Deaf Plus Adult Community (DPAC) is an adult day program in Newark, California serving Regional Center consumers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Deaf Plus was started in 2007 by a small group of parents and professionals who saw a need for services for adults who were deaf and had disabilities. The entirely volunteer-run group began with planning social activities. The first activity was a Valentine’s Day party in February 2007. Since then, a total of 20 fun activities have been held including barbeques, Holiday parties, bowling, rock climbing, kayaking, Halloween parties and much more. A total of 70+ individuals who are deaf and have disabilities have attended one or more events.
Regional Center of the East Bay provides services to people with developmental disabilities. RCEB has been helpful by routinely sending our Deaf Plus notices to their clients, and actively encouraging participation in our events.
It is well understood among the small group of professionals who work with Deaf Plus individuals and their families that this is a highly underserved population. Statistics about this group are limited. The latest publicly available statistics from Department of Developmental Services (2007) shows there were about 9,233 developmentally delayed consumers with a hearing loss over age 18 in California. Gallaudet Research Institute at Gallaudet University estimated that about 39% of deaf students nationally, and 34% of California’s deaf students have a disability. That includes developmental delays and many less intrusive disabilities. A survey of 660 deaf + individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007 indicated that 80% of adults who are deaf and have a disability stay home all the time; they are not working nor in day programs. For the most part, they are terribly isolated.
Deaf Plus individuals are stigmatized by the Deaf community. They are typically “included” because of legislation or the need to count them for funding purposes; however, the “inclusion” often doesn’t match the Deaf Plus person’s strengths and needs. They are still seen as “special” (which really means different, other, not-like-us). Deaf Plus people are minimally included in the larger community because hearing, able-bodied people are not able to communicate nor conceptualize the impact of deafness plus other disabilities on the individual, even when they want to be inclusive.
In early 2011, Regional Center of the East Bay (RCEB) issued a request for proposals for a day program to serve adults who are deaf and have developmental disabilities and may have behavior issues. The same small group of volunteers responded to the request and applied for the associated grant. RCEB gave the project to Deaf Plus Adult Community thus starting the more official version of Deaf Plus.