Marty and Dianne Jansen Back Then

Marty and Dianne Jansen Today

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 am-bulance 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.

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 often had to interpret for her husband. They were extremely fortunate that there were no serious miscommunications 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.”

And that's how Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services came to be. 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 agency in West Michigan that provides comprehensive services. Yet, there remains much work to be done. We’re always seeking volunteers for our board of directors, board committees, Youth program, and support for our events. For giving opportunities, a flexible package of corporate sponsorship benefits is available, and we accept donations for all of our programs and general fund. For further details on volunteer and giving opportunities, contact us at info@deafhhs.org.