Toward Equal Access: A Model for Lay Advocacy Programs that Serve People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
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This research focuses on lay advocacy programs housed in or contracted by state government agencies that specialize in serving persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Efforts are needed to formalize and advance these programs to maximize their effectiveness. The purpose of this research is to compile components that comprise an ideal model for lay advocacy programs serving the target population. First, a preliminary model was developed using scholarly and practical literature that revealed five components: a defined scope, adequate funding and administrative support, qualified staff, engaging and collaborating with the community, and program evaluation. Next, advocacy program directors from state agencies around the country gave input via survey about the structure and makeup of their programs, followed by focused interviews to evaluate and refine the components of the model. The data gathered showed the model could be refined by the addition of subcomponents to identify the demographic within the target population to serve and determining the program’s philosophies. A new component emerged: technology infrastructure. Entities can refer to this model when creating, administering, evaluating, or enhancing lay advocacy programs for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. The study showed that almost every state with a dedicated state agency serving the target population provides advocacy-related services. A recommendation was made for these programs to form a network across the country for sharing information, resources, and tools to maximize existing resources. In addition, efforts must continue to formalize the profession, including establishing certification, ethical standards, and training programs for advocates.