HLAA History

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HLAA History

This history is not a complete account of all data or a complete listing of all pieces of legislation HLAA had input to. However, it is an informative sketch of some of the major highlights of the organization.

Updated March 2016


July: SHHH celebrates its first decade as 1,050 people attend Convention 1989 in Bethesda. Opening reception is held in the Caucus Room of the House of Representatives. U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (a hearing aid user) receives the 1989 “Walter T. Ridder Award.” Australia receives an “SHHH International Award.” SHHH begins an annual awards presentation reception for chapter and group awards. (This will expand to include National awards.) Convention chairs are Paul and Bonnie Hopler from the Nova One (VA) Chapter. 

SHHH National returns to renovated and expanded offices and holds open house in March hosting some 300 visitors. 

SHHH conducts a survey to reveal that over 150 members in the states are vocalizing the needs of hard of hearing people by serving on local and state commissions, councils, and boards. 

SHHH membership approves a Five-Year Strategic Plan to focus on awareness, access, education and employment. 

The paid staff numbers 10 with 10 volunteers. 

SHHH lends expertise to the National Council on Self Help and Public Health. 

SHHH joins with A.G.Bell, Gallaudet University, and NTID to initiate re-certification of oral interpreting through a series of training courses SHHH conducts. 


Little Rock, AR, hosts the 5th SHHH Convention where Warren Barnett of Tennessee is elected third president of SHHH. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa is awarded the “Walter T. Ridder Award” for his service to disabled people. John Centa of Idaho, retiring trustee, receives the first Howard E. “Rocky” Stone Humanitarian Award. 

Brenda Battat becomes deputy executive director. 

There are 230 chapters and groups in 48 states (exceptions are Alaska and North Dakota). 25 states have volunteer state coordinators. 

Rocky Stone is appointed by President Reagan to a three-year term on the Federal Access Board. (formerly ATBCB) 

Staff increases to 14. 

Publication Resource Materials/books approach the 100 count. Shhh (small letters) is dropped in favor of the use of all Caps at all times. The journal changes format and is titled SHHH Journal

SHHH adopts February as “Family Month” and September as “SHHH National Month.” 

Members make an impact in support of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) signed into law in July. 


At the 6th SHHH Convention in Denver, Marjorie Boone, VA receives the second Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. The SHHH Hospital Program, Access 2000, a joint project with Canada is launched. Over the next year 150 hospitals in 37 states will commit to the program implemented by 150 facilitators from local Chapters. 

President Bush signs the Decoder Circuitry Act requiring all TVs 13” or larger to have built in captioning after July 1993. SHHH has been active in this legislation. 

The World Federation of the Deaf and the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People issue a joint declaration to clarify the distinction between deaf and hard of hearing people and secure the terminology of each population. 


Convention is held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dan Simmons of MA is elected SHHH president of the board of trustees. I. King Jordan, president of Gallaudet University, receives the “Walter T. Ridder Award.” Joan Kleinrock of MD receives the third Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. 

SHHH publishes its first Annual Report. 

The board of trustees expands to 26 members from 17 states. (One slot on the board is always reserved for a Stone family member.) 

Some SHHH programs have included a teen transition program, hospital services program, and implementation of the ADA, noise awareness, oral interpreting training, senior citizen program, teacher training, and research into genetics rehabilitation. 

SHHH Journal wins first place in the 1991 Gold Circle Award for the most improved magazine from the American Society for Association Executives. Barbara Kelley is editor. 

SHHH has responded to inquiries and requests from approximately 300,000 individuals – an estimated ten times the number of persons (30,000) who have joined since 1979. 

Paid staff numbers 19 plus ten volunteers including a volunteer executive director. Office departments include accountant, editor/publications, chapter development, membership, development, meeting planner, and business manager/board liaison. 

National office acquires a computer system. Customized membership database is installed. 

There are 260 local affiliates in 48 states representing approximately 8,500 volunteers. There are state coordinators in 32 states. 

Robert O’Connor of Denver wins a member contest to design a 1992 Holiday Card which is also used as the December Journal cover. 

Board of trustees approves the formation of State Associations and model bylaws for them. 

SHHH Chapters and Groups raise a $31,000 for Founder’s Day. 


During the 6th SHHH Convention in San Diego, CA, Founder Rocky Stone formally retires as SHHH executive director. Donna L. Sorkin of McLean, VA, becomes executive director. Sue Miller, NY State receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. The first Children’s Workshop during convention is sponsored by Oticon 4 Kids. 

March: A retirement dinner (and fundraiser) for Rocky Stone is held in Bethesda with 100 people in attendance. Rocky speaks of the history of SHHH and 10 people talk of their experiences in the development of the organization including the first person to join Rocky full time, Joan Kleinrock, chapter coordinator. 

AT&T presents an unrestricted check for $30,000 to SHHH. 

A book, An Invisible Condition: The Human Side of Hearing Loss by Rocky Stone, is published by SHHH. It is a collection of editorials written by Stone for the SHHH magazine. 

A corporate sponsorship program is initiated with 6 corporate members – each joining for $2,500. 


Convention is held in Baltimore, MD. Julie Olson of WI becomes SHHH president of the board of trustees. The first half-day research symposium is a new and popular offering led by eminent physicians and researchers. 

SHHH receives the gift of a sculpture of a family affected with hearing loss created by artist member Jeannine Fletcher of Florida. 

Board of Trustees finalizes SHHH mission statement, which is incorporated into the SHHH information and membership brochure. 

