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APH Annual Meeting Presents Four Prestigious Awards

Marje Kaiser standing at a podium with wings of freedom award next to her

At our 153rd Annual Meeting, we presented four prestigious awards to leaders in the field of blindness and visual impairment. The Horizon Award (Product Innovation), Louis Award (Creative Use of Braille), Navigator Award (Advocacy and Support for our Field), and APH’s highest honor, the Wings of Freedom Award (presented for exemplary leadership in the areas of education or rehabilitation). Learn more about the 2021 award recipients and watch their acceptance speeches.


Wings of Freedom – Marje Kaiser, Ed.D.

The Wings of Freedom Award is the highest honor presented by the American Printing House for the Blind. The award is not annual, but given periodically, as deserved. The Wings of Freedom Award was established to recognize and honor individuals who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the areas of education or rehabilitation of persons who are blind and visually impaired.

“Through APH, I grew as an educator and I was able to provide accessible tools for the students we served in our state. Truly, I received so much more than I contributed,” said Marje Kaiser, Ed.D.

Dr. Marjorie Kaiser’s career has been a great example of servant leadership. As a lifetime advocate for those who are blind or visually impaired. Dr. Kaiser served as superintendent of the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for 34 years, with additional responsibility for South Dakota School for the Deaf. She retired in May of 2020. As superintendent, Dr. Kaiser served as Ex Officio Trustee for APH. She also as a member of APH’s Educational Products Advisory Committee and Educational Services Advisory Committee. She also worked on the national level with the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) and the Council of Schools of the Blind (COSB).

Watch the Wings of Freedom acceptance speech. 


Horizon Award – Gilles Pepin, Chairman of the Board, HumanWare

The Horizon Award, previously known as the Zickel Award, recognizes creative and caring individuals who continually pursue new ideas that result in the development of innovative products designed to improve the quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired.

I’ve had the privilege of working with a great team, a fantastic team at HumanWare. A group of people who are extremely dedicated and focused on delivering high-quality products, and I want to share this award with them,” said Gilles Pepin, Chairman of the Board, HumanWare.

Gilles Pepin has worked in technology and assistive technology for over 30 years. As the former CEO of HumanWare he has spent his lifetime developing braille products for the blind consumer. His lifelong dedication and pursuit of creating quality technology products has not only shaped the world of access devices, but created a healthy competitive landscape forcing everyone to put forth their best effort. He now serves as Chairman of the Board for HumanWare.

Watch the Horizon Award acceptance speech. 


Louis Award – The LEGO® Foundation

The Louis Award, named after Louis Braille, recognizes the impact, creativity, efficacy of a product, idea, method, or promotional effort that increased the availability or awareness of braille and/or tactile graphics. It is an award that is not presented annually, but only when an effort rises to a level that both captures the imaginative spirit and moves people to action.

Our mission is to inspire and create the builders of tomorrow and we do this by redefining play and reimagining learning,” said Stine Storm, Senior Play and Health Specialist, LEGO® Foundation.

The LEGO Foundation is be recognized for their creation and distribution of LEGO Braille Bricks. LEGO® Braille Bricks promote braille as a tool of literacy but also encourage students with and without sight to learn through play.

What the Louis Award acceptance speech. 


Navigator Award – AFB and Dr. Penny Rosenblum

The Navigator Award recognizes the collaborative efforts and partnerships necessary to remove barriers and provide pathways ensuring that individuals have full access to education and life.

“We convene leaders across our field and among business leaders, public officials and other decision makers to champion impactful policies and practices using research and data to support meaningful systemic change for people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Dr. Kirk Adams, AFB President and CEO.

“You’ll note that the authors are a combination of academics and practicing professionals. I think this speaks to the importance of us mentoring the next generation,” said Dr. Penny Rosenblum.

The 2020 and 2021 Access Studies, under the direction of Dr. Penny Rosenblum and the AFB research team, conducted two large research studies that highlighted both need and disparity of services and access to education during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study will provide a strong foundational research base which will support every agency serving blind and visually impaired populations. AFB and Dr. Rosenblum both received the award.

What the Navigator Award acceptance speech. 

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