History of Deaf Adult Services, now known as Deaf Access Services

Posted: October 17th, 2022

Why do we have DAS? How was it established?


About 12 or so years ago, the Buffalo Civic Association of the Deaf was mandated by the members to establish a service agency for the deaf of WNY. BCAD set up a TASK FORCE of BCAD members and several hearing persons interested in the welfare of the Deaf Community. The hearing persons were Kathy Fries of SMSD, Dr. David Farrugia, Kathy Hoffman, Dave Page of the Mayor's Office for People with Handicapping Conditions, Tony Serra of WNYILC to name a few. The deaf members were Nancy Siegel, Joan Ostrowski, John Gibson, myself (Alice M. Guinane) and several others who no longer live in this area.


It took the TASK FORCE more than 5 years to get United Way to support the concept of a service agency for the Deaf people. The reason for the long delay was because United Way did not and still do not allocate monies to 'new’ agencies, especially ones that depend on UW to get started. At first, we tried going under St. Mary's but no luck. Then the Buffalo Hearing Speech Center offered to provide the services as a program of the Center. Since BHSC was and still is a long-established agency of the UW, UW was willing to allocate monies to BHSC for the program. That was why DAS was under BHSC even though the TASK FORCE's goal was an independent agency to be run by the Deaf themselves. But at least we got it started.


It was the Deaf Community who helped start DAS not BHSC or any hearing person on his/her own. Under the auspices of BHSC, DAS confronted many problems. DAS was growing rapidly and BHSC actually benefited by being more recognized through DAS. But DAS's efforts to add more services and improve itself was stopped because BHSC was sort of jealous of DAS's success and also because BHSC wanted to concentrate all efforts for BHSC's other programs especially their Infant 'Head Start' program. DAS became stuck in a rut under BHSC. So, after 10 years the DAS All Deaf Advisory Committee requested that DAS become independent of BHSC. We fought for it and won. United Way is now willing to support DAS as an independent agency.


The DAS Advisory Committee started with the members of the TASK FORCE after it was disbanded. Eventually it became all deaf members because the BHSC Executive Director, when attending some meetings noticed that the hearing persons seem to dominate the meetings and the deaf could hardly find a chance to speak. The All Deaf Advisory Committee was a great idea because it worked out beautifully. The Deaf can speak more of the needs of the Deaf and what is expected of DAS.

Ever since this Advisory Committee, consisting of only deaf persons which meets every other month, has advised DAS on certain needs of the deaf community. In other words, everything that DAS is doing was started as a result of the Advisory Committee's suggestions and requests.


DAS has just established a Board of Trustees when it became independent. It is a ' dream' wish to have an all deaf Board but there are not enough qualified deaf persons in this area to serve on this Board. We need lawyers, bankers, doctors, teachers, and other professionals on the Board to be effect­ive and we have them. There are now 4 deaf persons serving on this Board. We hope to increase this number in the near future.


Nothing DAS is doing is against the wishes of the Advisory Committee. For instance, the Interpreter Service and the Interpreter Training Program were on the original TASK FORCE's list of goals for the service agency. Also on the list were 24-hour interpreter service, TTY Directory, TTY at 911, pay phones with TTYs at airports and bus terminals, Community Education on Deaf Culture, Sign language classes and Advocacy for Deaf Rights.


The Health Care Task Force was established by DAS for the purpose of advocating and educating hospitals as to the rights of deaf patients to be provided interpreters if requested, TTY and Close Captioning of television in the deaf patient's hospital room.


I could go on and on on how important DAS is to the Deaf Community and we, the deaf, worked hard to get this type of agency funded by United Way here in WNY. It is an ongoing project where we have to request support from United Way every other year. Without this funding the Deaf Community loses out in services that DAS is currently providing now. DAS wants to provide more than what it does. The Advisory Committee has more requests, but this is hard to meet because of lack of funds for all we want DAS to do. Hopefully in the future it will be able to do so.


Granted DAS runs into and has problems, what agency doesn't? The new DAS Board of which I am President and the All Deaf Advisory Committee are there to work to resolve the problems. Most of the problems DAS confronts are with interpreters and its service. The interpreters complain about things but do not go to DAS with the problems to find ways to solve them.


One of their complaints is. the long wait to get paid for their services. Actually, this has been resolved but the complaints continue for some reason. There are always a few 'bad apples' within any group.


DAS was instrumental in getting several new interpreters for this area. We have heard stories that DAS 'Basic' Interpreter Training Program is not good enough and that we need a two year degree program. Let me explain why DAS has the ITP that currently exists. For several years DAS and the Advisory Committee tried to get the two year with Associate degree program for training of interpreters. DAS approached several local colleges and universities to start one. None were interested except Erie Community College. Kathy Hoffman who is Coordinator for the Disabled at ECC. tried for several years to get it at ECC but did not succeed. ECC did not feel it was worthy or important. DAS was frustrated because the Deaf were shortchanged in interpreter service from lack of interpreters. The Advisory Committee then decided that DAS start its own BITP. We figured it was better than none at all.


With help of startup monies from United Way and the City of Buffalo DAS established the BITP with help from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester. The NTID summer BITP program was no longer being given and our program here followed the same program that was provided at NTID's BITP. Since then, DAS BITP has graduated 20 ‘new’ interpreters some of which are now working and doing pretty well. Some came from other areas in WNY such as Olean or Fredonia to train to work in their areas.


DAS is in the process of trying to change the Basic ITP to a two-year degree program. In New York State there are only 4 Interpreter Training programs, 1 at NTID, and the others in NYC. So, we are lucky we got at least something. There is always the problem in recruiting new students because of the difficulty in finding individuals interested in this type of career and finding ones who already have sign language skills.


One of DAS long-range goals for years has been to establish a group home for deaf senior citizens and/or deaf with other disabilities. This goal was on the original TASK FORCE plan and has been difficult to get. DAS cannot accomplish it alone. The Episcopal Church is in the process of getting funds to build apartments/health care facility and want to set aside several units for the deaf seniors. DAS and all other CHIP members should support it. The Episcopal Church needs all our support to achieve this goal.


DAS has been involved in ‘interpreter training’ for years now since the All Deaf DAS Advisory Committee requested it through its ITP and other workshops. DAS often has been hurt when another agency provides duplicate services. If the other agency has any respect for the Deaf Community, the correct thing to do would be is to contact DAS to work together on this but that did not happen. Why not? This is duplication of services which should be avoided. We should work together with other agencies if we want to do a good job at helping the Deaf Community. By being rivals, both will eventually lose.


We need your continued support for the Deaf Adult Services, an agency that serves to meet the needs of the deaf people in WNY, to help ensure that the communication barrier is broken down between the Hearing and Deaf Communities, to protect their rights in all areas of services, with the police. fire dept. and emergency service providers, etc.

Submitted by Alice M. Guinane


Tags: DAS History

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