Next Time, Ask

Last Saturday I attended something billed as a ‘Autumn Institute’ for families of children who are deaf or hearing impaired. This ‘institute’ was held from 9am to 4pm at one of our local parks and was touted to have consultants from our state Department of Education, our state’s deafblind project, the Department of Rehabilitative Services, Resources for Independent Living, and other similar groups.

The day was arranged and sponsored by a local group called the Parent-Child-Advocate Program. It’s a group headed by a psychologist who is not deaf but who claims to offer assistance to ‘diverse’ populations. I attended a sign language class recently with this doctor’s intern and I must admit, she was quite taken with her signing ability. Unfortunately, the teacher and the rest of the class were not.

So, this whole thing baffled me a bit. I didn’t understand its structure or intent. And what I found at the ‘Autumn Institute’ did nothing to clear up my confusion.

The meeting was held in an old carriage house. The facility was barely accessible and every noise echoed horribly. After just a few minutes in the room, Ashley couldn’t take it any longer. I also noticed that only one of the presenting groups had a representative present. The other groups had set up tables and left printed material but no person was present.

I felt uncomfortable, and Ashley was even more uncomfortable than I. The only bathroom facilities weren’t even close to wheelchair accessible, and I don’t believe the organizers (the doctor’s staff) took into account that not all deaf children are mobile.

Hopefully, this was just another of those organizations that has a good idea but doesn’t know how to implement the idea. I do have a suggestion for them – next time, ask the people you are targeting as attendees. Ask parents what works and what doesn’t work for their children. Ask both the children and the adults who are deaf what they have found will work for them. And then implement those ideas.

Please do not assume you know what will work. You are not deaf – you are not hearing impaired. None of you as far as I could tell had mobility issues or were vision impaired. If you really want to provide something of value, you must know your target audience.

And if the goal was to drum up business for the good doctor (his website lists him as a ‘life coach’), be upfront about it.

If you wondered why Ashley and I left after just 45 minutes, now you know. I hope you care.

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