Deaf, Inc., dba Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, is an independent 501(c)3 agency serving Grand Rapids and surrounding areas since 1996 (incorporated in 2002). As the sole full-service agency for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities in West Michigan, we fill 3,000+ interpreter assignments annually, and provide further services through American Sign Language classes, Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity training, equipment assistance and advocacy, and a children’s educational resources program in West Michigan.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services is supported by Quota International, The Weller Family Foundation, the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation, the Willard F. and Wanda F. Lyons Charitable Fund, the MI Health Endowment Fund, and private donations. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services strives to create a positive impact on deaf and hard of hearing individuals’ lives and help them realize their full potential in society as productive, independent, capable and contributing citizens.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services’ mission is to enrich the lives of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community by promoting equal communication, advocacy, social opportunities, community resources and education to all.
Our vision is to foster and embrace vibrant hard-of-hearing and Deaf communities within an inclusive hearing network.
- We value our partners and vendors.
- We value our interpreters.
- We value people involved with the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities.
Most importantly, we value each hard-of-hearing and deaf individual’s well being and inclusion in West Michigan.
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, Dianne decided to call 911 and used her voice to repeatedly tell the operator their address. It was only at that point that finally the Jansens 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 have died.
Upon their arrival at the hospital, the medical personnel called a well-known interpreter and fortunately she was able to come and provide equal communication access for the couple. However, because the hospital did not have a roster of interpreters for the Deaf, the interpreter was stuck interpreting for hours on end. When the interpreter had to leave, the Jansens were left wondering when they would get the next interpreter, if at all. And indeed, they struggled to obtain interpreting services during their stay in the hospital. Dianne had to interpret for her husband often. They were extremely fortunate that there were no serious miscommunication that affected Marty’s treatment. Others have not been so lucky.
When word spread, it was the final straw for many. Interpreters, hearing service providers and Deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers, including the Jansens, came together and said, “Enough is enough. We need a comprehensive, full-service agency addressing the needs of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.”
When D&HHS was first established in 1996, it initially found its home with the Life Guidance Services, as a program and was funded by United Way. In its first year, the program filled 140 interpreter assignments and was operated by one part-time staff member.
In the summer and fall of 1999, D&HHS moved to the Grand Rapids Center for Independent Living (now DAKC). The D&HHS Advisory Board consisted of 16 members and answered to the CIL board. Three staff members were hired to operate the program: one coordinator, one billing clerk and one interpreter referral specialist. The Grand Rapids Deaf community and leaders of the program, however, had a dream that they would have their own agency and home. In the summer of 2002, they applied for and was granted its own 501(c)3 status. That fall, D&HHS found an office of their own and hired their first Executive Director.
Technology and awareness has come a long way since 1996, and it continues to improve the quality of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals’ lives. And today, D&HHS has now truly become what it was originally envisioned as: a comprehensive, full-service agency serving the needs of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing communities. To this day, D&HHS remains the sole full-service agency in West Michigan.
Yet, there still is much to do. Many Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals still struggle with communication and obtaining equal access. Our work is not done. But together, with your support, we shall continue to make a difference and improve the quality of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals’ lives. This only ultimately improves and enriches all of our lives, regardless of our hearing status, in this great community of West Michigan.