Stronger Together: Raising Our Community’s Voice

color photo of a group of award winners at the front of a meeting/event room

Stronger together: That was the theme of our annual meeting and awards luncheon on March 23, 2024.

To truly bring everyone together meant planning our first fully accessible, hearing-friendly, hybrid meeting. That’s no easy task. Imagine a dozen moving parts, sixty people who needed to hear and to be heard, an unfamiliar venue in Auburn, and the evolving technology and tech skills needed to support it all.

Thanks to the efforts and talents of so many people, it all went beautifully! And no one had to ask for access.

“Asking for access is a barrier to access,” said Cheri Perazzoli, HLAA-WA president. “People with hearing loss may be reluctant to ask for help hearing. Or they may not even know what kind of access is available to them.” To remove the “ask” and ensure everyone, including members of the Deaf community, could participate equally, HLAA-WA arranged for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters in person and online, plus online and in-person live captioning, and a temporary hearing loop in the meeting room at Green River College.

This communication access helps us connect not only with one another, but also with communities we support and who support us. By drawing strength and learning from these connections, we can become even more empowered to advocate for ourselves and others.

Our awards this year in particular celebrated both the hearing loss community and our many connections across Washington State, such as ODHH, HSDC, and the Washington State Senior Lobby.

Our HLAA-WA 2024 Awards

Outstanding Community Service
Laura Gramer, HSDC
Doug Sladen, AuD, Western Washington University
Christine Griffin, Hands & Voices

Legislative Impact
Representative Tina Orwall
Jill Bujnevicie, Let Washington Hear
Cynthia Stewart, HLAA-WA Legislative Liaison

Rising Star
Hugo Esterhay

Heart to Heart
The HOPE Crew:
Kimberly Parker
Carolyn Odio
Glenda Philio
Jerry Paulukonis
Erlene VanDerMeer
Devin Myers

Community Connections (Outreach)
Rick Faunt
Sandy Bunning
Glenda Philio
Bev Ziarko
Diana Thompson
HLAA-Whatcom County

Our award winner, guest speaker, and all-around hearing loss heroine Rep. Tina Orwall updated us on hearing loss legislation in the Washington State Legislature. Several members mentioned how important it was to improve open captions at movies–sometimes, caption glasses or tablets simply don’t work, and many of the current open caption movies are at inconvenient times (like the middle of a Tuesday). Attendees also gave Rep. Orwall excellent suggestions, such as improving hearing access at SeaTac Airport, which she promised to work on as much as possible. We’ll continue to work with Rep. Orwall and other legislators on issues that are important to hearing loss.

So many people deserve huge kudos and our enthusiastic gratitude for making this day a success. THANK YOU to the folks below and to all who attended, cheered, and connected.

  • Ann Thomas and Alan Katsura, technical experts extraordinaire from HLAA-Diablo Valley, our “sister” chapter, who we rely on regularly for help
  • Tech and event staff at Green River College. We can’t recommend GRC highly enough as an event venue. They patiently and skillfully worked with us every step of the way.
  • The many volunteers and members who hustled behind the scenes: Heather Patrick, Carolyn Odio, Glenda Philio, Rick Faunt, Sandy Bunning, and JoAnne Dyer.
  • Our generous sponsors:
    • Dr. Chad Ruffin, for treating us to lunch. Dr. Ruffin hosts an open online meeting for people with hearing loss each month.
    • Spencer Norby, who designed and installed the temporary hearing loop.
    • The Washington State Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, ODHH, who sponsored our ASL interpreters.
  • The Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center, who sent us three indefatigable ASL interpreters
  • Special guests from the Washington State Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH), who gave their time to us on a Saturday: Earnest Covington III, Maggie Campbell, and Morgan Jerico

You can watch our annual meeting slide show here. Stay tuned for a video of the meeting on our YouTube Channel, too.

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