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Come Join Us at the Awards Luncheon at 22nd TDI Biennial Conference on Saturday, July 29!

Recognizing Individuals and Organizations for Advocacy, Innovation, and Service

It is time again for TDI to recognize outstanding individuals and corporations that have helped to shape an accessible world for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.  We are formally inviting you to join us for lunch and help give kudos for those receiving recognition at the 22nd Biennial Conference of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. in North Bethesda, Maryland.

Every two years, TDI takes the time to recognize individuals, companies, and organizations that have made a significant impact on telecommunications, media and information technology access.  The four most recent winners for each award are listed below for your reference.  The complete list of past winners can be found in the Blue Pages of the TDI Blue Book, or on our website.

The Conference takes place at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda, MD, just across the street from the White Flint Metro Station.  On Saturday, July 29, from 11:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., TDI will be hosting the TDI Awards Luncheon in the Grand Ballroom.

We would absolutely love for you to come help TDI celebrate their achievements and contributions that have given us remarkable advances in accessibility over the years. Now is your chance to register to attend the TDI Biennial Conference in Bethesda, Maryland, so you can help us congratulate the award recipients!

We would be honored if you will join us for the TDI Awards Luncheon at the Conference on July 29.  It cost $50.00 per person to attend the luncheon, and you need not register for the Conference to attend the luncheon.  The event includes a wonderful lunch, supporting those receiving accolades, and socializing with many attendees.  This opportunity is definitely a bargain and not to be missed! You can register here:

Without further ado, please join us in congratulating the recipients of the 2017 TDI Biennial Awards:

The H. Latham Breunig Humanitarian Award

In recognition of outstanding contributions to the program or activities of TDI.

Past Award Recipients:

    • 2009 – National Technical Institute of the Deaf
    • 2011 – Eliot Greenwald, Washington, D.C.
    • 2013 – Carol Sliney, Albuquerque, NM
    • 2015 – Andrea Saks, Gloucester, United Kingdom
Awarded To:
Drew Simshaw, Staff Attorney & Clinical Teaching Fellow
Institute for Public Representation
Georgetown Law School
Washington, DC
TDI recognizes Mr. Simshaw for his unique legal expertise and persistent efforts on issues related to TV captioning, especially requests for waivers from small producers of their obligation to caption their programming, IP-captioning, advanced communication services, and user interfaces that are covered under the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, and during the past two years, the adoption and deployment of Real-Time Text Technology (RTT).  Some of the filings he helped produce on TDI’s behalf were assisted by his law school interns at Georgetown University Law School.  Thanks to his guidance and example, these interns established their legal careers with the awareness of laws, rules, and regulations that ensures full accessibility for all Americans, with and without disabilities, in telecommunications, media, and information services.


The Robert H. Weitbrecht Telecommunications Access Award

In recognition of outstanding contributions by any means to improve accessibility to telecommunications, media and information technology in the United States.

Past Award Recipients:

  • 2009 – Pat Graves, Monument, Colorado
  • 2011 – Apple, Inc.
  • 2013 – James D. House, Portland, Oregon
  • 2015 – Donna B. Platt, Raleigh, NC, and Richard L. Ray, Los Angeles, CA
Awarded To:
Gunnar Hellstrom, Director
Omnitor AB
Stockholm, Sweden
TDI recognizes Mr. Hellstrom as the father of Total Conversation, a concept ahead of its’ time of supporting audio, video, and real-time text simultaneously, during phone conversations that led to the adoption by ITU-T as one of it’s technical specifications and standards – F.703.  This also made possible for emergency calling applications such as REACH 112, used in Sweden and other member countries of the European Union.  This work, in turn, provided the catalyst for such adoption in America’s Next-Generation 9-1-1 technical specifications and standards.  As a result of his persistence and resolve, Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a consortium of telecommunication standards development associations, have adopted F.703 technical standards for Total Conversation in their global specifications for wireless calling and all-IP based telecommunications, which are observed not only for emergency calling, but also for video relay services, and real-time text.  Over the years, we have seen his imprint through numerous filings and contributions for many major accessibility regulations, guidelines, and standards such as Section 508 here in America, European standards and procurement guidelines, video relay service interoperability specifications, NENA i3 next-generation 9-1-1 standards, and the FCC’s Emergency Access Advisory Committee’s TTY transition report and guidelines.
The Andrew Saks Engineering Award

