More support is needed for Sask. deaf and hard of hearing, advocates say

Nairn Gillies says that there aren't enough early intervention programs to ensure all deaf and hard of hearing children have access to services.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is looking into concerns

A child wears an auditory brain stem implant to hear. (UNC Health Care/Associated Press)

An advocate is hoping to see changes to the services provided to deaf and hard of hearing children. 

"It's a basic human right to have access to language," he said. Nairn Gillies says that there aren't enough early intervention programs to ensure all deaf and hard of hearing children have access to the language. 


Gillies is the Executive Director for Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. He and others have asked the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission to look into health and education programs provided for deaf and hard of hearing children in the province. 

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is currently investigating the concerns. Officials are meeting with those affected, and stakeholders. After several community consultations, it will review the concerns, and decide whether to try to resolve any issues.

Gillies has two main concerns:

  • Infant screening: In Saskatchewan, not all infants are screened for hearing loss. When they are, it is often because they were born in the neo-natal intensive care unit, or there is a family history of hearing loss. Most children with a hearing loss can be identified at age two. Nairn says he would like to see all children screened, so that families are able to intervene early.

  • Early access to fluent sign language: In Saskatchewan, children who are not yet in kindergarten are not taught American Sign Language. They are taught certain signs, but Gillies says that's not enough. If children are identified as deaf later in childhood, and they are not taught to be fluent in the language, they miss an opportunity, Gillies says. "Their right for language is being denied."

The Afternoon Edition


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