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Mediaplanet spoke with Andrea Pringle, Director of Growth and Operations at DeafBlind Ontario Services, and Tracey Veldhuis, Director of Community Services at DeafBlind Ontario Services, to learn more about how they help those who are Deaf or hard of hearing connect with society.

Tracey Veldhuis

Tracey Veldhuis

Director of Community Services, DeafBlind Ontario Services

Andrea Pringle

Andrea Pringle

Director of Growth and Operations, DeafBlind Ontario Services

Over 1.3 million or five percent of Canadians over the age of 15 live with a form of a hearing disability. In Ontario alone, that number is approximately 563,350 or 4.19 percent of people over age 15. In addition, 35 percent of Canadians with a hearing disability also have a visual disability, according to the Canadian Survey on Disability (2017).

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How do you support members of the Deaf community?

Tracey Veldhuis: Our reach extends to remote areas and urban centres across the province with supported living homes and customized community services. We also offer supported independent living for people to live semi-independently within the community with minimal support, as well as for people living in long-term care settings.

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What differentiates you as a service provider?

TV: We believe that everyone has the right to decide their own future, make their own decisions, and access information in their preferred mode of communication, whatever that happens to be. We do this by using a holistic, person-centred approach, customized to each person’s individual needs, goals, communication skills, and level of understanding.

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Tell us about the importance of sign language and Deaf interpreters.

Andrea Pringle Communicating thoughts, feelings, and ideas is a basic human need. For those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, it can be a much more difficult path to connection, belonging, and living a full life. People who are Deaf are legally entitled to request and access interpreting services when interacting with both public and private parties.

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What’s the difference between a sign language interpreter and a Deaf interpreter?

AP: A sign language interpreter is trained to translate between spoken English and American Sign Language (ASL) or spoken French and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). This individual allows for effective two-way communication between the Deaf individual and the hearing person. A Deaf interpreter is similar to an ASL or LSQ interpreter, except this individual is also Deaf, but highly skilled in translating from one form of sign language to another.

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What tips can you offer when communicating with Deaf people via an ASL/LSQ interpreter or Deaf interpreter?

AP: It’s important to look at and speak directly to the person who is Deaf and not the interpreter, avoiding personal conversations with the interpreter. They’re working as a means of providing language transmission and not as a participant in the conversation.

One of the people we support, Sara, encourages people to learn the ASL alphabet. She was born profoundly Deaf and ASL is her first language. Although she does understand and write English, this is one of the easy ways she believes people can support individuals who are Deaf.

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