Gregory Hlibok, for those who do not know (and there’s no particular reason you should!) is a Deaf attorney who was just appointed to head the disability rights office at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States.
This is news for two important reasons.
1. The FCC is responsible for regulating communications in the United States, including addressing issues like providing mandatory subtitling on media, approving designs for accessible telecommunications devices, and other such matters. Having a disability rights office is a good thing, because the FCC’s work directly impacts people with disabilities. Having a disabled person head that office? Even better.
2. This is the first time the head of the FCC’s disability rights office has been a disabled person. The reason they thought it might be a good idea to get a PWD heading the office? Because they are getting ready to start work on developing a framework for enforcing the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and, hey, maybe a disabled person would know a little something something about that kind of thing!
What does the disability rights office do, exactly? Some important stuff:
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 rule making for the development of policies to ensure that communications are accessible to this population. (source)
Hlibok is a pretty great candidate for this job, I have to say. He’s not just a Deaf attorney with almost 10 years of experience in the disability rights office; he’s also been an activist for Deaf rights in the United States. In 1988, he acted as a spokesperson for the Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet.
“Greg will be heading up the Disability Rights Office at a crucial time, as the FCC ramps up to implement the most significant disability law in two decades,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a press release. “Greg possesses extensive knowledge in the field of telecommunications access for people with disabilities as well as the leadership qualities necessary to lead the office.” (source)
He sounds like the right person to get the job done. It’s a pity that the FCC apparently didn’t think it was necessary to have a person with disabilities heading the disability rights office until they were faced with a major disability-related law they have to enforce. Yet another reminder that it is generally assumed we don’t need to advocate for ourselves and certainly won’t have anything to add to discussions about our lives.
I wish Mr. Hlibok success in his new job position, and I’m really looking forward to the changes in telecommunications and media communication in the United States that are going to come about as a result of this landmark legislation.