Most of us are familiar with closed captioning and, of course, hearing aids, but there is a wide range of technology that can help the deaf or hard of hearing communicate more fully with the hearing population and also be safer in their homes.

These include alarming or alerting devices and enhanced forms of communication, many of which can substitute for or augment sound with visual readout, flashing light or vibration.  Choosing the right options can be difficult.  Fortunately, in southeast Michigan, Farmington Hills-based nonprofit Deaf and Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) has more than 20 years experience in helping the deaf or hard of hearing find the best assistive devices.

“There is some amazing technology out there for the deaf or hard of hearing, especially in the Internet and computer age, but it’s always about what’s best for the individual.  Often, simpler is better and costs are an important factor,” says Linda Booth, DHIS president and a longtime advocate and innovator in services for the deaf or hard of hearing consumer.

A range of assistive devices.  These days, everyone is texting on cell phones, smart phones and tablets.  However, today’s texting gurus have nothing on the deaf or hard of hearing who have had available for many years, TTY, shorthand for Text Telephone. This device, also referred to as a TDD, Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, outfits telephones with keyboards and a visual display screen.  One can type his or her conversation.

TTY is just one kind of advanced communication device available to the deaf or hard of hearing.  There are also captioning devices, a variety of assistive listening devices, and alerting devices that make use of vibration or flashing light.  Examples of such alerting devices include special smoke detectors, alarm clocks and baby monitors for the deaf or hard of hearing.

DHIS can help the deaf or hard of hearing assess the need for assistive devices, find the best places to acquire these devices, and access community resources that include financial aid or programs that train individuals in their use.

“The deaf or hard of hearing, including sensors, can be safe in their homes, communicate for business or pleasure, and travel freely with the right assistive devices,” Booth adds.

For more information on assistive devices for the deaf or hard of hearing, please visit the DHIS web site at www.dhisonline.org.

Deaf or hard of hearing individuals have a special way of “hearing and being heard.”  It is called American Sign Language (ASL).  Thought to be developed in the early 1800s by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, ASL relies on vision, signs formed with the hands and our human capacity for nonverbal expression.  It is a formal language with a standardized vocabulary of “words” and its own rules of grammar.  However, meanings expressed in ASL are impacted or influenced by the shape, placement and movement of the hands, facial expressions and, even, body movements.

Among Michigan’s nearly 1 million deaf or hard of hearing individuals, ASL is used in a number of settings, says Linda Booth, president of Farmington Hills, Mich. nonprofit Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS).  These include in the homes of the deaf and hard of hearing, when sign language interpreters are provided for deaf children in school, or commercial and official settings like a doctor’s office or in court.

A demanding skill. “Our federal and state laws mandate a certified sign language interpreter in certain public accommodation settings,” says Booth, where DHIS can help deaf individuals or the entity responsible for supplying the sign language interpreter find the individual most qualified for any given assignment.

To be certified in Michigan as a sign language interpreter, individuals must meet rigorous training and testing requirements of the State’s Deaf Person’s Interpreter Act, which includes mandated continuing education.  As when “translating” any language, sign language interpreters must also be sensitive to the dynamics of human interaction, have a good understanding of each party’s inherent vocabulary, and be able to relate to the age, experience and personality of the deaf person being aided.

“Thus, making sure someone has the proper credentials is just the first step in finding the best sign language interpreter.  Are they well versed in medicine, law or the given setting? How are they in an emergency?  How will they relate to the family?” continues Booth, who has more than two decades experience in sign language interpreting and referral services.

DHIS also offers sign languages classes for newcomers who want to better communicate with deaf friends or family members or, perhaps, would like an introduction to ASL before deciding on formal study to become a sign language interpreter.

To find a sign language interpreter, please call Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services at 248-473-1888 (Voice) or 248-473-1875 (TTY); or visit www.dhisonline.org.

From C and G News:

 

BERKLEY — Linda Booth, president of Deaf and Hearing Impaired Services, started the May Booth Scholarship Fund to honor her mother, May Booth, and all the work she did with the hearing impaired and those who wanted to help them.

