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The NAD is the nation's premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America.
Updated: 16 hours 7 min ago

Ask Howard Anything — November 2018

November 16, 2018 - 6:27am

What do you think about automated captioning for live TV and captioned phones? Share your concerns with the FCC via VP 844-432-2275 or email #AskHoward

President Updates — October 2018

November 5, 2018 - 9:06am

President Melissa discusses employment, VRI (including the VRI wallet card), and voting in the midterm elections in this video update.

Vote in the #Midterms2018

November 1, 2018 - 11:49am

What’s the difference between the midterm elections and the Presidential elections? ASL Talent Brenda Falgier explains! This video is the first of a new series: Government Explained in ASL. #Midterms2018

NAD Family Expands

October 31, 2018 - 11:25am

We are excited to share that four new staff members have joined the NAD Family recently! Please join us in welcoming Teddy Dorsette III as our new Outreach Specialist, Jenilee Marques as our new Front Desk Assistant, Sean Norman as our new Office Manager, and Brittany Schrader as the newest addition to our team of staff attorneys.

As the Outreach Specialist, Teddy will be working closely with Lizzie Sorkin, the Director of Communications, on video related projects. Additionally, he will be representing the NAD in various outreach capacities and working with collaborating organizations. Teddy is a filmmaker from the Detroit area, who is truly passionate about the deaf community. He has dedicated his time towards being a member of the National Black Deaf Advocates member, and served in 2016-2018 as the President of the Detroit Black Deaf Advocates.

Jenilee joins the NAD as our Front Desk Assistant where she will be providing support by responding to the community’s concerns and questions through calls and emails. Jenilee was born and bred a New Englander and eighteen years later, she found herself living in D.C. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet University. When she isn’t working, you’ll find her exploring D.C.’s hidden gems.

While we are sad to see Thinaja Nadarajah go back home to Canada, we are excited to have Sean take over as the Office Manager. Sean is responsible for all front line communications with the community and ensuring smooth operations at the NAD Headquarters. Sean believes a positive work environment produces an efficient functioning organization for everyone. Prior to joining us first as a part-time Front Desk assistant, Sean did not really know much about the NAD. Thanks to his experience since then, he has come to understand the daily operations that the NAD undertakes to serve the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Earlier this year, the Law and Advocacy Center bid farewell to Debra Patkin, who had been with the NAD for eight years. Debra moved on to work with the Federal Communications Commission as an Attorney Advisor. Taking over her civil rights legal work will be Brittany who comes to us with ten years of litigation experience! Before the NAD, she worked as a senior litigation associate and trial attorney for Eisenberg & Baum, LLP’s Law Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing in New York City. In addition to English and American Sign Language, Brittany also has proficiency in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese! In her free time, Brittany enjoys musicals, traveling and spending quality time with family.

Teddy, Jenilee, Sean, and Brittany — we’re glad to have you with us!


The NAD was established in 1880 by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. As a nonprofit federation, the mission of the NAD is to preserve, protect, and promote the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States. The advocacy scope of the NAD is broad, covering the breadth of a lifetime and impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more.

In Memoriam: Bernard Bragg

October 30, 2018 - 11:56am

The NAD shares deep sadness with the passing of world renowned actor Bernard Bragg on Monday, October 29, 2018. Bernard was a unique and creative individual known throughout the world for his many talents as an artist, director, performer, poet, and writer.  The Board and staff of the NAD extend our gratitude for his many contributions on behalf of our organization and the world.

The curtains came up for Bernard as he was born to deaf parents in Brooklyn on September 27, 1928, more than 90 years ago. He attended the New York School for the Deaf (Fanwood), and went on to study theater at Gallaudet. He acted in numerous plays at Gallaudet and even directed a play prior to graduation in 1952. From there, he taught at the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley for fifteen years, as well as staging and directing student drama productions at the school. During this time he also staged performances for NAD conferences!

