Making a Difference in the Lives of Deaf Families

Making a Difference in the Lives of Deaf Families

Silent Voice Canada continues to make a difference in the lives of deaf families and individuals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and has been doing so since 1975. Thanks to a corps of dedicated staff and volunteers, Silent Voice is the only organization in the GTA offering community and family-based support to deaf children and adults in American Sign Language (ASL). A member agency of Catholic Charities, Silent Voice is grounded in Catholic values, respecting the dignity and worth of all people.

Silent Voice offers the deaf community a wide variety of services. It provides social and recreational programs in ASL for deaf children and hearing family members. Since improving communications between the deaf and the hearing members of their family is a primary goal of Silent Voice, it helps hearing family members learn ASL.

Together with other organizations, it provides special assistance and outreach services to disadvantaged deaf adults. Through a tax clinic for deaf adults who earn below $20,000 annually, Silent Voice helps them complete their tax returns, which for a deaf adult can be frustrating, miss benefits and in the end be very costly. If a low-income deaf adult were to try to acquire the professional assistance to help them complete their tax returns, the cost could be close to $200. Through Silent Voice, the cost is only just over $80.

Through its summer camps for deaf children, it fosters in them a sense of responsibility and respect toward the community. It also works to instill a level of confidence that will allow them to cope with the non-deaf world. Silent Voice believes that confidence helps a deaf child make wise choices as they grow.

While there are a lot of parenting courses and books out there, the focus on hearing children and parents. The mother of a deaf child explains what a tremendous help Silent Voice was for her:

"When I became a new mother, I found it very hard to access resources. Courses were expensive and inaccessible. The material wasn't designed for deaf parents who use a signed language like ASL. Silent Voice offered accessible parenting courses and I could access community resources because interpreting had been put in place. Information was adapted to meet my needs, for example, I learned where to buy a baby monitor – one where lights, not sound, would signal that my baby was awake or crying.

"I'm thrilled Silent Voice offers an accessible parenting program in its Deaf Adult Services. I've gained so much more confidence and have learned about bonding and communication, behaviour and discipline. I met some wonderful people who I continue to see. I hope they can offer this program for a long time."

Another mother said one-on-one support from a support worker for her son allowed him to go to the Silent Voice summer camp.

"This was his first year and it was incredible! He came home happy and full of life. Most summers he has been very isolated here with me. He has had no opportunities to socialize with kids his own age. Sadly, most don't bother with him. At camp though, he was so happy to be with others who shared the same culture and language. It was so wonderful for him to have that chance at a good and happy summer filled with activities and events and other kids! I can't say thanks enough to Silent Voice."