Finding a Touch of Genius

Many of our customers and friends know that NBP, with support from The Gibney Family Foundation, offers a $20,000 prize called the Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation.  What few people know is how this process works.

Louis Braille flaming headTouch of Genius Prize for Innovation logo

The Prize was developed to inspire an innovator to continue the promotion of braille literacy for blind people worldwide.  Each year, NBP puts out a call for applications and receives a wide variety of projects ranging from educational methods to tactile literacy products to high-tech solutions.  This past year was no different with NBP receiving twenty competing applications.

Once I organize all of the application materials, complete submissions are passed to our esteemed Adjudication Committee for evaluation using our criteria of innovation, sound intellectual merit, feasibility, relevancy, and ability to make meaningful changes.  The deliberation is a two-step process in which the committee first meets via teleconference to discuss the applicants and select those for further consideration.  After I receive additional information requested during our teleconference, the committee members descend upon our offices in Boston for a ‘meeting of the minds’ to experience prototypes, appraise the projects’ viability, and “fight” over who our ultimate winner will be.

This year, the final deliberation meeting lasted five hours.  In the end, the Adjudication Committee was so impressed with the applicants that they decided to split the Prize money between one Awardee and two Honorable Mentions.  The Prize was awarded to Emily Wharton for her submission of the “Code Master Adult Braille Instruction System” and Honorable Mentions were awarded to two teams –Michael Coleman, Michael Rosen, and Joshua Coffee for their submission of “inTACT™ System for Interactive Tactile Graphics” and Cagatay Concu, Kim Marriott, and John Hurst for their submission of “GraVVITAS: Graphics Viewer using Vibration, Interactive Touch, Audio and Speech.”

I am astounded every year by the depth of knowledge our committee members possess in their individual areas of expertise.  I am also repeatedly impressed by the creativity of our applicants in discovering innovative solutions to the problems associated with advancing tactile literacy for blind individuals.  After four years administering the Prize, I continue to walk away from our meetings with my head swirling with new information and with hope for the future of braille and tactile literacy.

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