This was only the beginning as he went on to thrill countless audiences in many countries with his enthralling and entertaining performances for decades. He helped found the National Theater of the Deaf (NTD) and was instrumental in bringing it onto television for the first ever broadcast of deaf performance. His accomplishments are legendary: he has studied with the famous French mime artist Marcel Marceau in Paris; performed in Moscow with a Russian theater group; and trained Swedish actors at the prestigious Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. After he left the NTD in 1977, the NAD along with the U.S. State Department, the Ford Foundation, and the International Theater Institute jointly sponsored his world tour during which demonstrated the creative use of sign language within theatrical performances throughout 36 cities in 25 countries. Then he was a visiting professor and artist-in-residence at NTID and Gallaudet University, and also taught at CSUN. In 2007, he continued his work with a one-man show, “Theater in the Sky,” which had a nationwide tour across fourteen cities and its proceeds of $55,000 benefited both the NAD and the WFD.

The World Federation of the Deaf honored him with two of its highest awards: International First-Class Merit medal and Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1977, Bernard received a Special Tony Award for Theatrical Excellence. In 2014, the NAD bestowed him with the Legacy Breakthrough Awardduring the NAD Gala in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California, for all the trailblazing and advocacy he has done on behalf of all deaf actors and the entire community.

“As a pioneering talented performer who has captivated the world’s attention, Bernard Bragg contributed so much to elevating recognition of sign language as a legitimate art form,” said Melissa Draganac-Hawk, NAD President. “The NAD mourns the passing of a giant, and is grateful to him for his tremendous legacy.”

“With his mastery of the arts and performances throughout the country and world, he did more to advance sign language as a civil right than many laws and lawsuits,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD CEO. “We will forever be indebted to Bernard Bragg for bringing equality to sign language and our own status as deaf people.”

“Bernard Bragg was a pioneer who opened up the theater and acting world for so many deaf people to come, including me,” said Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin. “We all owe him so much for his amazing contributions. He will be missed by so many and especially by me, but I know he will be performing for all eternity.”

D.J. Kurs, who worked closely with Bernard in the theater and was a long time friend said this of his mentor: “He was one and only. We will never see the likes of him again. He came of age in the deaf club, where community members would work to advance the civil rights movement during the day and rearrange the chairs so they could perform skits and songs at night. He knew what was possible before any of us did, and his prescience allowed him to use his art to shine light on our community.”


Voting Questions Answered

October 30, 2018 - 8:14am

POP QUIZ: can you vote in a state that is different from your driver’s licence? Or can you request an ASL interpreter at your polling place? Are you able to vote during work hours? Most frequently asked questions are answered in this informative video! EXPLORE THE HOTLINE!

SouthSide Works Cinema Now Offers Open Captioning

October 18, 2018 - 6:56am

Pittsburgh, PA – The National Association of the Deaf and SouthSide Works Cinema are pleased to announce that effective immediately, open captioning will be available upon request for deaf and hard of hearing people at SouthSide Works Cinema. This was made possible through cooperative efforts by the parties after a lawsuit was filed by Kenneth DeHaan, a deaf movie goer who filed an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit alleging that denial of captioning access at the Pittsburgh movie theater was discrimination based on disability. The parties initially agreed upon a trial period of open captioning at the theater, and SouthSide Works has agreed to make this open captioning availability permanent.

Kenneth praised SouthSide Works for making changes saying, “In light of equality in this day and age of available accessibility, I am pleased with the progressive outcome ensuring that every paying customer will be able to enjoy the magic of the cinemas together.”

Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf which represented Kenneth along with Stein & Vargas, LLP, said, “The NAD applauds SouthSide Works for being willing to show open captioning at any time upon request, and setting an example for the rest of the movie theater industry.”

Anyone who wants to request open captioning of a film should make a request by noon on the day of the requested screening to


The National Association of the Deaf is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by, and for, deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States.

Stein & Vargas, LLP is a civil rights firm based in Washington, D.C. and committed to the principle that all people have full and equal access to all parts of society.



  • National Association of the Deaf
    Lizzie Sorkin / 301-587-1788 /
  • Stein & Vargas, LLP
    Mary Vargas / 240-793-3185 /

Emergency Alert Survey

October 9, 2018 - 9:38am

Did you receive the emergency alert on your phone or see it broadcasted on TV?

