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2021 Focus on
People Awards

Advocacy category

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Meryl Evans

Plano, TX

If you’ve had a positive experience with online captioning, chances are the tech folks behind it have been influenced by Meryl. As a digital marketing professional, author and web accessibility advocate, Meryl, who was born profoundly deaf, is uniquely familiar with the ways the online community can improve experiences for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. A highly sought-after speaker, she shares her personal experiences and passion for accessibility and high-quality captioning at national and international conferences and online forums. Through her how-to videos and guides, she is transforming the way companies and organizations, such as LinkedIn, approach videos in order to make social media accessible to everyone.

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Paul Wichansky, PhD

Freehold, NJ

A master storyteller who shares the positive perspectives and realities of growing up with cerebral palsy and a hearing loss, Paul’s uplifting stories help instill the hope and inspiration that motivates others to realize their own goals and dreams. He began his speaking career at age ten, sharing his personal experiences with young students. Over 40 years later, he has inspired more than 1 million youth, parents, educators and professionals nationwide and has even spoken at the United Nations. His TED Talk, “Taking the ‘Dis’ Out of Disability,” has been viewed by 3,300+ people. Paul has worked hard to transform obstacles into opportunities for self-improvement, and demonstrates to others, by example, how they can also do the same.

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Sarah Klegman

Sherman Oaks, CA

With openness, authenticity, and humor, Sarah shares her journey with hearing aids as a storyteller, public speaker, and writer. Through giving talks at festivals and sharing her writing in international publications, she joyfully fights hearing aid stigma while inspiring people to accept and even celebrate their own hearing journey. She hosted the series “What’s Wrong With You?” on the Awkward Human Podcast Network, co-founded the bread company and social forum, Challah Hub, and today, serves as Chief Happiness Officer for a tech startup. In all she does, Sarah strives to help others feel confident with their hearing aids — a cause that is “deeply close to her heart — and ears”!

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