Similarly, Jonathan Freeman, of Berkley, wanted to honor his grandfather, who was deaf, and his mother, who worked her whole life with the hearing impaired, by going to school to be an interpreter.

When Freeman, 22, applied for the May Booth Scholarship, Linda Booth said he seemed like a natural fit to be the recipient of the $1,000 scholarship.

To read the article in its entirety, visit the C & G website, or click here: DHIS – Woodward Talk May 2014

For more than 20 years, Farmington Hills, Michigan–based nonprofit Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) has provided innovative programs for deaf and hard of hearing seniors at locations throughout southeast Michigan.

Established by DHIS founder May Booth, the daughter of deaf parents, the programs provide deaf and hard of hearing individuals with activities and services that include group education on topics like health care, nutrition and life planning, conducted as needed in American Sign Language (ASL), the native language of deaf persons; picnics, parties and field trips; and individual client assistance, conducted by specially trained case managers.

Above all, these weekly gatherings provide and encourage much-needed socialization, says Robyn Anderson, a State of Michigan certified ASL interpreter and supervisor of DHIS senior programs in Taylor and Monroe, Michigan. Like May Booth, Anderson is the daughter of deaf parents.

“My mother is a strong individual, but as she’s now older, I really see the spark that attending our senior programs has given her,” says Anderson, who first met DHIS President Linda Booth when Booth was interpreting for Anderson’s father at a medical appointment.

Linda Booth, May Booth’s daughter, observed how fluent Anderson was in American Sign Language, having grown up as the eldest child of deaf parents, and encouraged her to become a DHIS interpreter.  Anderson, formerly an accountant, accepted the invitation and now does ASL interpreting for a living, specializing in health care settings.

“I started signing at 10 months old. Sign language is really my first language as I became the ears for my parents,” Anderson notes.  “In fact, my mom made sure to turn on records or the television so that I would hear and learn English.”

A vital service.  Several years after joining DHIS as an interpreter, Anderson also assumed her volunteer duties at the Taylor and Monroe programs.  At the time, she was fortunate enough to receive her training in the senior program from May Booth, who has now passed away.

The Taylor program, in particular, meets every Wednesday at the William Ford Senior Activities Center.  Attendees can have a nourishing, low cost lunch; hear speakers, a recent one being a representative from the Attorney General’s office addressing protection against identity theft, with Anderson interpreting; or go on trips to places like the Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, Jiffy Mix in Chelsea or Frankenmuth.

Help with medical appointments remains high on the list of needs for deaf seniors served by DHIS.

“It is extremely important for deaf individuals to know what the doctor is saying and in being able to tell the doctor what they feel in their own words,” Anderson says.  “I really enjoy working with the deaf.  I know I am helping someone wherever I go.  It’s very rewarding to be someone’s voice and ears.”

Despite a strong legacy of service to deaf seniors, at present, the Taylor program is facing a funding crunch.

“We are in the process of identifying a funding source for next year’s program in Taylor, as we currently are operating the program without any,” says DHIS president Linda Booth.

For more information on deaf services for seniors at the DHIS satellite sites throughout southeast Michigan or to consider a donation to the senior programs, please call (248) 473-1888 or visit the DHIS web site: www.dhisonline.org.

Deaf and Hearing Impaired Services (DHIS) a pioneer in deaf services, advocacy in southeast Michigan

Although she can hear perfectly, Linda Booth understands a world of silence.  Her mother, May Booth, was born to deaf parents.  American Sign Language (ASL) became May Booth’s “first” language, as she first interpreted for her parents and then others.

Eventually, May Booth become a pioneer in providing deaf services through a community-based, nonprofit organization.  That group, Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Deaf and Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) is now celebrating its 20th year of service to the community. Like her mother, DHIS president Linda Booth has been a tireless, creative advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Just a beginning.  In 1969, May Booth was approached by the Tri-County Deaf Senior Citizens organization and was asked to be its Director/Interpreter.  Four years later, May Booth successfully wrote her first grant to the Area Agency on Aging 1-B to provide deaf services to deaf older adults.