We want your input!

Ask Howard Anything / October 2018

October 3, 2018 - 11:32am

Why is it important to be a registered voter when we contact our Senators and Representatives? #AskHoward

Court Says Website Access Case for Deaf May Proceed

October 3, 2018 - 10:16am

In a case of first impression and a major vindication for disability rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Court has ruled that deaf and hard of hearing people are not required to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) before they can sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act for a denial of web access.

The case before the Appeals Court was Eddie Sierra v. City of Hallandale Beach, Florida. Sierra is deaf and a disability rights advocate.  He requested that the City of Hallandale Beach provide captioning for certain video content on its website.  Sierra was interested in viewing some historical Hallandale Beach City Commission meetings but could not do so because the videos were not captioned.  When Hallandale Beach refused to honor his request, Sierra sued in federal court for violating his rights under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

The City of Hallandale Beach filed a motion to dismiss Sierra’s complaint because Sierra had not yet filed a complaint with the FCC under the Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).  A federal district court in Miami granted the motion to dismiss, meaning that Sierra could refile his lawsuit after he completed the complaint process at the FCC.

In his appeal, Sierra claimed the CVAA did not require him to file a complaint with the FCC before he could sue under other federal civil rights laws.  Sierra also argued that the FCC did not have specialized knowledge regarding closed captioning which required the courts to defer to the FCC.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Sierra arguments and vacated the lower court ruling and remanded the case back to the district holding that the CVAA gave the FCC exclusive jurisdiction over matters arising under the CVAA.

Courtney Cunningham, a Miami-based attorney who represented Sierra in the both the lower court and the appellate court, said the Sierra decision was a reaffirmation of the rights Congress granted people with disabilities under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. “We cannot thank the NAD and Stein & Vargas, LLP enough representing Mr. Sierra in this appeal. The appeals court decision is a victory for Mr. Sierra and all deaf and hard of hearing people who advocate for web access,” said Cunningham.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the law office of Stein & Vargas, LLP also represented Sierra in the appeal. “The CVAA was being misinterpreted and we could not let this ruling go unchallenged,” NAD Chief Executive Officer Howard A. Rosenblum said. “A ruling that required deaf and hard of hearing people to first file a complaint with the FCC, before they could assert their rights in federal court, was a dangerous precedent that could have spread throughout the federal courts throughout the U.S.”


Courtney Cunningham, PLLC is a civil rights law firm based in Miami, Florida.

National Association of the Deaf, established in 1880, is the nation’s premier organization safeguarding the civil, human and linguistics rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the U.S.

Stein & Vargas is a Washington, D.C. based disability rights law firm.

ASL Voter Assistance Hotline Available

September 28, 2018 - 11:47am

We’re excited to release our new ASL Voter Assistance Hotline! The idea was originally developed by Jehanne McCullough and the goal behind the hotline is to provide resources on the voting process. Volunteers will be standing by to answer any questions you have about voting. We encourage you to vote in the upcoming election, you can use our hotline to get more information if needed! If you care about your rights and want to support/be against certain issues, make an impact by voting for candidates who will support your positions/issues.

Bottom line: register and vote!

Ask Howard Anything / September 2018

September 25, 2018 - 1:09pm

Join us in celebration the International Week of the Deaf which falls on the last full week of September, every year, thanks to the World Federation of the Deaf! #AskHoward

President Update — September 2018

September 21, 2018 - 12:34pm

President Melissa shares a brief recap about the NAD Board and Staff Retreat and explains about the International Week of the Deaf. She also reminds you to join a NAD committee and to register to vote!

Other region representatives also share their updates:


2018-2020 Appointed Board Members

September 12, 2018 - 6:34am

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) delights in announcing the two new Appointed Board Members to complete its Board of Directors for 2018-2020: Alicia Lane-Outlaw and Benro Ogunyipe.

