Since Margaret Lane Washington started Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at the Watkins Institute in 1927, the local nonprofit has been dedicated to their mission of “serv[ing] individuals and families in these areas who live with hearing loss, providing education, outreach, case management, interpreting services and more, always striving for a vibrant community of equality, access, opportunity and self-realization — a community in which all are welcomed and valued.”
The organization’s many staff and volunteers over the last 94 years have developed a wide variety of services, from teaching sign language to legal services for the D/deaf and hard of hearing and their families and neighbors. No matter your age, from birth to seniors, Bridges has the ability to offer assistance in many forms.
As advocates, they are active in every corner of local and federal government, working to change policies and ensure support for the people they serve. As educators, they offer classes, workshops and camps to teach children and adults how to connect and communicate with their loved ones with varying degrees of hearing loss. As empowerers, they work to make sure everyone has access to the resources they need for everyday living, including medical, dental, income, employment, housing and anything else they might need. And as experts, they provide interpreting and captioning services and technology for individuals or organizations and events.
While their facility is in Edgehill, they serve an incredibly large area that includes Middle Tennessee, northern Alabama, southern Kentucky, West Tennessee and parts of Mississippi and Arkansas.
How You Can Help
True to the Volunteer State spirit, volunteers have been the backbone of Bridges since its inception. All of the services they offer require people who are willing to learn and to help wherever needed.
The organization regularly needs people who are able to help with everything from simple office tasks and special events to helping teach or assist in sign language classes, helping in the fitness center or working with teens in the youth center. Their advocacy side needs people who can provide legal services and who can support their efforts to change legislation to make the world a more inclusive and accessible place to live for everyone.
While their signature event each year was the Music City Derby Day, they now have two major events to get involved with and support the organization. The Fall Back 5K, coming up in October, is a virtual race that allows participants to complete the distance in any way they choose (run, walk, crawl, hike, hop, skip or dance) and in their own time and leads right up to the end of Daylight Savings Time. In the spring of 2022, they will host their annual Bridge Builders Luncheon at the Noah Liff Opera Center. Check out their website and social media for more details about that event.
For more information about Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing or to apply to volunteer, visit bridgesfordeafandhh.org. They also have an active social media community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.