The Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel was established in 1993 with the goal of providing previously unavailable services for the deaf and hard of hearing population and of advancing and improving the existing field. Today, we continue to provide professional, educational and rehabilitation services and programs for deaf and hard of hearing children, youth and adults in Israel. Deaf and hard of hearing people who participate in the programs which we initiate, develop and implement are empowered both to help others and to live their own lives more independently and productively, with full access to the types of services and opportunities already available to the hearing population.
The Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel was established in 1993 by professionals in the field of deafness to initiate, develop and implement programs for the empowerment and independence of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Israel. Today, we continue to provide professional, educational and rehabilitation services for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, youth and adults in Israel, of which there are approximately 10,000 profoundly deaf people alone, as well as an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 hard of hearing individuals. We also hold workshops and seminars, give presentations and provide consultation services and training to professionals and members of the community.
Over the years, our services have helped over 5,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing Israelis become successful, well-integrated citizens and to live independent and productive lives. We have had a major impact on the way profoundly deaf persons cope with a hearing society ill-equipped to successfully integrate "different" populations within its midst as well as on the way hearing society relates and adapts to deaf persons and their unique needs and culture. Ultimately, our ideal vision is that the deaf and hard of hearing community will gain equal access to the services available to hearing people and that their quality of life will improve as they become more independent. This will benefit not only this community, but also Israeli society as a whole.
In order to achieve these goals we focus on five major areas: social and professional empowerment; children-at-risk; advocacy for equal resource allocation and accessibility; crisis intervention and strengthening Jewish-Deaf identity. Many of our programs, as can be seen below, also address the need to provide these individuals with the tools and determination to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Innovative programs that we have developed and continue to run include:
- Mentoring Deaf Children at Risk: In this innovative program deaf and hard of hearing individuals serve as mentors, or successful role models, despite the challenges. Deaf college students and graduates mentor either an individual deaf child identified as "at-risk", or work in group settings with children and youth. The program aims to identify and prevent abuse at home and in the community, and also enables the mentors to gain valuable work experience. In practice, it also serves to provide at risk and disadvantaged children with the determination to make something of themselves, and thus prevents them from sinking into poverty and dependence.
- Opening the Doors to Higher Education: This program works to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students to enter and succeed in their university studies by offering laptops for loan, student support groups, preparatory work while in high school, and advocacy for students and their rights. Most deaf and hard of hearing individuals find it difficult to follow lectures, talk to fellow classmates, communicate effectively with the teaching staff and advocate for their rights. Stories abound of professors forbidding interpreters in their classroom, and deaf students not being afforded their legal rights to accommodations. They often feel isolated from their non-signing peers, and don't always understand the workings of university life. Those that attempted to manage alone at Israeli colleges were often discouraged by the difficulties involved and eventually dropped out. As a result, many simply give up on the dream of achieving higher education, leading to a life-long sentence of low-paying jobs or claiming government benefits. This affects not only the self-esteem of the deaf person, but also prevents them from contributing to Israeli society and causes hearing society to look down on them and think them incapable of success. Our programs works to eliminate the barriers deaf students must face due to their hearing loss, through education, support, and advocacy. Beginning with high school students, we hold workshops and seminars with deaf students about career planning and university admissions process. This involves helping the prepare for the entrance exam ("psychometri"). For students enrolled in university, we offer a variety of programs including a service coordinator who meets with the students to ensure they are receiving all the services they are entitled to. We also provide a laptop loaning program, interpreter coordinating, and note taking services for students who need them. In addition, we advocate when needed to the university to ensure that students' legal rights are being met, and have partnered with the national Student Union organization to make them more aware of the needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing students they represent.
- Storytelling In Sign: Deaf people, and particularly deaf children, usually lack access to oral history, which is an important source of creative ideas and expressions of cultural and communal significance. This program trains deaf individuals (45 to date) to work as sign language storytellers, performing for deaf, hearing, and mixed audiences of all ages. Beyond the benefit to the audiences, this program enables the deaf storytellers to earn much needed income and thus to keep or lift themselves and their families out of poverty. It is run in cooperation with JDC Israel.
- Hot Line and Information Center: The Information Center serves the many adults and children in Israel who have hearing losses at various levels, as well as their family members and professionals in the field. It is staffed by a hard-of-hearing coordinator who gathers, coordinates and makes accessible necessary and relevant information in many important areas of life. These include employment, issues of daily importance, technological solutions and medical information. This service, which is partially funded by JDC ? Israel, grants the deaf and hard of hearing community equal access to basic rights and services long available to the hearing population.
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing Holocaust Survivors Speak Out: This program documents testimonies from Deaf and hard-of-hearing holocaust survivors and provides related workshops and seminars for the Deaf community of Israel. For the first time Deaf children and adults strengthen their Jewish identity in a way that has not been accessible to them to date. This project has been made possible with the generous support of the Rabbi Israel Miller Fund for Shoah Research, Documentation and Education, a part of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc.
- Crisis Intervention Program: In response to the difficult security situation in Israel and in cooperation with the UJA Federation of New York we developed a multifaceted program to ease the strain and worries of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons during times of crisis. The program includes practical training, workshops in ways to act in different types of emergency situations and a support program to help deaf persons deal with their fears and anxieties. It serves between over 300 deaf and hard of hearing children and adults per year.