A Deaf business owner, Alicia Lane-Outlaw is president of AllOut Marketing, which provides services such as marketing strategy, web/print design, and online marketing. Her more than two decades of experience include large corporations, nonprofits, universities, K-12 schools, small businesses, and government agencies. A longtime community activist, Alicia has received numerous awards for her leadership. She successfully advocated for website accessibility laws in Minnesota, expanded the state’s longest-running Deaf community news and events website, and spearheaded marketing efforts to launch a Deaf charter school. In addition to serving on a film festival board and a community health board, she was elected president of the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, where she increased the association’s visibility and community engagement. Other activism includes evaluating applicants for the nation’s only Deaf artist residency program and serving as a judge for NTID’s Next Big Idea competition. Alicia graduated cum laude from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a visual arts minor. She resides in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her wife and daughter. This is her third term as an appointed board member.

Benro T. Ogunyipe, MPA, is a Senior Accessibility Specialist for the State of Illinois, Department of Human Services (IDHS), Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation in Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity since 2004, he directs and administers the bureau’s program and training activities to ensure department compliance with Titles I & II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the department’s legal obligations under the Illinois Human Rights Act. He also serves as a reasonable accommodation specialist, disability discrimination complaint investigator, bureau legislative liaison and communication and telecommunication access trainer. Benro has over 15 years of professional experience in public service administration, non-profit leadership management and multiple advocacy and policy board positions driven to promote full inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities as well as personal and professional advocacy for deaf and hard of hearing people in all settings of the society. In 2014, and again in 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Benro to the National Council on Disability. Benro was also appointed by three different Illinois Governors to public bodies — twice as a Commissioner of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission and as a Member of the Illinois Task Force on Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities. He served as President of the National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc. from 2011 to 2013, and served as Vice President and Chairman of the Board from 2007 to 2011. Benro received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University and a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from the School of Public Service at DePaul University.

Delegates at the 2018 NAD Conference in Hartford, Connecticut elected the following officers for the 2018-2020 term: Melissa Draganac-Hawk as President, Richard McCowin as Vice President, Jenny Buechner as Secretary, and Michelle Cline as Treasurer.

Also elected were four new regional representatives for the next four years (2018-2022): Liz Hill, elected as the Region I Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region I Board Representative Steve Lovi; Kevin Ryan, elected as the Region II Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region II Board Representative Linsay Darnall, Jr.; Steve Hamerdinger, elected as the Region III Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region III Board Representative Holly Ketchum; and Amy Gomme, elected as the Region IV Board Representative, joining 2016-2020 Region IV Board Representative Martin Price.

For more information, you can explore the Board page of the NAD website.

The NAD expresses a tremendous amount of gratitude to our outgoing board members: Joshua Beckman (2016-2018 Vice President), Philippe Montalette (2012-2018 Treasurer), Jerry Nelson (2014-2018 Region III Board Representative), Lisa Furr (2016-2018 Region IV Board Representative), and Meena Mann (2016-2018 Appointed Board Member) for their years of service and appreciates their enormous dedication to the NAD.

“The NAD operates most effectively with dedicated and committed volunteer Board Members that work tirelessly to uphold the mission and vision of the NAD on behalf of the deaf and hard of hearing community,” said President Melissa Draganac-Hawk. “I want to express gratitude to Joshua Beckman, Philippe Montalette, Jerry Nelson, Lisa Furr, and Meena Mann for their selfless contributions to the NAD — your work makes it possible to continue our efforts towards a better future for all.”

Looking for 2018-2020 Committee Members!

September 7, 2018 - 10:24am

We want you to join our committees! Areas include:
  • Bylaws
  • Certified Deaf Interpreter Task Force
  • Diversity Strategy Team
  • Finance
  • Governance
  • Public Safety: Ambulance
  • Public Safety: Fire Department
  • Public Safety: Law Enforcement
  Submit your interest by Sept. 30, 2018

In Memoriam: Dr. Gerald “Bummy” Burstein

September 5, 2018 - 7:13am

Dr. Gerald “Bummy” Burstein of southern California, one of the greatest trailblazers of our community departed at the age of 91 on August 31, 2018. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) mourns his passing; his distinguished life will continue to leave its mark for generations to come.

