Deaf & Hear Alberta (formerly Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services)
Our Story Why We Exist
Barriers to communication have a direct and measureable impact on learning, employment prospects, relationships, social inclusion, safety and mental health.
90 percent of all Deaf children are born to two hearing parents. Deaf children are not having their communication needs met in early childhood or in the classroom. That’s why Deaf & Hear Alberta is implementing a new program that gives Deaf children a boost in the early stages of their life to acquire language skills in their first language of American Sign Language.
A Deaf student finishing high school typically graduates from Grade 12 with a Grade 3-4 reading level. Deaf & Hear Alberta puts trained tutors in the classroom to work one-on-one with struggling Grade 1 and 2 students to improve their English comprehension, literacy skills and therefore their future prospects.
Deaf & Hear Alberta’s Interpreting Services provides almost 7000 hours of interpreting annually to facilitate communication between Deaf users of American Sign Language and hearing audiences. Our roster of over 70 highly skilled ASL-English interpreters provide communication access to Alberta’s Deaf community.
Our Accessibility Services department ensures that Deaf individuals remain safe in their homes and are able to lead productive lives with signaling equipment, warning detectors, and personal alerting systems.
Almost one in four Canadians has a hearing loss. That translates to almost 250,000 Calgarians. Research by audiologists indicates that it takes someone who is losing their hearing 5 to 7 years to admit they have a hearing loss and then do something about it. Once fitted with hearing aids, 15 – 18 percent of people never wear them, receiving no benefit from their sizable investment.
To address these issues, Deaf & Hear Alberta has launched a new education series called Sound Advice. This series alleviates the fear of hearing loss, demystifies all the options for hearing aids, helps participants develop realistic expectations about their hearing health, provides new skills in reading visual cues like lip-reading, and offers an in-depth program in brain retraining.
Children and youth are the fastest growing demographic at risk for hearing loss, with an estimated one in five already having some hearing damage, in large part resulting from excessive volume from personal music players, concerts, etc. Thanks to The Calgary Foundation, we are able to work with junior high school students to develop a compelling message that will convince children and youth to Practice Safe Sound!
When someone cannot hear well enough to communicate, the individual is at risk of withdrawing from the world around them. People with hearing loss at any age may be affected, but elderly seniors are most at risk of social isolation. When the lack of hearing inhibits brain functioning, a higher risk of the onset of dementia is the result. Severe hearing loss is also linked to depression, anxiety and paranoia. Deaf & Hear Alberta is developing a core of trained volunteers with our Peer-to-Hear program to provide companionship, counselling, mentoring and support to those hard of hearing persons at risk of social isolation, therefore reducing the risks for mental health issues.
Through the assistive technology available from our Accessibility Services Department, hard of hearing persons are able to remain safe in their homes, communicate with their loved ones, retain their social connections and fully participate in their community.
Our Impact What We Do
Our client groups are distinct and different. The Deaf community is a unique cultural group united by shared history, stories and visual language – American Sign Language. Those who are born deaf or lose their hearing in early childhood (before they learn spoken language) make up about 0.1 percent of the population. The culturally Deaf base their identity on their use of American Sign Language. Those who are late-deafened, or lose their hearing later in life, brings this sector to about one percent of the population.
People may lose their hearing at any time in their lives, but aging and noise-induced hearing loss are the two main causes. Severity of hearing loss may range from mild to profound. The hard of hearing’s primary mode of communication is verbal.
Recognizing these fundamental differences in modes of communication is what forms the foundation of our work. Programs and services within Deaf Services are targeted to the Deaf community or those who want to learn how to communicate with the Deaf community; and programs and services within Hearing Services are targeted to those with a hearing loss or at risk of losing their hearing.
OUR MISSION | We enhance the lives of Deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing persons by removing barriers and building bridges to communication.
OUR VISION | We are working toward a world free of communication barriers for the Deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing.
OUR IMPACT | Hearing loss affects 23% of adult Canadians; we serve 38,000 deaf and deafened Albertans.
OUR RESULTS | 2016:
- Continued renovations with new "fish bowl" office, accessible washroom doors and an extraordinary kitchen makeover;
- Launched "Peer-To-Hear" Pilot program with 9 mentee/mentor matches who met once a week for three months;
- Launched "Sound Advice Program" to provide more opportunities for people with hearing loss to learn and share information (e.g., Book Club, Colouring Night, Speaker Series...);
- Launched three-month Emergency Pilot to enable faster response times towards unmet emergency requests;
- Developed "Extraordinary Technology" to provide more service in small town Alberta via Skype, Facetime and Telehealth" where deaf Albertans contacted us for help with their medical, legal and other types of appointments.
Our Programs How We Do It
Established in 1961, the Deaf and Hear Alberta has been breaking down barriers to communication for over 50 years. Our work is organized into two distinct program streams: Deaf Services and Hearing Services.
- Interpreting Services: provides some of the most qualified ASL interpreters in the province to facilitate communication between Deaf users of ASL and hearing audiences.
- American Sign Language training: we offer a range of courses for the public, families and workplaces.
- Student Literacy: qualified tutors provide learning assistance to elementary school children.
- Counselling: a qualified psychologist provides counselling services and mental health supports in American Sign Language to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals, children and families.
- Deaf Services: support, counselling and advocacy on behalf of individuals and families.
- Hearing Loss Prevention: bringing awareness and education about noise-induced hearing loss.
- Sound Advices series: a series of courses on the care and management of hearing loss and how to mitigate its adverse effects
- Peer to Hear: matching trained volunteers with a hard of hearing person at risk of social isolation for counselling, mentoring and support.
- Equipment: Assistive listening and signaling devices for the Deaf or hard of hearing
- Deaf and Hear Alberta is pleased to introduce the Tom Pinder Educational Scholarship in 2014. The scholarship will be awarded to a Deaf or hard of hearing individual or family who will apply the funds towards an educational endeavor.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Our donors are people of all ages and from all walks of life. There are many different ways to support Deaf and Hear Alberta. Some choose to make individual donations, others choose to host an event on our behalf and some of our gifts are legacy bequests. All of our supporters share the common belief that giving is vitally important, as our gifts help create a stronger and more caring community. Large or small, your gift will make a difference!
Would you like to make a difference in a senior’s life? We are currently seeking volunteers who would be willing to be companion to a Deaf senior. Depending on the individual, this could involve a variety of things - visiting them in their home, going shopping together, or even just going for a walk. This is a wonderful opportunity to provide friendship and companionship to a senior who may not be able to participate in the same activities that they used to.
Please note: Due to the nature of this position, volunteers must be fluent in ASL. For more information or to apply for this volunteer position, please contact our Manager of Deaf Services, Cindy Pilz, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org