January 15, 2021
This week's e-news has been posted.
Read More »January 13, 2021
Dear Missouri Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community:
Some hours ago, I informed the MCDHH board and staff of my intention to step down from my role as MCDHH Executive Director effective March 1st, 2021.
It has been the greatest honor of my life to have served Missouri for over six and a half years. I am grateful to each and every person who has served with me and am proud of the progress we have made together. I have worked tirelessly on MCDHH’s behalf, motivated by a single overriding criterion: What is in the best interest of my Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community?
The past years have been deeply rewarding for me. On one hand, this was due to the opportunity for enhancing the visibility of the work of MCDHH and helping to pass over twenty pieces of legislation. These projects reaffirmed our enduring values and consequent approach to several policy initiatives, establishment of new programs, training and education, and building new partnerships including our several collaborative efforts and a deeper engagement with the community.
On the other hand, the rewarding nature of the work I have been engaged in over these years is also due to the personal relationships that have been forged with many organizations and individuals with whom I have worked closely over that time. This includes MCDHH staff, MCDHH Commissioners (present and past), Board for Certification of Interpreters, State Committee on Interpreters, Missouri Commission on Human Rights, Missouri Association of the Deaf, Hearing Loss Association of America (Greater Saint Louis and Kansas City), Sight and Sound Impaired of Saint Louis, Saint Louis Metro Black Deaf Advocates, DEAF, Inc., Deaf LEAD, Beyond Interpreting, Helen Keller National Center, The Whole Person Inc., Missouri School for the Deaf, Central Institute for the Deaf, The Moog Center for Deaf Education, William Woods University, Florissant Valley Community College, Starkloff Disability Institute, Governor’s Council on Disability, 911 Service Board, MO Relay Service Advisory Committee, Deaf Advisory Council on Mental Health, Deafblind Advisory Committee, interpreters and community members. Thank you all for the great partnerships that have delivered results for Missouri.
I am grateful to my boss, Dr. Stephen Barr, who from Day One took me under his wing, provided me with the roadmap to the institutional knowledge of Missouri system, and mentored me to be a better public service leader.
While I will miss working with you, Missouri will always be in my heart. I am confident that MCDHH is on a solid footing to continue the important work on behalf of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Missourians. From now until my last day, I will do everything within my power to prepare a smooth transition process as well as assist the board with the process of finding my replacement.
Opeoluwa SotonwaRead More »July 17, 2020
MCDHH is now accepting applications for the Missouri SSP Program & DeafBlind Scholarship Programs for Independence and Education through August 14, 2020. Learn more about the opportunity using either document format below:
WordRead More »July 17, 2020
Governor Mike Parson signed House Bill 1682 into law July 13, 2020! This new law recognizes September as Deaf Awareness Month and the last week of September as Deaf Awareness Week in Missouri. Thanks to the Governor for signing this bill. The bill's sponsor, Representative Jerome Barnes, attended the signing ceremony today. Rep. Barnes wore a clear mask, which allows for lip-reading and other facial expressions while communicating with individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals and professionals who serve them can request these clear masks from MCDHH on our website at http://mcdhh.mo.gov/masksRead More »July 17, 2020
Governor Mike Parson signed House Bill 1963 into law July 14, 2020. Within this new law is the content from Senate Bill 748, which will now allow Deaf and Hard of Hearing Missourians to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL).
According to MCDHH Executive Director Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa, Missouri was not taking full advantage of waivers available through the U.S. Department of Transportation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Missourians to get a CDL. A waiver can exempt a driver from the so-called “whisper test,” which requires them to discern whispered words from a certain distance away. He testified, “Missouri’s current regulations align with the federal Department of Transportation’s guidelines on the issue. However, without recognition of the waiver by Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri drivers are left out. Studies have shown that Deaf drivers are safe drivers, like their hearing counterparts; some may even have some advantage with superior concentration and increased peripheral vision” said Dr. Sotonwa.
According to reporting from CNN, a study by the American Trucking Association prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shows a serious shortage of commercial truck drivers across the U.S., estimating over 160,000 unfilled positions over the next decade. The current health crisis could make these numbers even higher.
Being at the center of much of the country’s ground shipping, with major roadways like Interstates 44 and 70 crossing the state, Missourians are in the perfect place to join the trucking industry amidst a labor shortage. The CDL waiver will open this opportunity to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Missourians as well.
The success of this legislation is credited to Senator Bill White and Representative Travis Fitzwater for sponsoring this legislation. Senator Bill White has championed similar legislation for the last few years and sponsored Senate Bill 748 this year; Rep. Fitzwater took the initiative under his wing by adding it to his bill, House Bill 1963, which gave it the best chance of passage amidst today’s unique political circumstances.
MCDHH will work with the Missouri Department of Transportation to provide further guidance on how you can become a CDL driver in Missouri.Read More »