The ability to hear is a sense that many of us take for granted. We can readily communicate with family, friends, and physicians in person or over the phone. We do not require interpreters to be present during these potentially personal and private moments. We don’t have to worry about our hearing aid malfunctioning or batteries dying.
HEAR Wisconsin, a 94 years old nonprofit, has been providing vital services to an underserved, under-resourced population – babies, families, the young, and the young at heart who are deaf or hard of hearing.
COVID-19 Impact and Loss of Sustainability
HEAR Wisconsin, like everyone else, has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. We are challenged as never before to find new ways to adapt and continue to meet our clients’ needs.
To keep our clients and staff safe, at the facility we are open only for emergency appointments (repair/reprogram hearing aids and to purchase needed assistive technology such as amplified / captioned phones to stay in touch with family and friends). For the rest of our clients, we quickly adapted by providing teleintervention therapy sessions, equipment-need assessments, hearing healthcare by phone or Internet.
But we’re faced with several challenges:
· The facility’s technology is aging
· Not all of our staff have laptops or such technology to work remotely at home to serve clients (to follow Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order)
· Some low-income families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing do not have the technology needed to do teleintervention/therapy sessions
· Some clients who have developmental/intellectual disabilities who are also deaf are completely isolated (no access to technology), with our program coordinator as the main or even only contact with the outside world
· With continued operating expenses being fixed and decreased business revenues (loss of insurance reimbursements, fees, product sales due to in-person appointment cancelations), it is difficult to remain sustainable in the next few weeks
Amy Lalios, the Director of Therapy Services, and her staff have 68 open cases for families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing needing services – they are making every effort to stay in touch via teleintervention with families to make sure their children stay on track for language, communication, cognitive development so they can be on par with hearing peers as they enter kindergarten. We are sending language learning kits to them to help facilitate language development. Some of our families are from low-income households and may not have the technology nor appropriate toys and books for the teleintervention sessions.
As one mom said about teleintervention, “it equipped me, my child’s number one therapist, with the tools and strategies to work on my child’s auditory and listening skills in our daily lives all week long.”
Your gift would help us continue services, improve our technology infrastructure, use secure, HIPPA-compliant technology platform and continue providing critical services via the Internet. As Helen Keller stated, “when you lose your vision, you lose contact with things. When you lose your hearing, you lose contact with people.”
Staying in touch with people and getting the needed help is more important than ever with Wisconsin's “Safer at Home” order in place.