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TDI Consumer Advocacy Training Pilot Declared a Rousing Success!

(December 6, 2007)

For Immediate Release: December 6, 2007
Contact Information: Claude L. Stout: info@tdi-online.org

Inaugural Training Class of 22 Individuals Expresses Gratitude to Hamilton Relay

(Silver Spring, MD) December 6, 2007 - TDI proudly declares its pilot Consumer Advocacy Training Seminar a rousing success! Twenty-two participants attended this two-day pilot workshop sponsored by Hamilton Relay. As a result, the group decided to maintain contact online and carry out the lessons they learned in an initial project to push for more access on airlines. The activity-filled two-day workshop was held at Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC) in Fairfax, Virginia. NVRC's executive director, Cheryl Heppner was co-instructor with Claude Stout, executive director of TDI.

"Thank you for everything! I have benefited so much from this experience. Keep this going!" "This is a good model to begin a nationwide advocacy training program" "Champ! Will recommend to people about it." "Very well done!"

These are some of the actual comments from participants in the Consumer Advocacy Training Seminar. Some of the participants were grassroots advocates and others worked in jobs that entailed some advocacy in deaf and hard of hearing community service agencies or cross-disability centers for independent living.

On the first day, Saturday, after identifying dozens of access issues that they face daily, the participants learned about political realities as several advocates shared their experiences. Once they differentiated between the various stakeholders, such as consumers, business leaders and government officials, they began to understand what roles each of us have in enacting or enforcing major disability access legislation and regulations. The rapidly evolving nature of digital communication technologies invariably raises numerous design challenges. One highlight of the first day was the team-building group activities; particularly the "Great Egg Drop" challenge where three teams had to wrap an egg in drinking straws in a way that it would not break when dropped. Two out of three teams managed to drop their egg without breaking it.

On Sunday, the participants had more in-depth discussions on advocacy. After they reviewed what individual projects they intend to pursue, they were asked to conduct a group advocacy project. They all agreed to continue their collaboration after the training as an online chat group "Access Unlimited - Breaking the Sound Barrier" dedicated to eliminating barriers and improving access to air travel.

Anne Girard, Director of Marketing, Hamilton Relay remarked, "I visited the training for a few hours, and I went away HIGHLY IMPRESSED! The trainees were constantly captivated by the information that they were learning, and it was wonderful to see positive, meaningful interaction between deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deaf-blind participants. They were respectful toward what others had to say in discussion, and kept an open mind to new ideas and approaches for consumer advocacy. Everyone was clearly empowered to do more for themselves and the community."

"The success of this inaugural Consumer Advocacy Training Seminar clearly demonstrates a need that has been unmet for many years," says Mr. Stout. Stout added, "While some people embrace new technologies as they come out, we often find ourselves lagging when it comes to accessibility and universal design issues. The trainees all agreed that consumer advocacy, at first glance, might seem to be an insurmountable task. However, once we understood the various avenues of achieving access at the state and local level, it is much easier for individuals and groups to map out a workable advocacy strategy to reach our common goals."

"Through the power of numbers and the magic of collaboration, people can indeed change the world!" says Ms. Heppner. "I urge businesses and government to actively seek input from consumers and use it to implement changes in design and policy so that no one is left behind."

Twenty-two participants came from six states and the District of Columbia, and successfully completed TDI's inaugural Consumer Advocacy Training Seminar. They are:

Nancy Billingslea, Maryland
Richard Cohen, Maryland
Blaise Delahoussaye, Maryland
Joe Duarte, Virginia
Hope Turpin Everson, North Carolina
Alfredia Harris, North Carolina
Fred Hartman, Maryland
Brenda Kelly-Frey, Maryland
Nancy Kingsley, Pennsylvania
Roy Kulick, M.D., Ohio
Joyce Lehrer, Maryland
Kathleen Niemeyer, Pennsylvania
Bonnie O'Leary, Virginia
Ken Puckett, Pennsylvania
Wayne Roorda, New Jersey
Karen Sheffer-Tucker, Maryland
Doreen Solar, Virginia
Pauline Spanbauer, Maryland
Jaclyn Vincent, Maryland
Terri Vincent, District of Columbia
Linda Webb, Maryland
Betsy Wohl, District of Columbia

Again, TDI and the trainees express their deepest gratitude to Hamilton Relay for financial support and community commitment for this project. On one evaluation form, a participant said, "Include Hamilton Relay's contact information so we can all directly thank them!" Based on the success of this inaugural Consumer Advocacy Training Seminar, TDI hopes to host more workshops contingent upon funding.

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About TDI – Shaping An Accessible World
TDI is a membership organization that promotes equal access to telecommunications, media, and information technology for 31 million Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing. TDI educates and encourages consumer involvement regarding legal rights regarding access to technology; provides technical assistance and consultation to industry, associations, and individuals; encourages accessible applications of existing and emerging technologies in all sectors of the community; advises on and promotes the uniformity of standards for technologies; works in collaboration with other deaf and disability organizations, government, industry, and academia; develops and advocates national policies that support accessibility issues; and publishes TDI World quarterly magazine, TDI Briefs newsletter, and the annual TDI National Directory & Resource Guide or the Blue Book. For more information or to become a member or subscriber, go to www.tdi-online.org.

About Hamilton Relay
Hamilton Relay offers a variety of services including Internet Relay, Video Relay and Wireless Relay. In addition, Hamilton provides traditional relay services and/or CapTel® to 16 states, the Island of Saipan and the US Virgin Islands. Information on all services is available at www.hamiltonrelay.com. Hamilton Relay. That's what I'm talking about.

TDI: Shaping An Accessible World...

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