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Reaching out to the deaf in Tri-State area

Gladhill provides many services to Deafnet clients

Gladhill provides many services to Deafnet clients

November 09, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

It was a typical day recently at Deafnet as a receptionist tried to find someone to interpret for a deaf person with medical needs in Winchester, Va.

The organization that has operated from 551 Jefferson St. since 2002 coordinates such services for people in a four-state area every day.

Kathy Gladhill has been working with Deafnet for more than 17 years. The organization is celebrating 20 years of service to the deaf and those who are hard of hearing.

"My first contact with the deaf was when my mother took signing classes from Harold Bible at Grace Baptist Church," Gladhill said.

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She met her husband, Dennis, through friends and learned that he was deaf.

"We started out communicating with pen and paper," she said. "I had to learn his language."

Their marriage and her starting at Deafnet both occurred in 1990.

The Gladhills, who both are affiliated with Deafnet, have three hearing children.

"Dennis works full time at Washington County Hospital and teaches sign classes here," Kathy Gladhill said.

Her work at Deafnet involves interpreting for the deaf, signing at the monthly Deafnet meetings, TTY education and going to schools with her husband to promote education about the deaf.

"My greatest joy has been my interaction with deaf people," Kathy Gladhill said, noting most deaf people don't see deafness as a handicap. "They are very proud of their culture."

Deafnet serves parts of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. In Washington County, there are about 150 deaf people receiving services, according to Bible, longtime Deafnet director.

In the beginning, Bible said, he and other volunteers operated a relay operation through which deaf people could communicate to the hearing community by special telephones known as TTYs or TTDs.

For the past 20 years, Deafnet has been promoting awareness and providing services that include interpreting at weddings, funerals, in police and court situations, emergency medical calls, and even surgeries and childbirth.

Over time, services including interpreter referrals, sign language classes, training and providing specialized equipment such as smoke detectors with strobe lights, telecommunication devices and closed-captioning decoders have been added.

Deafnet will celebrate its 20th anniversary Saturday at Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway, beginning with a buffet at 5:30 p.m.

I. King Jordan, the first deaf president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., will be guest speaker. Patricia "Trix" Bruce will perform special music. There will be awards, door prizes, a speech by the founder and an ongoing slide show of Deafnet's first 20 years.

Deafnet is a private, nonprofit organization.

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