About four years ago, I started a website for parents in Illinois attempting to put together resources for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children. During my search of the web, I found an organization called Hands & Voices.
I came across their opening statement:
"Hands & Voices is a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to supporting families and their children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as the professionals who serve them. We are a parent-driven, parent/professional collaborative group that is unbiased towards communication modes and methods. Our diverse membership includes those who are deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing impaired and their families who communicate orally, with signs, cue, and/or combined methods. We exist to help our children reach their highest potential."
I felt like I hit the jackpot. Here was an organization that I had envisioned in my dreams; a collaborative organization that embraced the diversity regardless of communication mode. An organization that valued the contribution of deaf and hard of hearing adults and providing non-biased information to families raising deaf and hard of hearing children.
So I got involved. I contacted the people running Hands & Voices and inquired about the organization. I sent off my membership form and began to receive The Communicator. The next thing I knew, Leeanne Seaver, the executive director asked me to take over the start-up of the Illinois chapter.
It has been a rewarding experience.
In two short years, we've hosted several Parent Connection meetings; two-hour meetings where parents come in and connect with other parents and deaf/hard of hearing kids of all ages get to play with one another. Just recently, we had a good, old-fashioned kickball game with 20 kids. We're having our 2nd Annual Mom's Night Inn this November.
Along the way, I've had the opportunity to meet a variety of families that have chosen different modes of commmunication. I've met kids and adults with every possible type of hearing loss, every possible type of identity, and such a wide variety of life stories to share. Every single family has the same goal: to raise a well-adjusted, successful kid.
We are often asked, how can you possibly be non-biased? In a field frought with communication wars, identity wars and finger-pointing, the idea of being non-biased has people wondering if it is even possible. After several years with Hands & Voices and some excellent training from the leaders, I have learned that it is indeed a reality.
And here, in a nutshell, is the Hands & Voices approach to providing Non-Biased Support.
I invite you to visit the website and check out the articles that we've published.
Everyone is welcomed to join as a member and become a part of Hands & Voices.
Together, we can help families with children who are deaf and hard of hearing: "What works for your child is what makes the choice right."