Engaging the Deaf: How Community Conversations are Giving a Voice to All Members in Our Community

Having only lived in DC for four months, Rachel, a deaf mother of two found the city much more hospitable to her needs than Birmingham, Alabama. Rachel grew up deaf—for her, American Sign Language was as fluid as water. Living as a deaf mother of two however, Rachel had a unique challenge in raising her children that not even DC’s hospitality could conquer: one was deaf, and one was not.

Finding a School for the Deaf was not hard for Rachel; DC’s abundance of resources for deaf children are nearly limitless. But for her son, being raised in a deaf family with functional hearing meant that he needed the tools to communicate in both worlds. Rachel didn’t know where to turn for help, until she attended United Way NCA’s community conversation at the ASL Starbucks on H Street.

“He’s exposed to ASL in school, at home, and almost everywhere he goes” she explains to me through an interpreter, “but without exposure to English, Spanish or any of these other languages, I fear he won’t be able to integrate.”

Rachel’s son’s situation has dire implications for his social and academic development. The specifics surrounding her son’s challenges are often not discussed. However, because of the community conversation hosted by United Way NCA, all voices in the community have a platform to bring their challenges to light. United Way NCA engages residents like Rachel, nonprofit partners and donors across the metropolitan area in conversations to discuss the most pressing issues that plague our region. The discussions highlight issues in our community that may be underrepresented, unnoticed or under-resourced. The outcomes from the discussions are designed to help shape United Way NCA’s primary focuses for the coming years.

To learn more about how United Way NCA is fighting for the health, education and financial stability for every person in our community or to get involved, please visit unitedwaynca.org.