Securing the Place of Deaf People in Technology

Gregory Hlibok, a member of Gallaudet’s Class of 1989 who gained renown as a student leader of the University’s historic Deaf President Now movement of 1988, has been promoted to lead the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Disability Rights Office (DRO). He becomes the first deaf person appointed to head the DRO.

Hlibok has been involved with the DRO since 2001, working on issues affecting deaf people and people with disabilities. The announcement that he has been promoted from his position as an attorney in the DRO’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau came in a November 16 press release from the FCC.

According to its website, the DRO addresses disability-related telecommunications matters, including telecommunications relay service, access to telecommunications equipment and services by people with disabilities, access to emergency information, and closed captioning. In addition, DRO provides expert advice and assistance on issues relevant to people with disabilities, and initiates rulemaking for the development of policies to ensure that communications are accessible to this population.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is quoted in the press release as saying that Hlibok’s appointment comes “at a crucial time, as the FCC ramps up to implement the most significant disability law in two decades,” referring to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, signed into law by President Obama on October 8 that will provide deaf people and people with disabilities improved access to new broadband technologies.

Under Hlibok’s direction, the DRO will work to implement the provisions of the new law, as well as to ensure that deaf people and people with disabilities share in the benefits of emerging telecommunications technologies.

“It is a great day for deaf and hard of hearing communities to have Greg Hlibok heading the DRO,” said Dr. Judith Harkins, director of Gallaudet’s Technology Access Program, a research unit of the Department of Communication Studies. “The office is so vitally important to communication accessibility, and Greg’s personal and professional experience, as well as his leadership skills, bring so much value to the FCC management.”

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