- The Road to Economic Independence: This new program aims at assisting deaf and hard of hearing individuals find and keep appropriate employment, and thus to gain economic independence and integrate into the general workforce. We strengthen and support the individual and also prepare and encourage the work places to hire and absorb deaf and hard of hearing workers. With past cooperation from the Natan Fund and from Tevet: Fighting poverty through Employment - JDC Israel.
- Granting deaf and hard of hearing individuals equal access to Health Care For people suffering a medical crisis, quick and appropriate health care can literally mean the difference between life and death. For deaf and hard-of-hearing people their disability can create an accessibility and language barrier that can interfere, derail or prevent them from receiving the necessary care. In a medical emergency it is vital that patients receive timely and appropriate intervention for their problems. The deaf and hard-of-hearing population is often overlooked by medical professionals, resulting in sub-standard and at times inappropriate medical treatment. At best this is inconvenient, time-consuming and wasteful. At worst it could cost a deaf person their life. The primary purpose of this program is to teach deaf people skills and strategies that will be useful for interacting with medical professionals in times of medical emergencies. As most hearing people know, navigating an emergency room can be difficult and confusing. It is even more so for someone with a hearing loss, who cannot easily communicate with the people around them. Therefore, it becomes necessary that they develop alternative strategies. With deaf children, we work on helping them to identify what a medical emergency is, such as finding a parent lying on the floor or being unable to wake up a sleeping parent. We then teach them how to locate and alert another adult, such as finding a neighbor or adult and leading them by the hand to the person needing help. This kind of training and practicing of what to do helps them to handle an actual medical emergency with greater skill and mastery, reduces their fear, and allows for a better outcome for all involved. We are currently seeking supplementary funding for this program.
- Israeli Sign Language Classes: Throughout the year, DPII offers Israeli Sign Language classes to interested members of the community who wish to become more involved with the Israeli Deaf community. Classes are offered at both Beginning and Intermediate levels throughout the country, helping ensure that as many people as are interested in learning Israeli Sign Language are able to participate.
- National Interpreter Certification: DPII has been working with various government and international agencies to develop a nation-wide certification for Israeli Sign Language interpreters. This certification will both regulate and recognize sign language interpreting as a profession, helping to ensure that Israeli deaf people receive appropiate services from qualified professionals. The certification is being developed by working with the Israeli deaf community, professionals in interpreting and linguistics, and the government offices responsible for providing public servies to deaf people in order to ensure a comprehensive and effective system for recognizing professionals in this new field. With support and cooperation from the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
- Signs of Judaism: This year we finished the creation of the final version of a unique dictionary of Jewish terms in ISL (Israeli Sign Language) on DVD, together with an accompanying manual. The dictionary, which we have begun to distribute and sell across the country and overseas, is devoted specifically to Jewish words, concepts and blessings and includes translations to Hebrew and English together with a short, clear video clip of each sign. It will greatly benefit the large number of Jews who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well to their families, rabbis and professionals in the field. This project was made possible by a generous donation from Ms. Miriam Daum and is dedicated to the memory of her beloved parents, Martin and Fanny Daum, of blessed memory.
- Ensuring Accessibility: DPII works across various fields to ensure accessibility of deaf and hard-of-hearing Israelis to essential aspects of Israeli life, including education and employment as described above. In addition, we also work to ensure cultural inclusion of the deaf community. In 2012, we ran a successful pilot project in which deaf people could sign up to receive an SMS text message when the Memorial Day sirens went off around Israel. The success of this pilot was evidenced in the more than 250 people who signed up, as well as the feedback from them that they felt more connected to the significance of the day and to their hearing fellow Israelis. These kinds of projects, both big and small, have a lasting impact on the lives and identities of Israeli deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
- Library Resource Center: In 2012, we established a library resource center for the purpose of collecting and making available information about deafness and deaf culture, the deaf community, sign language, accessibility, interpreting and more. The goal of the library resource center is to provide easy, direct access to information, including specially prepared videos on a range of important subjects. The library resource center serves deaf and hard of hearing high school students, adults, members of our staff, other deaf and hearing professionals and, of course, our clients. It also provides resources for service providers such as sign language interpreters and computer-assisted note takers, hearing family members and the general public.
We are a national organization whose programs serve all residents of the country, from children to adults, secular and religious, of varying socio-economic backgrounds, and without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, physical ability or language. Our staff consists of one full time paid staff member (our Director), 18 part time staff members, 36 individuals who are employed on an hourly basis and 28 volunteers. We work closely with other existing agencies in Israel and abroad, combining all possible resources for the benefit of the deaf and hard-of-hearing population in Israel. We differ from other organizations in four important ways. One, we were founded by, and continue to be run and staffed by professionals in the field. Second, and possibly most importantly, deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing professionals work together on our staff and in our programs and activities, serving as an example of successful integration into the work force. In fact, our example, combined with the emotional and practical help that we provide, has helped many deaf and hard of hearing individuals find work in other fields as well. Third, unlike other organizations in Israel, we do not restrict our activities, or define our organization, by age or by degree of hearing loss in our target population. Fourth, we work on the creation of new and innovative programs and the improvement of existing programs