SHHH moves to offices nearby in an accessible high rise building and holds open house in March. Member survey is completed providing data about members, their needs, and how they use technology information. 

SHHH is contracted by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center set up at the California School of Professional Psychology to focus on psychological well being and adjustment issues of hard of hearing and late-deafened people. 

Trustee Mark Ross, Ph.D., begins writing SHHH position/policy papers on issues relating to hearing loss. The first 3 are Cochlear Implants, Hearing Aids, and Residual Hearing and Inclusion of Hard of Hearing Children in Regular Classroom Settings. 

With financial assistance from Oticon, SHHH launches a Better Hearing for Life program to increase awareness and understanding of SHHH and attract new members. 

SHHH receives an Advance America Award from the American Society of Association Executives for the Hospital Access 2000 Program. 

SHHH is mentioned in a Dear Abby column and receives 15,000 letters. 

A booklet written by SHHH staff, Hearing Loss: How to Get Help, makes its debut. (Project is helped by a grant from ASHA) 

Sorkin is appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Access Board. 

SHHH is advisor to American Airlines on improving air travel for people with disabilities. Also, joining other organizations with people with disabilities, SHHH submitted comments on airport access to the Dept. of Transportation. 


Dallas, TX is the convention site. Miss America of 1995, Heather Whitestone, the first winner with a disability of a profound hearing loss, gives the keynote address and receives the Walter Ridder Award. Bill Cutler, CA, receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. 

Board of trustees agrees to decrease the number of trustees to 17. 

Parade Magazine (Sunday’s paper) runs a feature story on hearing loss using an interview with Donna Sorkin – including a cover photo of her. 

SHHH members and staff participate in Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, a day of educating elected officials on the interests and needs of people with hearing loss. 

SHHH begins working with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association to improve access to cellular phones for hearing aid wearers. 


Eleventh SHHH Convention is held in Orlando, Florida. Marcia Dugan of New York becomes SHHH president of the board of trustees. Mina “Sis” Lelewer receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. (The event includes an evening at Disney World, where with SHHH help, Disney World has begun communication access for hard of hearing people.) 

For recognition, trustees vote to change the name of the SHHH Journal to, Hearing Loss: The Journal of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People

SHHH has 12,000 members. The network of 250 groups and chapters involves some 9,500 members. 

SHHH initiates a homepage on the World Wide Web. 

SHHH launches the Library Lift-Off program in May – Better Hearing and Speech Month by distributing 300 packets of information to members who will work with their libraries to update/include materials on hard of hearing people and improve communication access. 

North Carolina is sanctioned by the board of trustees as the first SHHH State Association. 

SHHH joins other organizations to ensure the new Telecommunications Act of 1996 includes language requiring that services and equipment be accessible to people with disabilities. SHHH takes the lead in publicizing the interference problems of digital wireless phones and working with engineers/ manufacturers. 

Produced by SHHH and the Johns Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance, a video titled The Telecoil: Plugging into Sound with an attractive brochure, is distributed nationwide to increase awareness and benefits of telecoils in hearing aids primarily among hearing health professionals. 


Convention is held in Phoenix, AZ. The “Walter Ridder Award” is presented to keynote speaker Judith Heumann, assistant secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. A new award bearing his name is presented to Dr. James Snow, NIDCD director for efforts to advance research. Dorothy Allen of NC receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian award. 

400th participant is enrolled in the SHHH Hospital Program for communication access. 

Two books on hearing loss are written by SHHH members and published by major publishers (and sold by SHHH): Hear by Anne Pope and Keys to Living with Hearing Loss by Marcia Dugan. 

SHHH joins the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) to address communication needs of hard of hearing college students by developing materials for educators. 

SHHH provides input to the U.S. Department of Education on the proposed rules affecting children with hearing loss for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

SHHH begins a Heroes with Hearing Loss pilot mentoring program for adolescents ages 10 to 14 who will meet with young hard of hearing adult mentors (role models) ages 20 to 30. 

SHHH opens a National Center of Assistive Technology, which operates on a grant from the Johns Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance. 

SHHH works with Microsoft Corporation to improve the quality and usability of accessible (captioned) software. 


Convention is held in Boston, MA. Marcia Finisdore of PA is elected SHHH president of the board of trustees. George Kosovich, MD receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian award. Walt Disney World receives an Access Award. A 40-person delegation of Zennancho, the All Japan Association of Hard of Hearing People comes to the Convention, and invites Donna Sorkin to Japan in the fall. (Both organizations enter into a cooperative agreement.) 

SHHH initiates drive to expand insurance coverage of hearing aids by members working through their employers. 

February: First Leadership Training weekend is held in Bethesda for 44 affiliate leaders across the country. (This was sponsored by the AT&T Foundation with a gift of $25,000.) 

SHHH has 250 chapters and groups. (150 of the affiliates are chartered chapters.) There are coordinators in 31 states. (Joan Kleinrock, the first SHHH Chapter Development Coordinator retires. She is replaced by Marilyn Finn of CA.) 

The board of trustees has sanctioned 7 state associations: NC, CA, FL, NY, WI, NJ, and WA. 

SHHH begins an Advocates Program with 150 volunteers forming the network. 

SHHH supports National newborn hearing screening legislation. 

SHHH completes 12 position policy statement papers. 

Thanks to input from SHHH, people with hearing loss are a large consideration in the final guidelines published by the Access Board for Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (which has to do with accessible telecommunications and closed captioned TV).