Member Spotlight: Center for Hearing and Deaf Services

Unifying the voice of nonprofits to leverage their power

Center for Hearing and Deaf Services, Inc.

Did you ever go to visit an older relative and were able to hear their TV from the sidewalk?

Have you ever seen people talking in sign language and thought “I wish I could do that?”

Have you ever wondered what happens when your kids have their MP3 player blasting in their ears?

These are things heard every day at the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services, Inc. (HDS). HDS is the only non-profit in the region that provides services to people who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing. With an office in Pittsburgh and another in Greensburg, HDS serves all of Western Pennsylvania from northern West Virginia to Erie, and east to State College.  The main goal of HDS’ services is increasing communications access. It has been in existence since 1921.

HDS’s largest program is sign language interpreting.  During the last year HDS provided over 40,000 hours of interpreting services to schools, hospitals, courts and professional offices to ensure people who are deaf can fully understand any situation.  Recently, HDS has begun offering spoken foreign language interpreting to serve Pittsburgh’s growing immigrant communities.  These individuals face communication barriers which are identical to those facing the deaf community.

One of their most unique programs is Life Skills for individuals who are deaf and intellectually disabled and/or have behavioral health issues. The goal of this program is allow these individuals to live as independently as possible.  Clients are taught skills like healthy cooking, riding the bus, cleaning, laundry, and other activities of daily living. Lessons can include information about health topics, geography, and language skills. Says President and CEO Amy Hart “The program aims to help those it serves to not just exist, but to live. “

HDS has a full-time audiologist on staff; she does hearing tests and fits and dispenses hearing aids. The difference between HDS’ services and those of some private audiologists is the goal is not to sell you a hearing aid, but to help you hear better. Hand in hand with audiology services is the Assistive Device Center, which sells things like amplified telephones, flashing doorbells, bed shaker alarm clocks, and much more. The Center allows clients to “try before they buy” to ensure that they are getting the best product for them.  HDS also offers outreach and education, focused on preventing hearing loss and what an individual can do if hearing loss happens.

HDS hosts a Behavioral Health program staffed by Mercy Behavioral Health. The therapists and psychiatrist are all ASL fluent, meaning individuals who are deaf can interact directly with their behavioral health professional. All staff in this program are familiar with the issues facing those with hearing loss at any level.

To serve the needs of mainstreamed children who are deaf and their families, HDS runs a Deaf Youth Program (DYP).  DYP serves several purposes, including allowing mainstreamed students to develop a sense of community, helping hearing parents learn sign language, and letting kids have accessible experiences. HDS also offers sign language classes to the general public from both offices, as well as on-site corporate classes to businesses and non-profits who request them.

Over its 94 year history HDS has grown and changed to meet the needs of those they serve. HDS is always reviewing its services, making sure they are of the highest quality. Hart says “We want to offer the most comprehensive services possible, so that we can continue to meet the changing needs of people with hearing loss.  The vision of our staff is to be caring professionals, serving people with hearing loss with excellence, dignity, and trust.”