Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman announced that the New Jersey (NJ) Department has awarded $944,000 in total grants to 13 counties to improve communication and language access to county services for deaf and hard-of-hearing residents.
“We are pleased to offer this grant funding to our county partners and are excited to see the ways they will invest the funds to improve the experiences of deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind residents seeking county services and visiting county offices,” Adelman said. “Increasing access to key programs, services and information for deaf and hard of hearing residents is essential. Awarding these grants is another step in our continued work to create a more inclusive New Jersey.”
The program is supported by Human Services’ Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DDHH).
“These grants will promote language and communication access for deaf and hard-of-hearing residents in various county settings including libraries, health and social services offices through the installation of hearing loops, translation of resources into ASL, and the use of ASL interpreters and closed captioning,” Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira said. “Removing communication barriers is vital in improving the quality of life for deaf and hard-of-hearing New Jerseyans so they can thrive in their communities.”
“It’s important for all New Jerseyans to have equal access, and these grants will enhance language and communication access to county programs and services for our deaf and hard-of-hearing residents,” Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Executive Director Elizabeth Hill said. “We look forward to seeing the work of the awarded counties come to reality and create a lasting impact in our great state.”
The 13 counties that will receive a communication access grant are:
- Burlington County, which will use $75,000 to install hearing loops, which improve hearing and communication for individuals with hearing aids, in various county offices including the Health Department, Human Services, and the Clerk’s office. Burlington County will also purchase portable hearing loops to use throughout county locations.
- Camden County, which will use $75,000 to increase access to wellness and mental health services by providing content in American Sign Language (ASL).
- Cumberland County, which will use $44,000 to install hearing loops in the county library and purchase portable loops to use in key county and law enforcement offices.
- Essex County, which will use $75,000 to install hearing loops in key county locations delivering health, mental health, and substance use disorder services with a focus on providing access in American Sign Language to individuals seeking treatment services.
- Gloucester County, which will use $75,000 to enhance communication access technology in virtual platforms to include sign language interpreting and captioning for intake to program and services. Gloucester County will also install hearing loops in county offices such as the Surrogate’s office and Clerk’s office.
- Hudson County, which will use $75,000 to enhance communication access technology in virtual platforms to include sign language interpreters and captioning; translate health-related resources into ASL; install hearing loops at county administration offices including disability, health, and human services buildings; and install portable loops at numerous locations such as the county courthouse, correctional facility, and psychiatric hospital.
- Hunterdon County, which will use $75,000 to install hearing loops at public meeting areas; install portable hearing loops for other public reception areas such as the county courtroom, conference spaces and other various county locations; expand access to ASL interpreters; and enhance services for veterans with hearing loss.
- Middlesex County, which will use $75,000 to increase access to ASL and captioning services at the East Brunswick county library. Middlesex County will also install hearing loops and public video phones in the Metuchen, Piscataway, and East Brunswick county libraries.
- Monmouth County, which will use $75,000 to enhance communication access technology in virtual platforms to include sign language interpreters and captioning. Monmouth County will also install hearing loops throughout the Division of Social Services’ offices that have access to the public.
- Ocean County, which will use $75,000 to translate senior services program materials into ASL; increase ASL and captioning services; install hearing loops in county offices; and purchase portable hearing loops for Ocean County’s mobile senior services unit.
- Passaic County, which will use $75,000 to increase access to ASL interpretation and captioning services at key county meetings open to the public; install hearing loops in various key Passaic county offices; and purchase portable loops for their satellite offices.
- Salem County, which will use $75,000 to install hearing loops and purchase videophones for ASL users for the county jail; purchase portable loops for use in various county departments; and increase ASL and captioning access.
- Somerset County, which will use $75,000 to install hearing loops in county offices including the senior center and translate materials for health and senior services in ASL.
Understanding the importance of communication and language access, Human Services has also worked to expand digital access for all through a wireless pilot program that provides eligible deaf and hard-of-hearing residents with a free tablet or smartphone.
Human Services has also increased reimbursement rates for hearing aids through DDHH’s Hearing Aid Assistance to the Aged and Disabled program, and enhanced the Equipment Distribution Program which ensures New Jersey residents with hearing loss have access to telecommunications and visual alerting home safety equipment.
Source: NJ Department of Human Services