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The Deaf Way II Reader: Perspectives from the Second International Conference on Deaf Culture

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We also established the NAD tour. We felt there was a need to bring the organization to the people and to provide information to the membership about the organization, its purpose, its structure, and its strengths. The NAD cannot be a strong organization without the involvement of its membership, so we had the national tour. In our travels across Deaf America, we saw a lot of people with passion and dreams—people who felt that they could achieve a better place in life. I saw people with desire, people wanting opportunities, and people needing direction and guidance. The NAD tour increased the membership of the organization, and I think many of our agenda items that we established were due to the forums that we created at the NAD. This provided the membership with an opportunity to express their views and what they would like to see the NAD prioritize as far as projects. It is not possible for the NAD to do everything. The NAD has a very small staff; they are achieving a lot of miracles every day for all of us.

The only way we can really make a substantial difference is by working together with them. If you work alone, you will only continue to be isolated, and that is a challenge. We often isolate ourselves, we divide ourselves, and we limited our potential as a result. We may not always have all the answers, but I and many other people in Deaf America—throughout the world even—believe that we can find solutions and that the best way of doing that is by working with each other. The NAD will always have a special place in my heart, and I will always be there for the NAD, because it is one organization that truly advocates for the rights for deaf and hard of hearing people. They have for more than one hundred years.

The SDAD gave me their full support. They believed that we should move in a certain direction, so I started working closely with a wonderful partner, Sprint. We bid for contracts together, and we were involved with them because we were a deaf-consumer-driven organization. By working together, we believed we could provide high-quality services in the area for the deaf and hard of hearing people. CSD would provide the facilities, management, and support, and Sprint would provide the technology and the engineering. It has been a truly wonderful and successful partnership that has led directly and indirectly to many other things. In fact, not very long ago we celebrated our ten-year partnership together. Today, CSD is now involved with video relay, which was partially developed by CSD, and Sprint is helping us market this service. You will be able to see that product here at Deaf Way. You will see a lot of activities taking place with our deaf relay services and our video relay services; we are trying to branch out on a global basis with these new products. I think this has taught all of us a valuable lesson—the value of working with other businesses, those in the community, state government, and others.

In the past, service organizations have relied on federal and state grants and funding sources to support human services. This social service concept was and is widespread. At CSD, we changed our philosophy about how we provide businesses and human service models. The many political changes that take place affect and drive funding sources. Any time you see a change in political leadership, priorities change. The economy may change, and that greatly impacts services and funding sources. In addition, we cannot expect to rely solely on the government to meet all of our needs. We have the responsibility to find businesses that are willing to share the same mission, a philanthropic mission of supporting the community. This leads to partnerships whereby businesses and human service models can work together. By using the philosophy of working with businesses to address social responsibilities, we are able to establish our own direction. We are still a nonprofit organization, but we work with other for-profit organizations to provide certain services and products. We then utilize funds that we generate from certain products to help subsidize our human services. This way, if there is a human service we want to provide, we can find a way to do it. For example, we have a variety of senior citizen programs; we have transportation, apartments, and housing programs for deaf people; we have a recreational program and activities within our deaf community center. Where is it that you can find funding to support all of these venues? For us to have our own destiny, for us to create our own destiny, we must take the responsibility to find the funding for services. I do not think that there is really another way of accomplishing this.

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