Worcester Business Journal

September 9, 2022

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22 Worcester Business Journal | September 5, 2022 | wbjournal.com F O C U S D I V E R S I T Y & I N C L U S I O N T he Learning Center for the Deaf (TLC) is a nationally-recognized non-profit multi- service organization with unique qualities unlike any other interdisciplinary service or program in the nation. We are an organization that services people from all walks of life through the use of American Sign Language (ASL). Our mission is to change impossibles to possibilities through equitable and welcoming practices. Based in Framingham, Massachusetts, our organization annually supports more than 2,000 deaf and hard of hearing individuals across the Commonwealth with an outpatient Audiology Clinic, community mental health care, interpreting services, a school for the deaf, consulting services for public schools with deaf students, and a residential program for the deaf with behavioral challenges. Deaf youth, especially those experiencing behavioral challenges and pertaining trauma, continue to experience gaps in access to services because of inaccessible communication. The majority of mental health clinicians in the state do not sign; therefore, the information and resources are not accessible. Through DEI practices, it is noted that the challenges lie with so little knowledge about deaf communities and the richness of ASL to create connections with external stakeholders and organizations outside of TLC. With that we recognize the need to address social issues is challenging, especially when services require a third party, such as an interpreter, subject matter expert, and/or advocate that doesn't sign. We must deepen our understanding of the importance of bridging the gap between accessibility and service. TLC's equity & inclusion (e&i) office opened in September 2020 with the key goal of addressing racial inequities. Through two years of learning and navigating multiple challenges during COVID, the systemic inequities and intersectionality intersects have become a focal point for the work on racial equity. As one takeaway from these valuable discussions, we have established affinity circles for our Black deaf students and BIPOC staff at TLC. Our office worked closely with Walden Community Services, our mental health community program, using a racial-equity-based grant to identify, develop and modify a trauma-informed curriculum with a deaf-centric focus to work with families through multicultural counseling lens. We connected with a multicultural signing clinical psychologist to support this work. In the Spring of 2021, our educational staff and leaders had the opportunity to participate in culturally responsive classroom and leadership training with renowned consultant Joe Truss to create pathways to building a culturally- responsive curriculum and classrooms. Currently, the e&i office is creating an equity assessment tool for each program to identify gaps and strengths to support equitable practices. This will become an accountability tool for the organization to communicate quarterly with stakeholders. This tool is a key foundational step to moving the organization toward a place that produces welcoming environments for all so that people can belong. Though there is always work that must be done, TLC takes pride in committing to an equitable and inclusive workplace that fosters welcoming and belonging for all who work and receive services. We are committed to a proactive, nondiscriminatory approach in all our departments, programs, and schools. Equity and inclusion are interconnected in our everyday work and critical through collaboration. We look forward to teaming up with you; if you want to learn more about partnerships with our organization, check our website, TLCdeaf. org for more information. Onwards and upwards to engaging with you. Kudos, Kyle Amber Clark KAClark@tlcdeaf.org Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer Bridging Accessibility, Intersectionality and the Deaf Community W Kyle Amber Clark Special Sponsored Section

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