Hello, I am Chris Kenopic, President and CEO of The Canadian Hearing Society. I would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on what CHS has been doing over the past six months. During this time, I have travelled across Ontario and visited many of our regional offices. I have had the opportunity to meet with and learn from staff, members of the community, the Community Development Boards, and our funders. This experience has proved to be beneficial, as they shared their various regional issues with me and allowed me to start considering what we need to do to address these issues.
Among the many challenges that were identified one example is the great distance staff members and Interpreters who work in our Northern, more rural communities must travel to provide service to any one consumer. We are looking for ways to address this challenge in order to provide faster and more efficient services in these communities.
On November 30th, The Canadian Hearing Society gathered at Queen’s Park for CHS Day. Members from the CHS Board, management, staff, community representatives, and consumers met with politicians and staff for the purpose of creating awareness/educating them and explaining mental health and addiction issues within the Deaf community. The Connect Counselling program is the largest service provider of its kind across Ontario. Yet, we have only 20 counsellors available to meet the needs of 250,000 potential consumers who need mental health support. We are currently unable to accommodate such a demand. We met with politicians and staff at Queen’s Park about the gaps in service and how CHS can remedy this situation. They seemed receptive to our message. Our hope is that for 2011, they will grant us the needed funds to expand our services across the province.
CHS POSITION PAPERS
The Canadian Hearing Society’s Board recently approved two very important position papers. The first one concerns Access to Language and Language Acquisition for Children who are Deaf and hard of hearing. The second position paper is regarding the Disability Tax Credit as it pertains to individuals with hearing loss. These two position papers have been brought forth based on issues and concerns observed in the community and clearly state CHS’ stand on these issues. All of CHS’ existing position papers will be posted on our website in all four languages: American Sign Language (ASL), la langue des signes québécoise (LSQ), French and English.
The Canadian Hearing Society’s Board members work on a number of different committees; one of which is the Strategic Planning Committee. The Strategic Planning Committee has been overseeing CHS’ logo re-design project. This logo will be different from the one we have been using to date. CHS is reaching out to its members to cast their vote on the new logo design. For those of you who are currently not CHS members, I encourage you to become a member before January 31st so that you are entitled to vote on the new logo. Other benefits to your membership include a subscription to our VIBES magazine and voting privileges at our annual meetings. By becoming a new member, you will show your support to CHS.
In the past six months, The Canadian Hearing Society has had the honour of having a number of special guests visit us. We welcomed Graeme Kelly, CEO of Vicdeaf, from East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Our conversation revealed many interesting similarities in the services we provide.
Another honored guest was Sister Rose Andre, a nun from Montfort School for the Deaf & Deafblind in Haiti. She shared her experience and many tragic stories from the earthquake. The school was destroyed in the earthquake and she was travelling and seeking support to raise funds to re-build the school.
We also had the pleasure of meeting two Deaf teachers, working for the school for the Deaf in the Ukraine. They were amazed at the size of CHS and the number of our employees that are consumers – culturally Deaf, hard of hearing, deafened, oral deaf, and individuals who use cochlear implants all of whom work in a number of different fields. They were quite impressed during their visit.
As you can see we welcome a number of different visitors to CHS.
To date there are several goals for improving the agency, one of which is improving communications across the province. We have 29 offices across Ontario. Often staff, community members, supporters of CHS are not aware of what is happening in other offices/communities across the province. Communication has been limited. This spring each office will be equipped with a TV. This initiative will allow more information to be shared, whether it is general information, service changes, information in sign language, interviews and a variety of other possibilities. The launch will fall in line with the timing of our 2011 AGM.
Another goal for CHS is the capability to accept incoming video calls. To date individuals have been contacting CHS via TTY and BRS but have requested the option of video calls. We of course support this and commit to implementing this service. Any individual will be able to call CHS’ number via video and be connected to a receptionist, after indicating which service they would like the receptionist will transfer the call accordingly.
We are moving forward with this initiative; however we have encountered an issue. The system we use at CHS is owned by an American company and they are overseen by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) which is similar to their Canadian counterpart the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecom Commission). Any video applications must be approved by the FCC, so once it is approved we can begin accepting incoming video calls. We are hoping this will be available by Winter/Spring 2011. We appreciate your patience.
I am excited to share with you that at CHS’ 2011 AGM we will announce and launch important changes to our 2 main accessibility programs. The goal is to improve communication access across the province and across Canada, which is quite exciting.
The new E-Store: When you visit CHS’ website under Communication Devices and choose one of the devices (TTY, clock etc..) the product photo will appear as well as the product information which will be available in all four languages - American Sign Language (ASL), la langue des signes québécoise (LSQ), French and English. This will make the website more accessible to our consumers. You can then order the device and it will be shipped to you.
This past September CHS hosted an e-Bay auction. There were many bids on the different items available. Not only do these individuals get great items but they are also supporting CHS’ programs and services.
On the CHS website you will see an icon for ‘Holiday Gifts’. If you would like to support CHS’ programs and services this is where you can honour someone with a donation in their name. They will receive a card informing them of the donation.
If you recall last year, CHS hosted CHS QUEST. Participants convened in Toronto for this great event. They were given clues and visited different QUEST stops to take on a number of different challenges and raced against one another to complete them. Participants thoroughly enjoyed themselves. CHS will be hosting QUEST again on May 29th 2011 in Toronto and Oshawa. For more information please visit our website.
As you can see with all of these remarks we have been keeping busy, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank staff, managers, provincial office and all of the regional offices for their ongoing support and work that culminates in all of these new initiatives. Also thank you to the community for your support - culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing - you are all integral to the work that we do. We look forward to continuing our work with you into 2011. Happy holidays.