Together We Stand, Divided We Fall….

Well you know I have lived in the Houston area for over 35 years and there is no other city I can imagine living in.  Houston has it all – Food, Sports, Entertainment, and more.  You name it – Houston has got it.  But there is one thing that Houston is definitely lacking – a true deaf awareness and services.

Seriously folks – sure we have what? three or four interpreting agencies here.  We have DARS here but they can only do so much.  But honestly we are really lacking on a true political social system here.   I mean seriously Houston has to be one of the most uneducated cities in the U.S. when it comes to accomodating the deaf employees.  Even the school systems here are not very beneficial for our future deaf leaders and followers.   How do we go about educating people/organizations our rights, our needs, and more.   It seems that Houston is more interested in socializing (which is good and fine) than really building a political team that can influence and encourage support for the deaf individuals.

I have been blessed to be working for major organizations in the last 14 years, but then again each one has been a fight for accessibility, for my needs, or more.  I am constantly educating them on what they need to be able to provide.  I am a contributing member to society but just give me some tools and I would be even more productive.

Point being is – it all starts with “YOU”!  We have (I might have heard wrong) a few organizations that have come up and then crashed and then come up and crash – and some dont want to work together as one whole organization because of personality conflicts.  We need to set those personal issues aside and focus on the “BIG PICTURE” we all have the same common needs!   One organization where everyone is a contributor to help and grow the organization.

For example, when Hurricane Ike came blasting through our beloved city last year, how many of you knew what was going on, what was happening, where can you go to get help – most of us had no power.  Probably most had no information or resources – I do know I was getting an email from one individual – Kelly Reagan who was being very proactive in providing information.

Point being is – if we continue to squabble within each other and not put down our differences for one common goal to build a common unity to educate, build, develop a better unity for all deaf individuals in the Houston area we will not accomplish anything.  So lets put our differences aside – it is my dream one day to see an organization called Houston Deaf Center (or something) where we could provide services for deaf, aka interpreting, legal, counseling, job training, education training, early childhood intervention, corporation/organizational education (training them on deaf accomodations), and political lobbying.   And maybe even a deaf school here for our deaf children so we can watch our children grow –

To be honest – Houston is lagging behind Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas/Ft. Worth on these.  So its time for us to unite together and make a difference.  Otherwise we continue stay divided then we will fall and continue to have the same fustration and disappointment we face!  So lets Unite and Just DO IT!

About Billy Koch

Billy Koch, a deaf professional who works in the IT industry, currently works for The Methodist Hospital System for MITIE as a IT Project Coordinator. Billy has over 15 years of IT experience behind him. Billy is the son of a deaf parents, and has a deaf brother as well. He grew up in a mainstream program with no deaf education program. He was first exposed to the deaf culture when he attended Gallaudet University for his Bachelors from 91-96. Billy has a MBA from West Texas A&M, and is currently the Executive Director of Greater Houston Deaf Connections, a non-profit organizations that focuses on education, advocacy, and support for deaf and hard of hearing people. He is an aspiring guy who wants to also educate the community of what they can do and what they can achieve.

15 responses to “Together We Stand, Divided We Fall….”

  1. Longster says:

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s really sad to see Houston lagging behind when we’re the 4th or 5th largest city in the US. I do know Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church is setting one up, but your ideas are much more in depth than what they offer. One thing for sure is they lack website. That would be a great opportunity for us to get a head start. Speaking of politics, I do find it rare among deaf community who actually understands or deals with political aspect. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons why we don’t have deaf center in Houston. That’s just my assumption so correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. Billy Koch says:

    Marketing is an issue here – you need to have a good marketing tool. And a website is a start. As in politics – what is interesting is that us deaf folks are interested in dealing with politics when it comes to deaf with deaf. But when it comes to deaf dealing with the hearing folks or people outside of our circle – we want nothing to do with it. I understand not everyone wants to be that voice and thats okay. But you still need a group of followers who will follow along and work along with the leader to accomplish the objective. We have alot of bright individuals here in Houston and I’m really impressed, is it time? Possibly. But what I would like to see is a small growth – maybe small accomplishments and then take it one step at a time and build from there. But we all have to be on the same boat for this to happen.

  3. Kerri Clark says:

    When I went to Columbus, Ohio to visit a friend, I was amazed at the abundance of accommodations for the hearing impaired. Walking in downtown, you’ll see a jumbotron placed on a downtown skyscraper, all in closed-captioned. Even the local auto dealerships’ commercials were captioned. Everything. Even the waitstaff at virtually every restaurant. I was thinking, this is what Houston needs.

    I would dream of making a major motion picture, featuring a gal like me, going through the frustrations of day-to-day tasks, getting hung up by retailers thinking the relay calls were a telemarketing attempt. That way, people would understand what we go through. Even it can get frustrating in the workplace. If Houston could accommodate the Spanish speaking people with translations everywhere, then I’m sure H-town could accommodate us just as fine.

