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CHS Transformation and Accomplishments

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The Transformation of the Canadian Hearing Society (2015 – 2017) and the Positive Impact on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Canadians

The purpose of this document is to provide a complete, insightful and current picture of the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS). There are two important elements related to CHS’ recent transformation. First, the actions taken by the Board and Leadership of CHS over the past three years to transform the governance, finances and strategic direction of CHS.  Second, the incredible and growing impact that CHS has on the Canadian Deaf and hard of hearing communities. CHS’ vision is to be the leading organization serving Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians by advancing a barrier-free society. Reading this document will help you to understand how CHS’ transformation is enabling the organization to better meet the needs, and expand the impact of those we serve, now and for years to come.




Part 1. CHS Transformation


The story begins with the Board of Directors, who determines what changes at CHS were required and what steps need to be taken to ensure CHS can have a sustainable future.


The Board of Directors of any organization serves in three (3) ways:
  1. First, it identifies risks to the organization that could hurt it or put it out of business
  1. Second, it ensures the organization has a plan – called a strategic plan – that does two things:
    1. Identifies how the organization will eliminate (or mitigate) the risks to the organization and
    2. Identifies how the organization will take advantage of opportunities to make the organization even stronger
  1. Third, the Board is the CEO’s boss, ensuring that the CEO is effectively implementing the strategic plan.
The Board Identified Risk and Took Action

Almost three (3) years ago, the Board of CHS identified two key risks that threatened the future of the organization:



  1. The first was financial risk. The Board saw that the dollars CHS were bringing in were increasingly insufficient to cover the costs of running the organization. They determined that there was a real risk that the organization would go out of business. To put it in perspective, the Board was faced with years of debt and deficit


    Annual Revenue Less Expenses
2015/16 Deficit $(1,071,000)
2014/15 Deficit $(100,000)*
2013/14 Deficit $(881,000)
2012/13 Deficit $(307,000)
2011/12 Deficit $(693,000)

*Plus additional one-time bequests of approximately $1.55 million in 2014/15.


The organization was forced to deplete reserves with each year’s operating loss.  With the looming threat that the reserves would dry up and CHS would be unable to cover annual operating expenses.


  1. The second risk identified by the Board was a governance risk. Many of the organization’s members consisted of CHS staff or former staff – including staff that had left CHS to establish competitive organizations and who stood to benefit from undermining CHS and diverting funds from CHS to their own organizations.


The admission of staff as members had proven highly destabilizing to CHS in the past including a previous vote of non-confidence that replaced the Board, and CEO,  with an entirely new slate of Directors. This was followed by years of financial uncertainly and operating deficits (as shown above). 


The Board dealt with these risks in three ways:


  1. The first task was to find a new CEO with the proven background, skills and expertise to manage both the financial and governance risks, and to implement a strategic plan designed to make the organization stronger and viable.
  2. Second, the Board directed their new CEO to stabilize the finances by correcting the imbalance between dollars coming in and spending going out. The risk of the organization running out of money and going out of business had to be eliminated. The organization was restructured by strengthening the leadership team and removing a management layer so more resources could be deployed on the front lines, benefiting the people CHS serves. In fact, fiscal 2016/17 generated a surplus, demonstrating how the transformation has been successful to-date, which is allowing CHS to replenish some of the reserves depleted in the past.
  3. Third, the Board strengthened its governance capabilities by adopting best-in-class processes from across the not-for-profit industry. The Bylaw was updated to ensure legislative compliance and policies were strengthened and modernized, including membership requirements. The new membership policy now aligns with the Canadian Not-for-profit Corporations Act, the governing body for national not-for-profit organizations, which states there can only be one class of member. The new membership policy also prohibits individuals who have a conflict from becoming members.  These include current and former employees.


Having addressed these risks, CHS is now financially strong and legally compliant. Employees do not have to worry about the organization being unable to make payroll because the key risks have been eliminated and the agency is now sustainable. Equally important, people in the communities we serve, Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians, can now have confidence that CHS will be there to help eliminate barriers today and tomorrow.

Creating a new Strategic Plan

With major governance and operating risks having been eliminated, the Board and CEO  then set about creating a strategic plan for the next three years. You may have seen the Strategic Plan 2017-2020; however, it’s important to fully understand what this plan will mean for CHS.


First, the plan identifies a vision for CHS well into the future; the vision is big, optimistic and meaningful: “to be the leading organization serving Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians by advancing a barrier-free society.


Second, the plan identifies the mission of CHS. The mission helps everyone in the organization be clear on who we are serving Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians and how we will serve them. Without a clear mission, many organizations lose their way and stray off into activities that put their organizations at risk. The new CHS mission is “to provide industry-leading services and products that enable Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians to overcome barriers to participation.


