New ODHH Applicant Vlog



Hello everyone,

I am Grace Shirk-Emmons PSAD President. I want to let you know on what’s happening with Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Thanks to Advisory Council for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH, this council advises ODHH) for sharing the draft that Labor of Industry and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) had put together for the next director of ODHH. ACDHH wanted Pennsylvania Society for the Advancement of the Deaf (PSAD)’s opinion of the draft.

The first draft really named OVR too often to the point that it felt like OVR is taking over ODHH. It also didn’t really say anything about the person knowing deaf culture or consumer of ODHH. Next one was it said familiar about ASL. This could mean a person knowing about ASL but do not use it or is fluent in ASL.

Looking over the draft, it was not enough. It felt like with OVR’s job, the range of their work is limited.  OVR’s mission is limited to providing job services and training for people with disabilities.ODHH’s mission is wide ranging from advocacy, registry for interpreters, mental health, various difficulties and needs.  ODHH really serves deaf and hard of hearing from birth to grave. It felt like with OVR’s limitations, ODHH is being squeezed into OVR’s limitations. It felt like OVR is controlling ODHH.

We also sent our report letting ACDHH know that putting in deaf culture is important. Also that the part “familiar” with ASL is not acceptable.  The person should be fluent in ASL according to the measurement of ASLPI 4.0 or SLPI Advanced.  These two tests is really the same level of fluency. We even shared where the person could take test online. For a person to pass the test, it would qualify the person for the job. We want the person to really be fluent in ASL. Also too much references to OVR.

Sent out our opinions, then in a few days I got second draft, not from ACDHH, from someone else and the second draft was better. Less OVR wording in there. The wording “familiar” was revised to fluent in ASL.  No measurement in there, would it mean a person who feels he or she is qualified because he or she knows ABC?  There is no measurement required in there. Knowledge in deaf culture has been added but not strong enough. It is definitely an improvement over Draft one.

I also need to let you know that Hard of Hearing group feels hard of hearing person should have the director’s position.

Remember PSAD can’t do this alone.  I feel that all deaf organizations, clubs and individuals should start writing letters to OVR David DeNotaris.  He is Executive Director. Call him.  He is public person and we can write and call him and tell him to hire a deaf director with ASL skills.

David DeNotaris’ email address is

VRS: 717-787-3201

TTY: 866-830-7327

Thank you for watching me.

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Liz’s Topic/Question of the Month for March 2017


Hi! My name is Liz Hill and I am a PSAD board member. Last month, I promised that I would do monthly vlogs for topic of the month or question of the month. I took this opportunity for today because March 8th is International Women’s Day. Many women wore red today in support of International Women’s Day. Many men also wore red to show appreciation for their wives, mothers, grandmothers, etc.

Interestingly, our PSAD board has nine (9) members. It could be more but that is what we currently have. Of our nine (9) members, five (5) are women including our President, Grace Shirk-Emmons, and our second Vice-President, Sharon Antal. So women are a big part of PSAD and give so much of their time and service.

Some of you have asked about what PSAD is. PSAD is one of the oldest state associations in the nation. We are not *the* oldest, but one of the oldest! We are a statewide civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people from birth to end of life. An example of advocacy from birth is when babies are born and identified as deaf, PSAD supports early exposure to American Sign Language (ASL) to ensure proper language development. This is so that our children can be ready for school!

Another example of our advocacy efforts. Last Wednesday, Dr. Harvey Corson, our executive director, and I went to Washington, DC to support CEASD’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. CEASD is Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf. CEASD hosted this day to advocate for the passage of the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act to strengthen the IDEA for deaf, deaf-blind, and blind children. I am proud to tell you that PSAD, I believe, was the only state association present in support of this effort! Pennsylvania had an amazingly large group, in addition to PSAD, with PSD, WPSD, WPSB – school for blind children in Pittsburgh, and Overbrook – school for blind children in Philadelphia area. Both WPSB and Overbrook have deaf-blind children. Our group was such an amazingly strong group! We had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Senator Casey’s staff, U.S. Senator Toomey’s staff, as well as several U.S. Representatives. If you are interested in helping with the passage of this bill, let your Senator and Representative know that you support H.R. 1120.

If you have any other questions or topics for next month’s vlog, please feel free to email me at Thank you so much!

