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!

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…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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Bob Williams Eulogy for Judy Heumann

By Communication FIRST | Mar 8, 2023
Bob Williams, an older white man sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a yarmulke looks at the audience while presenting in front of a microphone. A speech generating device is in front of him. Two women rabbis sit behind him looking on.

The following is the transcript of Bob Williams’ eulogy delivered at the March 8, 2023 memorial service for CommunicationFIRST’s late Board member Judy Heumann. The service was live-streamed by the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC, and a captioned, ASL-interpreted recording can be viewed here. Bob’s eulogy begins at…
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“All Voices Matter” – Remembering Judy Heumann (1947 – 2023)

By Communication FIRST | Mar 7, 2023
A photo collage containing eight different photos of Judy Heumann with Bob Williams, Jordyn Zimmerman, Tauna Szymanski, and others

Like others in the disability community and around the world, everyone at CommunicationFIRST is devastated by the untimely loss of our badass colleague, Judy Heumann. Judy was elected to our Board of Directors in June 2019, months before CommunicationFIRST publicly launched. She played an indispensable role in helping the…
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Police Brutality: A (Speech) Disability Concern

By Communication FIRST | Feb 14, 2023
out of focus image of a parked police car with blue lights on at night

Content Warning: This post discusses police brutality against disabled people.  On January 26, 2023, police in Huntington Park, California, fatally shot a 36-year-old Black man and double amputee, Anthony Lowe. Police had been called because of allegations that Lowe had stabbed someone. Video footage of the incident shows Lowe…
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So Much

By Communication FIRST | Feb 14, 2023
Two Black men kneeling on a stage facing the audience. One is behind the other and his hands are on the biceps of the man in front, who is wearing a grey tanktop and white trousers. Both men have serious looks on their faces. The man in back has long hair and a short beard, and his face is partially obscured by the man in front. The man in front is Lateef McLeod and he has very short hair with a hint of a beard. His hands are balled into relaxed fists and are laying on top of each other at the wrist. They are bathed in a warm light, and the background is bathed in an electric blue light.

I hear their painful cries jut up from cracks on the street.

The block is a scorching frying pan,

frying my brothers on the pavement.

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What is Speechism?

By Communication FIRST | Dec 16, 2022
Image with green background and blue text that says, “What is speechism?” To the right of the text are four question marks in black of varying sizes and a thin vertical line behind one of the question marks.

A Working Definition and Request for Input For centuries, people with significant speech disabilities have been treated as if we should not be seen or heard. Our ability, right, and basic need to express ourselves have been routinely overlooked and denied. Our words have been questioned because we do…
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