Hands & Voices started as a parent support group in Colorado in the mid-1990’s. This group was different from other groups at the time, as it embraced the idea that families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing have more in common than they have differences. They believed that there was no one “right” way to teach deaf and hard of hearing
children – they wanted to get away from the historical divide between the “signing camp” and the “oral camp,” and bring everyone together. This original group, Colorado Families for Hands & Voices, received a lot of attention, and grew very quickly. Soon new chapters of Hands & Voices began popping up across the country, and there are now more than 30 chapters.
BC Hands & Voices is the first international chapter of Hands & Voices. Our group came into being in January of 2008. Twelve people came together for our first meeting, and we’ve been meeting monthly ever since. We are a mixed group, including parents of kids who are deaf or hard of hearing, professionals working with kids who are deaf or hard of hearing, and deaf & hard of hearing adults. We are from various backgrounds and cultures – our common goal is to support families in achieving successful outcomes for their children.
BC Hands & Voices started up in order to address a specific need for families in B.C. With the recent implementation of newborn hearing screening (part of the BC Early Hearing Program), there is a need for support and social networking for these newly diagnosed families across the province. That is the focus of B.C. Hands & Voices. B.C. Hands & Voices is not the only parent-run group in B.C. that offers support to families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Family Network for Deaf Children and Canadian Hard of Hearing Association of B.C. Parents’ Branch are wonderful groups that have been providing information, support, advocacy, social opportunities, programs, and parent networking for many years. However, neither of these groups focuses on families of young, newly diagnosed children.
It has been a busy year for B.C. Hands and Voices – we are now registered as a non-profit society, and the next step is to complete the application for charitable status. We have a bank account, membership forms, a website, and now our first newsletter. We are busy planning our second family event, and have lots of ideas for the future. If you are interested in joining us and helping out, please contact us – the more the merrier!