2024 Helen Keller Achievement Awards Ceremony Celebrates Media Inclusion

  • Filmmaker Shawn Levy and Actor Marilee Talkington Honored as Trailblazers for Inclusion
  • Lucasfilm Lauded as Leader in Accessible Entertainment

LOS ANGELES, April 18, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) celebrated this evening the achievements of those champions for inclusion in media and the arts during its annual Helen Keller Achievement Awards held at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles. The evening’s honorees — filmmaker Shawn Levy, actor and advocate Marilee Talkington, and Lucasfilm Ltd. — were recognized for their steadfast commitment to keeping Helen Keller’s spirit alive as they drive inclusion in media for people with disabilities. 

“Our honorees this year have truly demonstrated the power that inclusive media can play toward making dreams a reality,” said AFB president and CEO Eric Bridges. “Helen knew well how the power of perception could be leveraged to expand opportunities for people with disabilities, which is why we are excited to bring the awards this year to Los Angeles and shine the light on those who bring inclusion to the global stage.”

Shawn Levy is recognized for his outstanding work with the recent Netflix series All the Light We Cannot See, which captured the heartfelt story of a young blind woman who kept hope alive during her nightly radio broadcast in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. After a nationwide search to find the perfect protagonist for the series, Levy cast the young first-time actor Aria Mia Loberti, who brought unique authenticity to the role. Under Levy’s direction, Loberti transcended the common tropes often ascribed to someone who is blind and brought forward a genuine humanity that speaks to anyone who has ever wrestled with love amidst loss.

With over 25 years of experience on stage and screen, Marilee Talkington has proven that a visually impaired actor's diverse range of experiences can deepen a person’s craft in the dramatic arts. Talkington is honored not just for breaking through the glass ceiling for performers with disabilities but also for clearing a path for others to follow. Founding the AC3: Access Acting Academy, the first-of-its-kind actor training studio for performers who are blind or have low vision, has allowed Talkington to shift the perception of performers with disabilities. But Talkington’s advocacy also extends its reach to fans of the visual arts, having worked with institutions like the Guggenheim Museum to make art more accessible for patrons who are blind, low-vision, or have other disabilities.

Lucasfilm was recognized during the evening ceremony for its long-standing commitment to providing the highest quality of audio-described content for audiences who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision. Accepting the award was Michael Kohn, Director of Distribution Operations for Lucasfilm, who is responsible for expanding accessible media across Disney’s vast network of distribution channels. Under Kohn’s leadership, Lucasfilm has been recognized as a leader in creating and distributing audio-described content, having also received the 2022 People’s Choice Award from the American Council of the Blind.

Since 1994, the Helen Keller Achievement Award has recognized the finest thought leaders, change-makers, and performing artists committed to carrying on Keller's mission to create a world of full and equal inclusion for people with disabilities. For over 40 years, Helen Keller was AFB's leading ambassador, inspiring millions worldwide as she demonstrated all that can be accomplished through determination and perseverance.

AFB continues to honor Keller's legacy by recognizing exceptional individuals and organizations from industry, education, and the arts who have distinguished themselves in pursuit of expanding possibilities for those who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision. Past honorees include author and advocate Haben Girma, tech leader and entrepreneur Bernard Newcomb, Chef Christine Ha, actor Charlie Cox, and performing artists Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.

Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind creates equal opportunities and expands possibilities for people who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision through advocacy, thought leadership, and strategic partnerships. In addition to publishing the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB), AFB is also the proud steward of the Helen Keller Archive, which is available on the AFB website at www.afb.org.


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