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DAD Foundation for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing

13560 East McNichols
Detroit, Michigan 48026

Anne Duncan

By Amanda Lewan
March 3, 2014

In the deaf community the word "audism" carries a heavy weight, a feeling of being trapped in the world. The word itself stands for the discrimination the hearing impaired face.
Anne Duncan learned such words and meanings the deaf community uses while growing up. Both of Anne’s parents lost their hearing, so Anne and her brothers learned how to use sign language at an early age.
"We knew if we didn’t speak this language there would be a communication gap," Anne says. "We were our parents’ interpreters, taking phone calls and messages for them."
It wasn’t by chance that she later took this up as a profession, working as an interpreter in 1990. While Anne was born in California, her mother was originally from Detroit where Anne now runs the nonprofit DAD (Delphine Alfred Duncan) Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, named in honor of her parents.
She remembers a pivotal conversation with her mother that first set her down this path.
"I was sitting at home visiting my mom in California. I asked her what she thought deaf people needed most," Anne says. "One of the things she said was advocacy – their rights get violated and they need help. That was one of the biggest things that stuck with me for this program."
Established in 2010, the organization is located on the east side of Detroit at the Matrix Center. Here Anne and her team provide all types of advocacy and social services for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Their mission is to make sure the community is taken care of – whether that means clothing, food, support and classes for families, or anything else.
One of the most basic yet vital needs is having access to an interpreter. Anne says not all organizations understand this. Deaf people do not always use English as their first language, but rather sign language. Their program helps with this communication need too, assisting with written paperwork and providing professional interpreters.
Anne graduated from Wayne State University and is currently enrolled in Marygrove College’s social justice master’s program where she plans to finish a bill of rights for the deaf and hard of hearing.  She hopes to one day make the voting process more accessible for the deaf community. She currently teaches sign language classes at Marygrove College, where she is also working on a sign phrase dance project with both the deaf community and local youth.
"We want our society to see that regardless of a hearing disability or not, [they] can still accomplish everything that a human can. I get that from my parents," Anne says.
Breaking down the barriers of communication is at the core of what drives Anne’s passion and human service work in Detroit. Words as a sign don’t always connect us clearly – especially for a community that doesn’t always speak English as their primary language. Including this community locally can start with providing an interpreter.
"When you have events, have an interpreter on hand," Anne encourages. "English isn’t their first language. Sign language is, and this can make a difference."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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