Despite funding being down and an impending change in location, Durham Deaf Services is still offering its literacy program to deaf residents in the region.
Located at 750 King St. E., Durham Deaf Services has been a part of the community for more than 30 years, and is considered one of Oshawa’s “best kept secrets” according to executive director Maggie Doherty-Gilbert.
Despite this, the organization has remained a strong advocate for the deaf community around the region since 1980, when it was known as Oshawa Deaf Centre.
“It was set up originally for members of the deaf community who wanted to make sure that their children who are deaf had some place to come where they can find employment, navigate the healthcare system, etc.,” explains Doherty-Gilbert.
Stefanie Gibbons, the literacy coordinator at Durham Deaf Services, explains the literacy program is funded by the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development, and is free of charge for anyone 18 or older.
“We just need people that actually are interested in upgrading their literacy skills for employment, postsecondary, high school credits, and apprenticeship programs, but it’s for the deaf stream,” explains Gibbons.
She says there is a lot of Anglophone programs currently in the Durham area, but they predominantly only teach English.
“We are the only one in all of Durham Region that offers it for deaf and hard of hearing,” she explains. “Now we’re taking on enrolment, so we’re trying to reach out and get more people aware of us, know of our new location, come to our new office, come to our classes, and take part in the program.”
The program is adult-centred, so when they come in, Gibbons and her team will listen to what the individual wants or needs, and then will look at where their gaps in life are.
“Every single student creates their own training,” she says. “It’s not like a program where you’re saying, ‘Okay, I need math and this is what you’re teaching, or I need English and this is what you’re teaching.’ It’s literally catered to that individual, and it’s for as long as they need the program.”
The literacy program focuses on reading, writing, math, computers, and employment preparation.
Gibbons says they have noticed there’s been a decline in the number of people utilizing their services, and she wonders why.
“We’re not sure if it’s just that they don’t have the information, or if there’s been a change in the community,” she explains.
For those who are interested in learning more about Durham Deaf Services, visit their website at durhamdeaf.org