By Ryan Commerson
At the beginning of July, CSD posted a survey and received over 2,000 responses to date. The results showed people between the ages of 18 and 34 were not very familiar with CSD or the organization’s work. CSD recognizes the need to change that. For starters, we have rolled out bold new initiatives like CSD Works, CSD Learns and Direct Services.
“One of our strategic goals is to measurably advance our outreach and impact on the global public and the many communities we serve,” said Brandi Rarus, CSD vice president of public relations and community engagement. “We will use this quick and easy survey to establish a benchmark. Later, we will repeat the questionnaire and measure our community engagement. This will help us understand how we are perceived and to hold ourselves accountable.”
Our survey has ended, keep an eye out for future surveys to come!
CSD proudly announces three new board members, of diverse backgrounds and talents, who will serve on its Board of Directors effective July 1, 2016. These new members, Marilyn Jean Smith, Mark Seeger and Rogelio Fernandez, Jr. join seven other board members whose role is to provide overall strategic guidance to the organization.
Marilyn Jean Smith founded the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS) in Seattle and directed the organization from 1986-2011. He is considered the mother of the anti-violence movement in Deaf America, and received her B.A. and M.A. from Gallaudet University.
Her work at ADWAS brought many awards, including one from President Clinton, Gallaudet University, the National Association of the Deaf, Deaf Women United and the Phi Kappa Zeta sorority. Other recognitions include the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World award, The Sunshine Lady award, the National Network to End Domestic Violence award, Bank of America Hero award, the Deaf Hope Trailblazer award, among others. She received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Gallaudet University in 2004.
Marilyn was Distinguished Alumnus Fellow at Gallaudet University in 2012 and is currently Principal of The Leading Edge, LLC, and hosts workshops on domestic violence, sexual assault, leadership, board development, fund development, grant writing, personal ethics, organizational development, nonprofit management, and is a motivational keynote speaker. She works throughout the United States and Canada.
Mark Seeger was born and raised in Austin, TX as the proud CODA son of two TSD educators, Julius and Ruth Seeger, who graduated from Gallaudet in 1949. Mark graduated from the University of Texas in 1984 and started his advocacy career in the field of deafness at the Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Mark was instrumental in the passage of state legislation in Texas, prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, that set the standard for 24/7 relay services nationwide.
Mark continued his career at Sprint as an Account Manager supporting the relationship with the Public Utility Commission of Texas before advancing into marketing management. By 1996, he was responsible for maintaining contract relationships with over 36 state public utility commissions.
In 2002, Mark joined the CSD team as a Government Affairs Officer working with the FCC to help shape the video relay service (VRS) regulations that established reimbursement rates and policies for early providers of the service. At CSD, Mark also managed human service programs, interpreter operations and video relay operations.
In early 2012, Mark returned to Sprint to finish his relay career, primarily managing nationwide marketing for the captioned telephone service, known as CapTel.
Mark retired from Sprint in late 2015 and is now an officer of SeeHarp, Inc., which allows him to do freelance ASL interpreting work in medical and court settings when he is in Austin, as well as the flexibility to travel extensively with his husband, Jeff Harper, who recently retired as an Electrical Engineer from IBM.
Rogelio Fernandez, Jr. was born and raised in El Paso, TX and Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. After attending public schools, he enrolled at the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) at 16. There, he learned about Deaf culture and ASL and received numerous outstanding achievement awards, such as Athlete and Scholar of the Year. He was also recognized as a member of Who’s Who in American Schools and Programs for the Deaf.
Rogelio attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., earning his B.S. in Computer Information Systems in 1999. At Gallaudet, he served as the president and vice president of the Hispanic Student Organization and as vice president of the Kappa Gamma fraternity.
He received a Circle of Excellence award from CSD in 2003 during his tenure there, and currently serves as a Business Account Executive in Austin, Texas with ZVRS. He received Salesperson of the Year awards from ZVRS in 2007 and 2009 for his outstanding achievements in sales.
Rogelio has served on numerous committees and boards. He has been a longtime activist involved in social justice with Latinx Deaf organizations. He is the president of Council de Manos and a board member of Texas Latino Council of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which he founded in 2004.
