Around FEMA headquarters, this friendly face is a welcome sight. Quick to a smile and eager to educate those around him, Aaron Kubey is a positive force for inclusivity and effective communication.
You may have seen Kubey in FEMA videos, where he provides American Sign Language (ASL) interpretations of important messages. He currently serves as a Certified Deaf Interpreter and communication access specialist for FEMA’s Office of External Affairs.
Prior to FEMA, Kubey worked in the theatre industry, where he ran two Deaf theatre companies. He went on to work as an interpreter at multiple organizations before he began his career at FEMA as a Certified Deaf Interpreter in 2016.
“My focus since I've joined the agency has been to provide effective communication access to our survivors and the FEMA workforce. It is also my mission to guide the agency on how to make effective, accessible communications a part of how we operate every day,” Kubey said.
Kubey was deployed to Baton Rouge soon after he started at FEMA, where he provided ASL support to Deaf/Hard of Hearing survivors in Louisiana. Since then, he has deployed to many other states across the country to help disaster survivors. Currently, Kubey is deployed to help Hurricane Ian survivors. In addition to providing ASL support in Florida, he is also doing community outreach with the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community to make sure they are getting access to FEMA programs and services.
When he’s not deployed, Kubey is hard at work making other parts of FEMA as accessible as possible. Since 2017, he’s helped create a FEMA Accessible library. This growing library houses more than 150 videos in ASL, captioning and voiceovers. Kubey says he is proud when he hears from interpreters across the country who are using these FEMA Accessible videos as models for how to interpret in the emergency management world.
Kubey’s long list of accomplishments center around his passion for creating a world that is better at communicating in every way.
“Communication can be a tricky thing,” he said. “Effective communication is even trickier, but not impossible to achieve. You just need to be open to understanding what effective communication means and how to provide it successfully. It's actually easier than you think!”
Kubey emphasized the importance of FEMA using plain language that everyone can understand during disaster response. This helps FEMA reach as many as survivors as possible. This determination to reach everyone is what drives him to do the work he does.
“The Deaf/Hard of Hearing community is more often than not a community that has been an afterthought or neglected when it comes to disaster response,” he said. “Being able to try and do my part to provide communication access to them is extremely important to me.”
What’s next for Kubey? Whatever it is, he promises it’ll be at FEMA.
“There's still a lot more I need and want to accomplish in the agency, so I don't plan on leaving anytime soon,” Kubey said. “Sorry, FEMA, you're not getting rid of me that easily!”
To see more of Kubey’s work, you can watch the YouTube playlist of ASL videos featuring many of his ASL interpretations.