Dr. Burstein (photo: Gallaudet University) was the second deaf Certified Professional Parliamentarian (CPP), the highest level recognized by the American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP), as well as a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP). With his comprehensive expertise in parliamentary procedure, he brought improved order and efficiency and countless deaf organizations and schools across the country as well as internationally. He shared his knowledge as the author of “Basic Parliamentary Procedure,” “Bummy’s Successful Meeting Procedures,” as well as through an ASL video, “Bummy’s Basic Parliamentary Workshop.” He greatly aided the NAD through several biennial national conference business meetingsas parliamentarian; he also worked with local, state, and national organizations.

NAD President Melissa Draganac-Hawk (2016-present), in looking back on her many interactions with Dr. Burstein: “Bummy as a national leader and parliamentarian was a source of inspiration to so many; he served as a model of professionalism, wisdom, diplomacy, compassion, humor, and respect. His kind personality and strong spirit will be missed by everyone – the impact and lessons of his leadership will continue to live on in our community.”

Elizabeth “Libby” Pollard, who served as NAD President for two terms (1998-2002), was inspired by Dr. Burstein: “When I first met Bummy, I was impressed by his detailed knowledge of Roberts Rules of Order. He encouraged me to study parliamentarian procedure, and in 2011, I became a certified parliamentarian. Many times, I expressed gratitude to Bummy for his encouragement – I know he motivated countless others as well.”

Robert “Bob” Weinstock, Manager of Enrollment Communications at Gallaudet University and a parliamentarian, fondly remembers Dr. Burstein: “I was honored to serve as co-parliamentarian with Bummy on several occasions, sitting together in his brilliantly-conceived ‘Bummy Box.’ I was awestruck by how seamlessly he performed his duties and how eloquently he presented his advisory opinions.”

Dr. Frank Turk recalls Dr. Burstein as “one of the significant supporters of several youth leadership programs including the Junior NAD, the NAD Youth Leadership Camp, and the National Leadership and Literacy Camp (NLLC), including volunteer service as parliamentarian and trainer.” Dr. Turk remarked that “Bummy encouraged students to measure up to capacity, generously shared his time and expertise with them, and demonstrated confidence in their ability to succeed in whatever they pursued.”

Bill Stark, former Project Director for the federal Described and Captioned Media Program managed by the NAD remembers Dr. Burstein with appreciation: “Bummy was involved with Captioned Films since the early 1960s – he was a captioner, a regional depository manager, and then a library manager when the regional configuration ended. He worked with DCMP through the transition from 16mm films, to VHS and DVD videos, to present-day video streaming. He served as library manager up until 2008 when DCMP ceased housing of captioned materials at residential schools for the deaf.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Burstein was such a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, which were called “dem bums” that he acquired and was known by the nickname “Bummy.” He graduated in 1943 from Junior High School 47 (known as JHS 47 and also as PS 47), and then graduated from Charles Evans Hughes High School in 1946. He attended City College of New York (CCNY) and then transferred to Gallaudet University where he graduated in 1950. After 15 years of teaching at the Minnesota School for the Deaf, he attended the National Leadership Training Program at California State University in Northridge (CSUN) and in 1965 obtained his Master’s degree in Administration and Supervision. He then taught at, managed media services, and served as an administrator at the California School for the Deaf-Riverside (CSDR) for 37 years, for a total of 52 years in the field of deaf education. Dr. Burstein has also received numerous awards including an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1986 and the first Deaf President Now Leadership Award in 2005, both from Gallaudet University.

Dr. Burstein’s commitment to the deaf community went far beyond parliamentarian work and educational services. He volunteered for many organizations and served as the president of several including California Association of the Deaf, Gallaudet University Alumni Association, National Congress of Jewish Deaf; he also chaired several committees under the California Public Utilities Commission.

The life and legacy of Dr. Gerald R. “Bummy” Burstein will continue to live on within the NAD and its membership, many of whom share his love for civic and community service and parliamentary procedure.

Ask Howard Anything / August 2018

August 27, 2018 - 8:59am

The NAD needs you to contact your Senators to tell them you oppose Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court and ask that they nominate another person. #AskHoward

Review of Disability-Related Cases Involving Brett Kavanaugh by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Letters Opposing Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh from other Disability Rights Organizations