    Just my 2 cents.

  4. Kerri Clark says:

    I meant….even the waitstaff knew sign language.

  5. sassyredjulz says:

    It sure would be nice to see a community center for the Deaf/HOH set up in Houston as well as a satellite office in Galveston/Brazoria region. I know some people are working very hard to make this happen at this time.

    The reason why I see a big need for this is because so many deaf/hoh people depend so much on DARS, CRR, and Woodhaven Church for guidance and help to have their basic needs met — such as getting food, clothes, or medical supplies or even help with applying for food stamps, Medicaid, Social Security, and so forth. We often have to step outside our roles to help these deaf/hoh people have their needs met. And yes, I agree with Billy Koch that we need to prepare the deaf/hoh for hurricanes or other natural disasters. Many kudos go to Kelly Reagan for being so proactive in getting the word out (I remember that too!).

    We definitely do need a community center where referrals can be appropriately made or have information ready to give out to deaf/hoh who need it or hire at least a few staff to take the time to help these people with paper work. I do not mind stepping outside my role as a DARS counselor helping these people filling out paperwork for public assistance but it is quite a burden when I already have to serve at least 100 people on my caseload while being on the clock and be able to meet agency standards. I can only handle so many responsibilities at once but cannot take on more than I can handle, you know? I know others feel the same way as I do. I know our Deafness Resource Specialists have this role but there are only 2 of them and I am sure they have more than they can handle at the moment too! Bless their hearts.

    I say thank you to all those who serve the Deaf & HOH community and others who just simply go out of their way to help others have their basic needs met.

    Keep working on it, Houston! Your dream will come true. 🙂

  6. amy mata says:

    FINALLY!! Someone said this out loud and clear!! I have been thinking this for a LONG time now!! I would love to have some kind of organization here in Houston!! How do we go about setting this up? Who will lead it? There needs to be a time and place set up to talk about this with the Deaf community here in the Houston area. [This will help brainstorm some more ideas about what our actual needs are here in Houston!] E-mail me! I fully support this!

  7. billykoch says:

    Someone has indicated to me that there is a few folks trying to get this ball rolling – aka Kelly Reagan and not sure of who else is involved! But as I indicated if we want to be a successful organization and city we all need to submit our contribution and help out with society. We can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it. 🙂

  8. Chris Dunkle says:

    Billy, you’re very right about “it all starts with YOU”. When you and Mike Houston told me about the deaf people who lost everything including their homes after the hurricane in Galveston, my wife and I bought several huge bags full of clothes, socks, snacks, women’s personal needs, notepads/pen to help with communication, crossword puzzles, a Bible, and so on. After we gave it to those who needed help, our deaf bible study group has grown. There was a girl whose parents cannot afford for her to go to church summer camp. We decided to pay her way to camp at our expense. Afterwards, three more deaf teenagers showed up to our study group! When we went to a Christian hunting/fishing organization for a tournament, two of the guys’ daughters joined our study group.

    Do you see what is happening here? When you give, help, and/or join other organizations, YOUR organization or group will grow bigger and stronger. As I’ve learned from my advertising professor from college, she was so right about “Word of mouth is the best form of advertising”. When others hear what you or your group had done to help others, it will shine a light to your organization and they want to feel good about being part of it. There’s many ways to do it, join the Rodeo BBQ tournament, go to Galveston and help rebuild their homes, use a church’s parking lot for yard sales to help our local SPCA, be creative! That’s pretty much all it takes to make it happen.

  9. Angela Dunkle says:


    I’m in full agreement with you in the necessesity of out reach and advocacy. However, please note that there will be sacrifice. Since I first fell in love with the culture, I’ve done everything in my power to further educate other hearing persons as to the abilities, needs, strengths, etc of the Deaf culture.

    As we all know, though, there are some within the culture that give the Deaf community a horrible name. Perfect example, DPHH. Something that is meant to be a networking tool for the Deaf, has become a drunken free for all. The majority of the population do not work, instead rest on SSI, they tip horribly, and by the end of the night, the hearing public continue their biased, ignorant opinion of Deaf.

    So, what would be the best thing for Deaf advocacy and education? How about more Deaf owned businesses? How about more Deaf volunteers? How about more people refusing to take SSI and demanding to work to show their pride? Once Deaf prove to be a part of society that’s independant, reliable, and strong, the community will be happy to embrace schools, etc. BUT, cleansing of the culture has to start!!!!

  10. billykoch says:

    Thanks for your comments Chris and you’re right. Its funny because I established SETDGA (Southeast Deaf Golf Association) as a means to create networking tools and to be able to find ways to help and advocate the community but in a less political way.

