Verizon Awarded 2003 Helen Keller Achievement Award

NEW YORK -- The American Foundation for the Blind has named Verizon and Erik Weihenmayer, a Verizon Literacy Champion, as 2003 Helen Keller Achievement Award recipients.

Weihenmayer, the only blind athlete to climb the tallest peaks in each of the world's seven continents, and Verizon are being honored for helping launch a national literacy campaign to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired schoolchildren.

Award-winners will be honored at the foundation's 10th annual awards dinner, June 19 in New York City.

"Literacy is fundamental to a person's well-being whether he or she is sighted or blind," said Mary Beth Bardin, executive vice president-Public Affairs and Communication for Verizon. "At Verizon, we are committed to being America's literacy champion, and we are working to bring together the right network of resources to improve the literacy rates in our country. Receiving the Helen Keller award for our literacy efforts is an honor that validates our literacy program for the blind."

This year Verizon launched a national campaign to promote careers in braille textbook- transcribing at the federal and state levels and to raise general awareness of the needs of blind and visually impaired schoolchildren for timely access to textbooks and learning materials. The campaign is a part of Verizon Reads, the umbrella organization for Verizon's support of improving literacy in America.

"Braille transcriptions are done by volunteers; it is a difficult task, thus extensive training is necessary," said Carl Augusto, CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. "When there are few trained volunteers, the transcribing of textbooks from print to braille results in textbooks arriving late or not at all to blind and visually impaired schoolchildren."

The first offering of the Braille Textbook Transcriber curriculum began last fall at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio.

Weihenmayer partnered with Verizon last year to become a Verizon Literacy Champion, joining a distinguished group of accomplished individuals -- including jazz musician Al Jarreau, New York Giant Tiki Barber and Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White -- who serve as literacy advocates.

Verizon partners with celebrities who use their fame to bring attention to the critical problem of low literacy and to raise funds for the issue.

Verizon Reads was established in 1999 and is dedicated to the fight for a more literate America through meaningful programs that create awareness, raise funds, and encourage collaboration among literacy providers. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.verizonreads.net.

A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 136.6 million access line equivalents and
33.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with 13.2 million long-distance lines, and the company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. With approximately $67 billion in annual revenues and 227,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.