on our programs and services
The 25 minutes video is accessible in ASL, captioning and voice interpreted.
The transcript is available below.
Visual description: Black background with white Bridges Oregon logo on upper left corner. There is a split screen, the left side shows a PowerPoint slide with list of current services provided by Bridges Oregon and the right side show white male, Chad, with blue background and dark purple long sleeve shirt.
Hello everyone! I’m Chad A. Ludwig, executive director of the agency, Bridges Oregon. I wanted to provide you all with a historical perspective of what Bridges has been up to so far, and what our plans look like over the next while. Bridges is an organization that is run by, and for members of our community.
Our mission statement is to facilitate equity, inclusiveness, and provide a bridge to opportunities through advocacy, education, and communication. Next, I’m going to outline our current service offerings.
First, we offer ADA accessibility assessments. I currently hold National ADA Accessibility Assessment Certification which means that I am certified to discuss, educate, and provide consultation to organizations about the ADA. I am also able to go on site to evaluate whether their programs and buildings are compliant with the ADA. I am then able to provide a certificate of compliance with the ADA and attach my certification number to it indicating that an organization is compliant. This type of consultation is a fee-for-service revenue stream for Bridges. This means that for every consultation I provide, the requesting organization pays Bridges for my services.
The second service we offer is Advocacy and Accompaniment Services. I want to give you a bit more information about these services next. Provision of these services is funded through VOCA which stands for the Victims of Crime Act. There are three points I want to highlight about this.
First, a victim of a crime means a person who has suffered physical, sexual, financial, or emotional harm as the result of the commission of a crime. Secondly, while you may not have personally been a victim of a crime, you might experience being a victim indirectly, for example, your significant other or children might be victims, and you might have witnessed a situation where a crime was being committed against them, which ultimately also impacts (victimizes) you. The trauma you may have experienced in this type of situation makes you eligible for services under VOCA. Thirdly, a VOCA advocate can help you learn about victims’/survivors’ rights, how the legal system works, and can also accompany you during legal proceedings, court appearances, medical exams and appointments, police, and lawyer interviews, as well as accompanying you to assist in filling out paperwork to receive services through the Oregon DHS (Department of Human Services) or any other public assistance service. Our advocates are also willing to collaborate with any other service providers and organizations that might be able to assist you in getting additional support services.
Last year, in 2021, Bridges became the first and ONLY linguistic and culturally responsive nonprofit organization in Oregon to provide advocacy and accompaniment services to victims and survivors who are Deaf, DeafBlind, or Hard-of-Hearing.
Now, I’d like to talk a bit about our DEI work. DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I want to go over some of the plans we have in this area. For the last year, myself and the board of directors have received extensive training in social justice, anti-racism, oppression, and violence among other topics. In doing this work we have formulated a vision for how we’d like to see Bridges embrace these ideas both internally and with community involvement. This is a process we will undertake over time. The idea behind social justice is a resolution that all people should have equal access to health, well-being, privileges, wealth, and opportunity. Transformative justice is a resolution that involves changing wider social systems in ways that help to prevent the occurrence and recurrence of harmful incidents. Restorative justice is a resolution that involves looking at the harm caused by an incident, harm to the person(s) who were victimized, harm to the instigator/aggressor(s), and harm to the larger community and asks the question, “How can this harm be repaired?” Bridges and two other non-profit organizations based in California and D.C. met to discuss how we can truly address these issues and concepts of social justice moving forward. As of now, we haven’t landed on a vision for how to do this, but the first step in the process was getting training on what social justice looks like, and our agency making a commitment to social justice as one of our core values.
When an organization is newly formed, it is much easier to incorporate values of social justice, transformative justice and restorative justice, and DEI work into its values from the outset, instead of trying to incorporate these values many years later. Once an organization has been operating for a while, it is much more difficult to integrate these concepts later, because organizations tend to become entrenched in functioning the way they always have. Because Bridges Oregon is a new organization in its infancy, we are working to include these important values in our everyday operations from day one, which will give us a leg up on such issues as we grow. We want to reflect diversity, equity, and inclusion in so many ways including through the services we offer, in our programs and policies, on our board of directors, in various communities with whom we work, and our staff. These ideas are not afterthoughts for us. We want them to inform our practices as Bridges continues to grow. This is very exciting, and I look forward to it!
The definition of “victimized” means someone has been made to be a victim. Someone can be victimized in several ways: audism, vidism, distantism, linguisticism, ableism, racism, ageism, sexism, heterosexism – which is oppression of LGBTQ+ people, classism, xenophobia, religious prejudice – for example against Muslim people or Arab people, and many other forms of oppression that cause harm to marginalized community members.
The third service that Bridges provides is Communication Facilitator (CF) Services. This is a brand-new service, and Bridges just recently signed a contract to provide this service with the Oregon Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This contract has been in process for a long time, and we finally have a signed contract and have now been given the green light to let folks know that we’re offering this service. A communication facilitator can be a Deaf or hearing person who receives training to go into the home, workplace, library, or any other location that a DeafBlind person might choose in order to provide tactile, close-visual, or any other type of communication preferred by the DeafBlind individual. One example might be a CF providing tactile communication to a DeafBlind person participating in a video call or video text of some sort using a platform like VRS or Zoom or any number of other video chatting options. The communication facilitator gives the DeafBlind person information about what the call participants are saying and what’s happening visually, so they can also participate in the communication event. The DeafBlind person can communicate back to the call participants directly after receiving information from the communication facilitator. A second communication facilitator can be seated behind the DeafBlind individual to provide what’s known as backchannelling feedback to the DeafBlind person so they can understand what’s happening visually on the screen. This allows the DeafBlind participant to participate to their fullest potential in the communication event and be an equal participant in discussions.
A communication facilitator doesn’t ONLY serve DeafBlind individuals. Their services are also available to help the subset of Deaf and Hard-of-hearing individuals who have mobility challenges such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, the aftereffects of a stroke, or other things. These conditions might make their signing more difficult to understand, so if this occurs, the Deaf individual with the mobility challenge might ask the communication facilitator, who is familiar with their signing style, to step in and re-sign what they said in a way that is clear for the other people viewing the message. This means the communication facilitator is ONLY re-signing expressive communication. The Deaf person with mobility challenges would access the visual receptive communication on their own.
We are incredibly excited to get this program up and running. Once we have the contract completely finalized, it will take between 3-4 months to set up this program including finding a space to house the program and training the many people who are so excited to subcontract with Bridges to provide this important service. This will greatly improve the ability of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard-of-Hearing individuals to access and participate in video communications. If this program is exciting to you, and you are interested in signing on with Bridges as a contractor to provide these services, please send us your name and resume. We will be collecting these and holding onto them until we get the program up and running. Keep your eyes peeled on the website for an upcoming job posting for someone to run the communication facilitator program as well. This job announcement will be forthcoming.
The fourth service that Bridges offers is housing services. Please note that the funding we have received is short-term funding and is not a great deal of money. It will not be a renewable source of money in the future. The money we currently have is for use from now until the end of June, and then we will need to wait until the following year to be eligible for future funding. Once again, the amount of money is not a lot, but even so it can provide support in several different ways. We are partnering with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon which is an agency that provides information to the community about fair housing practices. Currently, they feel that the information they provide is inaccessible in many ways. So, Bridges is working with them to translate their video materials into ASL which will ultimately make their content more accessible to you. What this means is first we will make ASL versions of their video content, and then the videos will be captioned. Another way this funding can be used is to provide accommodations which means if a person is having landlord-tenant issues and is having a hard time communicating with their landlord, or they are fearful of contacting their landlord because they believe they might be evicted, or if they are applying for an apartment and they need help understanding the application forms, communication access can be provided in ASL using some of these housing funds to make the communication and application process more accessible. One example might be an application that has a line for DOB, and that abbreviation might not be familiar to the Deaf applicant. Someone working with the Deaf person to help fill out the application can translate the abbreviation and explain that DOB stands for “date of birth.” Another example of providing an accommodation might be providing interpreters for a homeowners’ association meeting (HOA). Some HOAs have meetings monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually to discuss issues within a neighborhood. HOAs often refuse to provide accommodations, so these funds can be used to provide communication access to Deaf HOA members. Communication access isn’t limited to interpreters, either. It can also include captioners, DeafBlind interpreters, close visual interpreters or other types of accommodations that will allow the individual to fully participate in the discussions surrounding their home, ensuring them a safe, stable, and continuous place to live.
