I just received my new real estate tax bill, and it’s
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way too high now. I work until 5:00, but I’m just a few blocks away. Can someone meet with me? Say, just after 5:00?
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Oh, we can’t do that.
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Please don’t tell people what you can’t do. Tell them what you can do. Let’s see how this situation should have been handled.
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Can someone meet with me, say, just after 5:00?
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Well, here’s what we can do. We’re only open until five. But let me transfer you to Ron Montrose. He’s one of our appraisers. He can meet with you over the lunch hour. Or if you’re able to get off work a few minutes early. If you’re able to hold. I can transfer you right now.
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Okay. Thank you.
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Forbidden phrase number two. “We can’t do that.” Recommended. “Here’s what we can do.”
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Hi. I’m Nancy Friedman, Founder and Chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training and the provider of our serviceskills.com e-learning platform. And I’ll put my glasses on now, not because I’m reading something, but I just feel more comfortable with them. I’m told I need to say a little bit about me, but let me tell you about the service skills.
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For most of you know, it is a e-learning platform. It has 18 series with over 190 modules of content. That’s a lot of content. Usually invested in a year’s amount of service for our clients, and we’re really glad we have you on board more about me because it’s all about me, right? Okay. I’m a white female with short short short blond hair, a few little bangs.
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Sometimes I wear glasses, sometimes I don’t. I always have a smile on my face because that’s that’s what it’s all about. Normally wearing a strand of pearls. And my favorite color today is our cobalt blue. It’s my favorite color all the time. All the time. So cobalt blue top, camo shorts, which doesn’t go together, but I made it go.
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All right. Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training is a 35 year old international customer service training company owned by small family owned business. Mother, father, daughter, son. And I told my husband after he heard me practicing, these were not we are a small business, but don’t forget to include the 20 long and loyal employees that we have. So, yes, a shout out to all the employees who have helped make the Telephone Doctor E-learning.
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helped make serviceskills.com what it is today. We have 20 wonderful people, some of which have been with us since the 35 years ago that we started. So that’s a fun thing. I would love to tell you more about how Telephone Doctor came to be because we didn’t just drop down from the sky and maybe that’s another program for you because it is a very interesting business story and I love to tell it.
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We just don’t have time today. The shout out to to please, if I will, to our son David. David Friedman, who is now president. My husband and I are still working part time, but as I say, we we are not running the show, so to speak. I’m just a pretty face. But David Friedman is the president and he keeps us where we should be right on top.
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My daughter Linda is vice president of Planned Services at her job, and her team is to keep clients happy, which evidently they have done. So. Thank you. Making it an acceptance award is not something people do all day long. So I can only say thank you for presenting us with this amazing award and the opportunity to meet and greet Natalie, Sue and Mary and Marcia said that right, my Marcia.
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And finally, Doug Roland, the author of the amazing and critically important video that we’re pleased to be with. Those of you who are using serviceskills.com and Telephone Doctor techniques have a bonus. Because you can use every single technique that you learn in your daily life. With your mother, your father, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your partner.
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It doesn’t matter. Your kids, your dogs. Every technique was designed to work everywhere and it goes with our six touch points of communication email, voicemail, snail mail, phone text. Of course, face to face. I left off chat, so I’ll include it because you can use it in chat to it. Just not I use chat a lot is just not my favorite, favorite, favorite.
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You’re using something that is common sense and that’s all it is, is common sense. But as we all know, common sense is not out there. God bless you all and thank you so much again for this amazing award. We value it we honor it. And God bless you all. Have a great day.
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Now onto our next award recipient, the unique description project. The UniDescription Project started as a collaboration with the National Park Service to create a web tool and mobile app for audio describing, which is describing visual information, for the NPS brochures. However, the project has grown over the years to include research and technical assistance on best practices and audio description that have gone well beyond the NPS brochures.
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Helen Keller National Center is currently subcontracted with the UniDescription project to conduct research on best practices in describing people and portraits for blind, low vision and DeafBlind audiences. What impressed Helen Keller Services about the project is the commitment to making all aspects of the web tool and app accessible. The commitment to creating high quality description and the focus on audio description as a means of inclusion across a variety of contexts and for a variety of people.
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Here to accept the award is principal investigator Brett Oppegaard.
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Helen Keller Services. My name is Brett Oppegaard. I’m an associate professor at the University of Hawaii. I’m going to begin with a short audio description. In my horizontal Zoom screen I’m shown from my shoulders up. I’m a 51 year old American man white in the abstract, but with ancestral origins in the United Kingdom and Norway. Indicating those roots visually, I have blue eyes pinkish tanned skin with a red undertone and dark brown hair.
