DDHH and MKSD Open New Assistive Device Demonstration Center for People with Hearing Loss The New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DDHH) and the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf (MKSD), an affiliate of the state Department of Education also known as the New Jersey School for the Deaf, dedicated the second statewide Assistive Device Demonstration Center at the school today, naming it in honor of the late DDHH Director Brian C. Shomo, who passed away earlier this year.
Establishing a second demonstration center, more convenient to people living in the southern half of the state, had been one of Shomo's major initiatives, according to Acting Director of DDHH, Ira C. Hock.
“Brian always found ways to make the newest technology available to the Deaf and hard of hearing community. This second center was part of his dream for bettering the quality of life for people across New Jersey ,” said DHS Deputy Commissioner James W. Smith, who spoke on behalf Acting Commissioner Clarke Bruno.
“Even from his hospital bed, Brian never stopped advocating,” said his brother Robert Shomo, who flew in from California to be with family members for this dedication. On behalf of the Shomo family, he officially accepted the commemorative plaque in Brian's honor. The plaque now hangs in the demonstration center.
“This center will help parents find the technology best suited for their children with hearing loss, which means that Brian's spirit will always be with us through this center,” said Kim Arrigo, Deaf Studies Coordinator at MKSD. “We are thrilled to house it at our school.”
Alan Tenthoff, Chairperson of the DDHH Advisory Council, spoke on behalf of the Council, as well as for the deaf and hard of hearing communities at-large, thanking DDHH and MKSD for completing another phase of the Advisory Council's outreach goal.
Acting Director Hock and MKSD Superintendent Dennis Russell and their staff arranged the special invitation open house. DDHH purchased the devices for the demonstration center for about $5,000; and MKSD built the shelves and renovated the room with in-house staff and students.
DDHH houses its first demonstration center at the Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center in New Brunswick , which is operated by another DHS division - the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. These centers give people the opportunity to try out different devices, such as TTYs, amplified phones, videophone, video relay, Internet relay, baby alert systems , extra-audible with strobe smoke detectors, and door knocker systems .
DDHH field reps meet with the consumer and/or provider to give them the hands-on experience. Then the individual may purchase an item from a vendor (DDHH does not sell anything); or they may apply for a free device from the DDHH Equipment Distribution Program which offers some, but not all, of the devices shown. One may visit the centers by calling the Division at 800-792-8339 V/TTY or 609-984-7281 V/TTY to schedule an appointment.
There are more than 700,000 people with hearing loss (Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deaf-blind) in New Jersey . Many are unaware of technology that may enhance their lives and break down communication barriers, hence the need for these demonstration centers.
At the start of the decade, the NJ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advisory Council advocated for additional funding for the hiring of two field representatives and setting up assistive device demonstration centers. The field reps were hired in 2001 and 2002. A third demo center will also be planned.
Brian C. Shomo served as Director of DDHH from July 2001 until his death this summer and oversaw the activities of a small but active division that is a focal point for the Deaf and hard of hearing community in New Jersey. Community outreach and making new technologies available were major priorities for Shomo. The demonstration centers are year-round extensions of that informational outreach.