A Deaf man, Isidore Niyongabo, was recently selected to be a part of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)’s Disability Advisory Committee (DAC). The committee will make recommendations to the FCC on various disability issues. I asked him several questions — and let’s see his answers — and meet him.
Question: Can you explain what the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) does?
Isidore: The Federal Communications Commission’s Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) — what does it do? We represent many of you. We will collect your feedback and suggestions on things such as: videophone services — is it good technology? Clear for Deaf people? We will measure the talent and quality of VRS interpreters based on your feedback. We’ll discuss issues of access to emergency 911 services. Plus, there are hard of hearing people who use their voice to communicate and need technology to help with captioning. There are needs by people with visual limitations such as DeafBlind and Blind people. There is a multitude of issues that we collect information, discuss on it, and make recommendations to the FCC for them to make decisions on technology and services. We make sure all of you have equal access.
Question: How did you get the opportunity to be on the committee?
Isidore: How did I get this opportunity? I love to volunteer and give back to the community. I founded a nonprofit organization named IDEAL that is focused on worldwide advocacy for Deaf youth to have access to education. Later as I got involved with the U.S. community, I saw a posting on the NBDA National Black Deaf Advocates website for a position to be the Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement so I volunteered to serve on that. Then there was a need to for an representative to serve on the DAC and I stepped up to get involved. So it is my passion for volunteering and I work for a wonderful company, Convo Communications, who supports its employees to develop skills to give back to their communities and at the same time encourage us to grow. So I’m really lucky.
What impact do you hope to bring to the DAC?
Isidore: What impact do I hope to make on the DAC? I hope to bring a lot of perspectives from people of color, including black people and people with lower economic levels. It can be hard, most of them don’t have access to advanced technology and resources. So I want to make sure any proposals or policy made by the FCC will consider those needs — for people with limited economic resources to have the best technology. I will also bring my experience as a consumer who uses VRS and my experience with Convo. I see the interpreters’ perspective and the Deaf user’s perspective so I will bring those to the table. I will continue to collect feedback from the community and bring it to the DAC, so they can look at it and make the right decisions/recommendations that will benefit us all.
Question: Are you the first Deaf person to serve on the committee?
Isidore: Am I the first Deaf person? No, there were several other Deaf representatives serving on the DAC. However, I am the only Deaf Black person on the committee right now. To be honest, FCC can do better, and I’m going to advocate for this, but I’m also here to represent all of you, not just Black Deaf people, but all of you. Give us your feedback, feelings, or observations and we’ll bring it to the FCC. We don’t want to leave anybody with lower economic levels out — I’m here for all of you. So please bring me your concerns and I’ll be sure they propose the right solutions to develop fair access for everybody. Thank you!
Congratulations on your new position, and may you represent us well.
(Isidore is a native of Burundi and is Deaf since age 10. He is currently the HR Manager for Convo and is the Founder/President of IDEAL — the International Deaf Education, Advocacy, and Leadership. He recently joined the National Black Deaf Advocates as the Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement. He currently lives in Austin.)
*Clarification: There are several other Deaf people who are serving on the FCC Disability Advisory Committee, including representatives from DeafBlind Citizens in Action, Deaf Seniors of America, Gallaudet U, NAD, TDI, and Isidore's post representing National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc. (NBDA).