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Question/Topic of the Month

Hi My name is Liz Hill and I am a PSAD Board member. Recently, people have expressed interest in knowing more about PSAD. Some have commented that they wish there was an easier way to get more information. I thought that was great feedback and am happy that people are interested in us! So, I will set up a monthly vlog called “Question/Topic of the Month.” Maybe you have questions about how many Chapters we have, or how many Board members we have, or what is PSAD focusing on in the education committee. I can then use that as the topic of the month vlog. We are a very hardworking organization and want to make sure folks know what we are doing. Please feel free to email me with your questions or topics at

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Bylaws Amendments


Hi I am Jeffrey Yockey, I am Bylaws chairperson. I want to let you all know that anyone who want to see the change in the bylaws must send me the bylaw amendments 60 days before the conference which means you send the bylaw amendment by June 12, 2017. Then the bylaws committee will review them, send them via mail, and email out to PSAD members 30 days before PSAD Conference to give you a chance to review the bylaws amendments. If you want to vote on those bylaws amendments, you will need to come to PSAD Conference.  Please email your bylaw amendments to Thank you.



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Hello, I am Jeffrey Yockey, PSAD Board,  I want to talk about the candidates for the board positions at next PSAD Conference.  The Election is coming up. What does that mean?  There will be six candidates need to be filled. Six people are leaving, not really leaving; they can run again if they want to. They will need to fill out the forms again. So who area the departing board? Jeffrey Yockey, Grace Shirk-Emmons, Liz Hill, Robert Probst, and two vacant.  Those 6 board positions need to be filled for the next 4 years. If you are interested to be on PSAD Board, please submit your interests to Then we will mail you the application form with criminal background check. You must send back 60 days before the conference which means it must be sent to us by June 12, 2017.  Thank you.

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Resolutions for PSAD Conference

Published on Jan 16, 2017


Hi, my name is Liz Hill. I am a PSAD Board member and I am thrilled to tell you that I am Chair of the Resolutions Committee for the PSAD conference this August 2017! I hope that many of you come to the conference. I look forward to seeing all of you there! Resolutions are issues/priorities that members believe are important and want for the PSAD Board to work on for the next two years until the following conference. Resolutions can be submitted on behalf of PSAD chapters or by individual members. Resolutions can be submitted anytime from now until the Friday of the PSAD conference. Chapters may want to take the opportunity to meet during this time and discuss as a group what issues are important to them. For example, some of the issues that may come up are mental health, education, or interpreters. The resolutions committee will screen the resolutions. Some of the submissions may fit with PSAD’s mission. We may contact you to offer suggestions on modifying the language of the resolution to better fit PSAD’s mission and resources.

At the conference, members will be able to vote on the Top 5 resolutions that members want for the Board to really focus on for two years. Resolutions can be submitted via email in writing or via vlog to You may also call my videophone number at 859-757-2680. Please feel free to contact me for any questions. Thank you!

Elizabeth Hill
PSAD board member


Click here for 2017 Resolution form

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PSAD Board Liz Hill’s Mental Health Committee Report

Published on Jan 16, 2017

Transcript: Hi, my name is Liz Hill. I am a PSAD Board member and chair of the mental health committee. The committee is focusing on two main things. Right now, the biggest concern is the lack of statewide mental health services for deaf people. Most mental health services are concentrated in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas. People who live in the northern and middle part of the state find it difficult to access mental health services due to communication barriers. The committee wants to find people who are interested in advocating for mental health services across the state. There are other states in this country that already have full statewide services for deaf people. These states are South Carolina, Minnesota, and Alabama. They are example of what we are looking at to see how their model can fit Pennsylvania.

The other issue we are looking at is Act 57 which has to do with interpreter licensure. The law has to be updated and there is discussion of whether language can be put in there regarding mental health training for interpreters. Many interpreters are interested in working in mental health settings but maybe lack the training that is critical for this field. It is very important for interpreters to have training when working in mental health settings. So, we are looking at possibly Act 57 or other ways to figure out how to support interpreters who want to work in this field.

If you have questions or feedback, please feel free to email me at Thank you!

