Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The FCC



I was holding my dad’s hand with butterflies in my stomach. We were on our way to O'Hare Airport to go to Washington D.C. I was so nervous! Would I like them? Would they like me? Most importantly, could I advocate for people like me who were so excited that I was on the Federal Communication Commission Disability Advisory Committee?

That next morning, I rode in an accessible taxi to the FCC Building. The previous night, we walked through Washington where I felt like all the game changers such as Abraham Lincoln were welcoming me. I was there to represent everyone who had similar needs as me. I kept that in mind as I rolled into the meeting with Dad taking pictures. He was really awesome! 

First, we introduced ourselves. I was the only one who told everyone when they graduated college. I'm definitely the youngest! They all were so excited to meet me which was calming. Here are some highlights: 

 - There was a gentleman who was 75 and he expressed that he thought the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) would never happen. It made me realize how much our generation takes for granted. That past weekend, I was telling my sorority sisters that this was "something to put on my resume". Clearly, I was wrong. This was history. 

- When the president of the DAC who is deaf first spoke, he made it very clear that we were expected to work and produce results. It reminded me of sitting in Dr. Sullivan Morgan's college classes. She always would gently put her glasses on her desk, extend her fingers, lean back, and say softly, "I know you'll do it", even when I wasn't sure I could. Much like Dr. Sullivan Morgan, the DAC expects my absolute best and they will get it. 

- I didn't know this but this is the first Disability Advisory Committee the FCC will have ever. That hit me hard that I am part of something much greater than myself. People fought for this Committee and I have never-ending respect for them. 
I spoke to a lot of people. The common thread in every conversation was the resources for people who are deaf or blind are not well publicized to people who have speech disabilities. I see myself helping with that. They really were shocked to know how much I didn’t know about the resources deaf or blind people use every day. They have resources for making phone calls that could give people with speech disabilities much more privacy during a phone conversation.

I stand on the shoulders of many. The entire day reminded me of a young man who resided in Northbrook, Illinois. Eric Feinburg and his family advocated for people with disabilities all throughout his short life. Eric passed away at 21 due to medical complications. I was a junior in high school and I still think of him often. I know he was right there with me.

I'm excited to see where this takes me. I'm going to enjoy it and leave the butterflies behind in June. I have to thank my assistant, Jennifer for going and learning how to fly with me. She and I will take on this trip in June. We'll be great! 
I serve on the Associate Board for Over the Rainbow, an organization that builds accessible, barrier free housing for people with physical disabilities. They contacted my hometown newspaper about my new position. I was extremely humbled! The article is here: http://trib.in/1aHdWIa

On a joyful note, Julie is home! It was a hard 6 weeks in the hospital and ICU. I can't wait to see her. She is a fighter and praise Jesus for lifting my best friend up! Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes, they made a difference! 

Love, 
Hannah! 

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