Staunton Media Lab Debuts on Innovators Row at CBIC Awards

CBIC Gala Logo

For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 19, 2016

Staunton Media Lab Debuts on Innovators Row at CBIC Awards

New Venture Capitalizes on Unique Capabilities of the Disabled

(Staunton, VA — May 19, 2016)  The Staunton Media Lab, a media arts program for the deaf, blind and uniquely able, is celebrating its regional debut at the annual CBIC Awards Gala at the Boar’s Head Inn, Thursday evening, May 26.

The CBIC Awards honor Central Virginia technology entrepreneurs. The Staunton Media Lab earned a spot on CBIC’s Innovators Row through a competitive jury process. CBIC Innovators Row showcases startup ventures before an audience of the region’s leading technology entrepreneurs, investors, educators, and public officials. The Staunton Media Lab will be recording red carpet interviews with arriving guests at the swanky CBIC Gala.

Media Lab Started on Staunton’s Wharf

The Staunton Media Lab has been slowly building for two years from second-floor office space overlooking the Wharf in downtown Staunton. The lab was started by tech pioneer Steve O’Keefe, who moved a successful online marketing firm to Staunton in 2010.

Since moving from New Orleans where he taught Internet PR at Tulane University, O’Keefe has been a volunteer for the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC) and a coach for the Jefferson Entrepreneurship Teams (JET) at the University of Virginia.

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Support From the Commonwealth and VSDB

In 2014, O’Keefe began volunteering at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind on its historic campus in Staunton (pictured). With the support of Superintendent Pat Trice, O’Keefe approached the Commonwealth about renting space on VSDB’s campus for the Staunton Media Lab. In August, the SML will move into its new home — an audio/video production studio in Strader Hall at VSDB. The new location is handicapped-accessible, ADA-compliant, and a major improvement over SML’s space on the Wharf.

“It’s been a long, careful launch for a very special business,” said O’Keefe about the Staunton Media Lab’s debut on Innovators Row. “We are so happy to be in Staunton, where we have received support from the tech community, the school for the deaf and blind, and the surrounding region.”

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For-Profit Lab Sells Editing, Training and Assistive Tech

The Staunton Media Lab is a for-profit business that funds itself by selling audio and video editing services. SML also offers training programs in audio and video editing for the blind, deaf, and disabled — or “uniquely able,” as O’Keefe refers to students in a weekly broadcast streamed live on YouTube.

O’Keefe said:

“You have to see what’s happening here to believe it. We work with blind people who can edit audio like nobody else, deaf people who have the visual concentration to cut video faster than anyone, and so-called cognitively-impaired students who are providing IT support and designing assistive technology. It’s really quite extraordinary!”

The Staunton Media Lab is also working on two assistive technology projects. The first is smartglasses that scan and read printed text to the blind. The second is smartglasses that hear human conversation and convert it to text on the lens for the deaf. The firm has retained Lenhart-Pettit in Charlottesville as legal counsel. Accounting support comes from the largest employer of disabled persons in the Commonwealth. Rounding out SML’s advisory team is Shenandoah Valley SCORE, the Senior Council Of Retired Executives.

Profit With a Purpose — A Living Wage for the Disabled

“Our goal is to provide living-wage work in the media arts in a way that allows people to learn from home and work from home,” says O’Keefe, pointing out that transportation problems are a major barrier to employment. Today, over 80% of the Commonwealth’s disabled are unemployed. “We have a program that will help many unemployed people in the Commonwealth find living-wage work,” O’Keefe said.

The Staunton Media Lab has received support from Virginia’s Department of Blind and Visually-Impaired (DBVI) for a training program in audio editing for the blind. There is support throughout the Commonwealth for improved job training for the disabled. A recent panel at the Tom Tom Founders Festival in Charlottesville on Virginia’s Purpose-Driven Economy launched a statewide initiative to brand Virginia as the home of socially-conscious “impact investing.”

Steve O’Keefe, Eceutive Director, and Coley Evans, Audio Director, at the Staunton Media LabSteve O’Keefe, Eceutive Director, and Coley Evans, Audio Director, at the Staunton Media Lab

How to Connect With the Staunton Media Lab

For more information about video and audio editing services and classes offered by the Staunton Media Lab, send email to , connect with us on Twitter, or visit the Staunton Media Lab on the WebYouTubeSoundCloud, or Amazon.

Image Credits: CBIC Logo, fair use. VSDB photo, public domain. Smartglasses photo Leung Cho Pan / 123rf

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