Joanna Nichols and CHF

Article excerpt

The Volta Awards 2010 Recipient

Earlier this year, the AG Bell Board of Directors voted unanimously to honor Joanna Nichols and the Children's Hearing Foundation (CHF) in Taiwan as the recipient of the 2010 Volta Award. The Volta Award is given to individuals and/or organizations that have made a significant contribution to increasing public awareness of the challenges and potential of individuals with hearing loss and the listening and spoken language option. Nichols and CHF join other notable award recipients such as worldrenowned audiologist Marion Downs of the Marion Downs Hearing Center; Hearing Loss Association of America's Rocky Stone; the Oberkotter Foundation; Jim Garrity of the John Tracy Clinic; and Karl R. White, Ph.D., founder and director of the National Center for Hearing and Assessment Management at Utah State University; among others.

CHF is widely credited with revolutionizing deaf education in Taiwan by being the first organization to offer a listening and spoken language alternative to children with hearing loss in that country.

"This award posthumously recognizes Ms. Nichols for her life work and the Children's Hearing Foundation for their role as an example of one of the most successful efforts to facilitate access to listening and spoken language for children who are deaf or hard of hearing through the application of listening and spoken language practice and the use of qualified professionals," said AG Bell President John R. "Jay" Wyant. "Through her vision, and the continuing efforts of the Children's Hearing Foundation, there is greater public awareness throughout Asia of the listening and spoken language option for children with hearing loss. In fact, many children who would not have otherwise had the opportunity are listening and talking today because of Ms. Nichols and the Children's Hearing Foundation."

A California native, Nichols moved to Taiwan in 1977 and married Taiwanese native Kenny Cheng in 1983. The discovery that the younger of their two daughters, Alana, had a profound hearing loss led them on a journey in exploration of the myriad communication and language options available for children with hearing loss.

In 1993, they attended their first AG Bell event in Denver, Colo. Soon after, Alana received a cochlear implant and was raised using listening and spoken language. Nichols and Cheng founded CHF in 1996 with the mission of helping children with hearing loss learn spoken language through listening, as well as to train therapists to make listening and spoken language possible throughout Taiwan. Since then, CHF has established teaching and research centers in Taipei, Kaohsiung, I Lan and Chung Yuan Christian University. CHF is the only organization worldwide that has applied auditory-verbal practice in Mandarin.

Nichols passed away in 2001. Volta Voices recently had an opportunity to interview Mr. Cheng about her life and their shared legacy.

Volta Voices: When did you first hear about AG Bell? Tell us about the first AG Bell event you and, Ms. Nichols attended.

Kenny Cheng: In 1993. After receiving Alana's prognosis, Joanna sought out AG Bell as it was and still is the most renowned U.S. organization for the hearing loss and spoken language community.

V.V.: When you and Ms. Nichols chose to pursue the listening and spoken language option for Alana, what expectations did you have? What impact do you think that, despite Alana's deafness, her ability to hear and speak has had on your family?

K.C.: Regarding our expectations, we purposely didn't have any expectations or goals for that matter. We just made a commitment to do our best! The cause of Alana's hearing loss is a common cavity, which is a malformation of the inner ear and the most severe case. At that time, we hadn't found any successful examples of such a case.

As far as impact on our family, for Alana to be able to hear and speak has been HUGE! …