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October 25, 2004

Bridging the gap between the deaf and hearing

From: Munster Times - Munster,IN,USA - Oct 25, 2004

PORTER COUNTY: Deaf Services makes life easier for nearly 300 residents in the region


Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series about Caring Close to Home, United Way's annual fund-raising campaign. VALPARAISO | Kathy Houghland was in need of help when she arrived here early last year.

Her husband had died while they were living in Ohio, and she was left alone to raise her two sons.

The challenge was made even greater in that 46-year-old Houghland is deaf.

Nearly a year has passed, and Houghland said she is doing well thanks to the support of her family and the free help provided by Deaf Services.

Deaf Services has made the adjustment easier by providing Houghland with interpreting services, referrals to other public aid agencies and equipment to help bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.

"Everything's fine," Houghland said with the assistance of Deaf Services interpreter and case worker Debbie Pampalone. "I'm happy."

The group is also among local service providers that depend on funding from the United Way of Porter County.

Deaf Services, which has been in operation for 26 years and is based in Merrillville, reached 280 clients last year across its service area of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, said Pampalone. This was accomplished with a staff of five and the help of 40 freelance interpreters, she said.

In Houghland's case, the group was able to reduce the medical bills left in the wake of her husband's death by giving her a voice to seek out and take advantage of hospital assistance programs, Pampalone said. Interpreters also helped her negotiate various needs involving banking, consumer counseling, a search for a home and Social Security benefits.

Houghland also has been provided with equipment, such as a teletype machine, Pampalone said. That device soon will be updated with a video relay phone, which will allow her to replace typing with sign language when calling someone else with the same type of unit.

"We want her to be as independent as possible," Pampalone said.

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