Prestigious “Migel Medal” Awarded by American Foundation for the Blind (AFB); Recognizes Exceptional Career-Long Accomplishments
Benetech’s President and CEO, Jim Fruchterman, has been selected to receive the highest honor in the blindness field — the 2013 Migel Medal. The award will be presented on Saturday, April 20, 2013, during the American Foundation for the Blind’s (AFB) National Leadership Conference. Kay Ferrell, professor and author, will also receive this top honor, recognizing her career-long efforts.
“I am honored to present these medals to Jim and Kay for their exceptional accomplishments in the blindness and low vision field,” said Carl R. Augusto, AFB president and CEO. “This year’s awardees have dedicated their professional lives to advancement of education and technology so that people with vision loss can thrive in the classroom, the workplace, and in their daily activities.”
Fruchterman, a Caltech alum and former rocket scientist, founded two of the leading optical character recognition companies, Calera Recognition Systems (now part of the public company Nuance) and RAF Technology, Inc. Calera developed character recognition that allows computers to read virtually all printed text. RAF Technology, Inc. is a leading high-end OCR technology company used by the United States Postal Service to route mail.
In 1989, Fruchterman founded Benetech as a nonprofit social enterprise to produce reading machines, based on the Calera technology, for people who are blind. Benetech then expanded its focus in 2000 and began creating new technology for people with disabilities as well as the human rights and environmental movements. Bookshare, an initiative of Benetech, provides the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities, serving over a quarter-million people in more than 40 countries.
“This award is an immense honor and means a great deal to me on a personal level,” said Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech. “My first ‘big idea’ at Caltech was to create a reading machine for the blind. Pursuing that idea changed my life forever — it led me to found Benetech and opened the door to explore the many ways technology could be used for social good.”
Fruchterman has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, highlighting his life-long commitment to applying technology to create social good.
Benetech was founded to be a different kind of tech company — a nonprofit — with a pure focus on developing technology for the social good. Benetech has four main program areas — Human Rights, Access to Literacy, Environment and Benetech Labs — and focuses on projects that offer the greatest social return on the funds invested. Jim Fruchterman, social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow, founded Benetech in 1989 and leads the organization as its President & CEO. Benetech has over 70 employees, most of which work out of its headquarters in Silicon Valley. For more information, please visit Benetech.org.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB’s priorities include 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 and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.