Through his consulting company, Manos Communications, he and his wife have traveled extensively to Latin countries to work with the deaf communities there, as well as with the deaf Spanish-speaking population in the United States.
More information about CSD’s board can be found at https://www.csd.org/about/board/.
An open letter to the Austin Deaf Community:
It has been nearly twenty years since CSD first began to operate services in Austin, Texas. We are proud of our legacy of providing premier community- based interpreting services and consumer-facing programs in Austin over
the last two decades. One of the first video relay service (VRS) trials was conducted here in Austin at the turn of the millennium. CSD was the first company to launch nationwide video relay services in 2001, in part, because of the successes of the Austin-based trial program. Subsequently, CSD operated a video relay service call center here in Austin for many years until that part of CSD was spun-off and became a stand-alone company (now known as ZVRS) in 2007. ZVRS continues to operate both a VRS call center and a customer service call center in Austin today.
More recently, CSD’s business presence in Austin underwent a significant transformation. In 2012, Austin was designated as a basecamp for CSD to begin working on new, important innovation and a platform for CSD to define a compelling new vision for our company’s future. Today, we have a large team of engineers based in Austin that are hard at work in developing technologies for the deaf and hard of hearing community. We also have a growing team of creative media professionals (designers, writers, filmmakers) based in this location. Lastly, we have a significant leadership presence here in Austin supporting the development of national and global programs (CSD Works, CSD Learns, #WhoWillAnswer) as well as key administrative functions of CSD (Finance, Legal, Talent & Culture, etc.) In total, CSD has more than 60 full time employees that are based in Austin today with many more partnering with CSD on a regular contract basis.
Over the past year, we have begun an important initiative that we refer to as “virtualization” internally within CSD. We have employees across the country (and around the world) that are essential to achieving our company’s mission and they are all passionate contributors to our global deaf community. All of our employees are equally important to the achievement of our goals. Virtualizationis a way of operating that allows employees of #Team CSD to do their jobs effectively from any location—whether they are traveling, working in one ofour office locations, or connecting from home. We believe that this new way of thinking about work and work spaces is aligned with the future and the direction that our world is moving.
As CSD broadens its virtualization efforts, we will be looking at opportunities to optimize our office space in all of our locations worldwide. We will be adding new offices in some locations while we reduce our footprint in others. This is a positive change for CSD and is reflective of the growth and diversity of our company. As a not for profit organization, we remain committed to pushing out our resources into the community—in the form of tangible action and new products, programs, and services that make our world a better place for everyone. Careful and responsible management of our resources is an absolute reflection of our integrity and our commitment to you.
In the coming months, CSD will be making some changes to our office space(s) in Austin—but these changes are reflective of our virtualization initiative, our expanding global presence, and our zealous commitment to “more is possible.” We are proud to be in Austin and to be a part of the Austin community. We look forward to a continued presence here in the years to come. Thank you all for your enthusiastic support of CSD and for all that we aspire to do and be as an organization.
At CSD, we work tirelessly to enrich the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people. Through a commitment to innovation and communication, we are shaping the future of accessibility and redefining what inclusion really means. We’re leading the way to a new, inclusive future.
To unveil our vision for the future, we are hosting the Communication Reimagined Expo in Washington D.C. on April 19th. At CSD@40 Expo, learn more about:
- CSD Learns
- CSD Works
- Creative Agency
- Direct Services
- Public Policy
We’ll premier our new short film, Beyond Inclusion starring Nyle DiMarco. This groundbreaking short film is set ten years into the future. The word “disability” has been replaced with “human diversity” and improvements in technology make it possible for meaningful connections between everyone. Join the conversation with us at beyondinclusionfilm.com.
For more information about CSD@40 Expo, visit: csd.org/csd40/expo.
This event is invitation only and if you received an invitation, chat with one of our CX agents here and we’ll RSVP for you. We look forward to see you there!
Texas is considering whether Deaf and hard of hearing Texans would be better served by outsourcing services currently under DHHS to Centers for Independent Living (CILs). Please watch our video about this important issue that affects those in Texas. We need your help! We’d love to have you at one of the public meetings in Ft. Worth, Midland or San Antonio.
Three other organizations have also released videos on this important issue: Texas Latino Council of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing, Deaf Action Center and Texas Association of the Deaf. Be sure to follow them on Facebook, in addition to CSD, to stay on top!
