Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center: A 100-Year Legacy of Equal Communication Access
Posted on 02/12/21 by Becky in Circle Institutions
Sitting at the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 117th Street is a striking metal-and-glass building that houses the University Circle office of the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center (CHSC), a remarkable organization whose mission is to ensure a community where everyone communicates effectively. Celebrating its centennial anniversary, CHSC was founded in 1921 by Helen Newell Garfield, daughter-in-law of President James A. Garfield. Helen lost her hearing as a young woman and, due to a lack of services, established her own lip-reading school. Over the years, the organization grew and adapted to the changing times – adding speech therapy and hearing services, and a Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
CHSC is led by Executive Director, Dr. Jennell Vick. Dr. Vick was initially drawn to CHSC for the opportunity to work with “real members of the community who need real help.” She experienced, first-hand, the positive impact that teaching communication strategies to Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals or those with speech disorders can have on all aspects of their lives.
Communication access is at the heart of the services offered by CHSC, and currently includes audiology, speech-language pathology, and Interpreting – both Spoken Language and American Sign Language (ASL). A Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing offers vocational training, educational services, even a small food pantry for deaf clients who are homeless or experiencing food insecurity. Other services include speech therapy and literacy programs for children and adults, hearing testing, and hearing aid fitting and sales. CHSC offers the Audiology Patient Assistance Program (APA) - a grant-funded program that offers a sliding fee scale for those who financially qualify for the purchase of hearing aids. To better serve the community, CHSC added satellite offices in Broadview Heights, Westlake, and Lyndhurst.
One of the most noteworthy aspects about CHSC is its commitment to state-wide advocacy, specifically for the early identification of communication disorders. CHSC was part of the group that successfully pressed for legislation mandating hearing screenings for newborns in Ohio. Once identified, these infants can receive early intervention so they develop the communications skills they will need throughout their lives. CHSC is currently advocating for HB 436, which would require schools to screen and provide intervention services for students with dyslexia.
The commitment to service and advocacy has helped shape CHSC into the organization it is today. “I’m proud that we’ve sustained an organization for 100 years,” said Vick. “We are constantly innovating and transforming our services to meet modern needs.”
So, what does the next 100 years look like for CHSC? Vick offered this insight: “We are unfinished. We will continue to provide care and take a multicultural approach to services and ensure that everyone has equal communication access.”
For more information on CHSC Hearing Services: www.chsc.org/hearing
For more information on CHSC Speech Services: www.chsc.org/speech
For more information on CHSC Interpreting Services: www.chsc.org/interpreting
For more information on the Community Center for the Deaf and hard of Hearing: www.chsc.org/deaf