Blind Scientist at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco Receives Renowned Award

Dr. Joshua A. Miele accepts prestigious award in Video Description category of FCC Chairman's 2014 AAA ceremony in Arlington, Virginia

Online PR News – 07-July-2014 – San Francisco, California – June 9, 2014 – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today presented Smith-Kettlewell Scientist, Dr. Joshua Miele, with the 2014 Award for Advancement in Accessibility in the area of video description. This award, also known as the Chairman's AAA, honors innovators who develop communications technology for people with disabilities. The Chairman presented the awards at a ceremony on June 9, 2014, at the M-Enabling Summit at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where the award-winning technologies were displayed.

Video Description makes video accessible to blind viewers by verbalizing important aspects of scenes and actions. Brief audio descriptions are timed with the video and dialog so as to provide essential information while minimizing interference with the original program. The prestigious FCC Chairman’s AAA recognizes Smith-Kettlewell’s significant contribution to the future of accessible video on the web.

YouDescribe and the Descriptive Video Exchange (DVX) — developed at Smith-Kettlewell in San Francisco — are the first wave in a new generation of video-accessibility technologies for the blind. These tools allow anyone, anywhere to describe videos for blind viewers, and to quickly and easily share those descriptions with the world. YouDescribe and DVX finally bring the power of the Internet-enabled crowd to bear on this increasingly important accessibility challenge for the blind (

Dr. Miele’s team of scientists and engineers at Smith-Kettlewell are committed to investigating simple, modern solutions to today’s accessibility challenges for people with visual disabilities. For the last decade, Miele, who holds a Ph.D. in Psychoacoustics, has been engaged in a variety of research and development projects at Smith-Kettlewell, all of which are aimed at improving information accessibility for his fellow blind people. Miele’s design philosophy involves the creative application of existing, mainstream technologies to address significant accessibility challenges faced by people with visual disabilities. Video description has been one of his areas of interest for years, and the increasing use of streamed video in the classroom and workplace has made access to video a pressing issue for the blind in education and employment (

With funding from the National Eye Institute (R01EY020925), the Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (H327J110005), and supplementary support from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and Smith-Kettlewell, Miele and his team conceived of and initiated an aggressive program of technology innovation to apply modern techniques to the problem of video access for people with visual disabilities. At the same time, Dr. Miele founded the Description Leadership Network — a coalition of stakeholder organizations with vested interests in making sure that blind people will not be locked out of the exponentially-increasing quantities of web-based video, essential for education, employment, and entertainment.

“Video description is no longer a luxury,” says Dr. Miele. “Without easy tools for creating and distributing descriptions for streamed video, blind people will not have equal access to essential information, and will not have equal access to education or employment.”

Smith-Kettlewell is pleased to be making the world of video more accessible to the blind, and is proud to accept the FCC Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility in honor of its pioneering description technologies.

Contact: Elizabeth Warner, Special Projects Officer,
The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute
2318 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 345-2047


Please see, for further information on The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute — an independent nonprofit research institute dedicated to problems in vision and blindness since 1963.