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The 56th Annual Louis Braille Awards

The 56th Annual Louis Braille Awards

The Rittenhouse Hotel

210 West Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Friday, January 29, 2016, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM


Since 1959, Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB) has annually bestowed the prestigious Louis Braille Award to honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions on behalf of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The award has also been given to people who are blind or visually impaired who have overcome great odds to make outstanding achievements and have provided inspiration to others living with a visual disability. Proceeds raised from the awards ceremony directly benefit ASB’s programs and services.


2016 Honorary Chair


Honorary Chair Paul R. Levy

Paul R. Levy is the founding chief executive of Philadelphia’s Center City District (CCD), serving in that capacity since January 1991.  The CCD is a business improvement district with a $22 million annual operating budget, which  supplements municipal services with programs for security, hospitality, cleaning, place marketing, promotion, and planning for the central business district of Philadelphia (www.centercityphila.org).  

The CCD has also financed and carried out $135 million in streetscape, lighting and facade improvements, including the transformation of four downtown parks that are now managed and programmed by the CCD.  He serves on the boards of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Independence Visitor Center Corporation.

Mr. Levy also teaches in the graduate City Planning Department of the University of Pennsylvania and holds a Masters and Ph.D. from Columbia University.




Special Recognition Award Honoree Dr. Gustavo D. Aguirre 

Dr. Aguirre is a professor of medical genetics and ophthalmology at PENN’s School of Veterinary Medicine.  He is a world-renowned researcher who, in 2001, led the research effort that restored vision to Lancelot, a dog who was born blind, through the use of gene therapy.

Consequently, clinical trials in children were started for that type of blindness – Leber’s congenital amaurosis, and thus far have shown efficacy and safety.  After his success with treating Lancelot, Dr. Aguirre’s lab went on to study achromatopsia, and, with Dr. András Komaromy, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Penn Vet, serving as primary investigator, has also completed groundbreaking work in developing gene therapy to treat that type of blindness.  

Dr. Aguirre earned his VMD and PhD degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.  Together with Drs. Jacobson and Cideciyan of PENN’s Scheie Eye Institute, and colleagues at the University of Florida’s Powell Gene Therapy Center, Drs. Aguirre and Beltran are leading, respectively, gene therapy studies for the treatment of X-linked (RPGR) and autosomal dominant (Rhodopsin) retinal degeneration in preclinical models that very closely resemble the very severe and common human disorders.


Special Recognition Award Honoree Lonnie Bedwell

Lonnie Bedwell, a former Navy Petty Officer 1st Class, was injured in a hunting accident that took his sight instantly three years to the day after he left active duty.  Thirteen years later he got into adaptive sports.  Through Team River Runner, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, Lonnie was the first ever visually impaired kayaker to complete the entire 226-mile stretch of Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, which is considered one of the toughest stretches of river in the world.  Colorado River guides told him he’d have to learn to save himself whenever his kayak rolled over.  They suggested he practice that a thousand times before heading down river.  Bedwell did it 1,500 times.  A roofer by trade, Bedwell now teaches other disabled veterans how to kayak.  According to Bedwell “We’ve got two choices in life,” he said, “Live in fear and pity and go nowhere.  Or just live.”   Bedwell made the decision early on never to let a handicap handicap him.


Individual Award Honoree Kareem Dale

Kareem Dale is currently a Director and Senior Counsel for Discover Financial Services, in Riverwoods, Illinois.  He is the former Special Assistant to President Barack Obama for Disability Policy.  Kareem, who is partially blind, had direct access to President Barack Obama in this role, and was responsible for coordinating the Administration’s efforts to ensure that people with disabilities were on a level playing field with all Americans.  

A native of Chicago, Mr. Dale previously served as the National Disability Director for the Obama for
America Campaign.  He also served on the Arts Policy Committee and the Disability Policy Committee for then Senator Obama.  Prior to being appointed Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, Kareem was founder and chief executive officer of The Dale Law Group (DLG) in Chicago, a firm that specialized in areas of personal injury, products liability, contract disputes and other general commercial litigation.  Mr. Dale spent eight years in the Litigation Department of Winston and Strawn, where he honed his litigation skills before he founded DLG in 2007.  

He received his bachelor’s degree in Advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  
He graduated Cum Laude with a law degree and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May, 1999.


Corporate Award Honoree OrCam Technologies

OrCam is an intuitive wearable device with a smart camera designed to assist people who are visually
impaired.  OrCam was founded in 2010 with a clear mission - harness the power of artificial vision to assist people who are blind or have low vision.  OrCam has created a technologically advanced device unique in its ability to provide visual aid through a discreet wearable platform and simple easy-to-use interface which serves to enhance the daily lives of people with vision loss.
Developed by leading minds in the Computer Vision and Machine Learning field, the OrCam team includes
dedicated software, computer and electrical engineers, hardware design experts, and a first rate customer service team, which includes sighted, low vision and blind team members.  The OrCam device is designed to be intuitive - with a gesture as simple as the point of the finger it begins to read. OrCam’s technology is unique in its ability to process what it sees right away without taking the time to retrieve information from somewhere else. The OrCam device can be personalized to recognize faces of people you encounter often and remember hundreds of items you frequently use in its internal memory. It does not require a computer or an internet connection, keeping your usage private. OrCam gives independence.

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