The Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre, Inc. (DHCC) started as a result of one dedicated Deaf person’s concern about the lack of services for Deaf people and their families. When the concern was shared with the President of the Woman’s Club of Springfield, the two chose to launch a two-year community project called “Concern for the Deaf” in 1972.
In 1974, DHCC was incorporated with its own Board of Directors, some of whom are still involved with the organization today. As time passed, DHCC broadened its base and began to provide services to respond to the needs expressed by hard of hearing and hearing individuals.
In the early years, DHCC had three main areas of service: Education, Sign Language Interpreting and Message Relay Service (MRS). All provided benefits to both the Deaf and hearing communities and were established before most other schools, colleges and organizations offered similar services.
The MRS ceased to operate early in 1991, due to the advent of the AT&T Message Relay Service. During its operation, from 1977 to 1991, the MRS handled many thousands of calls: 5,700 in its first year and 26,289 in 1990, the last full year of operation. No cost was ever incurred by the users of the service.
In 1980, DHCC responded to another need and introduced Camp Tom Tom – a “hands on experience” Day Camp for 4-8 year-old Deaf children and hearing siblings which continued until 2000.
DHCC continues to offer Sign Language Interpreter Services through our Interpreter Referral Department (IRD). DHCC is the longest-serving Sign Language Interpreting Service in the Philadelphia region. The service maintains a superior reputation and is the only local one that is non-profit and guided by Deaf and hard of hearing consumers on our Board and interpreters on our Interpreter Services Advisory Committee.
Over the years, communication access services were added for hard of hearing people such as oral interpreting and real time captioning (CART) and for Deaf-blind people such as tactile interpreting.
In 1996, DHCC implemented a 24-Hour Sign Language Interpreting Emergency Service (EIS) to meet the communication challenges that occurred after business hours and on weekends. With the help of donations from various Foundations, DHCC rented pagers and hired an on-call Coordinator to work with the roster of Deaf and hearing interpreters. This program was the first of its kind and is the most widely used in the Delaware Valley today. The program has grown so that there are a Coordinator and 4 interpreters on-call each night.
Sign Language Classes are an essential part of the Education and Outreach Program. At first, classes were offered in an informal atmosphere and hearing students had the opportunity to observe and interact with Deaf instructors using ASL. In addition, the use of Deaf teachers and other Deaf persons in leadership roles helped students develop an understanding of Deaf Culture. Today, classes are formal and structured, using specialized curricula. DHCC maintains its commitment to use qualified Deaf teachers to provide the best learning experience.
DHCC has succeeded in developing Sensitivity Training Programs for businesses, hospitals, and any organization that has Deaf and/or hard of hearing employees or consumers to serve. Over the years, we have offered workshops for Deaf and hard of hearing consumers to build their skills to advocate for communication access and for interpreters to enhance skills in legal, medical and team interpreting situations.
DHCC is successful because it is a partnership of Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals working to improve communication access. Our success can be attributed to an environment that fosters mutual respect and equality, and supports the right of all human beings to know and interact with one another.