by Rosabel Agbayani
This past September 30, 2020 marked a significant milestone for my family. The day marks 10 years that we became a Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) Family. So many changes have happened in our lives over the past decade; my son is a happy, healthy, funny, and productive teenager. Our family has grown to love this journey and my husband and I have found so much joy in raising our DHH child. Professionally and Personally, this journey opened up a world of opportunities to learn more about raising a deaf child, being a part of a community, and inspiring leadership that I never knew I was capable of.
It was two years into our journey that I serendipitously connected with Hands & Voices. At the time, I was aspiring to be a professional who worked with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. I remember sitting at a conference full of professionals and I was the only parent. The topic was “Child Safety” and the presentation featured Hands & Voices. In that moment, as I listened to other parents who shared their journey, I saw myself as a professional not because I had a degree or title, but simply because I was a mother of a child who was deaf. Now, I consider myself honored to be a parent of a DHH child, be a part of the Hands & Voices community, and share my experiences, knowledge, and expertise to help other parents see their own potential as a leader.
So here I am, 10 years into our family’s journey and I am humbled by this opportunity to serve Hands & Voices as the Consultant for Underserved Populations. In addition to my qualifications as a parent of a deaf child, I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in Human Development, Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education, and a Masters in Public Health Specializing in Health Promotion. I am so excited to have this opportunity to blend my life’s experience with my career in helping others. As I have been preparing for the important work to be done, I’ve spent some time reflecting on why I am here and what I hope to accomplish in my role as the Consultant for Underserved populations.
We are in a period right now where things are moving and paused at the same time. This is forcing all of us to look at things from a different perspective. We are all witnessing how institutions like healthcare and education have been severely impacted by COVID-19 and it has forced both systems to react to the circumstance and rebuild the way services are delivered. Hands & Voices as an organization are also called to look at the families we serve and find opportunities for us to strengthen our capacity to support our chapters, give families meaningful resources, and seek out ways that we can show that we understand how difficult this time is for everyone especially our Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.
As a public health professional, I look at the community in terms of Health Equity. Equity should not be confused with Equality. Equality emphasizes everyone gets their equal share, however EQUITY breaks down those silos that divide ourselves within a community and makes sure that everyone gets what they need. Fairness and Equity requires us to look closely at those social determinants of health and make a conscious effort to include those in underrepresented populations (e.g. rural, urban, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation, family structure, and socioeconomic status) that can influence a community’s ability to access the necessary resources and support for successful and healthy human development. Health equity is more than one intervention; it’s a lens through which all of our work in human services should be viewed.
So, what did I determine to accomplish in my role? Well, what I hope will come out of this experience (as I continue to learn and grow) is that we can work together, to understand each other, respect each other’s perspectives, and work towards this common goal of achieving equity in our community.
Over the next four years, we will be taking a closer look at our organization and in our leadership to focus on opportunities to infuse Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the work we already do. Hands & Voices has established the Gold Standard for supporting families with children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. We want to expand our outreach and continue to support our chapters so that we can find those opportunities to reach out to Underrepresented Populations. Everyone deserves an opportunity to find the gift of being connected to Hands & Voices. Here at Hands & Voices we want every family of a Deaf or Hard of Hearing child, at all stages of their journey, in all walks of life, to know that they BELONG in our community and we are here to support, encourage, and empower them the best way we know how!
As the Consultant to support Underserved Populations, Rosabel will assist Hands & Voices with an increased focus on diversity with specific support in the FL3’s delivery of technical assistance, training, and education. Read more on the Hands & Voices website below.