My Early Experiences @ CHHA

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by Adam Farhat

As a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) candidate, I have a passion for identifying and understanding strengths and limitation of the way our society is structured, in efforts to determine and advocate for the right equitable solutions.  Working at the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association is my first experience being part of a not-for-profit that focuses on advocacy work.  I have been able to see and gain a better understanding of what takes place behind the scenes and how organizations like CHHA are fighting and working hard to protect the rights of individuals impacted by hearing loss.   

In the short time that I have been at CHHA, below are my personal responses to questions that focus on the core of the work and impact that takes place from coast to coast, across our 26 networks, targeting the community and all levels of government:   

Why is advocacy work so important? 

Advocacy work targets the root of the issue.  When it comes to Canadians who are hard of hearing, their hearing loss is not the problem.  The problem is that the policies and systems in place do not adequately support their needs.  As individuals who are hard of hearing represent a small proportion of Canadian (however, not a small number), the individual voice can easily get unnoticed or even dismissed.    Advocacy groups, like CHHA, understand the root cause and the value in being part of a collective.  Having a team of individuals who have the right policy, administration, and lived experiences, they are able to ensure that our government receives the message. 

What are the challenges of advocacy work? 

Advocacy work takes time and is a tedious process.  While understanding the collective voice is critical, advocacy work takes place mostly behind the scenes.  It involves staying up to date on current legislation and policies, providing an in-depth analysis, and anticipating future impacts on the hard of hearing community that CHHA serves.  It requires a lot of diligence and consistency in order to ensure that the all levels of government are paying attention and are aware of how the hard of hearing community is impacted. 

How has the landscape for hard of hearing people changed in the last fifteen years in Canada? 

In the last fifteen years, there has been a lot of positive change, but there is one element that I believe has had the strongest impact.  This is how we think and identify the right treatments for people with disabilities.  When speaking with my colleague Danielle, who was born hard of hearing, she informed me that the framework has changed from a medical model to a social model.  The medical model operates under the premise that people with disabilities have a problem that needs to be fixed.  It puts the responsibility on the individual.  The social model, however, identifies that the increasing challenges that people with disabilities face is because our community and society as a whole has not done enough to accommodate.  This to me is a framework that is more equitable and sets a foundation that we as a society can build and improve on. 

Stay tune for my next blog post where I talk in detail about Bill C-81, how it got enacted, and what that means for the communities we serve.

To end off, I would like to thank my team at CHHA for being welcoming and supportive.  I am happy to have met many dedicated individuals, both within and outside the organization, to have learned so much in a short time, and to have been part of and engaged in meaningful work.