Caption Action 2 (Jamie) had quite a day on Capitol Hill!
Learning More About HR 3101
Speakers and panel members educated a large crowd about HR 3101 the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009. There is much more to the bill than just captioning, but Caption Action 2's focus is on the captioning aspect of the bill. However, we will be blogging about the other aspects too, because they are also of major importance to the deaf and hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and blind/visually impaired communities. Although he was tied up with health care legislation, Representative Markey came and received an award (another award went to Senator McCain for his longtime support for disability rights and access).
One speaker was David Bahar, a deaf legislative assistant in Congressman Jay Inslee's office. Unfortunately, Inslee has not yet become a co-sponsor for HR 3101. Bahar said that Inslee's office was still "studying" the bill. Hopefully Inslee will become a co-sponsor, but no guarantee.
Teams Visit Representative Offices
Eight teams then went to visit Representatives' offices. Each team had appointments to visit just three offices, so that was only 24 Representatives. A tiny sliver of all the Representatives on Capitol Hill! There are over 400 Representatives in the House.
Fred Weiner (TDI board member) led the team that Jamie was on. Fred did a good job of presenting about the bill to the staff members that the team met with. Another team member told how his young hearing children like to watch video online but he can not understand the videos. Fred and Jamie talked about their deaf children, and Jamie talked about Caption Action 2. One staff member was especially helpful; he was a subject matter expert on telecommunications, and he warned the team that the wireless industry was not that supportive of the bill (more in another blog post once Jamie clarifies the issues that the wireless industry has with the bill).
When the staff member told the team that the wireless industry wants to be "included" on the discussion, a team member responded by complaining that it goes two ways: if the wireless industry wants to be included, they have to include us in new technology development!! Jamie chimed in, "Bottom line...we are tired of playing catch up!"
Continuing to Lobby
Jamie stayed afterwards to do some more lobbying on her own. She visited at least 90 Representatives' offices before she had to call it quits by 5 p.m. due to aching feet. Jamie developed a new respect for what lobbyists do!
At each Representative's office, Jamie gave an "elevator pitch," a short, three-minute pitch about the bill. Jamie's pitch: Hello, I am here about HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009. This bill takes the laws for captioning on television and applies them to the world wide web. On Facebook, I run this group that supports the bill and (Jamie hands over printout of Caption Action 2 on Facebook) that is growing by 1,000 people every three days." Several staff members exclaimed "Wow!" when they heard how quickly the group is growing.
Meeting Representative Conyers
One of the Representatives' offices that Jamie visited was John Conyers, Jr. (MI). A staff member there was very enthusiastic about the bill because a relative is hard of hearing. That staff member actually arranged for Jamie to meet Conyers in person! Conyers even read the bill while Jamie waited. Then a photographer took their picture together. Here's hoping Conyers becomes a co-sponsor of the bill.