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Be a Smart Consumer! Ask Questions! by John Blevins, BSW

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Uploaded on Jul 1, 2010

Deaf or hard-of-hearing people living in the Rochester area are fortunate. There are many services available by qualified and competent professionals for deaf or hard-of-hearing people. Unfortunately, there are also some professionals who offer services to deaf or hard-of-hearing people without really understanding the needs or issues of these two groups. For example, some professionals may claim that they are fluent in sign language, yet are unable to understand a Deaf person who is signing ASL. Other professionals may not understand that many deaf people consider themselves to be proud members of a larger group identified as "Deaf Culture." Another example is a professional who offers services for hard-of-hearing people, yet does not know what an Assistive Listening Device (ALD) is.

When an agency or organization advertises services for persons who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing or "hearing impaired," by aware! Labels may be misleading. Find out what the words, Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing impaired mean to them. Be smart and alert and ask yourself some questions. Are they providing interpreters or are they providing ALD? Does this just mean that they have a TTY? Will they be signing for themselves? If they are signing for themselves, can they understand you and can you trust them to be honest and let you know if they do not understand you? Be aware that many people will tell you that a worker is "fluent" in sign, but they do not know sign language themselves. You may wonder how they can evaluate this person. People will say that they are fluent in sign language and have extensive experience working with Deaf people. Some of these people may only know a few signs and almost nothing about Deaf or hard-of-hearing people. You may want to find out if the person who will be working with you is really fluent in sign language.

Feel free to ask questions. If you are Deaf, ask the person where they learned about Deaf culture. Ask them where they learned sign language. If you are hard-of-hearing, you may want to ask if they know what ALDs are and, do they have any available for communication purposes.

Ask your friends which professionals they go to and trust. Be aware that all Deaf and hard-of-hearing people have different needs and desires and communication abilities. What works for some Deaf people or hard-of-hearing people may not work for you.

Shop around and be a smart consumer. Rochester has many qualified and competent professionals. NCDHR does not evaluate or endorse whether any services are appropriate for Deaf or hard-of-hearing people. It is up to you to be aware and find the people who best suit your needs.

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