Committed to inclusion – Central Okanagan Better at Home’s engagement process opens arms to Deaf and Hard of Hearing community

January 17th, 2014

Leslee Scott, previously with the Western Institute of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, attended the Central Okanagan Better at Home Community Meeting in Kelowna on November 23rd, 2013. Adding to the 45 attendees, 23 of whom were self-identified seniors, two interpreters were also present to sign. This is the first time a Better at Home community meeting has had official sign language interpreting, helping to create a more accessible environment for people with hearing loss.

For Deaf and Hard of Hearing seniors signing support is crucial, especially when they are at a presentation for a program that is aimed at keeping them longer at home and connected to their community.

Approximately 10% of the general population have mild to profound hearing loss. Because changes of hearing loss increase with age, this number may be even higher in the Central Okanagan given the elevated number of retirees, and the influx of baby boomers to the area. By age 60 approximately 50% of seniors have some sort of hearing loss.

Attending the meeting with Scott was Paul Landry, President of the Okanagan Valley Association for the Deaf. He stated it was very nice to be able to attend and understand what was happening. Having the interpreters was much appreciated as it enabled him to participate in the small group, which benefited the other participants as well.

“Deaf Seniors enjoy meeting others just as much as anyone else”, Scott states. “If they have some means of communication, such as signing, they would be happier and more comfortable being at home and receiving supports. The good news is that the Okanagan College is putting on sign language courses again in Spring 2014, so hopefully those in the Health and Education fields will take some classes.” Scott urges.

Providing sign language interpreters during a Better at Home community meeting is a first step in a continuous approach towards making the program accessible and inclusive to all seniors, and opening doors to otherwise sheltered seniors.

To find out more about the Western Institute of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing: