Sunday, 21 August 2016

Decision to dump services for the deaf was a bad one

Sorry, wrong number. That is what deaf people and their advocates learn when they dial 211 — the number the state provided to them for the deaf to get information and referrals after eliminating the Department of Rehabilitation Services interpretation unit along with its 40 employees.

Once again, the budget deficit is claiming more victims and wiping out basic quality of life measures, as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tries to get the state back on solid financial footing.

According to Luisa Soboleski, the chairperson of the state agency’s advisory committee, there was no advance warning of the decision to eliminate the unit and there was no transition plan. She said 211 operators “didn’t know what was going on” and deaf people “were just dumped” by the Malloy administration.

We get her point. To eliminate an entire department that people with a disability need to function day-to-day is not only inconsiderate but a bit insulting.

Connecticut’s deaf community reacted to the elimination by staging a rally outside the state Capitol protesting that their civil right to have an interpreter had been violated. Sandra Inzinga, president of the Connecticut Association of the Deaf, said she was on hold for 10-minutes with 211 before a private provider in Bridgeport was recommended.

But Inzinga wonders about deaf people in the rest of the state. Are they expected to drive from Norwich or New London to Bridgeport for a provider?

Chris McClure, a spokesman for Malloy, said the decision to eliminate the unit was based on the “new economic reality,” an expression that is growing wearisome as a answer to every budget cut Malloy has made. However, McClure said little change — if any — is expected and the state has contracted with private interpreting service providers, which will save the state about $30 per hour.

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