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Deaf Refugee Advocacy -The Benefits of using Deaf Advocates for Deaf Refugees  [presentation is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 22 at 9 am]


Presenters:  Diana Pryntz, Robert Tawney, David Hough, and Allison Howard


Description of the Presentation:

     Deaf refugees are an under-served group. Most are not proficient in their native language nor are they proficient in their adoptive country’s language. Traditional refugee services, even provided through sign language interpreters, do not suffice. Consequently, professionals are usually at a disadvantage when encountering deaf refugees as clients/patients. When cultural differences, especially in health-related fields, are added to the mix, it often leads to misunderstandings and inappropriate usage of prescriptions on the part of the refugee and may lead to erroneous medical recommendations. Using Deaf advocates greatly enhances the likelihood of a successful relationship between the deaf refugee and professional. Prior to Deaf Refugee Advocacy’s founding in 2017, Center for Refugee Health relied on spoken language interpreters, video remote interpreting, and sign language interpreters with a mediocre level of success. When Deaf Refugee Advocacy’s advocates accompanied the deaf refugees’ visits to their health providers, the situation improved greatly for the refugees and the health professionals.

This presentation will cover the unique issues of deaf refugees, services (with emphasis on our advocacy services) Deaf Refugee Advocacy provides, and highlight strategies and recommendations to follow so that this model may be replicated.ts suffer from congenital or acquired hearing loss.

Presenters’ Bios:

Diana Pryntz is one of the founders and is co-director of Deaf  Refugee  Advocacy.   Deaf since birth, she grew up in New York City attending public schools. When she was of college age she moved to Rochester, NY to attend Rochester Institute of Technology.   It was there where she learned  American  Sign Language and developed her deaf identity.  She graduated with a bachelors in Computer Science and a masters in Instructional Technology. After a short stint working in the industry, she became a Computer Science professor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.  In 1987, she switched gears and changed her career to motherhood. After 30 years and four sons later, she is now focusing on supporting the Deaf refugees and the vulnerable deaf community.

Allison Howard is a medical social worker who works with former refugee patients at The Center for Refugee Health. After completing her MSW program at The Jane Addams College of Social Work at The University of Illinois at Chicago, she lived for 1 ½ year in Ethiopia teaching English as well as supporting women’s empowerment groups focused on income-generating activities. She is currently residing in Rochester and has worked within the Rochester Regional Health System for over 6 years. As a social worker at the Center for Refugee  Health,  she is committed to working with former refugee patients and families to ensure that they are connected to appropriate services in the community and frequently partners with the Deaf Refugee Advocacy group to provide best service across the continuum for deaf refugee patients.

Dr. David Hough is a primary care physician who works exclusively with former refugee patients. After completing a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Rochester,  he lived for 2 years in Nepal working in a rural hospital. He now lives in Rochester, NY with his family providing primary care medicine to former refugee patients at The Center for Refugee Health. Many of his patients suffer from congenital or acquired hearing loss.

Robert Tawney is one of the founders and is co-director of Deaf Refugee Advocacy. He was born into a hearing family and diagnosed as profoundly deaf as a child growing up in New England. Deafness runs in his family for generations. Aunts, grandparents, deaf relatives here and there are a constant in his family history. Unlike most deaf - who are born into hearing families- his family was not surprised he was born deaf-along with one of his sisters.  Rob graduated from Gallaudet University. He has given his heart and soul through participation in many non-profit organizations within the Deaf community. He often travels to different countries and is married to Marta.