Dear Cherished Friend:
One late night in 1995, a Deaf community leader, Marty Jansen, woke up in bed, clutching his chest. He was having a heart attack. His wife, Dianne, who is severely hard of hearing, called 911 via a TTY (a telecommunications device for the deaf), but the 911 center kept hanging up on them. Finally, she decided to call 911 and used her voice to repeatedly tell the operator their address. It was only at that point that finally the couple were able to get through, and get an ambulance to transport them to the hospital. It was by sheer luck that Dianne had sufficient intelligible speech to convey the address and distress to the 911 center. If a Deaf person with incomprehensible speech was in that same situation, s/he would’ve died.
Their ordeal to obtain equal communication access, however, was not over. During the Jansen’s stay at the hospital, they struggled to obtain qualified, certified interpreters. Dianne ended up having to interpret for her husband often, which caused extraordinary emotional stress. They were extremely fortunate that there were no serious miscommunications that affected Marty’s treatment. When word spread, it was the final straw for many and was a driving factor in the founding of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services in 1996.
We have come a long way since then. However, we’re writing to you because Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services is at a critical juncture. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services needs your help. A high percentage of our sorely underserved Deaf and hard of hearing consumers of all ethnicities, are of low socioeconomic status and have unique cultural and linguistic needs, which adversely affecting their ability to be self-sustainable. Furthermore, despite generating over 2,000 volunteer hours from over 80 individuals, our resources are shrinking and we are unable to pick up the slack.
Now, aside from our American Sign Language interpreter services, we also provide four programs: the Awareness and Distribution Assistance to Persons with Technology program where our specialists work with low-income residents of Western Michigan who have hearing loss; the KidSigns program where it focuses on Deaf and hard of hearing children from age 3-12, providing education and inclusion, practicing American Sign Language (ASL), acquiring new English and ASL vocabulary, and providing social activities and interactions; our Community Education where we offer American Sign Language classes to the general public; and our Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity Training program where we train the general public, businesses and government agencies how to work with Deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
Yet, our work still is not done. We continue to hear horror stories of Deaf and hard of hearing people being deprived of American Sign Language interpreters or technology that enables them to effectively communicate with others. Our underserved consumers also sorely need an independent living skills program, where they would learn basic budgeting skills, improve their literacy skills, and improve their self-care. We need to continue helping our underserved Deaf and hard of hearing consumers navigate the system such as dealing with the Social Security Administration, the legal and health care systems.
Will you donate to help us better serve our Deaf and hard of hearing communities? Together, we will ensure equal communication access is provided to every single Deaf and hard of hearing person in West Michigan. But it is only possible with your support. Thank you for your time and consideration. We have enclosed a donation form and envelope to make it easier for you to donate.
Kristin Dart – Board Chair
David VanderKolk – Board Treasurer
Valerie Boerema – Board Member
Frannie Higdon – Board Member
Roman Karpinski – Board Member
Sarah Rubingh – Board Member
4328 Kalamazoo Ave S.E. • Grand Rapids, Michigan 49508
616-732-7358 (v) • 616-828-0186 (vp) • 616-732-7365 (fax) • www.deafhhs.org
P.S. As a special thank you, all donors who donate $500 or more, with permission, will be honored on our donation plaque.