Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

​​​​Amanda F. Friend, MRC, CSE
Bra​nch Manager, Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafness Services
KY Office of V​ocational Rehabilitation/Kentucky Career Center
500 Mero Street, 4th Floor
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Videophone: 502-385-0701



The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation understands that individuals with hearing loss have different communication needs. Clear communication between the rehabilitation counselor and the individual with hearing loss is the key to successful vocational rehabilitation services. Eligible individuals receive services to get a job, return to a job, keep a job, or get a better job. 
The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation has staff trained to understand the different problems individuals with hearing loss may have. Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf have sign language skills and serve deaf individuals and use this type of communication. Communication Specialists are trained about devices and ways to serve individuals who are hard of hearing or late deafened. Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf and Communication Specialists are also skilled in serving individuals with vision problems in addition to a hearing loss or deafness.


April is National Deaf History Month
National Deaf History Month Introduced in 1997 by The National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

National Deaf History Month recognized the accomplishments of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. National Deaf History Month has been celebrated annually from March 13 – April 15 to recognize three key developments for the Deaf community; The first event that impacted the deaf community was the opening of the first public school for the deaf on April 15, 1817, now the American School for the Deaf. The second impactful event was the founding of the first institution dedicated to advanced education for the deaf and hard of hearing, Gallaudet University, on April 8, 1864 chartered by United States President Abraham Lincoln, and the third event was the hiring of the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, I. King Jordan on March 13, 1988. Like so many changes that have occurred, the hiring of I. King Jordan came about from a protest movement, Deaf President Now (DPN), which involved students, faculty and the national deaf community. This movement served to educate the nation of the rights and abilities of deaf and hard of hearing persons. 

Beginning this year, 2022, National Deaf History Month will now be observed annually from April 1-30. Feedback received from the NAD Deaf Culture and History Section (DCHS) and organizations representing marginalized communities recommended the change in dates to be inclusive of experiences of BIPOC Deaf People and celebrate all Deaf persons in the US. According to data provided by the Hearing Loss Association of America, about 2-3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears and approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Deaf persons in the United States experience inequitable access to education, justice, and health care as well as employment discrimination. The 2019 National Deaf Center report Deaf People and Employment in the United States shows that deaf persons are actively looking for work to a greater extent than hearing persons and that employment rates for deaf persons has not increased from 2008 to 2017. 

Deaf people view their oppression and call it audism. This vocabulary states: discrimination or prejudice against individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

By some, deafness may be viewed as a disability, but the Deaf world sees itself as a language minority. Throughout the years many accomplishments have been achieved by deaf people. 

Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Branch and Deaf Women History Month:
Did you know that there is a Women Deaf History Month? We sure do!  Our own Deaf and Hard of Hearing Branch was created in the early 1990s, to started out with some deaf women in leadership roles. Their leadership was admired by other women with hearing loss because they had been role models for others.  DHHS grew with Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf, and 8-10 of them were and are women. There are women with hearing loss who identify as deaf with small d work in our OVR agency! 

There are so many people with hearing loss that accomplish their goals and have success in their lives. Unfortunately, oppression still exists out there, and we deaf people face it in all aspects of life: employment, eating establishments, shopping, and more. It has been ongoing for years and years. You would be surprised how small deaf communities are, information spreads like wildfire even without our smartphones.  

Deaf Services

Individuals who use sign language are served by a Rehabilitation Counselor for the Deaf.  There are Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf statewide to provide services.  
Examples of specialized services are:
  • Information and counseling about jobs
  • Information and referral for other services
  • Assessment about job skills
  • Training programs with support services to learn job skills
  • Technology (including training) - for work-related technology
  • Job Placement assistance
  • Interpreting Services

Hard of Hearing-Late Deafened Services

Vocational Rehabilitation has implemented a new initiative in serving individuals who are hard of hearing and late deafened. Vocational Rehabilitation currently has 45 Communication Specialists located in the major Vocational Rehabilitation offices statewide.  An individual whose communication mode is the use of amplification (hearing aids, and/or assistive listening devices), lip-reading, large visual display, or real-time captioning would be served by the Communication Specialists that cover the county in which they live. Communication Specialists' have experience in assistive technology, coping skills training, communication strategies, and job site/work analysis. 
Some examples of these specialized services for individuals who are hard of hearing/late deafened include:
  • Assessment of technology needs
  • Onsite work/task analysis
  • Technology training
  • Communication/Coping skills training
  • Educational training programs with support services such as note-takers, interpreters, assistive listening devices
  • Community training programs such as employment preparation and training

DeafBlind Services

The DeafBlind Program coordinates services to individuals who have been identified as having a combination of hearing and vision loss in varying degrees. 
Several staff may work together to provide the services needed by a deaf-blind individual. Services may be provided by a rehabilitation counselor for the deaf, a communications specialist, and a rehabilitation counselor for the blind.
Depending on the needs of the individual, services for a deaf-blind individual may be provided by:
  • Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf
  • Rehabilitation Counselors for the Blind
  • Communication Specialists
  • Deaf-Blind Specialists
  • Staff at the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Training Center
  • Staff at the Charles McDowell Center
  • KYOVR Interpreters
A deaf-blind individual can receive the following services to help get and keep a job:
  • Testing to decide what technology can help both hearing and vision
  • Training to learn to use assistive technology
  • Guidance and counseling from a rehabilitation counselor trained in hearing and vision loss
  • Finding out what can help an individual at the job site
  • Training to improve communication and deal with problems
  • Help to get services from other agencies
  • Help to decide what the individual's abilities & interests are
  • Support services (interpreters, no​tetakers, etc.) while an individual goes to school
  • Training and preparation for a job
  • Help to learn job tasks and be successful at work

Presentations from the 2019 DeafBlind Conference

​​​​Need​ more help? Contact us

Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Central Office
Mayo-Underwood Building
500 Mero Street 4th Floor NE
Frankfort, KY 40601
800-372-7172 (V/TTY)

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