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I am wearing clear glasses. My hair is short on the sides, but kept long on the top, showing some wavyness to it. I do not have any facial hair beyond my eyebrows. Contextually, I’m about six feet tall and weigh about 210 lbs, but there’s nothing in this Zoom image to use to gauge my body’s size or shape. I’m wearing a black collared shirt and I’m extremely honored to be here today and accept this award for the UniDescription Project.
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Helen Keller has been an inspiration for me since my childhood. I remember and the first time I watched the film The Miracle Worker and reading about her more in high school and middle school even, and then as an adult becoming more aware of her broad and lasting impact in terms of in terms of improving accessibility around the country, and especially the idea of making our nation more socially inclusive for people who are DeafBlind, which is an important part of the role of the UniDescription project.
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So being mentioned in the same sentence with her is quite a thrill and an honor. And I often think of her quote, “alone we can do so little together we we can do so much.” That’s something we think about a lot in the UniDescription project because everything we do is a bunch of small steps, bunch of people, like minded people working together, trying to help the world over a long period of time.
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We have a large support system so when I think of this award, I think I think of it in the spirit of collaboration, which we’re all trying to make the world a more inclusive place. And I think of all the hundreds of people who contribute to the UniDescription project during the past decade. And I would just like to mention a few of the organizations that have been so critical to make in the UniDescription project successful starting of course with the National Park Service.
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It’s Harpers Ferry Interpretive Design Center. Specifically, Michelle Hartley is the accessibility coordinator for the National Park Service and the Park Service and Michelle started this project with me in 2014. They’ve been the guiding and supporting force for it. They have been instrumental in allowing us to do the research we’re doing and also to have the impact we’ve had in the national park system. Of course the University of Hawaii,
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my home institution has provided a lot of in-kind support for my work over the years. Google has stepped in. About five years ago they started contributing to our project and they have been back every year since. I want to make sure to thank them. The American Council of the Blind has been heavily involved in our project also for the past five years.
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The Planet Veterans Association. We would receive federal support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts. And all of these different partners have allowed us to spend the time that we have to not only invest in researching audio description but practicing it, putting it into public places, and making the world a little bit more accessible every day.
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So thank you again, Helen Keller Services for recognizing our project and for being such a powerful force for good in the world yourselves. And again, alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. Let’s keep working together to make this world more accessible. Thank you.
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And now for our final award, recipient of the evening, Wunderman Thompson Health. Wunderman Thompson Health is a New York based global marketing agency who has produced the DeafBlind Awareness Week posters pro bono for over 30 years. Helen Keller Services recognizes Wunderman Thompson Health for continuing that tradition and for all the time and effort they spent to help bring awareness about people who are DeafBlind. Here
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to accept the award is EVP Executive Creative Director Tracey Zuto and VP Bonnie Baker.
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Hi, my name
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is Tracey Zullo and I am a short, feisty Italian American with long brown hair and brown eyes and a huge smile on my face. I am so thrilled to be accepting the 2022 AccessAbility Award on behalf of Wunderman Thompson Health. Wunderman Thompson Health is a healthcare marketing agency. Through inclusive design and our health for equity team. We are committed to providing health and wellness equality for all, and I can speak for our entire team when I say that of all the work we do all day long, day after day.
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Working with Helen Keller, National Services is by far the best thing that we get to work on. We are incredibly proud and honored by Helen Keller Services, but truly the honor of working with you since 2005 has been all ours. And now I’m going to hand it over to my partner in crime, Bonnie Baker.
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Hi, I’m Bonnie Baker. I have big curly blond hair, and I also have a giant smile. I’ve been working with Helen Keller, National Center for over 15 years now, and I’m so happy to be part of this incredible organization. In fact, I would say for me, this is one of the highlights of working at Wunderman Thompson and Great Health before that, to be able to contribute even in a seemingly small way is really important to me and to all of the staff I get to work with
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Helen Keller. We get to support an organization like this while we’re working. How cool is that? I’m truly humbled to be able to accept this year’s AccessAbility Award on behalf of Wunderman Thompson. We’re an agency dedicated to serving patients, caregivers, physicians, nurses and other HTPs all over the world. Thank you so much for this beautiful award.
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Hi. My name is Megan Dausch, and I’m the Helen Keller Services Accessibility Specialist. I am a white woman in my thirties wearing a beige shirt. I have a Braille display and I have headphones on my head. Accessibility ensures equitable access and use by people with disabilities. When designing a product, it is critical to involve people with disabilities and every step of the process from inception to final testing and everything in between.
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There are many products available that purport to meet the needs of people with disabilities, but they may not be useful or effective for people with disabilities because they have not been involved in the process. If accessibility is built in from the start, it will not only result in a more inclusive product, but it will be a stronger product.
