Michigan's Deaf Community

Michigan, particularly Detroit (the largest city in Michigan), has much to offer deaf and hard of hearing people, their families, and those interested in learning sign language or working with deaf students.

Associations

This state boasts multiple social organizations for deaf and hard of hearing people. For example, in Detroit, the Detroit Association of the Deaf hosts social events and has been serving the community since 1916.

Also in Detroit is a chapter of National Black Deaf Advocates, the Detroit Black Deaf Advocates. Farther from Detroit is the Flint Association of the Deaf.

The Michigan Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MADHH) engages in advocacy and education. MADHH also provides services such as employment assistance and a hearing aid loaner program, as well as summer camp and a teen leadership institute.

The Michigan Coalition for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, a group of over 40 agencies, runs E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing People online. E-Michigan has a comprehensive events calendar to help connect people to related events in the area.

The Hearing Loss Association of Michigan (HLAM) for hard of hearing people advocates for hard of hearing residents of Michigan. For example, they have hearing technology resource specialists who train hard of hearing people on the use of hearing assistive technology.

Check the website for chapter listings.

Social Services

Michigan's deaf community has multiple choices for social services. The mental health provider Deaf Options has been providing mental health services to deaf people in Michigan since 1986.

One social services agency is the Deaf Community Advocacy Network (Deaf C.A.N.).

Based in Sylvan Lake, Deaf C.A.N. serves all of southeastern Michigan. A few of the many services it offers are deaf leadership training program, support for deaf parents of hearing children, and a hard of hearing support services program.

Another social services agency is Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. DHHS serves all of west Michigan. The agency provides a long laundry list of services including job placement, sign language classes, and interpreter referral services. In addition, DHHS keeps the deaf and hard of hearing community informed on social events such as the showing of movies in American Sign Language.

Entertainment

About 90 miles from Detroit is a Deaf Chat Coffee in Lansing. Lansing also hosts the ASL Expo, a deaf trade show, at the Lansing Center.

Some theatres (e.g. Matrix Theatre in Detroit) have interpreted performances. Michigan also appears to have pioneered shadow interpreting, whereas sign language interpreters are onstage, mixed in with the cast. Terptheatre.com has a listing of shadow interpreted performances.

For movies, a search of CaptionFish.com found six accessible movie theaters within 60 miles of Detroit. The three closest theaters to Detroit found in the search were the AMC Livonia 20, UA Commerce Stadium 14, and Showcase Cinemas Ann Arbor.

Religion

Deaf C.A.N.'s newsletter has a list of interpreted religious services throughout Michigan. For Detroit, churches listed are Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ, Joseph Campau Avenue Church of God, Resurrection Lutheran Church, and Silent Assembly Church of God.

Education

In Detroit, parents of deaf and hard of hearing children can choose from the Detroit Day School for the Deaf, a publicly supported school that has been in existence since 1898 (it is next to the Detroit Public Schools Hearing and Speech Center), or the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.

Plenty of options abound for parents who wish to educate their children orally. In Grand Rapids, there is the Grand Rapids Oral Deaf Program. The website Listen-Up has a comprehensive list of oral deaf education programs in more cities, including:

  • Ann Arbor
  • Berrien Springs
  • Charlevois
  • East Lansing
  • Kalamazoo

For parents, there is the Michigan Hands and Voices, a parent organization for parents whose children use all methods of communication. Another national organization (which does not have chapters) is the American Society for Deaf Children, which hosts an annual conference, has a newsletter, and an e-mail list. One more option for parents is the Michigan chapter of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell). AG Bell supports the oral method of education.

Deaf Education Programs

People wanting to learn how to teach the next generation of deaf students can attend Michigan State University in East Lansing, for a bachelor's or a master's degree in deaf education. MSU also offers a doctorate in special education with a focus on deaf education. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti's Department of Special Education has both undergraduate and graduate programs in hearing impairment, plus a speech and hearing clinic.

Government

Michigan has a Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which is part of the Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth 403's Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns. The Division provides many services to deaf and hard of hearing Michigan residents. Their services include helping employers make themselves accessible to deaf and hard of hearing employees, providing information and referral services, and doing research on the deaf and hard of hearing population.

The Division is responsible for the quality of interpreting services in Michigan, and administers the Quality Assurance Interpreter Screening Program. It also maintains a list of hearing dog trainers, lends other agencies assistive devices, and publishes an interpreter directory. Michigan residents can receive the Division's newsletter, the DoDHH Bulletin, and attend an annual Silent Retreat.

Sign Language

In the Detroit area, among the options for learning sign language, are free sign language classes at the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. In addition, the Deaf Community Action Network also offers sign language classes. There are other sources of sign language classes throughout Michigan, as well.

Sign language teachers can join the Michigan American Sign Language Teachers Association. Contact information can be found on the main ASLTA website.

Interpreters

If you need a sign language interpreter, the Michigan Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing, MADHH, and Deaf C.A.N. all offer interpreter referral services. Intepreters themselves can join the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and if African-American, join the National Alliance of Black Interpreters' Detroit chapter.

Interpreting students can attend Lansing Community College's sign language/interpreter program. LCC also has a club, Signers and Others for Deaf Awareness. In addition, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf website lists six other interpreter training options in Michigan.

Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists

Michigan has a chapter of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the Michigan Speech Language Hearing Association. MSHA holds an annual conference, and has a jobs listing. Of special importance is the licensure page, because in January 2009 Michigan's governor signed a licensure law.

Relay

Michigan has a state telephone relay service, the Michigan Relay Service. Relay service is also offered by the Communication Access Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CAC), based in Flint, Michigan. (CAC offers multiple services besides relay: senior citizens, technology, education, community interpreting, community housing, and even a Camp Destination for deaf youth.)

Other Deaf American Communities

Would you like to learn about other American deaf communities? About.com has profiled several other American deaf communities.

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