The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) announced yesterday the recipients of its 21st annual Helen Keller Achievement Awards, which acknowledge those who have made extraordinary contributions to improving the quality of life of people with vision loss. They named College of Environmental Design alumnus and lecturer in Architecture Chris Downey (M.Arch ‘92) one of this year’s three recipients.
Downey is being recognized for his exemplary leadership in accessible design and his dedication to creating enriching and helpful environments for people who are blind or visually impaired. Downey lost his sight in 2008, and has since gone on to found his own consulting firm, Architecture for the Blind. He specializes in designing blind rehabilitation centers, workplaces and museum environments. Downey speaks to audiences nationwide and serves as a role model for professionals with vision loss.
“The theme of this year’s achievement awards is ‘No Limits,’” said AFB President and CEO Kirk Adams. “Each of our honorees exemplifies the spirit of Helen Keller in their efforts to forge new avenues to independence, social mobility, and a fuller, more rewarding quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired. The example set by Mr. Downey shows that building a future of no limits for people with disabilities is everyone’s responsibility, and we are proud to recognize his efforts.”
Some of Downey’s work includes the new headquarters for the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, a new Department of Veterans Affairs blind rehabilitation center, housing renovations for the blind in New York City, a new clinic at the Duke University Eye Center and the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco. Currently, he is consulting on the new headquarters for the National Industries for the Blind in Alexandria, VA; a new facility for the Canadian Institute for the Blind in Edmonton; and a “Sustainability Pavilion” with Grimshaw Architects in New York City for Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE.
Downey is a member of the HOK architectural team that was just selected for a major new eye center in Pennsylvania. He is the president of the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind Board of Directors and is also a guest lecturer at CED, where he teaches a class on accessibility and universal design. He is currently fulfilling a gubernatorial appointment for the California Commission on Disability Access.
This year’s honorees will be celebrated at the organization’s 21st anniversary gala in New York City on June 15.
About the AFB Helen Keller Achievement Awards
For more than 40 years, Helen Keller was AFB’s leading ambassador, inspiring millions of people around the world. Since 1994, AFB has honored her legacy by recognizing exceptional individuals and organizations that expand possibilities for those who are blind or visually impaired. Artists and musicians, including Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Ronnie Milsap, have been honored, as well as leading corporations such as Apple, Comcast, CBS Television, JPMorgan Chase and Marriott International.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB fulfills its mission by broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Headquartered in New York, AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives & Gallery and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly for AFB