Bay Epicenter of Advocacy for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (beadhh) is a new organization that envisions bringing together a coalition of local San Francisco Bay Area deaf and hard of hearing organizations and their advocacy efforts. beadhh will create an advocacy network in which the impact of local advocacy efforts can benefit from the synergies of being aligned and united.
beadhh does not intend to compete with existing organizations; rather, it is designed to support each local organization by meeting their advocacy information needs in one central place and referring others to them based on advocacy needs.
- On the national level there are organizations such as Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN), and Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), each of which works with the broad spectrum of deaf and hard of hearing organizations and their communities to align advocacy efforts.
- Local advocacy efforts are not typically as aligned as they are on the national level.
- On the local level there is a need for the coordination of advocacy efforts between organizations, and an attempt to learn from each other best methods for achieving advocacy goals.
- beadhh will work toward filling that void and fulfill this need to coordinate advocacy efforts wherever possible.
Advocacy, by its very nature, follows a bottom-up management approach. People work together to create an impact within a large society, which tends to follow a top-down approach to problem-solving for its citizens. Within the United States, there is national, state and local government which provide a top-down method to manage its citizens, and at the same time there are local organizations that provide the necessary bottom-up management related to local interests and concerns.
As Jared Diamond states in his book, Collapse, “Small societies occupying a small island or homeland can adopt a bottoms-up approach to environmental management. Because the homeland is small, all of its inhabitants are familiar with the entire island, know that they are affected by developments throughout the island, and share a sense of identity and common interests with other inhabitants. Hence everybody realizes that they will benefit from sound environmental measures that they and their neighbors adopt.”
So, too, the deaf and hard of hearing community is like the inhabitants of Diamond’s small island; they benefit from a bottom-up approach since they share a sense of identity and common interests, all will benefit from sound measures that they and their community members adopt, and all are impacted by the general issues that affect their community such as the need for communication access, respect as a deaf or hard of hearing person, and equal access to employment, education, resources, information, and security in the greater outside hearing community.
Two main problems arise within this bottom-up/top-down model:
- The greater outside community attempts to determine (top-down approach) what is best for the deaf and hard of hearing, even though they, the greater outside community, cannot personally know the deaf and hard of hearing experience. The costs associated with communication access and sensitivity training, or just plain indifference, influence the greater outside community’s reactions to deaf and hard of hearing needs. The deaf and hard of hearing community is marginalized, as their members have to be vigilant and fight, sue, and be adamant about rights to language, education, employment, and technology that are supposedly guaranteed. The definition of “marginalize,” according to the Mac online dictionary, is “prevent from having attention or power.” That fits. So do the synonyms suggested: relegate, sideline, demote, downgrade, disregard, banish, ostracize, and freeze out.
- The local deaf and hard of hearing community currently suffers from the “silo effect,” as local advocate Julie Rems-Smario observes. If everyone within the deaf and hard of hearing community is not rowing in the same direction, without a common thread to manage our efforts, bottoms-up advocacy suffers. Local organizations haven’t formally worked together in the past on common advocacy goals; hopefully they will in the future.
beadhh will strive to support local deaf and hard of hearing organizations with regard to both of these issues.
Linda Drattell, Founder and President:
Linda has been actively involved with both the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, through her work as Community Relations Director for DCARA, a past national president and board member of ALDA, DCARA’s Hard of Hearing Support Specialist, as an advocate in obtaining communication access in BART trains and stations, and in her successful settlement with Cinemark Theaters and AMC Theaters for movie captioning. She has successfully chaired local events and a conference with national participation. Please visit the Advisory Board page for more information.
 Collapse, by Jared Diamond, pp. 277-8.