Written by Foundling Guest Blogger, Kyle K., LMSW
In the month of September, we celebrate the International Week of the Deaf. As a Deaf professional in New York City and part of an incredible leadership team for Deaf Services at The New York Foundling, I take a moment and reflect upon my experiences, both professionally and personally, with The Foundling and New York City. I also want to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the hardship that we, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, have endured for years.
I see a steady rise of Deaf and Hard of Hearing awareness nationwide; of those pursuing their true callings after climbing over mountains; of those who become strong advocates and leaders of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community through years of resiliency. I also see a steady rise of accessibility within The Foundling.
The workforce in The Foundling’s Deaf Services team includes many staff who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, making it possible to work directly with families and individuals—without any barriers or need for interpreters. Colleagues from various departments and programs often sign “Hello!” and make an effort to sign their names. And recently, we upgraded our technology so staff can have better access to Video-Relay Services (VRS) or Video-Remote Interpreting (VRI) when working in the community.
New York City is tightening the gaps and barriers that still exist for members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. In August, New York became the third state in the country to ban the term “hearing-impaired” from state law as this is a derogative word and is offensive to the people of the Deaf community. And in March (thanks to the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities), New York City became the first city in the country to provide information and resources in ASL (American Sign Language) directly to Deaf and Hard of Hearing New Yorkers. This allows families and individuals to access an information specialist, fluent in ASL, from any smartphone. Steadily, we’re rising!
As a Deaf professional in the child welfare system, it’s my responsibility to ensure that the families and children stay together. I have a responsibility to advocate and fight for equal accessibility—ensuring that families have qualified interpretation services. I have an obligation to make sure that the families that come to us for help are 100 percent satisfied with their interpretation services and to make sure that we provide the best professional interpreters.