Spotlight Saturday: Deaf Shalom Zone - Hearing and Speech Agency

Spotlight Saturday: Deaf Shalom Zone

What is Deaf Shalom Zone, and how did it get started?  In the 1990's United Methodist Churches began to identify and address the specific needs of their neighborhoods.  "Shalom Zones" were formed in response to those needs.  Christ Deaf Church already had a 100-year history of providing worship and community for the Deaf and DeafBlind Community of Greater Baltimore, now a social justice component was added.  Deaf Shalom Zone, Inc. seeks to empower culturally Deaf and DeafBlind individuals and their families in and around Baltimore, Maryland through C.A.R.E.: Case management, Advocacy, Referrals, and Education regardless of faith tradition or affiliation. 

Why does the Deaf community need case management?  Before you ever know that you might need some kind of social service you "overhear" the stories of others who have needed, and obtained those services.  You have an idea that there is an agency for that.  This is called "incidental learning" and it is notoriously unreliable even in the hearing community, but in the Deaf community, there are so many fewer opportunities to overhear information.  The next thing you do is try to contact the agency you think might help...even with the ADA, that is often a very difficult step for a Deaf person.  A case manager helps the individual discern what their needs are, identify the types of supports that may help, and acquire those supports or services.  

Does Deaf Shalom Zone teach American Sign Language?  There are many places you can go for classes in sign language, but ultimately you learn language by using it with others, preferably native users of that language.  For example, many of us "learned Spanish or French in high school, and forgot it all before we crossed the graduation stage, we have also had the experience of picking up a little Spanish or French from a colleague or friend, someone with whom we had a need to communicate.  Students from Towson University, CCBC, HASA, area high schools, etc. come here to practice what they learned in the classroom and gain a few hours of immersion.  

How is Deaf Shalom Zone involved in education?  Through a partnership with Towson University students are placed with Deaf Shalom Zone for 20 hours of service learning.  They have that immersion experience, as well as accompanying their Deaf friends to public events where they observe first hand the barriers Deaf people face, and their strategies for overcoming those barriers.  Many other schools require their ASL students to attend Deaf events as well.  Additionally, Deaf Shalom Zone hosts educational workshops and forums for the Deaf community to present some of that information which hearing people acquire through incidental learning, especially around health and safety.  

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