In 2014, National Disability Institute (NDI) joined forces with the IRS and National Association for the Deaf to explore how to expand awareness and access to free tax preparation and financial capability in the Deaf community. As part of this work, and with grant support from United Way Worldwide, NDI initiated a Deaf Task Force in Boston, MA comprised of leaders and advocates from both the Deaf community and the Boston Tax Help Coalition. Other key partners joined the Task Force and championed the efforts including DEAF, Inc., a community-based organization for Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, the Mayor’s Commission on Disability and Northeastern University’s Interpreter Education Center.
This year marks the third tax season for the Boston Deaf Task Force, whose members continue to fortify partnerships and join forces to expand communication access to free tax preparation for Deaf taxpayers. Task Force members are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, hard-of-hearing and hearing, with diverse communication modes. Yet, this group has taken the time to build awareness and comfort with multi-communication modes to work towards Deaf inclusive free tax preparation. This shared understanding has fostered greater collaboration, which lends to the significant amount of planning and coordination needed to host multiple American Sign Language (ASL) tax days in Boston. The efforts include widespread outreach to the Deaf community; coordination with Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf to request and educate interpreters on tax terms; and coordination of a master schedule to match Deaf taxpayers with ASL Interpreters, Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) and tax preparers.
The Boston Deaf Task Force collectively hosted three ASL Tax Days this year, sharing costs for interpreters, space, tax preparers and other necessities. Two ASL Tax Days were held at DEAF, Inc., while the third was held at a well-known Boston VITA site accessible by public transportation. Members of the Task Force were on-site at all ASL Tax Days to welcome taxpayers, keep appointments running on time and to ensure taxpayers had qualified interpreters or Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) for those taxpayers who benefit from a native ASL-user who is also Deaf. The work of the Boston Deaf Task Force is not done, however, when the tax season closes. Instead, the team will continue to work together to respond to other regions across the state in need of support, awareness and cross-partner assistance to expand communication access to free tax preparation throughout Massachusetts.
Due to the Boston collaboration, partners in Phoenix, AZ expressed interest this year in implementing a similar approach. Initially, Phoenix partners viewed a webinar by NDI and the Boston Task Force to learn key strategies to expand communication access to the financial mainstream. Boston Task Force members then mentored partners of the Phoenix Task Force, including the Valley Center for the Deaf and Ability 360, both community-based organizations that serve the Deaf and disability communities, as well as the City of Phoenix Tax Coalition. As a result, the Phoenix Task Force held their first collaborative ASL Tax Day this year, with plans to build on this work next year.
For more information, please contact: Jamie Robinson, NDI Deaf Lead 508-450-9228 (V) *Access to Video Phone, Skype, Fuse