Third, the plan identifies CHS strategic goals for the next three years, i.e. what we will do as an organization. Our strategic goals for the next three years are the following:


Strategic Goals

  1. To Get Focused – To be a strong and effective organization you cannot be everything for everyone. To be sustainable and effective, organizations must focus on what they are best at. Moving forward, CHS will continue to offer industry-leading services to Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians, but with a heightened focus on those programs where our service capabilities and impact are greatest.
  2. To Get Great – To be incredibly impactful, an organization must do what it does really, really well. It must have the people, the operating processes, the technology and the systems in place to be great. There are opportunities for improvement across CHS.  By addressing each area, CHS service to its clients will hit new heights.
  3. To Get National – Until now, CHS has operated primarily in Ontario. However, there is no organization across Canada that has the same breadth of talent, capability, services and products as CHS. To achieve our vision of a barrier-free society for all Canadians, CHS will start operating beyond Ontario’s borders where it makes sense.


Strategic Priorities

Finally, the strategic plan defines the specific priorities that different parts of the organization will be working on over the next three years to achieve our goals. There were six priorities identified for the organization to work on:


  1. Governance – How the Board will be organized, who will be on it and how it will operate to best direct the organization. Bylaw and policy changes are part of this priority.
  2. Core Business – We need to identify what are the priority services, programs and products the organization should offer (these will be based on what we are most capable of offering and which of them are most important to the clients we serve). It’s possible some services or products will grow or be added, while others may disappear. Overall, our goal is to ensure CHS will be serving more Deaf and hard of hearing clients than ever in its history.
  3. Organization Structure and Operations – We know there are opportunities to operate more efficiently. With improved structure and processes, we can drive better results and impact more lives. This priority focuses on figuring out how we can “Get Great” by operating in an efficient, smart, helpful, and forward-thinking way.
  4. Financial Sustainability – This priority focuses on ensuring that CHS is always financially sound; that our employees and clients never have to worry about our future. This means finding ways to operate that ensure CHS always brings in more money than it spends.
  5. Quality – A great organization requires great quality. This priority ensures that everything we do, from our services and products to how we treat our employees and clients, is done to the highest possible standards.
  6. Branding and Visibility – Our vision for the organization is bigger and bolder than anything we’ve ever done in the past. We want people’s perception of us to reflect our leadership in the community, now and through our future growth.


So, what does all this mean?  What specifics should you be aware of that reinforces how CHS is focused on servicing the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians?


The transformation actions by the Board and leadership over the last two-plus years are already yielding results. We are having record impact as more people are benefiting from CHS’ services, products and programs than ever before.  Here is a partial list of accomplishments demonstrating our commitment to the Deaf and hard of hearing communities.