In recognition of outstanding contributions to improving accessibility to telecommunications, media and information technology in the United States through efforts in design, electronics or engineering.

Past Award Recipients:

  • 2009 – Kevin Colwell, Madison, Wisconsin
  • 2011 – Google
  • 2013 – Microsoft
  • 2015 – Glide
Awarded To:
Dr. Christian Vogler, Director
Norman Williams, Senior Research Engineeer
Technology Access Program
Gallaudet University
Washington, DC








TDI recognizes Dr. Vogler for just a brief, but impressive record of research and technical contributions that led to new advances in accessibility engineering.  He was instrumental for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) formal regulatory initiatives for the development and deployment of Real-Time Text (RTT) technology, to replace the outdated TTY technology as a text-based communication medium on the Internet.  Several years ago, for the report of the FCC’s Emergency Access Advisory Committee, he worked closely with consumer leaders on interim solutions that would allow us to make emergency calls using current technologies such as short messaging systems (SMS) without relying on TTYs, on the allocation of resources, and policy development necessary to fully implement Next Generation 9-1-1.  With his consistent efforts, he continues to commit to a future in that the federal government adopts appropriate public policy and regulations, and provides sufficient financial support in order for deaf and hard of hearing Americans to experience making or receiving relay calls at the optimal level possible with their hearing counterparts.

TDI recognizes Mr. Williams for his twenty five plus years of contributions in accessibility engineering, particularly in areas of text and video telecommunications used by people who are deaf and hard of hearing.  Back in the 1990’s, he wrote various applications, including the popular TTY software for PCs known as Futura-TTY.  He worked with the Cellular Telecommunication Industry Association to make TTYs compatible with cellular phones. He also collaborated with various companies to explore video communication technologies using the Internet, ISDN and legacy systems to find a solution for making video calls before video relay services became a reality.  Most recently, he developed a software prototype for faster text chat by using combined line by line and real time into one software that was adopted in AOL’s Instant Messaging software (Windows version 6.8+).  Among his other contributions was developing a vibration experiment software on pager for an emergency alerting study, and giving outstanding technical support for PC and Mac users to Gallaudet’s faculty and staff.
The James C. Marsters Promotion Award

In recognition of outstanding contributions to improving accessibility to telecommunications, media and information technology in the United States through efforts in promotion, marketing, or public relations.

Past Award Recipients:

  • 2009 – AT&T & Verizon
  • 2011 – ZVRS
  • 2013 – Hamilton Relay
  • 2015 – Convo Relay
Awarded To: CTIA – the Wireless Association
Washington, DC
TDI recognizes CTIA for its many years of collaborative efforts with members of the disability community, especially those who are deaf and hard of hearing.  TDI takes note of three major initiatives in recent years from CTIA that reflect its industry members’ commitment to address access needs of the disability community.  First, it’s website,, was developed exclusively to address functional needs of those with disabilities for their wireless communication needs.  Second, it teams with the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF) to provide a public online database called the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) that displays information about accessible features on wireless phones, especially hearing aid compatibility. Last but not least, CTIA has collaborated with TDI and other sister consumer groups to make progress for the deaf and hard of hearing in areas of accessible emergency communication for the deaf and hard of hearing such as Real-Time Text (RTT), Text-to-9-1-1, and wireless indoor location accuracy, as well as hearing aid compatibility.
The Karen Peltz Strauss Public Policy Award

In recognition of outstanding contributions to improving accessibility to telecommunications, media and information technology in the United States through efforts in public policy development.

