In June of 2018, Downtown Fargo’s streets got a little more “deaf friendly.” These bike racks, pictured below, were designed and installed in order to raise awareness for our deaf and hard of hearing community. This act was a stepping stone to become a more accommodating community, and the team behind #DeafFriendlyFargo is dedicated to help improve accessibility and quality of life for those individuals. With that, allow us to educate you on this awesome organization and the importance behind their mission.
What is #DeafFriendlyFargo?
We reached out to Jodi Meisch, a member of the #DeafFriendlyFargo organization, in order to accurately depict the association of Deaf Friendly Fargo!
“#DeafFriendlyFargo is a division of North Dakota Association of the Deaf (NDAD), a volunteer-based 501(c)3 [a section of the US Internal Revenue Code recognizing an organization as a non-profit for federal tax purposes],” said Jodi. “While NDAD has been established as a state-wide organization since 1916, a need to focus resources on specific service areas, such as Fargo, was realized in 2018 and led to the creation of the #DeafFriendlyFargo initiative.”
This organization’s operating team is governed by NDAD and has been around since early 2018. It’s run by a small but mighty team of two individuals, with about 5 volunteers who graciously assist with events and fundraisers as needed.
“I’d like to insert a shout-out, here, for Christopher Peterson. He is one-half of the two-person team and has been instrumental in giving a name and face to #DeafFriendlyFargo while working tirelessly to transform our visions into reality,” said Jodi.
How Does #DeafFriendlyFargo Help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community?
#DeafFriendlyFargo is helping to make huge strides – not only for our community, but for our state! By taking these action steps and matters into their own hands, people are noticing and recognizing the need.
“#DeafFriendlyFargo aims to improve accessibility and quality of life for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community within our top-rated city. Many of the struggles that individuals living with hearing loss face stem from a public’s lack of awareness (through no fault of their own) to the rights and needs of deaf individuals,” said Jodi. “The initiatives made by #DeafFriendlyFargo increase public exposure and awareness which, in turn, improve the lives of the deaf community. Success has already been achieved in building a relationship with Marcus West Acres Cinema to offer open-caption movie screenings, collaborating with entities such as the F-M RedHawks to host an ASL (American Sign Language) night, and increasing familiarity with the use of interpreters.”
How Do You Fundraise?
Jodi humbly approached this question with a response one could only expect from a diligent Midwesterner. “We are a hard-working group and fully believe in showing our commitment to the cause by investing our own time and energy into raising funds,” said Jodi. “While we have received a few business sponsorships, a good portion of funds come from organic fundraising such as bussing tables at Pizza Ranch during a non-profit night or collaborating with Chipotle for Dine-to-Donate. We’ve found there’s a dual benefit to this method. Not only does #DeafFriendlyFargo appreciate the financial gain, but these opportunities increase exposure of the Deaf Community to the general public. We hope to find even more opportunities for 2019, so if anyone knows of any, please send them my way!”
If you in fact have fundraising opportunities in mind for Jodi and the #DeafFriendlyFargo team, feel free to e-mail them here!
There are easy ways for you to give back! These #DeafFriendlyFargo tees pictured below are a one-of-a-kind design by Jeff Knight at “Hello Cereal.” They are available year-round at FargoStuff, and at $29.95 per shirt, you are donating 50% from your purchase to this organization. These funds not only support the mission behind #DeafFriendlyFargo, but they contribute to their biggest project of the year: Deaf Awareness Week!
“Bringing a week-long celebration to our region for the first time in 2018 was a huge time and financial commitment, but we couldn’t be happier with the impact,” said Jodi. “Funds raised from t-shirt sales will be used to expand our reach for Deaf Awareness Week and increase our visibility and outreach capacity the other 51 weeks of the year.”
In what ways will these sales increase visibility and outreach capacity? #DeafFriendlyFargo is making incredible strides in that regard! Here are some of their goals:
- Work with first responders to host deaf communication technique classes
- Organize awareness parades downtown
- Provide educational and outreach materials to the general public
- Improve accessibility to community events by providing admission cost financial assistance to deaf individuals and their families that may not otherwise be able to attend.
“All of this comes at a cost, and the proceeds from these t-shirts will play a significant role in allowing us to fulfill these goals.”
Deaf Awareness Strides
We’re happy to report that there has, in fact, been improvements in deaf awareness!
“Through social media, traditional media, and outreach events, more and more community members and businesses are starting to ask how they can be more “deaf friendly.” Although we still have quite a long way to go, one quick, easy, and highly effective thing hearing individuals can do is to try to look at the world through deaf eyes. With every experience that is had, simply taking a moment to think about how that experience would be without the sense of hearing can provide some great insight and perspective.”
We encourage you to share this information to friends, family, colleagues, businesses, and whomever! If you're insterested in staying up-to-date on deaf community on-goings, join the Red River Valley American Sign Language Event page. You will find a variety of information and upcoming events here! Spreading awareness will not only help to normalize the stigma associated with our deaf community, but it may spread ideas to accomodate! A huge thank you goes out to Jodi Meisch of #DeafFriendlyFargo for being a wonderful advocate, volunteer, and resource. Her enthusiasm is contagious. Share this post, buy a t-shirt, and support #DeafFriendlyFargo!