Deaf services gutted in Iowa: Do something!

Mary Dyer, an advocate for Iowans with hearing loss, sounds the alarm about an imminent threat to deaf services. The Department of Human Rights has been forced to cut about $90,000 from its budget before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. -promoted by desmoinesdem

RE: Cuts to Deaf Services Effective March 31

I was notified Monday, March 6, by Monica Stone, Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Human Rights, that Stephanie Lyons, the full-time disabilities consultant with the Department of Deaf Services, is being terminated at the end of the month due to “necessary” budget cuts. This leaves one staff member working one-third-time for the entire department of Deaf Services, plus support staff. This is for the entire state of Iowa.

If you are someone with typical hearing, you have probably not thought of the challenges and limitations of having hearing loss. I learned about this the hard way.

I lost my hearing in 2008, and, while I have a cochlear implant and can hear in limited situations, I have trouble in crowds, on the telephone, being able to hear at legislative hearings, meetings, work situations. I struggle every day with communication access, or more accurately, the lack thereof.

Even with the clear directives regarding disability access that the Americans with Disabilities Act established in 1990, more often than not, both in the public’s and government’s mind, this is erroneously understood as having to do with physical access, such as wheelchairs, ramps, etc. However, the ADA also applies to appropriate and needed hearing access, usually lacking.

Yet, according to a study released by Johns Hopkins in 2011: “Nearly a fifth of all Americans 12 years or older have hearing loss so severe that it may make communication difficult.”

One in five Americans. One in five Iowans. All now in the hands of one-third of one staff position in Deaf Services for the entire state. We need advocacy. We need information. We need resources. We need not only to hear but to be heard. We need more.

While I am a member of the Deaf Services Commission of Iowa, I am not writing this in an official capacity but as a person with hearing loss, a fellow Iowan, who knows firsthand and through countless stories, the struggles of people like me who want to, no, deserve to, continue to be contributing members of society.

If you are as angry as me, as sad as me, as stunned as me, do something. Now.

• Contact your own legislator
• Write the governor
• Show up for Deaf Capitol Day, Tuesday, March 14, 10:30 am-2 pm, Iowa Capitol, East 9th St. and Grand Avenue (Includes introduction by Iowa Association of the Deaf, Capitol Tour, meeting of legislators).

Mary Dyer is a long-time social activist, including working at a domestic violence agency and for full LGBTQ inclusion. After becoming deaf eight years ago, her main focus has been to provide education and advocacy for the very large number of people with hearing loss and, through a company she began with her spouse, Hearing Access Solutions (, installation of hearing loops all over the Midwest.

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