NCDHH offers services in Butler County

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing in Butler County, programs are available to ensure equal access.

Ashley Wulf, an advocate with the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NCDHH), visited David City on Nov. 16 to talk about what the commission has to offer Butler County residents.

NCDHH has five offices located throughout Nebraska. Advocacy specialists like Wulf have assigned counties, with Butler as one of her counties. Wulf said she began her position two years ago amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was very limited in terms of travel. Now everything is starting to open up again, so I’m now trying to put my foot down and meet the people in my counties,” Wulf said.

According to Wulf, the NCDHH provides services to any individual who is deaf or hard of hearing — anyone with a hearing loss — to ensure they have equal access to everything in their daily lives. This could be in the form of sign language interpreters, amplification equipment and closed captioning services, she noted.

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“The biggest program we offer is advocacy, where we work with stakeholders and consumers to make sure they have that communication access, whether that’s at their work, their home, their doctor’s appointment, their dentist, wherever that may be ; one of their activities in daily life,” Wulf said.

In particular, there is the committee that has the Nebraska Specialized Telecommunication Equipment Program (NSTEP).

“It can provide an amplified phone, a caption phone, or a cell phone … The amplified phone, caption phone, and can also include a signaler to let the person know when the phone rings,” Wulf said.

A hearing aid bank program, which follows federal income poverty guidelines, can help provide a hearing aid.

“If someone signs up and receives an acceptance letter, they are eligible for one free refurbished hearing aid. They could get a second one for the price of about $200,” Wulf said.

The hearing aids are donated and sent to be refurbished and cleaned before being distributed.

“We have an educational advocate who works with deaf and hard of hearing children or their families within school systems, whether that be with an IEP or a 504 program to make sure they have equal access in their school environment,” Wulf said, noting there is also a behavioral health coordinator who works with patients, clients and mental health professionals to ensure they have equal access.

“People who suffer from mental health, if they are deaf and hard of hearing, those mental health problems can get worse without access to communication.”

In addition, two limited programs are available through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“The legal communications access fund is for anywhere in Nebraska and it can provide any kind of communications access, whether that be an interpreter, a remote video interpreter, a real-time caption,” Wulf said.

The second is the Rural Communications Access Fund, which provides an on-site interpreter for any rural area outside of the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas. That could be for a visit to a doctor’s office, a public event, a school program, etc.

“Both are reimbursed programs,” Wulf said. “People are more likely to pay for the services, fill out the forms and then they will be reimbursed.”

An equipment loan program allows deaf and hard-of-hearing communities to try out an amplified telephone, closed captioning telephone, personal amplifier, cellular telephone, signaling device and a TTY for approximately 3 months. A media lending program allows anyone to borrow equipment, DVDs, and books about the deaf and hard of hearing, interpreting, hearing loss, and more. Free training and presentations are also offered.

For more information on available programs, visit NCDHH can be reached at 402-471-3593, (VP) 402-506-7956, or (toll-free) 800-545-6244.

Wulf also shared information about what NCDHH has to offer over lunch at the Hruska Memorial Public Library, 399 N. Fifth St. in David City.

“We had about 30 people here,” said library director Kay Schmid. “It was good. … then Kristin Scheele (audiologist at Butler County Health Care Center Audiology Services) continued with what she has available and the changes that have been made at the audiology clinic since the last time she spoke here, and so it was a good combination of speakers.”

The library has other events planned for the upcoming holiday season.

The Friends Festival of Trees is held from December 1 to January 5. Schmid said they usually have six trees — the Butler County Health Care Center and Daughters of the American Revolution always have trees, and Genesis Personal Development Center (Genesis House) and 4-H will have one as well.

Also on December 1, a cookie walk will be held in the library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cookies cost $8 per pound and candy $12 per pound. Proceeds will be given locally to Blue Valley Community Action, Butler County Ministerial Association, Genesis House, and the David City Public Schools Backpack Program.

A few days later, on December 5 at 6:30 PM, Nicole Kyung will deliver her book “Onward and Upward”.

Hannah Schrodt can be reached at [email protected]

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