Parent Toolkit – Section 1 – Introduction


What is Alberta Hands & Voices?

Alberta Hands & Voices is a parent-driven, non-profit organization dedicated to
supporting families with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing without a
bias around communication modes. We provide parents with the resources,
networks, and information they need to improve communication access and
educational outcomes for their children. Our outreach activities,
parent/professional collaboration, and advocacy efforts are focused on enabling
Deaf and Hard of Hearing children to reach their highest potential.

Alberta Hands & Voices started with a small group of parents who met for
coffee in 2012. Charitable status and official chapter status followed soon after.
The parent organization is Hands & Voices in Colorado. Chapters are located
across Canada, the United States, and beyond.

What makes Alberta Hands & Voices unique?

  • We believe no single communication choice works for all children. We
    support kids who speak, kids who sign, kids who speak and sign, kids
    who cue, kids who are aided or not aided, and/or kids who have cochlear
  • We think parents need access to good information free from a
    sponsoring agenda or ideology.
  • We believe parent-to-parent support is a cornerstone for families finding
    their way.
  • We aspire to get meaningfully involved in early hearing detection and
    intervention programs (EHDI, also known as universal newborn hearing
    screening); educational advocacy; and other systems. Our goal is to
    improve programs and systems from the perspective of the family,
    through input from highly trained, knowledgeable parents.

We’ve come to understand a child doesn’t “fail” at a communication method,
but the method can fail the child and family. This perspective keeps us child and
family focused – an essential value for a parent-driven organization.

We are constantly reminded that sometimes a “wrong” choice leads to the
“right” decision, and sometimes the “right” decision leads to the “wrong”
outcome. This is confirmation of our belief there is no one right way.

At Hands & Voices chapters all over North America, membership includes many
who are also members of AG Bell, American Society for Deaf Children, Canadian
Association of the Deaf, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, and more. We
do not replace these other fine organizations, and in fact, will refer inquiries to
them and promote their participation in our organization. But there is a need for
an organization like Hands & Voices to bring us all together. We are stronger
united for our children than divided by communication controversy. Respectful
collaboration is our mantra.

From the start, a handful of people have volunteered their time and skills to get
Alberta Hands & Voices up and running. Our early focus has been to support
families and get the word out about our organization. We’ve coordinated coffee
chats, presented at workshops, hosted social events, and last but not least,
organized some highly successful fundraising events!

A main focus for our small, but mighty group is the Guide by Your Side program
in Alberta. Guide By Your Side (GBYS)™ is a Hands & Voices (H&V) program in
which trained Parent Guides provide emotional support and unbiased
information to other families and the systems that serve them. GBYS is a
trademarked program of H&V that is available to authorized H&V chapters and
approved agencies via an application process.

GBYS programs are grounded in the Hands & Voices values. In Alberta, we strive
for the GBYS to have the following elements:

  • Timely connection of Parent Guides to families with babies who do not
    pass the newborn hearing screening.
  • Timely parent-to-parent support at the time of confirmation of hearing
  • A recognized role for a GBYS Program Coordinator and/or Guides in early
    intervention programs and public education at the decision-making
  • Continuity to families by providing support throughout a child’s life,
    especially at times of transitions. GBYS is not limited to a specific age
  • Support to families by combining an experienced parent’s insight with
    knowledge of early intervention and educational systems. GBYS
    programs can also support families with older children and teenagers.
  • Exposure to trained Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) Guides for families
    with newly identified babies, young children, or to seasoned parents with
    teenagers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

This toolkit will be an integral part of the GBYS program.