Families for Hands & Voices is
with children who
are Deaf or Hard of
Hearing without a
bias around communication
modes or methodology. We’re a parent-driven,
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
assisting Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children to
reach their highest potential.
The goal of Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices is to form a comprehensive group of parents and professionals that work together to benefit children and families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. We want to provide Wyoming families with the necessary resources, networking and information in order to improve communication access and educational outcomes for their children. Our statewide activities, advocacy efforts, and parent/professional collaboration are all focused on enabling our deaf and hard-of-hearing children to reach their fullest potential!
Who Are We?
- We are families with children who have all types of hearing loss.
- We use many different types of communication modes: Auditory Verbal, Auditory Oral, Cued Speech, American Sign Language, Signed English, Simultaneous Communication and Total Communication.
- We are deaf and hard-of-hearing adults.
- We are professionals.
- We are from every corner of the state of Wyoming.
- We are united, because we are Hands & Voices.
Families can learn about the variety of resources and options available to them and how to access them. Through this network of resources, families can make informed decisions about their future in regards to educational options, the changing landscape of assistive technologies, and many other issues facing families with deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
Families within the same geographic region within the state can share experiences and information as they support each other. They will be given the opportunity to gain knowledge and direction from families who have faced the same challenges and choices.
The Hands & Voices Story :
In the early 1990s the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., was preparing an exhibit called Silent America. It was intended to raise positive awareness of the Deaf Community, highlighting cultural and linguistic (ASL) aspects of the Deaf experience. Meanwhile, a number of people who were deaf or hard of hearing, but who were not living with those aspects of the Deaf experience, had a problem with the exhibit. From their perspective, it did not represent who they were-specifically, listening/oral communicators. They resented what they perceived to be the exclusionary nature of Silent America's point of view. Controversy rolled across the land. Both camps fired off angry letters towards each other, and the Smithsonian exhibit planners. In the end, the Smithsonian scrapped the whole project. Regardless of what side any one was on, we all lost that battle. As individuals who are in so many ways connected to each other through deafness or hearing loss professionally, parentally, or otherwise we'd had an opportunity to rally around the things that unite us and really show the whole world, but instead we burned ourselves out in the same old heated arguments over communication methodology. Those events led to the establishment of Hands & Voices. We have been an established chapter of this national organization since September of 2006.
Communication is at the heart of everything human beings do; it defines and gives meaning to our emotions, beliefs, hopes, creativity, and life experiences. Without communication, a child is lost. The effective development, understanding, and expression of language are fundamental to any educational experience and are particularly crucial for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. (The CA Deaf Education Report, 1999)
When a child is diagnosed as deaf or hard-of-hearing, not only does the family have to deal with finding out their child has a disability, they have to choose how their child will learn and communicate. Will we use sign language, and if so which form? Will our child benefit from hearing aids, or does their level of disability warrant a cochlear implant? Should we use the auditory/verbal approach or can we use a combination of all of these approaches? Does my community have the resources to support our decisions? What are our rights to a free and appropriate education for our child? These questions are just a few among many that this family will have to explore.
Wyoming Families for Hands Voices is a parent driven non-profit organization that provides information and support services statewide to families, service providers and policy makers about deafness and hearing loss through outreach events, educational seminars, a website, advocacy training and support, lobbying efforts, and a Hands Voices National newspaper. Our purpose is to help this population to connect to the information necessary to ensure optimum potential for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. We are committed to a philosophy that facilitates families ability to access information and support in all communication options and related topics of interest to this population without bias towards mode or methodology.
Our Board of Directors and Advisory Board represent nine counties within the state, of which at least 51% are members of families of the deaf or hard-of-hearing. Professionals include the Wyoming Early Hearing and Detection Intervention (EHDI) Coordinator, Teachers of the Deaf in our Public School Systems, Wyoming Department of Education Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach Services Consultants, and an Audiologist, all of which support diverse modes of communication.
View our Brochure Here
“Parents were asked about their
contacts with other parents and with
adults who were deaf. The results
indicated that parents who had many contacts with other
parents of children who were deaf or hard of hearing
and with deaf adults reported less isolation and showed
greater emotional bonds with their child and improved
responsiveness during interactions.” Hintermair (2000)
“...studies suggest that parent-to-parent support encourages
parents and provides parents with role models as
they discover their capabilities as parents and families
with a deaf/hard of hearing child.” (Eleweke & Rodda,
2000; Jackson, Becker, & Schmitendorf, 2002)
“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone...and
whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of
one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads
from one to another that creates something. “ Sandra
Hands & Voices Areas
of Focus Include:
- Deaf Ed Reform - Educational
- “Medical Home” Initiative
- Communication Access for
Children who are Deaf/HH
- Hearing Aid Coverage by Insurance Companies
- Universal Newborn Hearing Systems
- Parent/Professional Collaboration
- Deaf/HH Adult Mentoring
- Parent Education and Support
- Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights
- Natural Environments and Children who are
- Parent’s right to make informed communication
- Meaningful Parent Involvement
- Educational Advocacy and Training