Today we celebrate the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s (MCDHH) 25th anniversary. The anniversary will be marked with an event at the State House: agency staff, legislators, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, deaf and hard of hearing advocates and other stakeholders will gather to acknowledge 25 years of remarkable achievements for MCDHH.
In 1985, during the Dukakis Administration, the state Task Force on Deafness made several key recommendations to Gov. Dukakis, including:
- the expansion of the Office of Deafness;
- the creation of case management for the deaf and hard of hearing;
- the centralization of interpreter services; and
- the creation of services for deaf individuals who are mentally ill.
During the past 25 years, MCDHH has accomplished the recommendations established in 1985 and so much more.
MCDHH’s Case Management Department is just one example of the customized service the agency provides to fit the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Children’s Specialists within the Case Management Department at MCDHH collaborate closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to administer the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and provide support and expertise to families when a hearing impairment is identified in a newborn. Communication access begins with identification, and MCDHH’s youngest clients are tiny newborns. The mandatory Universal Newborn Screening law in Massachusetts identifies more than 200 deaf and hard of hearing babies every year. Newborns and their families are immediately connected with early intervention services. Having a critical early start identifies an individual baby’s best options for language development and gives that baby a better outlook for effective communication at home, school, and eventually, in his/her chosen career and community life.
Responsiveness to inquiries about communication access is another hallmark of MCDHH’s work. During the past year alone, the agency fielded more than 30,000 service requests. Many of the calls that come in are from people who are themselves deaf, hard of hearing, and/or late-deafened. Together we comprise 8.6% of the state’s population or an estimated 540,000 residents. Callers also include family members, co-workers, service providers, business owners, patients, war veterans, and disaster survivors. Nearly everyone in Massachusetts is connected to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and therefore is directly or indirectly affected by the use of communication access policies, procedures, and technology.
Communication access is ensured when every service and business in the Commonwealth complies with standards for accessibility Training staff, and establishing policies and procedures for access compliance are essential for businesses to ensure communication access.
Since its inception, MCDHH has instituted bi-lingual (American Sign Language and English) case management services, and community-based programs operated by, for, and with people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I am very proud of MCDHH’s accomplishments over the past quarter century and I have no doubt there will be many more in the 25 years to come. I invite you to find out more about communication access, training, and supports available to the deaf and hard of hearing from MCDHH by visiting our website.
# # #