Can’t go to any of the public meetings? Get a suggested template letter here (please BE SURE to edit all red text with your own personal information!) and send your letter or ASL Vlog by 5:00 on Feb. 29 to: TXCILContact@pcgus.com, or via postal mail to:
Public Consulting Group
Attn: Sara Goscha
150 W. Market Street, Ste. 510
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Thank you for your support!
CSD Works is about creating jobs for the deaf and hard of hearing. We recognize the need for employment opportunities. We believe in creating opportunities and increasing income for a skilled workforce. By raising awareness about the skills and abilities of our community, we can overcome stereotypes, break down barriers to work, and reduce community dependence on government benefits.
CSD Learns is about empowering the community through access to education, job training, and other learning resources in ASL. Courses will be offered online so job seekers across the country can develop skills and get jobs with CSD Works employment partners. Learners can also benefit from soft skills training courses covering topics like Social Security benefits management, financial wellness, and communication skills.
CSD Works and CSD Learns will provide support services such as ongoing training, interpreting services, mentoring and more to help individuals not just keep their job, but advance in it.
In the coming months and years, CSD will continue to add employment opportunities to CSD Works and expand our CSD Learns course offerings. We will partner with community-based organizations to increase support for job seekers and create even more employment opportunities within our community. Together we will build a New Workforce.
CSD Announces Initiative to Reduce 72.5% Deaf Unemployment Rate
Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) is committed to creating 100 deaf-owned businesses and 1,000 deaf jobs by 2018. Their new initiative, CSD Works, is aimed at lowering the 72.5 percent unemployment rate in the deaf and hard of hearing community. The program will kick off early January 2016 in Austin, Texas. Austin has the second-highest population of deaf and hard of hearing people in the country.
Chris Soukup, CEO of CSD, released this holiday message for the community (video in ASL above):
The holidays are both a time to celebrate and to reflect upon the things that are most important to us.
Our deaf community has achieved a lot through the years. However, we’ve made limited progress regarding employment. Today, here in the U.S., the unemployment rate is 5 percent, but within the deaf and hard of hearing community, 72.5 percent are either without jobs or have jobs that do not generate enough income to support their families.
The issue is not with our community — or our ability to work. Our main barrier is getting employers to recognize value in our workforce. CSD is committed to addressing this issue of unemployment.
In January, CSD will introduce new programs focused on achieving economic empowerment through creating and sustaining employment opportunity within our community. Our goal is to see our community play a greater role in the U.S. economy. Deaf people deserve the same opportunity to buy houses, support family, give to charity and pursue our dreams.
We value your support as we begin this journey. Everyone should have the opportunity to share and contribute their talent.
On behalf of all of us at CSD, we wish you and your loved ones happy holidays.
For more information, visit csd.org/works.
Yesterday marked a significant opportunity for the National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline to achieve our community’s and the #WhoWillAnswer coalition’s goal of becoming 24/7. By operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Deaf Hotline will be able to serve deaf and hard of hearing individuals who have experienced violence any time, anywhere. It is the only national hotline that provides direct access to advocates who communicate in American Sign Language and have deep understanding of Deaf culture.
In November 2014, the #WhoWillAnswer coalition — representing 15 anti-violence organizations that directly serve deaf survivors — launched a yearlong campaign to spread awareness and raise funds for this critical issue. The campaign received amazing support from the community. (You can read more about the campaign in this insightful post by Nikki Soukup, CSD’s director of program operations.)
This fall, the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) is proposing to revise the regulations implementing the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA), which provides funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (and the National Deaf Hotline).
The current language in the FVPSA contains a mandate to provide a plan to serve individuals with hearing loss — but it allows the agency or organization applying for funding to determine how much funding is allocated to support deaf or hard of hearing survivors in need of direct access to hotline support services. Thus far, this has resulted in an oversight, with the National Deaf Hotline operating only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. After hours and during weekends, deaf and hard of hearing survivors have only the option of calling for support through a third-party video relay interpreter — a limited and especially impersonal means of communication.