    Now in your response Angela – granted the “Deaf Community” is VERY diverse. I know of plenty of professional deaf individuals. But keep in mind – we all come from diverse background so its not about just educating the “HEARING” community but the “DEAF” community as well. Both sides need to be educated so we both can benefit from it. And as for SSDI – I do have an opinion on it but I’m not going to discuss it here – because my main thing is – focusing on building an advocacy center that can educate the community and hopefully show them and as well show the hearing population on what the deaf community capability is.

    Here is one problem, you indicated you tried to educate the hearing community – the problem here is you are ONE person. This is why having a advocacy center and a community of supporter – it is much LOUDER than just one person. And that will take up more notice than just having one person. Granted we will always be stereotyped and remember even people of races get stereotyped but that is something we all as Americans have to deal with. It is not only a disability issue or a deaf issue but it is also an American Issue. Granted I have some hearing friends who are of hispanic ethics and yet they sometime do the same thing as what we deaf people do. But is it their fault? They are HARD WORKING folks but they don’t always have the luxury that some other folks do.

    But point being is if we can we should – because we are helping others. This is a really good discussion and this is an important stepping block into moving forward into something for our community. But with the way the economy is – for some individuals its the best route for them at this time. But this is also why we as professional adults also NEED to intervene into the YOUNG DEAF child’s minds to show and educate them what they CAN accomplish. Keep in mind – back in the 80’s it is was a norm for deaf people to be off SSDI or SSI because that was the norm. Because the people that they looked up to they were also on SSDI/SSI. So this is why this is an opportunity we as working individuals (not just professionals but any working person) can expose to the deaf child and say “Look! You can do this! I’m doing it and so can you!” Rome wasn’t built in a day! So the Deaf Community Support/Etc is not going to be built in a day! It might take YEARS before we will have something stable – but we must bond together and work together regardless of our opinions and differences and make Houston a place where more deaf people would want to be! Make Houston a better living place for the Deaf and hard of Hearing community overall!

    Keep in mind everyone is entitled to their own opinions and we all need to remember we dont always have to agree with it. But we should at least respect their opinions. Differences in opinions are good – you do not want the same opinions all the time because it can be your downfall.

  11. Longster says:

    Billy, I could not have said it better. Like you said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. I’ve built this site knowing that it’s an ongoing process to improve and educate BOTH deaf and hearing. There are limits that we have as individuals, but we can do exceedingly well if done correctly with a group of people. Problem is we’re only 3 people to keep DPHHH alive. 2 of which handles the events alone while I maintain the site. With additional authors, we can now share and learn different views. Hopefully, that will allow everyone understand and approach whatever situation differently.

    As for Angela’s comments, We certainly have our own flaws, but it is our responsibility… in fact, it ought to be everyone’s responsibility to turn flaws into opportunities. We’re not sitting back and let this stereotype get the best of us. In the society we live in, we all know there is much more emphasis on the negative than positive which ought to be changed. That should drive us to do better and rectify the negative perceptions.

  12. MarMtz says:

    I’m new to the deaf world. I’m a student in the process of becoming a sign language interpreter and I love what I’m going to become. However, some down falls I’ve experienced in the few months I’ve interened is that interpreters are taught that we are only a “deaf person’s voice” and nothing more. Do not interact, do not ask questions, do not get to know the person..etc. That makes it very difficult , which is why I think there is that “interpreter-deaf ” seperation. Again, I am new to all of this so it may just be the situations I’ve been in or observed.

    I ,as a hearing person would love to be a voice for the deaf world. I think that’s part of understanding my future job. This website is definitly a starting point for most deaf people but my question to everyone is how do you get the low functioning deaf to want to better themselves and not depend on SSI or any other service? If that is the only thing that is taught from day one, how will or how can we encourage those to want to do more than just sit at home?

    An idea as to how we could start to get this developement on a roll is to have a “meeting” as deaf professionals have now in the beginning of the month…perhaps we could have a meeting about ways to get an organization started for Houston.

    Like Billy said… put your differences aside, accept others opinions;otherwise we’d have a dull world if we all thought the same.

  13. Gregory Oxley says:

    Hi everybody, my name is Gregory Oxley and I am a deaf student who is 16 years old and I am looking for a part-time job that I can do during the summer time. I want to have a job so I can buy things myself .

  14. Dinah Knox McKenzie says:

    Dear my Brother Billy,

    Maybe you are not aware of that there is an evil dictator here, in Houston, controlling the deaf people under someone’s bondage for 40 years. How in the hell we, the deaf people, can break the bondage going into the Promised Land here in Houston????? It is a true fact!!! I was born as a true prophetress from God,Himself and I have special spiritual gifts from God.So be it!

    Sister Dinah Knox McKenzie

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