OK celebrates Deaf Awareness Week September 20-26 | New


OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt has officially declared September 20-26 Deaf Awareness Week in Oklahoma.

“The purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to educate the public about the Deaf culture, heritage and American Sign Language, which are unique to Deaf people,” said David Hankinson, program director of Deaf Services. the deaf and hard of hearing.

Hankinson, who is deaf, is the official spokesperson for the celebration.

SDHH is a vocational rehabilitation employment program, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, known as DRS.

“Deaf awareness is important for SDHH as there is a need to educate both the hearing and the deaf in order to eradicate any possible stigma to ensure that the deaf community is not isolated,” said Hankinson.

SDHH’s specially trained rehabilitation counselors are based in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. They are proficient in sign language and other techniques necessary to communicate directly with virtual reality clients across the state who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafened, deafblind, and speech impaired.

These job seekers can benefit from professional assessments, guidance and advice, training, technical assistance equipment and systems or recommendations, and job placement assistance.

A specialized bridging program is available for high school students with hearing loss that addresses the unique issues they face and prepares them for work or college or post-secondary training.

SDHH staff also operate the Oklahoma Quality Assurance Testing Program, which assesses and certifies the skills of Oklahoma deaf interpreters.

In 2020, 140 deaf or hard of hearing VR customers successfully found employment. As a result, these taxpaying citizens have eliminated or reduced their need for government services and contributed to the economic growth of their communities across the state.

Many successful job seekers have started with exceptional education and social experiences for the deaf at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf, where bilingual staff and students communicate in American Sign Language and English.

Also a division of DRS, OSD ensures that students meet all standard graduation requirements and provide opportunities to participate in the Professional Education Opportunities for the Deaf employment program.

Hankinson was born hearing in Staten Island, New York, and instantly became profoundly deaf after contracting mumps and measles. He was the only deaf student in school for many years.

At age 16, he began attending St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he learned American Sign Language and discovered his identity as a deaf person. Hankinson was immersed in Deaf culture at SRSD and decided to help other Deaf people overcome barriers to independence and employment.

Hankinson was a successful vocational rehabilitation client who received a Bachelor of Education degree from Christian University of Cincinnati in 1983 with assistance from the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation.

He began his career in 1985 as a freelance job coach, deaf interpreter, and deaf advocate in Ohio and contracted with Ohio BVR to serve clients in job development, coaching the employment, mental health services and job retention.

Hankinson later became director of the Communication Action Network in Toledo, Ohio, and worked as an independent living specialist with the Community Service Center for the Deaf in Seattle, Washington. He became a Deaf Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and was promoted to Supervisor and then Zone Administrator in the Washington State Vocational Rehabilitation Division. He received a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from San Diego State University in 2004 while working as a virtual reality counselor.

In 2019, Hankinson accepted a program manager position with DRS’s SDHH unit in Oklahoma.

“Celebrating deaf culture is important because it allows people to see individuals who they really are and how they live in a way that is unique to them,” Hankinson said. “There is so much more to a person than knowing whether they can hear or not. It is wrong to focus on your ears or your disability.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey estimates, 8,500 Oklahoma residents of all ages, or 5.1%, have hearing difficulties. Data shows that 52 percent of Oklahomans with hearing disabilities, aged 21 to 64, are employed, compared to 38.7 percent of Oklahomans with other disabilities.

To learn more about Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, visit https://oklahoma.gov/okdrs/independence/sdhh.html, email [email protected], or call 800-833-8973 in Oklahoma City or (918) 836-5556 in Tulsa.

For more information on the Oklahoma School for the Deaf, visit https://www.osd.k12.ok.us/ or call (580) 622-4900.

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