Yesterday marked a significant opportunity for the National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline to achieve our community’s and the #WhoWillAnswer coalition’s goal of becoming 24/7. By operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Deaf Hotline will be able to serve deaf and hard of hearing individuals who have experienced violence any time, anywhere. It is the only national hotline that provides direct access to advocates who communicate in American Sign Language and have deep understanding of Deaf culture.
In November 2014, the #WhoWillAnswer coalition — representing 15 anti-violence organizations that directly serve deaf survivors — launched a yearlong campaign to spread awareness and raise funds for this critical issue. The campaign received amazing support from the community. (You can read more about the campaign in this insightful post by Nikki Soukup, CSD’s director of program operations.)
This fall, the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) is proposing to revise the regulations implementing the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA), which provides funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (and the National Deaf Hotline).
The current language in the FVPSA contains a mandate to provide a plan to serve individuals with hearing loss — but it allows the agency or organization applying for funding to determine how much funding is allocated to support deaf or hard of hearing survivors in need of direct access to hotline support services. Thus far, this has resulted in an oversight, with the National Deaf Hotline operating only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. After hours and during weekends, deaf and hard of hearing survivors have only the option of calling for support through a third-party video relay interpreter — a limited and especially impersonal means of communication.
Together, the 15 members of the #WhoWillAnswer coalition are submitting comments to the proposed rule modifying the FVPSA. The #WhoWillAnswer coalition is recommending that it include “descriptions of a plan for facilitating direct, 24-hour access to the hotline for people with disabilities, including the deaf and hard of hearing.” This rule change to the FVPSA will ensure anytime access to hotline staff fluent in American Sign Language, who understand Deaf culture and are trained to provide the caller with support services that are appropriate and accessible.
Your support is instrumental in this effort. Can you help us sustain this momentum and continue to raise awareness for this important need? You can show your support by spreading the word on social media, using the hashtag #WhoWillAnswer. If you’d like to reach out directly, contact ACF on Twitter or through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Facebook page.
Your support can help save lives. Together, we can make progress towards a safer, healthier and more accessible world.