Another option for use of these funds might include financial assistance to get into housing. For example, if you receive SSI, which is usually not a large amount of money, say $800/month or so, it might be very difficult and expensive to move into a new place. We can assist with providing the deposit and application fees needed to get into housing, which does not need to be repaid, start up costs like getting utilities and power turned on, or even things like covering childcare for a single mother while she undertakes the moving process, and the cost of a moving van. This funding can also cover “reasonable modifications” to the dwelling, which includes things like specialized smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detectors, security system alarm alert or amplification devices, doorbell lights, or vibrating alarms for alerting Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard-of-Hearing residents to various dangers or notifications. This includes motion detectors or lights that come on when intruders may be nearby. These accommodations can improve the safety and security of your home. All these sorts of things can be covered by this funding. Though we have signed the contract with Fair Housing to receive this funding, the funding has not come through yet. Once it does, keep an eye on our website for an announcement that will an include an application form you can complete and submit for consideration for housing-related funding. After receiving an application, we will contact the applicant via video and chat with you about your specific needs.
We anticipate that once this program begins, we will be overwhelmed with applications and needs, and we may not have enough funding to cover all requests. But please, don’t let that discourage you from applying. We encourage EVERYONE who has a need to apply because documenting these needs will help Bridges go back to the Fair Housing Council and show that we continue to need funding for this program. This may result in Bridges receiving additional funds or being eligible for funding from additional sources. We hope to be able to establish funding to help as many people in the community with housing needs as we can with the goal of helping people feel safe in their own homes.
The next service that Bridges provides is our interpreter referral service which is called A5 Interpreting and Captioning Services. This is a traditional ASL interpreter referral service that currently refers hearing sign language interpreters. This is an emerging service and has started out by providing interpreting services within Bridges Oregon for staff members and client survivors, and the money earned from this is put back into the operations of Bridges Oregon. As we move forward with A5, we are slowly referring interpreters out to various agencies, but we are doing so cautiously because currently we don’t have the funding to pay a full-time interpreter scheduler which requires a great deal of time in terms of sending out job assignments to interpreters, filling assignments, providing booking information, and overall coordination and scheduling. Once we reach a critical mass of interpreting hours such that we are taking in enough money to hire a full-time scheduler, we will continue to build out a more robust referral service. This service is something we must take a bit more slowly.
Bridges also offers a service called the National Sign Language Assessment (NSLA). The NSLA is an evaluation system that is designed to help signers/interpreters see where they fall in terms of skill level in ASL. Often, this sort of assessment is used for people who are trying to get an increase in pay at their job and need a formal assessment to see if their skill level warrants a pay increase. There are other assessments like this for English-Spanish interpreters. The NSLA has a scale from very basic knowledge of ASL to native or native-like ASL skills and the assessment will provide the person with a detailed report of where they fall on this scale so they can take it back to their employer and see if they meet the criteria for a pay rate increase, or if they should instead be referred for more training and skill improvement. The NSLA is beneficial in many ways, especially in evaluating those who are working in educational settings in terms of providing better, more skillful access to students.
The last service offering provided by Bridges is training. There are several training opportunities we can offer organizations. These trainings are also paid by fee for service which means an organization contacts Bridges and asks us to provide a training, and in return, they pay us a fee for providing that training to their organization. Some of the trainings offered include topics on health care, law enforcement, how to interact with a Deaf person in the workplace, especially focusing on how to be more inclusive of Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, and DeafBlind people in the workplace, and we also offer cultural competency training as well. These are just a few of our training offerings. There are plenty more available. If a topic that is requested isn’t listed on our service offerings, we will often create a training to meet the needs of an organization.
