City Lets Deaf Community Know It Isn’t Forgotten

April 27, 2010

Belleville’s hard-of-hearing and deaf community is getting better insight into how the municipality works.

New equipment which allows hard-of-hearing residents to listen in during council meetings and the inclusion of a sign language interpreter at some meetings will break down barriers for a large number of residents in Belleville.

Both these initiatives were included during Monday’s regular meeting as well as a special open house held for the deaf community after the council session.

Coun. Garnet Thompson, who serves as chairman for the city’s accessibility advisory committee, said the use of interpreters is not expected to occur at every meeting, but noted Monday’s session included a large representation from the deaf community. The evening’s open house also garnered a positive response
with approximately 50 people attending.

“This is really the first time we’ve taken the initiative to provide interpreters and this gives this council the opportunity to see the value of having interpreters here for council meeting,” Thompson said.

The accessibility committee, he said, is targeting areas where barriers exist and the lack of interpreters is an obvious one. He said some money has been included in the budget to provide the service, but it is difficult to know when interpreters will be needed because there is never a guarantee members of the deaf community will attend the meetings.

Susan Gudmundsson, employment consultant and job developer with the Canadian Hearing Society, applauded the city’s initiatives.

“It’s fantastic because it does support the Canadian Hearing Society’s vision of a society that is respected and has access to communication and full participation,” she said.

Gudmundsson added having interpreters at meetings will allow the deaf community to get a better understanding of the municipal procedures that take place.
She said other municipalities also offer the service and it is encouraging to see Belleville take the initiative.

Mayor Neil Ellis said engaging the deaf community is important considering the city has a large population of deaf residents due to Sir James Whitney School.

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