Vancity Member Spotlight: Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility

Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility, formerly known as The Western Institute for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (WIDHH), is working hard to advocate that services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities remain a priority during these challenging times. We connected with Christopher Sutton, CEO, to learn about the important work Wavefront Centre is doing and the impact COVID has had on their organization.

Tell us a bit about the founding story of Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility and what services your organization provides?

Established in 1956, Wavefront Centre is a BC based, multi-service, registered charity that exists to reduce communication barriers by providing access and inclusion for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. From our 3 locations in the Lower Mainland and virtually to, well, anywhere, we offer innovative programs including hearing health services, our Lend an Ear hearing aid loan program, aural rehabilitation, hearing clinics, senior outreach, employment counselling, sign language interpreting, clinical research and more. In 2019, we assisted over 16,000 individuals virtually and in-person. With nearly 250,000 British Columbians encountering hearing-related communication barriers every day, our services are needed more than ever before. 

We rely on our social enterprise to raise funds to support our community outreach and championing communication accessibility. Our 3 hearing clinics, in Mt. Pleasant, Fairview, and in the Tri-Cities, provide revenue that was reduced significantly for months as we offered only emergency services.

Can you share with us a story of Wavefront Centre’s work in action?

During the early days of this pandemic we received an urgent call from a son who shared that his 80-year-old father was distressed because his hearing aids were not working properly and sadly, it was at a time when his wife had passed away. With most private hearing aid clinics in closed across Canada, a Wavefront Centre certified audiologist, taking precautions and wearing personal protection equipment (PPE), was quickly able to remedy the problem and offer this family an opportunity to reunite.

How did the pandemic impact your organization?

As a government mandated essential service, we have continued to provide essential services to our clients, particularly to our vulnerable and isolated seniors, and are regularly monitoring how we can best serve our community during this time. Since mid-March, our essential services have included urgent and emergency supports in hearing health and hearing aid services at the start of the pandemic – we have since returned to full-service following COVID-19 protocols. Our support services are diverse and include virtual visits and grocery shopping assistance for seniors, start-up of a Therapeutic Activation Program for Deafblind seniors, assistance with government benefit applications and tax preparations, and advocacy efforts to government and broadcasters across the country to ensure accessible communication, among many others.

How has Vancity supported you in running your organization? 

Wavefront Centre has relied on Vancity business banking for years, and as we made the leap to move into a purpose-built facility in Mt. Pleasant, Vancity provided financing, counsel, and support. Our move was a leap that we knew would help future-proof our organization. Owning our own building in Vancouver is not easy for any business – as a non-profit, we knew, and Vancity knew, we needed to be centrally located and fully supported with this big step!

How can people support you?

As a registered charity, we rely on donations to fund our community programs, like Better at Home, which provides community connection for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Seniors. We also offer a hearing aid permanent loan service called Lend an Ear. As our population ages, there will be increased need for hearing aids, yet the cost can be prohibitive so we make these aids, along with a hearing assessment and follow- up, available at nominal cost for those who qualify. Donor support also funds new services for Deafblind individuals that brings this community together – Hearing people can interact freely without communication barriers.

Where can people connect with your organization and donate?

Website: www.wavefrontcentre.ca

2005 Quebec St. Vancouver, BC V5T 2Z6

Social media handles:

Twitter: @wavefrontcentre

Facebook: @Wavefrontcentre 

Instagram: @wavefrontcentre

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