Now I want to show you a flowchart that depicts our organizational operation. Bridges Oregon has a board of directors which consists of 12 members. If you are interested in seeing who is on our board, please visit our website and there is a page with information about each of our board members that you can review. Our board currently has three subcommittees, and we are about to add a fourth to the list. The subcommittees are the financial committee, fundraising committee, the policy committee, and the media and marketing committee. These committees exist to support and help the entire agency in doing its work. Next, we come to me. I am the Executive Director. I work in collaboration with our bookkeeper to make sure that all our financials are in order and up to date to ensure the agency runs smoothly. The rest of the organizational chart shows our various programs. We have a Housing Services Program, our Advocacy/VOCA Program, the Communication Facilitator Program, Sign Language Coordinator, A5 Interpreter Referral Program, and the Volunteer Program. You might notice that the colors on the organizational chart are different for various things. The pink squares are 100% volunteer positions. The light purple squares are contract positions, and the dark purple squares indicate staff positions with the agency. I am not a full-time staff person with Bridges. I receive a small stipend, and though the board has approved a substantial salary for me, we first need to secure enough funding, grants, and other money to be able to compensate me at that level. When we receive various grants, a percentage of that money allocated to cover my salary. But currently, I am only paid at 12% of the salary that has actually been approved. I still work full-time at Western Oregon University (WOU) as the center director for the Research and Resource Center for Deaf Communities (RRCD). I want to give a huge thank you to WOU for their continued support of the establishment of Bridges Oregon in response to the Community Based Needs Assessment (CNA). That assessment really helped us realize the serious disparity in services being provided to our community.
Finally, I want to show you what is on the horizon for Bridges. We are currently applying for a grant focused on outreach services to underserved populations. This grant specifically includes victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. This grant is due March 28th, but I want to send it out on March 25th.
In a few months Oregon Department of Human Services will release two additional grants. One is concerning co-navigators (CN) which is the current terminology used in place of the old term “SSP” or support service provider. This grant would provide funding to support co-navigators who would be able to accompany DeafBlind individuals when doing things like shopping or assisting them with tasks like reading their mail. This will open up even more job opportunities for all of you who are interested in becoming co-navigators and working closely with DeafBlind community members.
The second grant is an advocacy and case management grant. I have no idea how much this grant is valued at, but getting this grant is a HUGE dream of mine. You might be aware that in California, the government funds eight sister non-profit organizations throughout the state that each provide advocacy and case management services in their region. Washington State has a program called the Office of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (ODHH) which funds three sister agencies throughout the state that also provide advocacy and case management services. For many many years, Oregon has had NOTHING of this kind in our state. Finally, Oregon will set up something new. My hope is that much like Washington and California, Oregon will also have regional offices that provide these advocacy and case management services across our state and hire full-time staff to run them. To achieve this, we will need ALL of your support! So, stay tuned for more communication from Bridges asking you to show your support as we make this grant application.
Last but not least we have reached out to some other organizations to discuss possibly absorbing their programs into Bridges Oregon. Income from these programs will help fund the continued growth of Bridges. We want you to know that we have many programs, services, and projects underway here at Bridges! At Bridges, we have a BIG vision, which is to serve Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard-of-Hearing Oregonians. Together, we can build bridges. There are too many barriers and not enough bridges out there. We need to dismantle those barriers. PLEASE consider making a financial contribution to support the work Bridges is doing. To donate go to: www.bridgesoregon.org/donate.
Now, if you happen to witness a bias-based hate crime, resulting in the victimization of someone, there is an Oregon Bias Response Hotline to which you can report the incident via any relay service. They will accept any relay call. Please call 1-844-924-2427 via the relay or visit their website at www.standagainsthate.oregon.gov to make a report.
Please follow Bridges on social media! We have a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or you can subscribe to the Bridges Oregon email list. If you click the email icon, it will lead you to a link to sign up for our email newsletters. Please also visit our website at www.bridgesoregon.org to see what our agency is all about! Our address is Bridges Oregon, Inc. 1115 Madison St. NE, #1069 Salem, OR 97201 and our main VP number is (971) 202-1500. Our general email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note the address listed is NOT a physical address. We do not currently have a building you can visit. This is a P.O. Box for mailing only, so don’t go into the P.O. Box location looking for us, because we won’t be there. I just wanted to give you a heads up about that. Of course, our future goal includes physical locations so that you can come and visit us in person.