The Metropolitan Washington Ear, Inc. (MWE) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization incorporated under the laws of the state of Maryland. MWE provides reading and information services for blind, visually impaired, and physically disabled people who cannot effectively read print, see plays, watch television programs and films, or view museum exhibits.
Established in 1974, we've been providing quality services through out Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for more than 40 years. Our all-volunteer Board of Directors is composed of visually impaired consumers, volunteers who participate in our program, and a cross-section of business and community leaders.
Our quality services are free and second to none in the tri-state area. We strive to substitute hearing for seeing; improving the lives of people with limited or no vision by enabling them to be well-informed, fully productive members of their families, their communities, and the working world.
We're proud of all we do and look forward to continuing to help meet the needs of our listeners throughout our broadcast area.
Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl, who became almost entirely blind due to a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa, founded the Metropolitan Washington Ear in 1974.
Margaret was on the cutting edge of the information access movement almost as long as the movement has existed. After earning her Ed.D. degree in 1971, she learned of a radio reading service for the visually impaired in St. Paul, Minnesota and decided that D.C. needed something similar.
Starting from scratch, she devoted herself to translating that idea into a reality. She garnered support and funding from governments around the Washington, D.C. region and negotiated with WETA, the local public radio station, for the use of its sub-channel. She raised over $100,000 in operating funds for the first year and recruited and trained volunteers. Her efforts resulted in the establishment of the Metropolitan Washington Ear, Inc., a nonprofit organization and radio reading and information service focused on improving and enriching the lives of individuals who are blind, have low vision, or have physical disabilities by enabling them to be well-informed, fully productive members of their families, their communities and the working world.
In the late 1970's, she was one of the founding members of the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS), the leading member organization for radio reading services.
In 1981, Margaret and her late husband Cody were recruited by Wayne White at Arena Stage to use their expertise to develop a system for live commentary and narration techniques for theatrical productions. And in response, they developed the unique art and technique of Audio Description. The Arena Stage's production of "Major Barbara" was the first play in D.C. to be audio described. After their success at Arena Stage, Margaret and Cody became tireless advocates for making theater, television, film, museums, and exhibits accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. They travelled the United States and abroad to train others in the technique of Audio Description. They developed descriptions for museums and exhibits, including Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty, and films, such as the local IMAX favorites "To Fly" and "The Blue Planet" at the Air and Space Museum.
In 1982, Margaret and Cody teamed up with the producers of the "American Playhouse" series to create a separate soundtrack that was broadcast on radio reading services around the country in sync with televised plays. In 1986, Dr. Barry Cronin at WGBH –TV in Boston launched Descriptive Video Services (DVS) and for the next few years Margaret and Cody worked closely with WGBH to train narrators and write descriptions for television programs. Today a corps of dedicated Washington Ear volunteers, trained by Margaret, Cody and Bill Patterson of Audio Description Solutions, continues to provide Audio Description at performances in many of the major live theaters in the Metropolitan area. Dr.
In 1991 Margaret took another innovative step and launched a Dial-In newspaper service that was one of the first in the country. In 2000, her support of access for individuals with disabilities and testimony before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were in large part responsible for its decision to require broadcasters to adopt technology to provide video description via a secondary audio programming channel.
Dr. Pfanstiehl was much recognized for her work. In 1982, she was honored as a Washingtonian of the Year. In 1990, she was awarded the prestigious Emmy award for her leadership in the field of accessible television for viewers who are blind or have low vision. In 2003, she received the C. Stanley Potter Award from the IAAIS. This award is named for the father of radio reading. It recognizes and honors outstanding contributions to the Audio Information industry. It is an award that she cherishes. And in 2009, she received the Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Award at the Kennedy Center for her lifetime commitment and enduring advocacy on behalf of audio description and other forms of information access for the visually impaired community.
Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl will be remembered for pioneering the fight to make information access a normal part of everyday life for the visually impaired community. She always had an acute awareness of what could and should be done to make information access, in its various forms, a normal part of everyday life for the visually impaired community. And under her continuing leadership, The Metropolitan Washington Ear became a broad-based, meaningful, exemplary service provider for listeners and callers.
Executive Director: Neely Oplinger
Development Officer: Nora Hart
Dial-in Program Manager: Stewart Brown
Dial-in Weekend Supervisors: Dave Warren, Veronica Peeler
Service & Public Policy Coordinator: Sylvia Rosenthal
Technical Manager: Dave Warren
President: Terry Pacheco
Treasurer: Dr. John F. Anderschat, MD
Dr. Phyllis J. Burson
Dr. Suleiman Alibhai
Freddie Peaco, President Emirita
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