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Pam Holmes
Telecommunications-access advocate

On June 25, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Pamela Young-Holmes to the National Council on Disability. Such appointments typically take several months to be confirmed, as they have to be approved by the Senate Committee and reach the Senate floor for a vote. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) approved the nomination, which was voted on by the Senate. Holmes’s nomination was confirmed on September 30.

A native of Flint, Michigan, Pam Young was one of four sisters, and had an identical twin, Temmie. Pam began going deaf when she was 13, and finally, when she was 18, took the Gallaudet College entrance exam and enrolled. (Temmie was also progressively deaf, and died from breast cancer at age 43—an event that Pam says only added to her desire to “make a difference.”

At Gallaudet, Pam came to terms with being deaf, and excelled. She graduated in 1974 with a B.A. in English. She then earned her Master’s in Deaf Education from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and worked as a teacher for 11 years. After getting married and raising a family (she's divorced from Vincent Holmes, and has two sons, Brian and Jason), and relocating to Madison, Wisconsin, she met Rob Engelke, President of Ultratec, Inc., and “fell in love” with the field of telecommunications-access. Since 1987, she’s been Director of both Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and CapTel (captioned-telephone) Customer Service for Ultratec, Inc. Her responsibilities encompass communication-access and governmental-regulatory issues, ADA compliance, working with the FCC, speaking at public hearings, making presentations, educating the public about captioned telephones, and keeping abreast of new regulatory and consumer developments.

Her best-known public role, though, was her stint as Chair of Gallaudet University's Board of Trustees immediately following the "Unity" protests of 2006. Both of her predecessors—Celia May Baldwin and Brenda Jo Brueggemann—had resigned under duress, citing threats against them. Even though the protests against the Board's selection of Jane Kelleher Fernandes had been replaced by celebrations after the Board revoked her appointment, there was still a lot of anger on campus, and Holmes faced it with calm assurance and grace. She promised that the new presidential-search process would be conducted with greater transparency and inclusiveness. After appointing the Interim Presidential Search Committee, she kept the campus community and public informed of the developments, from the preliminary to the final phase of the search. On December 10, 2006, she announced the appointment of Dr. Robert R. Davila. The following June, after he had gotten settled in, she resigned from the Board, citing “demanding job obligations and changes in my personal life."

No stranger to Washington politics, she was appointed to the U.S. Access Board in 1994 by President Clinton, and reappointed in 1997. The NCD appointment is her second Presidential one.

Congratulations to Pam Young-Holmes!

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