In 1993, with the strong support of southeast Michigan’s deaf community, Linda Booth re-organized her activities, forming today’s DHIS.  May Booth passed away four years ago.

“I’m thrilled to represent my mother’s legacy.  A lot has changed in society over time, but we are as energized as ever in providing deaf services to a group that represents nearly a tenth of Michigan citizens,” says Booth, whose first career was as a teacher in the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan school system.

Today’s DHIS.  Increasingly, the major thrust of DHIS’s deaf services is providing ASL interpreters for deaf adults in a variety of settings, including when deaf individuals access health care, financial services or have dealings with the law and lawyers.

This growth in the need for interpreters and interpreter referral, Linda Booth notes, parallels our society’s better appreciation for the contributions and needs of all citizens, beginning with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Following May Booth’s legacy, DHIS maintains a vibrant program of deaf services for seniors, staffed by DHIS personnel and a network of volunteers. Activities and services include group education at satellite centers; picnics, parties and field trips; and individual client assistance, conducted by specially trained case managers. Non-hard of hearing seniors are encouraged to attend.

Booth also is working on meeting today’s critical shortage of ASL interpreters and building the first housing community for deaf seniors in Michigan.

To find an ASL interpreter or learn more about DHIS’ deaf services for seniors, please visit: www.dhisonline.org.

Conventional hearing aids work well for most hard of hearing individuals who rely on them, which is important as an estimated 36 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss.

However, even with hearing aids, sounds can become unclear for the hard of hearing when the environment is noisy or the acoustics are poor. These situations include speaker systems as used in locations like public auditoriums, movie theaters or airports; at religious services; and even at home in the family room listening to a big-screen television.  In fact, about 95 percent of hearing aid owners say their No. 1 need is to improve intelligibility in high noise areas.

Fortunately, a relatively simple, discrete, non-exotic technology called hearing loops can help immeasurably in such settings.  A hearing loop is a wiring installation that transfers sounds from speaker systems by magnetic induction to a “telecoil” or “t-coil” receiver within hearing aids or cochlear implants. At present, about two-thirds of hearing aids already have the necessary t-coil.

Hearing loops are similar to the audio guides we are familiar with from museums or zoos, but don’t require additional equipment once a hard of hearing individual’s hearing aid has a t-coil installed.

Well-established in European nations, including Scandinavia and Great Britain, hearing loops are now becoming more prevalent in the United States.  Recently, clients, volunteers and staff of Farmington Hills, Michigan-based Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) hosted a guest speaker to present on hearing loops at the Birmingham Area Senior Community Center, one of DHIS’ 23 satellite sites.  Mr. Bill Hop of Holland, Michigan’s Hearing Loss Systems spoke to about 20 attendees.

“Mr. Hop explained the technology behind hearing loops and progress being made in installations.  While there are now more than 400 hearing loops in Michigan, the majority are in the western part of the State,” says Susan Sullivan, DHIS Program Coordinator for DHIS’ Hearing Loss Group for D.A.T.A. “We are working to encourage more installations in our service area of southeast Michigan, where we still have less than two dozen hearing loops.”

A cost-effective technology. There are many advantages to hearing loops.  They are relatively affordable for the installing organization like a church or municipality; t-coils are available with most hearing aids; reception imposes minimal demand on hearing aid batteries; and they are inconspicuous and user-friendly. If desired, a hard of hearing individual can even turn off the hearing loop.

Hearing loops can be installed in offices and conference rooms, auditoriums, airports and other transportation terminals, at religious services, even in the home or personal automobile.  In addition to “public address” settings, hearing loops can be connected to a television or stereo system.

“With our aging population and plugged-in society, we expect increased incidence of hearing loss in the future. Hearing loops can help hard of hearing individuals participate fully in society and improve safety in many public settings,” Sullivan adds.

To identify a hearing loop installation, look for a blue square sign with a symbolized ear and the letter “T” in the lower, right corner, both in white.