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Since it considers diverse experiences and perspectives. It also saves money and time. It is much easier to consider accessibility from the outset rather than make changes and patches to a product later. It is much more efficient to build a structure with proper wiring from the beginning rather than have to rip down the structure to add wiring. Accessibility of course, it’s critical for people with disabilities, but also has the power to make things better for everyone.
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Transcripts for example, are critical for DeafBlind users but can benefit English language learners and users who may be in an environment where they can’t turn on their sound. Having multiple ways for people to access and interact with a setting content or event helps everyone engage in the most accessible way for them. Accessibility involves tangible and intangible work.
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It is critical for example, that we learn the mechanics of accessibility, such as creating accessible documents, web pages, and understanding how to write effective alt text. But accessibility is not just about learning how to. One of the sharpest tools in the accessibility toolbox is empathy. Accessibility is not a problem that can be solved solely through checking boxes, running automated tools and understanding the workings of accessibility. But it is about a shift in thinking and perception.
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Accessibility is not static, and we all grow in knowledge as we travel along our accessibility journeys. As a person with a disability, accessibility empowers me to make choices, to choose where to buy products. If a website is accessible, to choose to access information, if it is made accessible. Accessibility empowers me with access to information, independence and choice.
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And now a word from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Helen Keller Services. Larry Kinitsky. Larry Kinitsky previously served on the HKS Board for more than ten years as Chairman of the Development Committee. Over the past decade, Larry has devoted his business Expertize time, energy and commitment to Helen Keller services, working tirelessly as a board member to help guide the organization to fulfill its mission.
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I’d like to offer my congratulations and heartfelt thanks to each of the companies being recognized today. The contributions that you have made and your commitment to improving the everyday life of those who are DeafBlind, blind, and have low vision is truly remarkable. You are true leaders in the field and have demonstrated that anything is possible. While today we recognize your amazing accomplishments, we are truly thankful that so many companies are working towards improved accessibility
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and look forward to more innovation in the future. Thank you so much.
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In closing, I hope that you will join me in applause and accolades for this year’s recipients for their unique and meaningful work. Congratulations to all of you. I hope each of you watching this event today are standing alongside me in applause and with hands clapping and feet stomping in praise for the work of these front runners in the accessibility space.
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I want to say thank you to each and every one of our recipients. Dr. Alex Cohen and Andy Bernstein at Accessible Pharmacy for the Blind. Thank you so much for making these services available in the health services space, creating the first accessible pharmacy for individuals who are blind and have low vision. Isaac Shapiro at Cleanlogic. Thank you for labeling your bath and body skin care products with Braille and making them accessible to individuals who are blind and have vision loss, and also instigating conversations about the importance of accessibility with your circle of customers and partners.
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Nancy Friedman of ServiceSkills, thank you for making your customer service online. Learning Course, your virtual platform accessible to learners who are blind and have low vision. Dr. Brett Oppegaard at UniDescription. Brett, thank you so much for your important research and education project at the University of Hawaii. Providing audio description throughout the world, which really has opened up quality experiences for so many from people visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
00:34:42:12 – 00:35:12:05
And I’d like to thank Bonnie Baker and Tracy Zullo at Wunderman Thompson Health. Thank you for sharing your resources from your global marketing agency, to elevate the awareness of the DeafBlind community. We truly appreciate that. Each of you contribute to the greater whole making the world a more accessible place and with our collective resources and our commitment to accessibility.
00:35:12:11 – 00:35:31:04
We open doors together and we unlock many possibilities. Thanks to everyone who’s joined us today. And thank you to everyone who continues to push the agenda of accessibility forward and makes it their priority and their business so that everyone can be included.
00:35:31:22 – 00:35:34:11
00:35:34:11 – 00:35:58:00
Well, there you have it. That concludes the second annual Helen Keller Services AccessAbility Awards. A huge congratulations to the amazing award recipients this evening. It’s been an honor to host and to celebrate DeafBlind Awareness Week with you. And actually, Helen Keller, National Center has four additional ways in which you can celebrate DeafBlind Awareness Week.
00:35:58:11 – 00:36:35:00
One is to write to your local legislator asking for a proclamation declaring June 26 to July 2nd of 2022 DeafBlind Awareness Week. Second would be write an article about people who are DeafBlind, living and working in your area and send it to your local newspaper. A third would be to honor business owners and corporations in your community who have hired people who are DeafBlind, and one final way you can celebrate is to use your website or any other social media accounts to showcase special events, articles, photographs, and information about DeafBlindness.
00:36:35:05 – 00:36:49:04
And of course, you can always find more information at helenkeller.org. Again, that concludes this year’s show, and we’ll see you next year for the third annual awards. Have a wonderful evening. [End of Transcript]