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Town hall draws attention to issues for deaf community

By Tom Markland, The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – A town hall at Independent Bible Church on Saturday invited legislators and members of the community to come listen, with hopes of shedding light on the issues that face deaf members of local communities.

The town hall was hosted by Eastern Panhandle Deaf Alliances.

Sara Ann Jividen, the organization’s president, had hoped to use the town hall as a way to have local legislators listen to the issues and problems the deaf community faces, but the two tables that were reserved for the legislators remained empty.

“I’m very disappointed,” Jividen said. “I emailed 10 letters out to 10 legislators all around in the area, Morgan County, Berkeley County and Jefferson County, but nobody has responded except for Capito’s office.”

Jividen says she doesn’t know how to get legislators to listen to them and hear their problems, so the two groups can work together to find solutions. Out of the over 100,000 deaf people that live in West Virginia according to a 2017 report, Berkeley County has the second largest deaf population in the state.

“We are voters, we are taxpayers,” Jividen said. “Where are our equal rights?”

Services for deaf people are severely lacking in the Eastern Panhandle and West Virginia as a whole, according to Jividen. Many of the services that exist for hearing people don’t work for deaf people, since administrators are not trained on how to interact with them, and interpreters can be hard to come by.

“When I came here, I moved here from Ohio, and I expected equal services because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was so amazed to learn that the lifestyle here has not caught up,” Jividen said. “The services are from, like, the 70s here.

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