Coalition Building Creates Opportunities

Article excerpt

ADVOCATES

In February 2003, the Utah chapter of AG Bell joined several local and state organizations on a coalition serving people who are deaf or hard of hearing. This group includes representatives from Self Help for the Hard of Hearing, now known as Hearing Loss Association of America; the Utah Association of the Deaf, a chapter of National Association of the Deaf; the Association of Late Deafened Adults; and the Cued Language Network of America.

When this state coalition was first formed, we developed our mission, to improve access to services and information for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, regardless of communication methodology. Our vision, to strengthen advocacy and community relationships as a means of enhancing services and support for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, helped us identify our first goal, to let our members know where and when open-captioned movies were showing.

Because we served popcorn at every meeting, we began informally referring to ourselves as the "Popcorn Coalition." As our coalition grew and reached new audiences, the name became so memorable and the feedback so positive, that we adopted "Popcorn Coalition" as our permanent name.

Over the past three years, the coalition has made great strides in advancing opportunities for people with hearing loss in Utah. We have worked with the Department of Health, the Department of Public Safety and a Salt Lake County Americans with Disabilities Act specialist to educate these agencies on how to work with individuals with hearing loss, especially during emergency situations. Upon discovering that Federal Communications Committee-mandated emergency captioning was not happening on all of our local television stations, we worked with local stations to ensure they were compliant. We partnered with our local Latter-day Saints church to make their visitor's center, a popular tourist attraction, accessible to people with hearing loss in preparation for the International Association of Late Deafened Adults conference held in Salt Lake City in September 2005. …