Southeast Michigan locations with hearing loops include:

  • Birmingham Community House
  • First United Methodist Church, Birmingham
  • The Holocaust Memorial Center, Farmington Hills
  • Universalist Unitarian Church of Farmington, Farmington Hills
  • Faith Community Presbyterian Church, Novi
  • Southpoint Community Christian Church, Trenton
  • Berman Center for the Performing Arts, West Bloomfield
  • Five locations in Ann Arbor
  • Several health care offices

For more information about comprehensive services for the deaf and hard of hearing, including Assistive Listening Devices like the hearing loop, please call Deaf & Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. at (248) 473-1888 or visit www.dhisonline.org.

Every one of us needs to engage with others: at work, play or worship; with family and friends.  It’s humanity 101.  However, the deaf or hard of hearing may need a little help, whether ensuring a safe environment or receiving that gentle nudge needed to get over any inhibitions to participating in all that life offers.

Fortunately, for more than two decades, Farmington Hills, Michigan-based nonprofit Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) has led the way in organizing social events for the deaf and hard of hearing.  DHIS’ programs for seniors and other groups keep them active in their local communities, and also provide the necessary transportation and safety net for excursions to places like amusements parks, the beach, museums or nearby tourist attractions.

“Sometimes, the deaf or hard of hearing just need a little extra encouragement.  We are here to organize social events and provide any needed support, whether it’s transportation, assistive hearing devices or making sure a certified American Sign Language interpreter comes along,” says DHIS president Linda Booth.

Linda Booth is a longtime advocate and innovator in services for the deaf or hard of hearing consumer, carrying on the pioneering work of her mother, May Booth.

It starts with seniors.  Booth notes that about 10 percent of Michigan’s population is deaf or hard of hearing and that about half of these individuals become deaf or hard of hearing after the age of 64.

Thus, many of DHIS’ social events for the deaf or hard of hearing originate from the organization’s 15 satellite sites throughout southeast Michigan that serve the region’s seniors.  Social events conducted through these senior outreach programs include picnics, parties and field trips, with participation by hearing friends and families.  DHIS also arranges social events for individual groups of deaf or hard of hearing individuals, which might be at the request of a senior living facility, a church group or another nonprofit organization.

“It can be someone’s birthday or anniversary, or a trip to our world-renowned Greenfield Village in Dearborn.  The deaf or hard of hearing can have fun and be safe. It’s good to get out and about,” Booth adds.

For more information on social events for the deaf or hard of hearing, please call (248) 473-1888 or visit the DHIS web site: www.dhisonline.org.

For those who are deaf or hard or hearing, there are a host of available deaf services, as well as information and referral resources.  These include online forums, support groups or public health divisions of local and state governments that provide deaf services.  They reflect the power of the Internet, as well as the evolution of a caring, informed society that is proactive with respect to health issues.

But getting through that maze of resources can be difficult for many deaf or hard of hearing individuals.  This is especially so when sensitive issues are involved or someone is facing a significant change in life circumstances.  It can be marital issues; a new school; or, perhaps, a senior having to move from the home to a group residential setting like assisted living or a long-term care facility.

Fortunately, for more than two decades, Farmington Hills, Michigan-based nonprofit Deaf & Hearing-Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) has specialized in offering individual client assistance for deaf services.

“While we have many group programs, like our deaf services for seniors presented through our satellite sites, many times, we need to work one on one with clients,” says DHIS president, Linda Booth, a nationally recognized advocate for the deaf or hard of hearing and a pioneer in expanding deaf services in southeast Michigan.

Array of services.  Deaf services provided by DHIS through individual client assistance can range from a simple referral to a true case-managed approach.  Typical deaf services include finding an interpreter; sign language classes, including for friends or family members; explaining to doctors, lawyers, bankers and others when a certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter must be provided; or referral for otological examination or assistive listening devices.

Trained case managers who specialize in working with deaf services can handle more complex situations.  These case managers will have excellent interview skills, be knowledgeable of and sensitive to family dynamics, and understand how to access a wide range of professional, official and community resources.

“First and foremost, we are here to help the deaf and hard of hearing achieve a full and rewarding life,” Booth explains.

For more information on individual client deaf services available through DHIS or to contact Linda Booth, please visit www.dhisonline.org.

She or he may be your child’s classmate.  Your neighbor’s mother.  Or the person next to you at the doctor’s office.  There are about one million deaf and hard of hearing people in Michigan, according to the State’s Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Thus, about one in 10 Michiganders are deaf or hard of hearing.  Despite advances in medicine and pre-natal care, children are still born with congenital hearing loss.  Studies vary, but overall estimates are that from 1 to 6 out of 1,000 births result in congenital hearing loss.  At the other end of the age spectrum, about half of people who become deaf or hard of hearing due so after the age of 60.  This can impact employment for a certain segment of our workforce as it ages.

“Michigan’s deaf or hard of hearing citizens, whether one or one hundred and one, want to be fully engaged with their families, the workplace and society as a whole,” says Linda Booth, president of Farmington Hills, Mich.-based nonprofit Deaf and Hearing Impaired Services, Inc. (DHIS) and a longtime advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing.  “Today, more than ever, there are outstanding resources available for these folks and, certainly, the Internet has improved communications and networking.”

Accommodating Michigan’s deaf and hard of hearing citizens.  In the public sector, Michigan rigorously enforces all state and federal accommodation and non-discrimination laws regarding the deaf or hard of hearing.  Michigan also imposes high standards for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter training and licensing.

All deaf or hard of hearing students in school receive any needed support, including a certified sign language interpreter.  Furthermore, an interpreter must be provided in public accommodation situations that include doctor’s visits, the court system or banking.

Michigan has great community support for the deaf and hard of hearing, including programs sponsored by Area Agencies on Aging. One popular clearinghouse for information and referrals, including organizations and associations, is e-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (http://www.michdhh.org/).

Booth’s group, DHIS, provides many services for seniors at 15 satellite sites throughout southeast Michigan. Activities and services include group education, conducted as needed in American Sign Language (ASL), the native language of deaf persons; picnics, parties and field trips; and individual client assistance.

“We want to embrace the abilities and contributions of all citizens, including the deaf and hard of hearing,” Booth says.

Financing and closing on a new home.  A medical operation.  Facing litigation and a court date.  These are stressful times for any of us, where a successful outcome depends on excellent communication with others.

When someone is deaf or hard of hearing, which means about 10 percent of Michigan’s population, working with a certified sign language interpreter helps immensely in such situations.  Fortunately, federal and state law, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 and Michigan’s Persons with Disabilities Act (PA 220, 1976), mandate that people with disabilities have a right to full and equal communication access and participation.

Paying for these certified sign language interpreters is the responsibility of the providing entity, whether it is a hospital system, a court system, our local police department or a bank or credit union.

However, finding a certified sign language interpreter can be another matter.  Not only is there a shortage of interpreters, but, also, it is important to find one with the right experience, says Linda Booth, executive director of Farmington Hills, Michigan-based nonprofit Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Services, Inc.

“In addition to helping individual clients find a certified sign language interpreter, we do a lot informally in making sure that providers like a bank or hospital understand the advantages of following the law.  It soothes the way to a better relationship and result,” Booth explains.

The best fit.  Booth adds that many people wonder why a deaf person who can read lips would still need someone trained and licensed as a certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

“First, it is the law.  Our client is entitled to full accommodation.  Also, reading lips doesn’t convey completely what is being said.  Only about 40 percent of spoken English is made on the lips and many of those words appear similar,” Booth explains.

Thus, many deaf or hard of hearing individuals who get by in daily life with the aid of lip reading and/or a family member who signs (but is not certified) need more precise aid in these special situations.  Moreover, DHIS is skilled at finding the best match in a certified sign language interpreter, based on the age and history of the deaf or hard of hearing individual and the situation at hand.

For assistance in finding a certified sign language interpreter or to learn more about Michigan’s deaf and hard of hearing community, please visit www.dhisonline.org.