An Extraordinary First Day

June 6, 2011 in Education & Outreach
By Cheryl Heppner

The first day of the TDI conference here in Austin, if not TDI’s best mix of presenters and programs ever, has to be in the top two. I’m sure you’ll guess that the networking opportunities are not too shabby either when I tell you I hit the sack only minutes before midnight.

My time this morning is short for writing reports on yesterday’s opening ceremony, town hall meeting, breakout workshops, plenary session and keynote speakers because I really want to have time for breakfast today before another marathon of taking notes. But let me whet your appetite with a few of the highlights of the first day of the conference.

Its theme was Communications Access Day, with a focus on the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The act’s title is quite a mouthful, but it has mercifully become referred to with the much less lengthy acronym CVAA.

OPENING CEREMONY

– Fred Weiner, the TDI Board’s Vice President, was a suave master of ceremonies. He looked at those of us gathered there and said that we reflected how TDI has helped to unite people in different ways – industry, government, and consumers – to discuss ideas and share their insight. He also mentioned that the range of individuals with deafness or hearing loss, with their many different choices for communication, all share a common purpose: access to information. This led to the creation of TDI’s tagline, “Building an Accessible World.”

 This is the first conference where TDI is providing official Twitter updates. Attendees were encouraged to post their comments at remarks@TDIconf. Check it out! I had this idea I would tweet for NVRC, but I just can’t tear myself away from rapid notetaking. I don’t want to miss capturing something important and there is a LOT of important stuff here!

 TDI’s prestigious Karen Peltz Strauss Public Policy Award was presented to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. TDI director Claude Stout provided the lead-in to the award presentation, recalling that Commissioner Copps first attended a TDI conference in Sioux Falls in 2001 and citing three of Commissioner Copps’ major contributions to our community during his FCC tenure.

 Karen Peltz Strauss expressed her great happiness at being asked to participate in the awards presentation . She read the text of the award citation to us and cited some of the many ways Commissioner Copps has helped make our world more accessible. “He stands for the individual, the common person who doesn’t get all the breaks,” she said. I can tell you from personal experience this is true.

 Commissioner Copps, after receiving the award, gave a powerful keynote speech. Among the subjects he touched on were broadband’s increasing importance in our lives and how the bottom line is that our economy and democracy require high speed internet access. He called it a defining right for all of us in this new age, “a new civil right”. Also mentioned was the need for us to be proactive in addressing the changes in the media to ensure that our issues are not overlooked.

Karen Peltz Strauss led a fabulous town hall meeting, walking us through the contents of the CVAA and providing background on how some of the items in the bill came to be and what their intentions were. She gave a perfect demonstration of why is known for her ability to talk about complex things in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. Following her presentation, Karen opened a Town Hall meeting, giving members of the audience a chance to make comments, which were captured and will be part of the official record. Comments were wide ranging, such as the status of Netflix captioning, frustrations about government entities not allowing videophone use, and issues in hearing aid compatibility with new with cell phones that have Bluetooth headsets.

Galaxy, who has been resting after a great play date with me this morning, is growing increasingly restless. She’s occasionally lifting her head from her paws to give me that look that says she knows it’s high time I fed her.

I hope your appetite for more information on the conference is whetted because there’s a lot of additional detail to come, as well as an account of a mind-blowing presentation on the plenary session about the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure by Dr. Jim Tobias, a late afternoon keynote by W. Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator (by video) and Marcie Roth, Senior Director of FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (not only live but lively).

Plus I’ll have to tell you about the Bat Watch at the President’s Reception last night!

Fred Wiener
Michael Copps
FCC Commissioner
Karen Peltz Strauss