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Two crucial programs for the deaf close to being cut

By Nana Ohkawa
Published On: Feb 08 2013 09:13:00 PM HST

The deaf and the hard of hearing in Hawaii are trying to stop cuts to living assistance and an interpreter referral service.

HONOLULU -

Communicating for them can be challenging, but their message on Friday was clear. Dozens of deaf people rallied at the state Capitol in the afternoon.

Their signs said it all the deaf and hard of hearing just want to be able to communicate with others. Ami Tsuji-Jones doesn't want to rely on her child just because she's deaf.

"I will become very dependent on other people like my son. I would have to depend on my son who is 13, and other people would have to depend on their parents," said Tsuji-Jones.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advisory Board was told that two of its services would most likely be cut on June 30 due to a lack of funds. They say without the two programs one to assist with living and adjustment services and the other an interpreter referral service, they'll be back in the dark ages.  

"For example, a hospital would have to call an interpreter one by one. What if I have a life or death situation and what if I die before an interpreter gets there because they couldn't find an interpreter," said Tsuji-Jones.

Patty Sakal's mother set up the interpreter referral service more than 35 years ago. She's now an interpreter herself.

"It's impact is tremendous and would be grave and crucial not only to deaf people, but to the agencies that depend on the interpretors that come," said Sakal

She wants the agency to continue providing qualified sign language interpreters to the community her mom invested in back in the 1970s.

"As an interpreter people can always call us but for me the focus is on the deaf community because that is where my mom's heart was as well and that's where my heart is too," said Sakal.

If services are cut, it will affect at least 26,000 people in the state. Those rallying said the programs are crucial for them to keep their independence.

The Department of Human Services said it is reviewing the decision made to terminate the two programs.

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