Upholding the Mission of Hands & Voices
Upholding the vision and mission of Hands & Voices (H&V) can be challenging when advocacy is requested for controversial topics. For this reason H&V has established policies and procedures that are absolutely grounded, tested, vetted and committed when it comes to our philosophy of unbiased support to families. We strive daily to fulfill this goal, and we learn from each experience, and constantly work to improve our ability to support families without bias.
Controversial matters are embedded in many deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) issues thus our H&V philosophy of unbiased support is often tested. We strive to position our advocacy efforts in a neutral zone that supports the rich diversity among our members. Examples of neutral issues historically supported by H&V include Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights, EHDI, the COAT (Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology) and the National Agenda. However, when an issue concerns the protection of neutrality on DHH issues within the system, or to possibly ensure the best practice of neutrality systemically, there may be just cause for H&V’s involvement.
Chapters taking positions on matters in their state, province or country do so via a decision-making process that adheres to chapter by-laws and is consistent with the mission and policies of Hands & Voices headquarters. Specifically, if it’s an issue that concerns the rights of all children who are deaf or hard of hearing, regardless of their individual choice (communication mode, educational philosophy, etc.), and/or their parents’, it’s probably an issue for H&V. The position a chapter takes is the result of thorough examination of the matter by the board whose diverse perspectives help the group understand the many facets of the issue. Any board members with conflict of interest regarding the issue may share their perspective, but are required to abstain from voting. If there is no quorum in agreement, there will be no chapter stance taken on a controversial issue.
Hands & Voices starting point is the mission of the organization:
Hands & Voices is dedicated to supporting families with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing without a bias around communication modes or methodology. We're a parent-driven, non-profit organization providing families with the resources, networks, and information they need to improve communication access and educational outcomes for their children. Our outreach activities, parent/professional collaboration, and advocacy efforts are focused on enabling Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children to reach their highest potential.
Our ability to achieve our mission statement starts with getting the right people in our organization. H&V chapter boards are comprised of a majority of parents with professionals and consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing completing the roster. This group is carefully composed with diversity of every kind in mind—diversity (including but not limited to communication choice diversity) is a necessity that is ensured through the application process required to become an approved H&V chapter. This process brings stakeholders together who can uphold the H&V philosophy of unbiased support to families. It draws individuals who are capable of wearing the H&V “hat” while still doing what they believe is right for their child and/or student(s).
Parents’ Right to Choose
Parents not only have the right to choose language and communication modality for their child who is deaf or hard of hearing, they have the ethical, legal and moral obligation to do so. Furthermore, the research proves that the single greatest indicator of a DHH child’s eventual success—regardless of which mode or method of communication is used—is the meaningful involvement of his or her parents. The goal is to make that involvement authentic, effective and informed by the wisdom that so many have to share from direct experience…parent to parent, deaf or hard of hearing adult to parent, and professional to parent.
Hands & Voices has policies and procedures in place for both legislative involvement at our headquarters and chapter levels, as well as a Conflict of Interest/Disciplinary Action Policy. Hands & Voices takes these matters very seriously. When issues arise, we follow our policy and process to ensure we are true to our mission of providing high quality unbiased support to families. When necessary, these policies are reviewed and revised as needed. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on these policies.
Learn more about Hands & Voices through the following links to archived articles that may of be particular interest at this time:
Supporting Families without Bias
Deaf/HH Infusion Policy
We Have a Dream
H&V Asks: What About Deaf Schools?
Deaf/Hard of Hearing Adults: Still Relevant after all These Years