Separately, Kim and Brian Charlson have spent their adult lives working to increase access to information and technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. Together, they have improved the lives of millions.
So it’s fitting that the two were jointly honored for their continued activism. The married couple, who are both blind, received the Mary Lou Maloney Award from the Disability Policy Consortium at its Annual Reception on October 23.
John Winske, executive director of the Disability Policy Consortium, called the Charlsons “the dynamic duo.”
“Education, literacy and access to information are the most powerful tools you can give someone,” Winske said. “When you look at Kim's work around literacy and access to documents, and Brian's work around technology and technological literacy you realize they are empowering millions of people with visual impairments around the world. Not just people of this generation, but generations to come.”
The Mary Lou Maloney Award is given annually to someone who “utilizes the legislative, regulatory or legal process to further the rights of persons with disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” In the case of the Charlsons, both Kim and Brian fit the criteria perfectly, Winske said.
Kim Charlson, who has served since 2001 as director of the Perkins Library, was elected as the first woman president of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) in 2013. She has been heavily involved with campaigns to make ATMs and is working to ensure that U.S. currency will be made accessible to people with visual impairments.
Brian Charlson is a nationally recognized expert in increasing access to technology for people who are blind and visually impaired. He serves as director of technology for the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Mass., and chaired ACB’s Information Access Committee for eight years.
“Brian and I have both made it our life’s mission to open up opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Kim Charlson. “Receiving this award is a huge honor and shows us that our actions are making a difference in people’s lives. That’s what inspires us.”
Much of the Charlsons’ work has centered around improving access to information for people who are visually impaired, but their efforts have had a more far-reaching effect, Winske said.
“Their advocacy work stretches beyond the boundaries of empowering people with visual impairments,” he said. “They truly desire and seek to empower all people with disabilities.”