Elizabeth Hill
PSAD board member

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PSAD Board Liz Hill’s Intellectual Disabilities Committee Report


Published on Jan 16, 2017

Transcript: Hi, my name is Liz Hill. I am a PSAD Board member and chair of the Intellectual Disabilities committee. The committee has focused much of its work on the Harry M Settlement. Harry M was a class action lawsuit that was settled in 2013 on behalf of deaf people with intellectual disabilities who do not have communication access. As part of the settlement, the state, Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) agreed to do communication assessments on approximately 500 class members. The state decided to contract with Temple University Institute on Disabilities in Philadelphia for this task. Temple University then contracts with various individuals to do the communication assessments for deaf consumers with intellectual disabilities across the state. The purpose of the communication assessments is to determine the communication needs of the consumer. Many of these consumers have been isolated and may not have developed formal language skills. The timeline for finishing the assessments is delayed. There are concerns with the state contracting out this service. Some of the concerns are regarding the quality of the people who are contracted to do the assessments, whether the report of the assessment reflects accurately what the consumer needs, and then whether service providers really understand what the recommendations are. These service providers likely do not have backgrounds in deafness. There are also concerns about ODP’s intent in grouping deaf people with intellectual disabilities together in group homes so that they have communication with each other. Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP) was involved in the class action lawsuit in 2013 and they are still monitoring the case.

PSAD was asked by members at the last PSAD conference via formal resolution to be involved in following up on the Harry M settlement. To honor that request, I wrote a letter to ODP expressing concerns about where we are since the settlement. This letter is available to the public. ODP received the letter and asked to meet with PSAD. President Grace and I met with ODP to express our concerns in person about contracting out these services to providers who do not really have a background in this field. After the meeting, I wrote a follow-up letter to ODP letting them know that our concerns remain. My recommendation to ODP was that the contract model may not be the best approach. Instead, it is recommended that a state system be set up in which state jobs are created to provide these services over the long term. ODP can hire people who are deaf themselves and signers or have a strong background in deafness. Other states such as Alabama, South Carolina, and Minnesota have statewide systems for mental health and we can use these states as models. The same concept can be applied to a state structure for intellectual disabilities.

If you have questions, or want to share additional information with PSAD about this important issue, please feel free to email me at Thank you.

Elizabeth Hill
PSAD board member

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PSAD Board Liz Hill’s Education Report

Published on Jan 20, 2017

Hi! My name is Liz Hill. I am a PSAD Board member and chair of the education committee. The two biggest priorities that the education committee has been working on is Language Readiness for Deaf Kids bill and Early Hearing Detection Intervention (EHDI). The first priority is Language Readiness legislation. The goal is to have every child language-ready by Kindergarten. Some deaf kids are not exposed to language early on and then are delayed when they enter school. Similar types of legislation has passed in other states. The goal is to establish language benchmarks for kids to be assessed every year to make sure they are developing language at the same pace as their hearing peers. This will help parents determine early on if their child is progressing in language acquisition at the pace they should be. The Education Committee has been working on proposed legislation that fits Pennsylvania’s educational structure and political needs. Stakeholders will be contacted soon to be involved in this transparent process.

The other priority is EHDI. I attended the first EHDI Advisory Council meeting in September. Once a baby is identified as deaf, then parents are connected with early intervention teams. Parents receive an informational packet about communication options – ASL, oral, cued speech, etc. The packet could use some improvement in the information about sign language and the latest scientific research about benefits of exposure early on to sign language. I found out that the packet is put together by the EHDI Advisory Council and there are no deaf members on it. Currently, the PA Code that established the Council says that it only has six (6) members and there is no mention of a requirement to be inclusive. The result is the Council is mostly made up of audiologists and medical professionals.

Then, I was invited to be a part of the Council’s agenda for their December meeting. In December, I gave a presentation to the EHDI Advisory Council on behalf of PSAD. In my presentation, I covered three main points: a) that there is research that highlights the benefits of early exposure to sign language regardless of whether parents plan to pursue spoken language; b) that early intervention (EI) teams should have paid ASL communication specialists in all families’ homes to teach sign language just like EI teams automatically have a speech language pathologist — we need equity among both sign language and spoken language development and acquisition; and last but definitely not least, c) the EHDI Advisory Council currently has no members from deaf organizations like PSAD, PSD, WPSD, and Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH). The Council was encouraged to consider a more inclusive, balanced membership.

After my presentation, members of the Council gave positive feedback. However, at the end of the meeting, when it was opened up for public comments, there was a woman who introduced herself as Theresa Bulgar. She proceeded to voice very strong opposition to my presentation. I later found out that Ms. Bulgar has been a very strong opponent of ASL in several states including Pennsylvania.

If you are interested in this issue, contact your local legislator and encourage them to change the PA Code to include deaf members and deaf organizations. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at Thank you!


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