- Executive Office of Health and Human Services
- Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Media Contact for Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa appointed Commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Colleen Arons, Executive Office of Health and Human Services
— This announcement can also be viewed in American Sign Language (ASL) here.
BOSTON - Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the appointment of Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa as Commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH), effective March 1, 2021. Dr. Sotonwa brings over 20 years’ experience as a lawyer, advocate, and accomplished public official who has improved access, accommodations, and quality of life for individuals who are Deaf, Late Deafened, Hard of Hearing and Deafblind. He is fluent in English, American Sign Language (ASL), Nigerian Sign Language, and Yoruba (Nigerian).
Most recently, Dr. Sotonwa has served as Executive Director for the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Earlier in his career, he was the information and advocacy programs coordinator at the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Dr. Sotonwa’s work on the national level includes the National Black Deaf Advocates where he was vice president and then a member of the board, and he currently serves on the board with Telecommunication for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc (TDI).
“Since embarking on a search for MCDHH’s new Commissioner in the fall of 2020, we have focused on hiring a leader who is grounded in the issues important to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, who understands the diverse needs of the community and promotes a culture of inclusion. Dr. Sotonwa is the right person at this time to lead the Commission,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “He is an accomplished leader who will connect positively with staff, constituents, and the broader community. I am grateful to Acting Commissioner Ford for providing the interim leadership and will ensure a smooth transition. I deeply appreciate the engagement, advice, and support from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. I look forward to welcoming Dr. Sotonwa to this position during the celebration of the agency’s 35th commemoration.”
During his six and a half year tenure as Executive Director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Dr. Sotonwa played a leading role in the drafting and passage of over twenty legislative acts, including: hearing aid distribution programs for low-income Missourians, establishment of a statewide support service program for Missourians who are Deafblind, expanded opportunities for Deaf Missourians to obtain a commercial driver’s license, and overhauling the state’s Interpreters Certification System.
"In my conversations with Governor Baker and Secretary Sudders, I was impressed by their altruistic vision for, and investment in, the Commonwealth’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. It was a no-brainer for me to accept the offer to lead MCDHH into the future,” said Dr. Sotonwa. “For all my adult life, I have been a consummate deaf advocate working to improve access, accommodations, and the quality of life for all Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing people. Being a lawyer, policy maker, and activist has served my community and me well. It has been my privilege to work collaboratively with many organizations that share my thirst for access and inclusion. I look forward to returning to Massachusetts and working with the MCDHH staff and the vibrant Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in the Bay State."
Dr. Sotonwa earned an LL.M. Degree (Master of Laws) from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. He earned an LP.D. Degree (Doctor of Law and Policy) from Northeastern University, where he conducted a doctoral research entitled “The Lived Experiences of Deaf Suspects during Police Interrogations: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.”
He earned a Bachelor of Law (Juris Doctor equivalent) at University of Ilorin in Nigeria and was called to Nigerian Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. After earning his law degree, Dr. Sotonwa played an instrumental role in the drafting and passage of the Nigeria’s disability rights law.
Phonetic pronunciation of Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa: “Or-Peh-Oh-Loo-Wah Show-Turn-Wah”