Part 2. CHS Accomplishments
Clinical Service Accomplishments
  • Every year CHS’ combined programs address the needs of more than 14,000 individuals through 52,000 visits conducted in our 24 locations across the province as well as the clients’ homes,
  • conducting more than 1,400 groups yearly with an attendance of more than 9,800 people across Ontario.
  • We are partnering with the Center for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) to provide ASL translation for a new tool they have developed called the Ontario Perception of Care for Mental Health and Addictions (OPOC-MHA). It will be accessible to all Deaf Canadians.
  • A formalized framework supporting organization-wide continuous improvement has been developed and approved by the Board of Directors.  The first phase of implementation involves achieving Primer accreditation status through Accreditation Canada in February of 2018. This includes a systematic review, evaluation and redevelopment of organization-wide programs related to quality and risk according to best practices in areas such as:  general health and safety, infection control, emergency preparedness, pandemic preparedness, event/complaint management, ethics, privacy, and client satisfaction. 
Counselling Service Accomplishments
  • Counselling Services at CHS are comprised of three distinct and highly unique services: CONNECT Counselling, General Support Services and Hearing Care Counselling. In 2016/17, Counselling Services saw more than 6,000 clients, conducted more than 44,000 visits and provided more than 57,000 hours of service.
  • CONNECT provides professional counselling services to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals of all ages, and their families, dealing with mental health issues, addiction, relationship problems, domestic violence or other serious challenges. The average clients’ age is 46 years old, 71% are Deaf, and 72% live in poverty.
  • General Support Services (GSS) counsellors offer guidance, advocacy, support and counselling to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals who request assistance to manage everyday life events including completing government forms and developing strategies to cope with hearing loss. The average clients’ age is 49 years old, 66% are Deaf, and 75% live in poverty.
  • The Hearing Care Counseling (HCC) Program provides free counselling services to help cope with hearing loss, improve communication with family and friends, stay active and involved and remain safe and independent at home. The average clients’ age is 82 years old, 94% are hard of hearing, and 61% are female.
  • CHS implemented a centralized model for the management of our funders’ contracts with the Local Health Integrated Networks (LHINs) and the United Ways (UWs) to improve efficiency, consistency and performance. 
  • CHS is recognized by our funders as leaders in the field and secured the new, prestigious “Anchor Agency” status from the United Way Toronto York. CHS has also been invited to expand our Counselling Program in the Hamilton region, and is reallocating funds to better support underserved communities, including Thunder Bay and others.
  • CHS has partnered with the Center for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) to provide ASL translation for their new assessment tool called the Ontario Perception of Care for Mental Health and Addictions (OPOC-MHA), making It accessible to all Deaf Canadians.
Audiology Service Accomplishments
  • Over the last three years, we have served an average of more than 7,000 clients per year and the number of client visits from 2015 to 2016 increased by 65%.
  • We have helped clients select more than 2,000 hearing aids and nearly 14,000 communication devices that are right for them in 2016/17.
  • CHS reintroduced our Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist clinic which has benefited 400 clients in this calendar year alone.  
  • For people who need hearing aids, CHS’s audiology program is a sanctuary. 65% of our clients in audiology are over 65 years of age.
Employment Service Accomplishments
  • More than 3,800 Deaf and hard of hearing clients have been supported by CHS Employment Services since 2014, with approximately 845 of those being between ages of 17-29.
  • CHS Employment Services placed on average more than 235 Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in jobs each year.
  • More than 35 summer students have gained invaluable work experience at CHS since 2016 thanks to funding from the federal government’s Canada Summer Jobs program.
  • Requests for CHS Workplace Assessment from employers have increased annually.
  • CHS Employment Services has partnered with Ontario Disability Employment Network, Magnet-Employers, Uber, TD Bank, Scotiabank, Gallaudet University Career Center, National Technical Institute for the Deaf Center on Employment.
  • CHS Employment Services worked with Uber in recruiting and hiring Deaf and hard of hearing drivers through Uber’s in-app features.
  • CHS Employment Services added online access and virtual consultations for clients and employers right across the province via Skype.  Demand for this new service that helps coach clients and match candidates with the right opportunities, no matter where they live, continues to increase dramatically.
  • Received funding from Ministry of Education for three-year (2016-18) Transition from School to Higher Education or Work Project, which includes the creation of digital guides for teachers and parents of students in Kindergarten through Grade 12.
ASL Education Accomplishments
  • American Sign Language (ASL) courses have been expanded to 26 different locations across Ontario, meeting the needs of more than 5,000 people over the past three years.
  • CHS qualified ASL instructors have increased from 10 to 41 over the last couple years, serving approximately 1,000 students in the last 6 months alone.
  • The number of clients served by Student Services, which includes placement testing and tutoring services, has increased from negligible to approximately 50 on six months.
  • New contracts with organizations and education facilities are being established, including Brantford Medix College, Law Society of Upper Canada, Global Kingdom Ministries, York Community Living, Monkey See, Monkey Do Daycares, Mississauga’s Credit First Nations, University of Toronto – Mississauga and Delmar Seniors.
  • CHS has partnered with Fanshawe and Conestoga Colleges to offer ASL classes as part of their course curriculum on their campuses.
Interpreting and Translation Service Accomplishments
  • For fiscal 2016/17, there were 28,731 requests for interpreting services, a 25% increase from two years ago at an average fill rate of 92-93% annually.
  • CART, CHS’s real-time speech-to-text translation service, had 1,610 requests in 2016/17, a 78% increase vs. a year ago with a higher than 99% fill rate annually.
  • 66 people have completed CHS’ Interpreter Internship program with an 86% success rate in passing our rigorous screening process to become registered CHS interpreters. 
Educational Service Accomplishments
  • CHS serves 21 school boards and 480 schools across Ontario providing communication and assistive listening devices. From fiscal 2014/15 to fiscal 2016/17, sales have increased 43%, which is invested back into CHS programs and services.
National Scholarship Program
  • In May 2017, CHS launched a National Scholarship Program designed to support Deaf and hard of hearing students and their families in their pursuit of higher education. In September, scholarships were awarded to 11 post-secondary students, the highest value and number of scholarships awarded to students in CHS history.
  • On September 11, 2017, CHS hosted its annual national golf tournament with proceeds going towards the National Scholarship Program. The event raised a record $225,000, an increase of more than $180,000 from 2016; meaning we can at least quadruple the number of scholarships awarded in 2018.
Community Engagement
  • Since April 2016, Likes on our Facebook page have increased 20% and since February 2017, Twitter followers have increased 58%, with more 850,000 impressions on Twitter from April to September 2017.
  • Our volume of feature video content continues to increase, including our ongoing “Ask the Audiologist” information series, an eight-part series on signs of hearing loss.
  • CHS continues to be a staunch supporter of International Week of the Deaf. Last year, CHS hosted an attendance-breaking employment fair for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. This year, CHS produced an inspiring five-part mini-series showcasing a world with no barriers to communication, #CHSimagine. 
  • CHS announced a joint-partnership with Uber Canada to expand accessibility for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing by creating employment opportunities and pioneering new technology that enables barrier-free driver communication with clients and dispatch.  Dozens of Deaf drivers have been hired in Ontario alone as a result of this initiative.


No other organization in Canada serves more Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians than the Canadian Hearing Society. The depth and breadth of services it provides supports the Deaf and hard of hearing at home, in the workplace and throughout society. CHS is the leader in eliminating barriers to employment, education, communication, and hearing health, impacting almost every aspect of life.


Over the past three years, the CHS Board of Directors, CEO and its leadership teams have transformed the organization by eliminating risk and setting a bold, visionary direction. When this transformation is fully completed and with the support of its skilled staff, partners, funders and other agencies, more Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians than ever before will have their lives immeasurably changed for the better by the Canadian Hearing Society.

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