Deaf community to get service center after lobbying nearly 50 years

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For close to half a century local advocates for the deaf community have lobbied to create a center for Hawaii’s silent residents. On Thursday, that dream will be one step closer to becoming a reality.

It’s believed that Hawaii is home to an estimated 100,000 people who are deaf or severely hard of hearing.

“They are the silent minority, they are the silent disability,” deaf advocate Patty Sakal said.

For more than four decades a local movement to create a state-funded center for the deaf and deaf-blind community has frustrated residents.

“There has not been enough public support and money so its been really hard to get the funds and get the support from the community and revenue and so its been a huge struggle,” Deaf Advocacy Board chair Francine Kenyon said.

Sakal’s mother, Georgia Morikawa, was a leader in the deaf community and made it her life-long goal to create a Deaf Service Center.

“They have struggled through the years to have the same and equal rights as other disability groups,” Sakal said.

Morikawa died 12 years before her dream could be realized because on Thursday Governor Abercrombie will sign into law a bill creating a career readiness service community center for deaf individuals.

“Not only educational services but employment opportunities and referrals it will be a standalone service center that will exclusively help them,” Rep. John Mizuno said.

“We really need access into the hearing world because you know deaf people don’t have that access,” 17-year-old Lena Merrill said.

Using $400,000 in state funds for fiscal year 2013-2014, the comprehensive center is designed to help with education, employment, leadership development and communication skills.

“People will not have to depend on their families to be empowered or go look for empowerment the empowerment will be there and the advocacy will be there, a voice, a place to learn about our rights,” deaf advocate Colleen Cidade said.

“It will establish and verify a sense of pride a deaf pride,” Sakal said.

Appropriates funds to establish and operate a comprehensive service center for deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind individuals. Appropriates $400,000 for fiscal year 2013-2014. (HB1430 CD1)


  • Rep. Mizuno was listed as the chair of the Human Service committee. He held that position previously. Rep. Mele Carroll was the chair in 2013
  • The funding was previously posted at a recurring fund. It is just a one time distribution of $400,000 for FY 2013-2014.

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