UTRGV seeks input from deaf community
December 9, 2015
BY DANYA PEREZ-HERNANDEZ – STAFF WRITER
EDINBURG— For people deaf or hard of hearing, important tasks like preventative health screenings might be more tedious than usual. Between finding a physician who has a sign-language translator and figuring out whether they understood all their needs, some might prefer to skip it all together.
That is why the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley began hosting town hall meetings, hoping to get feedback on the most pressing needs of the deaf and hard of hearing community and figure out how to begin offering services as soon as possible. The meetings began in November and will continue through January.
With the medical school slated to open up next year, Saladin, who was born hard of hearing and now serves on the Texas School for the Deaf Governing Board, said he partnered with Linda Nelson, UTRGV senior director of clinical operations, to figure out how to begin offering services and preparing medical students to meet these needs.
“We want several clinics where these people can go for routine primary care … dental services and things like that to improve the overall health and quality of life,” Saladin said.
The first meeting took place in Rio Grande City at the end of November, and meetings continued into December in Edinburg and Harlingen. But the team plans to host five more meetings between now and January in Mission, Port Isabel, Brownsville, Raymondville and Weslaco.
Once the meetings are done, the next step is to analyze the data to present the most pressing areas to the school of medicine and hopefully secure funding to begin providing some services, Saladin said.
The needs vary between those who were born deaf and ask for more clinics with staff that knows sign language and basic health care education in this language to those who are hard of hearing and need more counseling on how to deal with the change and resources for hearing aids, Saladin said.
But there are several steps that university officials are ready to take to better the health care opportunities of people deaf and hard of hearing, Saladin said. One is to begin teaching sign language to the staff at the John Austin Peña treatment facility in Edinburg.
The university also plans to teach sign language to staff who will be providing health care services in a mobile van in rural areas sometime next year, Nelson said.
“I envision clinics where all staff will sign,” she said. “The school of medicine staff will be able to communicate with every population. That’s my goal, so that we reduce the health disparities.”