WASHINGTON, DC – In a landmark event, the Chairperson and Ward 6 representatives of the DC Council, along with three candidates, attended “Meet and Greet the Council Members” co-hosted by DCAD and HLAA-DC Chapter (Hearing Loss Association of America – District of Columbia). They learned about and discussed the most urgent and pressing needs of the local Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.
The highly successful community event took place at the WeWork on H St. NE on Saturday, February 22. The DC Council members and candidates interacted with our members in a coordinated and open Q&A panel format. Karl Kosiorek of Deaf Access Services (DAS) and HLAA-DC Chapter provided various accommodations to make it a fully accessible event for everyone – many thanks to DAS and HLAA-DC Chapter.
This fostered much-needed conversations on the needs and gaps being faced by the Deaf and hard of hearing communities, focusing on several areas in education, accessibility, labor market, and entrepreneurship opportunities. These priorities are guided by various discussions with other Deaf organizations in the DMV area.
With approximately 100 people of the DHH community in attendance, we welcomed several from the DC Council and others who are running for DC Council positions this year, including:
- Charles Allen, Ward 6
- Phil Mendelson, Chairperson
- Christian Henderson, Candidate for Member-at-Large
- Janesee Lewis-George, Candidate for Ward 4
- Chander Jayaraman, Candidate for Member-at-Large
- Patrick Kennedy, Candidate for Ward 2
PRIORITY #1: BILLS AWAITING VOTES
Through a series of questions, attendees learned a lot about the policy-making process in the District of Columbia and most importantly, their commitments to passing two pending bills for a new Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) and requiring Open Captioning in all movie theatres in the District of Columbia.
Mendelson and Allen publicly stated that they want to see these bills advancing to the wider DC Council for a vote by the end of March.
PRIORITY #2: DEAF EDUCATION
Studies by the National Deaf Center (NDC) on Postsecondary Outcomes were shared with the panel, that for the native D/HH populations, the District of Columbia is ranked 45th out of 50th for high school completion and in the last place for bachelor’s degree completion.
Mendelson also will be following up with the State Superintendent for Education, the director of OSSE, regarding opportunities for better collaboration between various educational entities in DC to address the achievement gaps in high school and university completion for Deaf residents of DC.
PRIORITY #3: EMPLOYMENT & ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Much of the discussion centered on how the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing would ideally fulfill the role of advocating for better employment, entrepreneurship, education for employers and better access to qualified interpreting services.
We also touched on the possibility of targeted grants and programs to better encourage job opportunities and entrepreneurship among Deaf and hard of hearing communities in DC. This is much needed. According to the same study by NDC, the District of Columbia is near to the bottom of rankings as well.
In all, everyone learned a lot from these crucial conversations and we are very excited to see such strong support for the pending bills and critical priority areas from DC Councilmembers and candidates. We hope to see these bills moving by the end of March.
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