Together, the 15 members of the #WhoWillAnswer coalition are submitting comments to the proposed rule modifying the FVPSA. The #WhoWillAnswer coalition is recommending that it include “descriptions of a plan for facilitating direct, 24-hour access to the hotline for people with disabilities, including the deaf and hard of hearing.” This rule change to the FVPSA will ensure anytime access to hotline staff fluent in American Sign Language, who understand Deaf culture and are trained to provide the caller with support services that are appropriate and accessible.
Your support is instrumental in this effort. Can you help us sustain this momentum and continue to raise awareness for this important need? You can show your support by spreading the word on social media, using the hashtag #WhoWillAnswer. If you’d like to reach out directly, contact ACF on Twitter or through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Facebook page.
Your support can help save lives. Together, we can make progress towards a safer, healthier and more accessible world.
This coming holiday season has generated a number of social media posts by people sharing their gratitude for the many blessings bestowed upon them. We can all appreciate the spirit of the holidays. As I reflect over this past year, my thoughts center on Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), a nonprofit organization that I am fortunate to serve as a team member. We celebrated our 40th anniversary on November 1. This significant milestone could not have been possible without the support of partners who share our mission and core values.
I worked with CSD in 2001–2007 and was afforded the opportunity to return to this highly passionate, service-driven organization in 2012. Over my years at CSD, I cannot count the number of organizations we have collaboratively allied with to fulfill our mission. CSD recognizes that developing partnerships with others in the community strengthens our ability to achieve our goals. An excellent example of this is our collaboration with over 15 sister agencies in promoting the launch of Who Will Answer, a campaign dedicated to raising funds to make a 24/7 domestic violence hotline for the deaf and hard of hearing. We identified a need, and then together, we created nationwide awareness through social media and our shared networks.
CSD has recently evolved into a technology-centric organization. Until two years ago, we relied on external resources to define and create solutions to the challenges faced by our community. One of the opportunities we identified in moving towards technology is a turn-key solution that empowers deaf and hard of hearing individuals to choose their own sign language interpreter, Vineya. Vineya is the next generation solution to providing sign language interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Our goal is to ensure that every deaf person has access to a sign language interpreter, no matter where they are located. We cannot do this alone.
As quoted by Helen Keller, “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
CSD is leveraging partnerships with highly respected and reputable organizations throughout the U.S. and internationally who share our core values and believe in empowering deaf individuals to choose. One of the main lessons I have learned at CSD is that collaboration can solve broad challenges. This is made possible by leveraging each partner organization’s “core competencies” — that is, what it already does best. This includes intangible competencies like the credibility that comes with earned mutual trust and respect. CSD recognizes we cannot be present in every geographical location, but we can align with local organizations that have the existing expertise and resources needed to bring about positive change.
I believe it is in the best interest of organizations dedicated to social responsibility to promote a new paradigm and practice of collaboration. We can do more when we break down the traditional silos that divide governments, organizations and communities. We can and will continue to create innovative solutions by establishing alliances with entities that share a strong desire to positively impact the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people.
— AnnMarie Killian
Senior Account Executive
In my work with Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), clients often ask me my recommendations on how companies can improve the overall experience for their deaf and hard of hearing employees and customers. These questions are fantastic, especially as it gives me the ability to educate decision makers on the entire breadth of services available and advise them to have an open and honest discussion with their employees to identify employee needs and their ability to choose how they want to access communication.
Who am I to make the decision on which services are best for any deaf and hard of hearing consumers, regardless of whether they are an employee, customer or patient? There are a number of extenuating factors to take into consideration (e.g., personal preferences, residual hearing, etc.).
I’ve also been asked countless times my thoughts on video remote interpreting (VRI).
It’s an excellent tool but not right for every situation.
It’s an important opportunity to reiterate the decision on whether to use on-site interpreters or VRI should not fall on the decision maker; it should be given to the consumer utilizing the services.
But why should we stop there?
Shouldn’t we make a concerted effort to ensure consumers have the ability to select their own interpreters, let alone whether they prefer to use an on-site interpreter or interpreter through VRI?
When my father was in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals due to treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, he was fortunate to have an oncologist who was quite receptive to his needs for communication and consistency, especially as he fully appreciated how difficult and time consuming it was to re-explain the condition and treatment plans to an interpreter. Unfortunately, these experiences were not the same for my father when he visited specialists or stayed in different hospitals for extended periods of time for treatment.
