Friday, July 24, 2009

ATTENTION: Deaf Community & Western New York

AFA supports Buffalo and Western New York Deaf community & Allies advocacy efforts to have a qualified executive director lead DAS (Deaf Adult Service). DAS' board just hired a new Executive Director, Tom Burns, who is hearing and had never meet a Deaf person before, and had no knowledge of Deaf issues, Deaf culture, and American Sign Language. These skill sets were stated requirements for the job. The DAS board ignored these requirements and hired an unqualified individual who is supposed to supervise Deaf and hearing staff and oversee a program designed directly to REMOVE access barriers and to EMPOWER Deaf adults. The board of Deaf Adult Services has violated their own mission in this hiring decision.

The valuation of someone who can hear and speak and does not know ASL someone who meets the job requirements is an example of audism.

Many members of the Western NY Deaf community need your support. Please sign the petition below:

For more information on the situation - view this vlog:
ASL VLOG & Texts:

Latest press release:

On Wednesday, July 22nd, members of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing Community stood protest in the Tri-Main office of WNY Deaf Adult Services (or DAS). The reason: Community outrage over the decision to hire an executive director for the agency that directly serves this population who has no experience working with the Deaf or the ability to communicate through American Sign Language (ASL).

“How can someone who has never served the Deaf community, who purports to never having met a Deaf person, be given the charge to run an agency dedicated to breaking down barriers and advocating for us?” stated Dean DeRusso, the Deaf Systems Advocate at Regional Center for Independent Living. a Deaf member of the 35 Western New Yorkers present at a silent protest during an emergency board meeting at DAS.

“There is no disputing his qualifications as an administrator, but that is only 50% of his job, his hire and lack of understanding around Deaf issues and Culture is an affront to our community and we’re here to demand a reopening of the hiring process,” stated Emily Glenn-Smith.

Carrying black, white and red signs with a stark and simple message – “DAS ≠ ACCESS” – both the Deaf community and their hearing allies were present during the officially closed executive section to request:

 Reopening the search for a qualified director to the region’s only Deaf agency

 Equal access to communication in the office for Deaf staff members and Deaf community members that rely on DAS for services, including employment, housing, translation and legal assistance

 Finally, in the event that no candidates meet DAS’s qualifications as dictated by its mission that a director be hired, minimally, with knowledge of and extensive interactions with the Deaf community, as well as fluency in ASL

Some cynics from both the Hearing and Deaf communities might call this initial confrontation with the DAS board premature or unfounded, claiming that professional qualifications outweigh personal identity politics when it comes to running an organization of this kind. Deaf and Hard of Hearing recipients of these services, however, stand to lose the quality of service and vital opportunities for full acceptance among the hearing majority in key quality of life considerations, such as equal access to interpreting services and employment opportunities. For a community that routinely struggles to be understood, DAS is the last place where a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person would expect more of the same.

Deaf Adult Services is committed to creating a bridge between the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing Communities through advocacy, education, case management, counseling and interpreting services. The agency’s guiding principle is equal access. For protestors, the agency’s decision to hire not only a hearing candidate, but one that has no working knowledge of Deaf culture stands in complete opposition to this mission.

Let Freedom Roll!