Past Award Recipients:

  • 2009 – U.S. Senator John McCain (R), AZ,U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D), MA
  • 2011 – FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, Washington, D.C.
  • 2013 – Blake E. Reid, Boulder, CO
  • 2015 – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Washington, DC
Awarded To:
Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, Professor
College of Information Studies
University of Maryland – College Park, MD
Dr. Vanderheiden for more than 45 years of your incredible contributions in the technology and disability fields.  He started his work in Augmentative Communication, which was a term based on his writings in the late 70’s.  Starting in 1979, he shifted his focus to personal computers, and worked with Apple, Microsoft, and IBM to increase the accessibility and usability of their products.  Apple incorporated his features in Apple IIe, Apple gs, and MacOS and iOS.  IBM and Microsoft licensed 9 features from his work for inclusion in DOS, OS/2, and Windows. He co-chaired and co-authored the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0 and 2.0), worked with the United States Access Board on Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and led the effort to develop the EZ-Access package of cross-disability access features that are now built into Amtrak ticket machines, Automated Postal Stations, Homeland Security Passport Kiosks, and many other types of interactive kiosks around the country.  Last but not least, he continues to advocate for worldwide adoption of a Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII).
The I. Lee Brody Lifetime Achievement Award

In recognition of an individual who has devoted significant time and energy over an extended number of years to improving accessibility to telecommunications, media and information technology in the United States.

Past Award Recipients:

  • 2009 – Dr. Judy Harkins, Washington, D.C.
  • 2011 – Ed Bosson, Wimberley, Texas
  • 2013 – Philip W. Bravin, Chester, Vermont
  • 2015 – Cheryl A. Heppner, Fairfax, Virginia
Awarded To:
Robert Mather, Esq., Trial Attorney, Retired
Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
TDI recognizes Mr. Mather for his lifetime of service to the deaf and hard of hearing community. He served for 34 years as a trial attorney in the Disability Rights Section (DRS) of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He worked for the DRS which has been responsible for the enforcement of Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Enacted in 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. He served with distinction as a member of the legal team at DOJ that developed the regulations for Titles II and III of the ADA. He also settled cases as part of Project Civic Access in where state and local government agencies, and private entities had failed or refused to make changes when necessary to provide individuals with disabilities the same opportunities that are provided to others. Prior to the DOJ position, he served as staff counsel for the U.S. Commission on Education of the Deaf, deputy general counsel of the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, and a VISTA attorney at the National Center for Law and the Deaf.


Thank you for helping us to recognize those who deserve recognition! While we strongly encourage you to attend the full conference, if you prefer to only attend the TDI Award Luncheon, you absolutely can!  Don’t forget, July 29 is Consumer’s Day, so all are welcome to attend, and do not need to register to experience what the TDI has to offer for the day.

In order for us to know how many that will join us for this event, while not required, we would appreciate a RSVP from you on whether you can join us or not.  The award recipients will deeply appreciate having your support with your presence there.

This Conference offers you and others a wonderful three-day’s experience and opportunities for personal/professional development.  You learn about the latest in public policy for disability access, to network with others from with business and government, and to visit the exhibits that give you the latest information and hands-on experience with accessible products and services.  You meet the industry leaders that have worked with TDI and its sister consumer groups in the last two years on access topics such as relay services, emergency communications, wireless communications and information, and captioning of video programming.

Conference Program (schedule of events):

We invite you to join us at the Conference.  Check our website links below to register for the Conference, to stay at the host hotel, and to buy tickets for the Nationals vs Rockies baseball game.  You can register for full combo tickets, or single events like the President’s Reception, the two Luncheons, and the Dinner/Entertainment Finale.

Conference Registration:

If you still need information or support to make Conference plans, feel free to contact me anytime at  We thank you very much for considering our invitation to participate in the Conference.