The DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) works in partnership with Texans of all ages who are deaf or hard of hearing. DHHS works to eliminate societal barriers by increasing access to information and providing effective communication skills that can prevent or reduce isolation for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.

DHHS maintains a statewide network of community partners, as well as contracted deafness and hearing loss resource specialists who identify essential training and information based on a person's specific needs.

Training may include effective communication strategies, hearing loss awareness and the use of assistive technology such as cochlear implants and hearing aids. Hearing loss resource specialists also provide individual assessments in the workplace, school and elsewhere in the community. DHHS administers a financial assistance program for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to access telephone networks.

DHHS consumers can receive advocacy and self-empowerment education, for instance, through a program for children aged 8 to 17 years old who are deaf or hard of hearing; sensitivity training and information for employers and organizations regarding federal and state mandates related to equal access; and training to enhance the skills of current and prospective sign language interpreters. DHHS is also responsible for testing, rating and certifying American Sign Language interpreters at various skill levels through the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters program.

2015 Highlights

New Legal and Medical Interpreter Certification Tests

DHHS developed and released two new American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter tests to allow ASL interpreters to be certified to work within specialized and underserved legal, court and medical settings.

Trilingual Interpreter Certification

DHHS received an award from the Texas Society of Interpreters for the Deaf for leadership in training and certifying trilingual interpreters, who interpret spoken English, spoken Spanish and ASL. Texas is the only state to offer trilingual interpreter certification.

Hector Learns to Speak Up

Hector Elizondo is an outgoing and outspoken young man. He has a hearing impairment and uses a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other to help increase his hearing ability.

In June 2015, Hector was referred by the DHHS for participation in a two-part transition skills workshop titled It's Your Future…Build it! The workshop's purpose was to help transition-aged youth with hearing loss gain awareness about services, supports and resources available to help them achieve their educational and employment goals. The workshop was jointly led by a Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC) and a DHHS resource specialist, and included presentations by a variety of speakers.

Hector remained quiet during much of the workshop as the group discussed topics such as the vocational rehabilitation process, teamwork and community resources. However, his attention was grabbed when a nurse presented to the group on several assistive listening devices. The nurse asked Hector whether he preferred his cochlear implant or his hearing aid, prompting him to think carefully about which device he felt helped him hear better. Although Hector wasn't immediately sure which device he preferred, by the time the nurse's presentation was done and he and the other students had tried out the assistive listening devices she had brought with her, Hector knew his answer—he preferred his cochlear implant.

When the workshop was over that day, DHHS staff received a phone call from Hector's mother. She asked, "What are you teaching the kids there?" The DHHS staff member responded with the information about what topics had been discussed and then asked Hector's mother if there was any problem. Hector's mother said, "No! For the first time, Hector spoke to me with boldness and told me that he can hear better with his cochlear implant and needed his second one done as soon as possible!"

Thanks to his participation in the workshop, Hector's mother says he is more outspoken and that she has never seen this side of him before. She is happy that Hector participated in the workshop — not only for all that he learned about resources and supports to help youth with hearing loss, but because of all that he learned about himself.