The “Father of VRS”
Ed Bosson is well-known in the Deaf community as a veteran telecommunications and Deaf-access advocate. He quips, “Humility aside, I’m widely known as ‘the Father of VRS,’ and among the movers and shakers of the Deaf world I’m known as a strong grassroots advocate for deaf/hard-of-hearing issues.
“I was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas. My parents were hearing. I have a hearing sister, Gail Baum, who’s 3 years older than I am. Due to high fever, I became deaf at 1 year old, but unbeknownst to my parents. Mother discovered it when I didn’t respond to the tinkling of a keychain. Remember, that was in early 1940s, when not a lot of information was available for hearing parents who had a deaf child, so they were devastated by it. Mother was determined to find what the best way was and she fell prey to a snake-oil solution, which was to take me to a high altitude in the hopes of air pressure opening up my ears and restoring my hearing. My family moved to Utah precisely for that reason. A couple of years convinced them that didn’t work, and we moved back to Arkansas. Mother did lots of asking around and lots of soul-analyzing.
“Torn between oralism and sign language, my parents decided not to learn sign language, but asked a deaf family with a deaf boy, Race Drake, same age as mine, if they would let me learn sign language from them. Race and I became pals throughout our school years; his parents became a second set of parents for me and I was exposed to the Deaf-world in all its all beauty.”
He graduated from Arkansas School for the Deaf and Gallaudet College, earning a degree in Psychology. “Gallaudet was great for me social-wise. Education-wise, it was okay, as I was not mature enough to realize how important education was. I preferred snow-skiing, acted in Shakespearean plays, and generally just had fun.”
He worked as an animation and special-effect photographer at Keitz & Herndon, a Dallas-based movie company best-known for their stylish animated moralistic cartoon series, Jot. He loved the work, although the “brutal deadlines” were unbearable. He also worked as a commercial photographer.He then began a long stint in community service. lobbying for a new TRS bill in Texas. He became the first chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission’s Relay Texas Advisory Committee, and he used the opportunity to “introduce many new features to the Texas Relay Service.” That included VRS. Texas led the nation in this innovative feature. “A wonderful side benefit was that VRS has made many deaf persons hugely wealthy. Many deaf/HoH now have been promoted to higher positions on the virtue of access allowed by VRS.”
Last year, he started his blog/Vlog, Ed’s Alert, focusing on Relay Texas and other telecommunications-access issues. “As of now, there are a little over 600 subscribers, averaging 18,000 hits a month. I was genuinely surprised at that because the blog/vlog is about relay service and its related issues—boring stuff—yet Ed’s Alert gets enough hits to make it worthwhile to continue. One reason repeatedly given by those posting comments as to why the blog/vlog is so widely read/viewed is its impartiality.”
Ed has received “numerous national and state awards” for his advocacy. This May, he’ll receive a honorary doctorate from Gallaudet University—a token of recognition of his accomplishments on behalf of better access and more telecommunicative options for Deaf people—and not just Texans.
As for this latest honor, he acknowledges his gratitude to the “grassroots people” and “staunch supporters” among local and national Deaf/HoH organizations. He’s especially grateful to his wife Lisa, for her unwavering confidence in him. (Left to right in the family photo above are Lisa, son Rotan, daughter Clary, and Ed. He has another daughter, Steffi, from his first marriage; she recently gave him his first granddaughter.)
“A word of advice: to advocate for any issues, do your homework as thoroughly as you can, and then take a strong stand. If wrong, try to be the first one to admit it. Risks are only worthwhile if you research the issue and know what its limitations are, and the chances of success then become greater. Failures will happen; they are not end of the world. If anything, failures are opportunities as you learn from them.”