Perspectives will be updated regularly with profiles and guest blogs from our members and allies, essays, news, photos, videos, and other features. Come back often!

CommunicationFIRST Welcomes Long-Overdue Disability Rights Rule Proposal

By Communication FIRST | Sep 7, 2023
Generic stock image with blurry lights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 7, 2023                Contact: Tauna Szymanski & Bob Williams at, 202-556-0573 WASHINGTON, D.C. – CommunicationFIRST, the nation’s only civil rights organization led by and for people with speech-related disabilities, welcomes today’s release by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of the long-awaited…

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Unjustly isolated, silenced, and deprived of literacy and freedom of expression …

By Communication FIRST | Aug 29, 2023
CommunicationFIRST Executive Director Tauna Szymanski and Policy Director Bob Williams in front of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) seal. The seal is located in the lobby of the U.S. Department of Education building and hangs on a wall of marble. The words, “The Department of Education’s mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” are below the seal. Bob is a smiling white man with white hair and a mustache wearing glasses and a bowtie with a button-down shirt and khaki pants, sitting in a motorized wheelchair with an AAC device in front of him. Tauna is a smiling white woman with brown hair. She is standing behind Bob and is wearing black and holding a black bag with the CommunicationFIRST logo on it in white.

I escaped the very worst that hundreds of thousands of baby boomers like me endured: institutionalization, isolation, illiteracy, and silencing. We believe that many — and likely most — young people needing AAC today are suffering virtually the same fate I escaped over 50 years ago.

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Research Priorities of AAC Users

By Communication FIRST | Aug 6, 2023
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders wants to hear from you!

We encourage as many AAC users as possible to share your research priorities with NIDCD.

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What Is Research?

By Communication FIRST | Aug 1, 2023
"What is Research?" in black on a bright yellow background with a stylized lightbulb and several question marks in white

This is a plain language guide to research and why it is important. The government is asking people what kind of research should be done about AAC and AAC users. AAC users should have a say in research about us and our lives. So, we are asking AAC users to…

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The Words We Use

By Communication FIRST | Jul 11, 2023
A "word cloud" of this document, showing the words that are used most frequently. The largest words are language, speech, disability, people, communication, and words.

We are naming ourselves. And we choose our words with great care. Our decisions are guided by respect for the diversity of our community and for every person’s right to choose the words they use for themselves.

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When Agencies Listen

By Communication FIRST | May 16, 2023
Screengrab of the NIDILRR Research Long Range Planning Stakeholder Follow Up Webinar on April 20, 2023. On the left, there is a slide with the working definition of “Ableism” by Talila Lewis. At the top of the slide, the word “ableism” is followed by its pronunciation and the word, “noun.” Below, the definition reads, “A system of assigning value to people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, productivity, desirability, intelligence, excellence, and fitness. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in eugenics, anti-Blackness, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. This systemic oppression leads to people and society determining people’s value based on their culture, age, language, appearance, religion, birth or living place, ‘health/wellness’, and/or their ability to satisfactorily re/produce, ‘excel’ and ‘behave.’ You do not have to be disabled to experience ableism.” Below the definition, yellow text reads, “Working definition by @TalilaLewis, updated January 2022, developed in community with disabled Black/negatively racialized folk, especially @NotThreeFifths.” On the right, there is an ASL interpreter with light skin wearing a black shirt. On the right of the ASL interpreter, there is a woman with brown skin and long black hair up in a ponytail wearing a red shirt with flowers and a black suit jacket.

It’s gratifying when policymakers #LISTEN!  On November 21, 2022, CommunicationFIRST submitted comments to the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) in response to the agency’s forthcoming 2024-2029 Long-Range Plan. While listening to the NIDILRR Research Long Range Planning Stakeholder Follow Up Webinar recently, we were stunned…

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Leadership Changes

By Communication FIRST | Apr 26, 2023
Leadership Change Announcement in blue text on a green background with the round CommunciationFIRST logo in black and white and the tagline "Because communication is a human right."

CommunicationFIRST is excited to announce the following additions to its leadership team: Our new Vice Chair is Pancho Ramirez Our new Secretary is Gita Gupta Haben Girma was elected to the Board of Directors Alice Wong has joined our Advisory Council Their biographies can be found below. Please join us…

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AUCD Leadership Award

By Communication FIRST | Apr 24, 2023
A head-on view of the AUCD award, which is a tall pentagon glass cube with the back of the cube lined in white with the text: "CommunicationFIRST - For your leadership in advocating for inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities and their families - April 19, 2023" the AUCD for All logo appears at the bottom.

On April 19, 2023, CommunicationFIRST was honored to be given an award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) for “leadership in advocating for inclusive communities for people with disabilities and their families.” CommunicationFIRST’s co-founder and Policy Director Bob Williams delivered the acceptance speech on behalf of the…

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The Power and Art of AAC: Disrupting Racism, Ableism, and Oppression

By Communication FIRST | Apr 4, 2023
The Power and Art of AAC: Disrupting Racism, Ableism, and Oppression - A Conversation with Three Generations of Award-Winning Artists and Activists: Devva Kasnitz, Lateef McLeod, DJ Savarese, and Bob Williams. Text is on a bright yellow background, and the round CommunicationFIRST logo is in black and white, with the tagline, "Because communication is a human right."

On June 20, 2022, the evening after Juneteenth, CommunicationFIRST Policy Director Bob Williams, and CommunicationFIRST Advisory Council member Devva Kasnitz moderated this 90-minute online event called The Power and Art of AAC: Disrupting Racism, Ableism, and Oppression – A Conversation with Three Generations of Award-Winning Artists and Activists, joined by…

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