As a result, while my father was battling multiple myeloma, he also battled a system of oppression, one he referred to as being “broken.”
Much like our hearing counterparts can choose which cell phone provider they would like to use, deaf and hard of hearing individuals have the ability to choose which video relay service (VRS) provider they want to utilize for their phone calls. However, when it comes to accessing sign language interpreting services, consumers are often not given the decision-making ability to select which interpreter they would like to use, let alone the method of interpreting services utilized: on-site or VRI.
Unfortunately, many deaf and hard of hearing people have been forced to succumb to the choices of decision makers — decisions I have seen first-hand more often than not are either financially driven or a byproduct of misguided, anecdotal information being shared.
Surely, the perspectives of sign language interpreting agencies must be taken into consideration; there are cost controls and overhead to consider. More often than not, bids are won based on lowest price. As interpreter rates often correlate with certifications and/or licenses held by interpreters, this often leaves interpreting agencies with two options: 1) negotiate rates with interpreters to maximize margins or 2) the unfortunate circumstance in which an agency will send a lesser-credentialed interpreters who may or may not meet minimum standards and may also not be a good fit for the assignment(s) in question.
As a result of the latter, two groups of stakeholders suffer: 1) the deaf and hard of hearing consumers and 2) the companies.
While deaf and hard of hearing consumers may object to the interpreters selected or method of interpreting for the particular assignment for whatever reasons, their objections may fall on deaf ears — no pun intended — for various reasons mentioned previously.
On the flip side, companies’ concerns for cost control while also ensuring they are ADA complaint must be taken into consideration. However, companies may actually pay more money due to interpreters not being qualified or having the required skillset to handle assignments. This, in turn, leads to inefficient communication and, then, the need for more interpretation services. In this particular instance, while consumers and companies lose out on time and money, the agencies may benefit financially.
Prior to joining CSD, I often asked myself, “What if there was a solution that disrupted this status quo while raising standards and improving the experience for all involved?”
But as the saying goes, people don’t know what they don’t know.
At the time, I had no idea I would be looking back after two and a half years with CSD saying I’m blessed to work for a phenomenal organization that just recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and is committed to “reimagining communication” for deaf and hard of hearing people.
During the time my father was battling cancer, CSD was working on Vineya, the first online marketplace that exclusively features certified interpreters. A month after I joined the CSD team, Vineya was launched to the public.
Since launching, Vineya has grown tremendously with new features to meet the various needs of consumers, interpreters and companies, as well as agencies who have partnered with CSD to make Vineya accessible to their consumers. I look forward to working with existing agencies through partnerships. Vineya cannot replace the artistry involved in complicated scheduling situations – it can only enhance the process.
When thinking back to my father’s frustrating experiences in securing interpreting services during his ordeal with cancer, it’s a reminder of why I am passionate about the work I do every day. My father would have loved Vineya, the ability to choose which interpreters he would have liked to use, as well as whether he would have liked to use an on-site interpreter or interpreter through VRI.
There were situations where he asked me to stay late at the hospital during extended stays to ensure communication occurred smoothly due to not having an interpreter. He would often say, “I wish I had an interpreter through VRI for 15 minutes so you could go home and get some rest.” But at the same time, there were situations where he vehemently renounced a hospital’s decision to only offer VRI to him, especially preceding medical procedures, etc.
The answer: consumer choice.
It is time to question the status quo, is it effective, accessible communication? Is it empowering deaf and hard of hearing people to make the choices they want?
Disruptive innovations like Vineya can be scary, but like Uber, NetFlix and Airbnb disrupted their respective industries, Vineya is challenging the status quo by enabling choice for sign language interpreting services.
At the forefront of developing technological innovations, CSD was the first to introduce this disruptive technology. While first to go to market, CSD will not be the last. Technology is the wave of the future, and the time is ripe for the community at large to give deaf and hard of hearing individuals the ability to choose how they access communication.
Wayne Dyer, a best-selling author and motivational speaker, said it best, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” When it all comes down to it, we all have choices to make. I hope you make the choice to join me in empowering others to be able to fully appreciate the value of choice when it comes to sign language interpreting services.
— Corey Axelrod
Senior Account Executive