Chris Soukup Receives Award for Humanitarian Efforts
TDI 2021 Biennial Awards
H. Latham Breunig Award for Humanitarian Efforts
The Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc (TDI) has awarded Communication Service for the Deaf’s CEO Chris Soukup the prestigious H. Latham Breunig Award for Humanitarian Efforts as part of TDI’s 2021 Biennial Awards.
CEO Chris Soukup, was recognized for his outstanding achievements promoting accessibility and contributing to the success and advancement of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
“I am very proud to receive this award on behalf of CSD and all of our team members around the world,” said Mr. Soukup. “We continue to look for new solutions that help minimize the gap between deaf and non-deaf communications experiences and remain vigilant about evaluating technology as the world continues to evolve to ensure that we as a community continue to advance.”
“The H. Latham Breunig Award for Humanitarian Efforts was awarded to Christopher Soukup. This award is given to individuals, organizations, or companies who have made outstanding contributions to the program or activities of TDI. In recognition of Christopher’s enormous in-kind support that CSD has generously furnished TDI with back-end support for our website and technical advice on the Training Institute using the virtual model in spite of nationwide restrictions on gatherings imposed by the pandemic,” said TDI CEO Eric Kaika
We remain fiercely committed to this work and the beauty of what is possible in the future.
Accessible Communication for Deaf Communities
Under Mr. Soukup’s leadership, our team at CSD is pursuing a more equitable future for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Every day, we are pushing for a collective, societal mindset shift that prioritizes human diversity rather an adherence to laws, rules, or what one can “get away with.” To that end, we believe in moving beyond functional equivalency.
The commonly accepted concept of functional equivalency leaves a lot to be desired. It focuses on compliance at the bare minimum, rather than providing people with good or equitable service. Functional equivalency is limiting because it’s a static, end-state goal that doesn’t consider the true experiences of those who are constantly saddled with sub-par accessibility efforts, such as auto-generated captions that are clearly inaccurate. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which helped popularize the idea of functional equivalency, became law in 1990 but, thanks in large part to technological advancements, what made sense for accessibility standards in 1990 does not unilaterally serve us well in 2021.
A More Equitable Future for D/HH Individuals
We at CSD advocate for, and embody, the concept of communication equity. This means taking steps towards:
- Fewer substitutions for people on the “wrong” side of a barrier (such as those of us without the ability to hear), and more effort put towards removing the barrier.
- Using multiple options and considering peoples’ preferences rather than a one-size-fits-all solution based on assumptions about individual needs.
- Recognizing that as technology continues to evolve rapidly, our communications accessibility efforts must evolve, too.
How Can Your Business Provide Accessible Communication?
- Recognize that “equity” isn’t one size fits all. Be flexible on the ways you communicate with your clients, consumers, and constituents.
- Respect and familiarize yourself with the growing diversity and widening spectrum of identities within the deaf community. People may identify themselves as deaf, deaf-disabled, deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing, and late-deafened, just to name a few.
- Offer a variety of service delivery options for deaf people to interact with the world as their authentic selves. Provide stakeholders and consumers with access to your business from the beginning – don’t make them do all the leg work themselves.
- Eliminate the use of intermediaries, such as third-party interpreters and auto-generated captions, whenever possible.
- Data from Connect Direct, a subsidiary of CSD, shows call centers that have ASL-fluent representatives shortened call times by 33-42% and increased deaf customer engagement by 300-533%.
- Consult Deaf-led organizations for insight on best practices and ways you can be an ally in the movement toward communication equity.
“Communication equity for the Deaf community demands safeguarding of the services we have fought to create,” said Mr. Soukup. “We deeply value our decades of close collaboration with TDI, advocating relentlessly for progress and change in all aspects of telecommunications access. We look forward to the potential impact of our work together in the seasons to come.
You can watch the whole TDI award ceremony and see Mr. Soukup receive his award starting at minute 2:15.
Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc (TDI) was originally formed to promote and distribute teletypewriters (TTYs) to the deaf community.
Today, TDI is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to shaping the nation’s public policies, specifically in information and communication technologies, to ensure the 48 million DHH Americans have full access. TDI works closely with a number of advocacy organizations, federal agencies, industry representatives, and allies.