How did you get into this field?
Growing up as the only deaf person in my family, school, and community environment, connection with the Deaf community came about through post-college work in human services. That working relationship motivated me to want to communicate directly with people who sign, and to learn more about my own deafness, leading me to pursue a graduate degree in working with people who are Deaf, and to learning American Sign Language. That led to working with deaf college students, and to working in non-profit settings with Deaf community-based agencies. A similar path is followed by people in many different professions; a process of uncapping their inner deaf or hard of hearing person through discovering barrier-free communication and from learning and working with peers, colleagues, and friends who are likewise deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened. We must absolutely ensure an environment that upholds the range of options which are effective for full communication between people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened and everyone who is "hearing." The result is amazing opportunities for civic, social, educational, and economic involvement.
Who would you consider to be your mentor and why?
The people who've influenced me most are those for whom being deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, or connected to deaf people has been a way to contribute very positively to how we all live. Deaf community members in particular have been a collective force for creating lasting change together, opening paths for others who have differing experiences but a common drive to achieve fullness of life experiences and connect with others in meaningful ways and be useful to the worlds in which we live. The fact that American Sign Language is the fourth most studied language on college campuses is significant (Modern Language Association, 2007). And, people all over the world benefit in some way from technological advancements such as real time captioning, TTY Relay services, Video Relay Services, and visual/tactile alerting systems which emerged as a result of effective consumerism.
What quote do you live by?
"The Deaf Will Be Heard," a sign posted on the gates of Gallaudet College during the 1988 "Deaf President Now" revolution, photographed in "Through Deaf Eyes."
What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
The honor of serving our Commonwealth as Commissioner; working with MCDHH staff, with many other commissions and agencies, with constituent groups, with service providers from across the state. We have newly formed collaborative agreements with other state agencies; those agreements help us all be more effective in serving deaf and hard of hearing adults and children, their families. Discussing strategies for a better Massachusetts, with Governor Patrick and a team of Executive Office of Health and Human Services colleagues.
Can you share an interesting fact about yourself that your colleagues wouldn't necessarily know?
My day begins on a treadmill; speedwalking and mulling over potential solutions to so many issues that reach my desk everyday. The treadmill workout is part of balancing the challenges and rewards of human services; getting input from the people we are committed to serving, delivering services with skilled staff, and taking care of ourselves so that we are able to make well informed decisions about life factors such as hearing loss.
Is there anything you'd like people to know about your agency?
People experience being deaf or hard of hearing in very different ways, from different starting points, at all ages. And, information, support, and effective options for communicating with others are of utmost importance. Combined with extensive training in our field, more than a third of us on MCDHH's staff have firsthand insights from living our lives, working and playing with multiple forms of communication access technology, and pursuing our dreams as individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or late-deafened.
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.