The Council’s annual awards event is a time we all enjoy because it’s our chance to recognize and thank individuals and organizations that have made a difference in the lives of people who have vision loss. On Saturday, November 15, we gathered in De Forest to present these awards.
Audio and Braille Literacy Enhancement (ABLE) of Milwaukee and Braille Library and Transcribing Services (BLTS) of Madison, received the Council’s Community Partnership Award. Cheryl Orgas, ABLE’s executive director, noted that in 2013, their volunteers donated more than 8,000 hours to help produce 153,000 pages of audio and Braille materials for nearly 2,000 individuals with print disabilities. BLTS President Steve Levine remarked that volunteers provide braille, electronic, audio and large print production of textbooks, children’s literature, adult fiction, cookbooks, handiwork, and more. They also offer a free lending library of more than 2,200 titles in braille.
David Schuh of Wausau accepted the Friend of the Council Award. A former computer training instructor at Northcentral Technical College, Schuh went on to launch Accessibility Pros when NTC’s mobility and technical training programs were discontinued and he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a leading cause of vision loss. He has been dubbed by many as “Wisconsin’s adaptive technology guru to the disability community.” In accepting the award, Schuh commented, “I am committed to giving people with disabilities the tools they need to be successful.”
The Legislator of the Year Award was presented to current Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling who has assisted the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired with legislative proposals, including the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act of Wisconsin, and other advocacy work for many years. Schilling was also recognized for authoring a bill to ensure that Wisconsin would receive full federal vocational rehabilitation funding, and the Council thanked her for supporting the initiatives brought forward in its 2013 Omnibus Bill.
The Louis Seidita Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has provided outstanding volunteer service to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Dave Heesen of Janesville accepted the 2014 award. The Council recognized Dave for the thousands of miles and hundreds of hours he has logged around the state while driving people with vision loss to programs and events, and for working with the Alumni Association of the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Accepting the service award, Dave commented, “To me, volunteerism is doing things without having to be roped into it.”
In her closing remarks, Loretta Himmelsbach, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, reflected:
Our journeys in life are made fuller by the people we encounter and who travel with us—for long periods of time, or for shorter jaunts. They all matter to us. Our honorees have done just that—impacting the world around us as well all continue to transform lives on a journey of hope for independence and dignity of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.