By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) programs for deaf or hard of hearing Oklahomans are honoring Deaf Awareness Week from September 24 through 30.
The celebration aims to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people and culture.
Activities held this week include educational events to encourage people to come together as a community.
This year the deaf community is honoring the memory of Sue Galloway, a beloved Oklahoma School for the Deaf (OSD) retired librarian who served generations of students for more than 25 years. Deaf herself, Galloway recently died on August 22 at age 68.
Galloway was the great-great- great-grand-daughter of Laurent Clerc, the first deaf teacher of the deaf in America. Clerc was the co-founder, with Thomas Gallaudet and Dr. Mason Cogswell, of the American School for the Deaf in Harford, Connecticut, where Clerc taught for 41 years.
Galloway’s famous ancestor made her a celebrity by association for many deaf people nationwide who admire Clerc’s many achievements in deaf education.
“Even if she had not had the famous ancestor, we would have loved her just as much,” OSD Superintendent Larry Hawkins said. “All of our lives are richer because of her.”
On September 21, DRS Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDHH) Unit hosted a booth at the State Fair in Oklahoma City providing entertainment and outreach to the public during Deaf Awareness Day.
SDHH is distributing free visor cards to place in vehicles to help law enforcement officers identify people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The cards can be used when people are pulled over or in other situations. Cards are available in the Tulsa office from Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., or the OKC office Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Staff will also mail cards to deaf or hard of hearing people.
To receive a free visor card. email [email protected]; call by videophone 405-543-2646, or phone 918-836-5556. To reach SDHH by mail write to OKC SDHH Office, 2401 NW 23rd St., Ste. 51, Oklahoma City, OK, 73107; or Tulsa SDHH Office, 8740 E. 11th St., Ste. F., Tulsa, OK, 74105.
During federal fiscal year 2017, ending September 30, the SDHH unit helped 225 Oklahomans with hearing loss to find permanent employment or provided services, such as assistive technology devices, that enabled them to keep their current jobs.
Nearly 20 percent more SDHH clients became employed or reached other self-sufficiency goals compared to the previous year. The average wage for these deaf or hard of hearing clients increased by 10 percent — the highest in recorded history – although staff spent approximately 10 percent less per case.
“These achievements are even more impressive in the face of the tight budgets many state agencies are facing, yet the SDHH staff continue to produce at a high level, striving to assist as many Oklahomans with hearing loss as possible year after year,” SDHH Programs manager Jonathon Cook said.
“In a sense, every day is Deaf Awareness Day at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.”
OSD is fully accredited and teaches the same state-mandated education requirements as other public schools. Staff and students communicate directly using American Sign Language, voice or other communication mode preferred by students.
Many students receive training to assist with full utilization of cochlear implants or hearing aids.
In 2016, 240 residential, commuter and summer school students attended the Oklahoma School for the Deaf at no charge.
As the statewide resource center, OSD staff also offered statewide outreach services, including 3,385 consultations and evaluations and 34,447 direct services to students, their families, educators and organizations.
Studies show that the average reading level of most deaf students is fourth grade, according to deaf’ students’ scores on nationally normed tests.
“We are very proud that OSD students’ average reading level is ninth grade due to the emphasis we put on helping students improve their reading comprehension when they come to our school,” Hawkins said. “The average reading level of incoming American college freshmen is seventh grade, compared to an eighth grade level for adults in the U.S.”
For more information, Oklahoma School for the Deaf can also be reached at 580-622-4900, TTY (text telephone) at 580-622-4900 or email [email protected]. To learn more, visit www.okdrs.gov/students/osd or www.osd.k12.ok.us.