WOU receives grant to conduct important research on experiences among Oregon’s “Deaf community”: Researchers seek participants for their research

Western Oregon University (WOU) assistant professor Dr. Denise Thew Hacket, in collaboration with WOU’s Regional Resource Center on Deafness, received a $200,000 grant from the State of Oregon’s Department of Human Services. The funding allows for research targeting Oregon’s Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing loss communities. It will provide information regarding how well the State is meeting the distinct needs of these communities to the Oregon Legislature during the 2017 session.

Thew Hacket seeks participants from across the state from all those who experience any level of hearing loss. The survey will be available until August 30, 2016. It is vital that those with hearing loss participate to ensure quality results.

The research
A community needs assessment (CNA) will be conducted to identify gaps in service for members of Oregon’s Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing loss communities. These are understudied groups whose experiences in employment and health access in Oregon is virtually unknown. The research will include surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews asking Oregonians and those who receive services in Oregon where they experience gaps or barriers in service (and to what extent) in the areas of abuse, alcohol & drug treatment services, education, employment, health & mental health services, housing, legal, state, county, and city services, and transportation.

For example, after a domestic violence or sexual abuse incident, is a deaf or hard of hearing individual able to contact emergency or medical services? In these specialized situations, it would be important to have an interpreter or other appropriate service provider (for example, someone who could transcribe into text what the doctor or officer is saying) who is familiar with the systems and the process so as not to further traumatize the victim. Knowing this, will the individual report the crime or deal with it outside of the system? These are the types of situations the researchers in this project seek to understand.

Want to participate?
The researchers encourage everyone who has any degree of hearing loss in either or both ears, whether or not they use hearing aids or cochlear implants or have additional disabilities, to participate. Parents and guardians of children with hearing loss are also sought to respond for their children, as well as caregivers and support personnel of individuals with severe disabilities. Links to the survey can be found at wou.edu/rrcd/home/cna/. There are options for written English, written Spanish, and American Sign Language videos. For more information, contact Denise Thew-Hackett via thewd@wou.edu.

How the research will be used
The funding stems from Senate Bill 449 (Creates Office for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Services in Department of Human Services) in the 2015 legislative session. The intent behind the creation of the commission is to identify needs of the Deaf community and those who support members of it, as well as provide resources. Full details of the bill can be found at https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Measures/Overview/SB449.

Advocates for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities in Oregon have long been requesting and fighting for a Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to ensure that the service needs of these Oregonians are being met. Oregon is one of only 13 states lacking this agency. The most recent time this was brought up to the legislature, the bill was approved at each step, but was held up in appropriations. Rather than fund a commission now, the legislature determined that they needed more information on the communities of individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or who have hearing loss in Oregon and their needs. The research team will examine the data they collect and make a recommendation about service needs in their final report.

About RRCD
The Regional Resource Center on Deafness is housed in WOU’s College of Education along with the Divisions of Deaf Studies and Professional Studies, Teacher Education, and Health and Exercise Science. For over 50 years, RRCD has written grants to support students in fields such as interpreter training, deaf and hard of hearing education, and rehabilitation counseling. Grant awards from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) allow them to provide over $620,000 each year in stipends and tuition remissions for students in their programs. They also provide outreach and technical assistance to interpreters through the Western Region Interpreter Education Center (a part of the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers, funded by RSA), and to adult settings such as colleges and vocational rehabilitation programs that are unfamiliar with providing access to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf with co-occurring disabilities through a contract with Pepnet 2.