On January 23, 1916, a group of about 30 hard of hearing individuals and teachers of the Deaf met for the first time and organized under the name Chicago League for the Hard of Hearing. The League incorporated as a nonprofit agency on May 6, 1916. Its original purposes were:
- "Promotion of social intercourse among the membership.
- Assistance for the deaf and hard of hearing in the matter of procuring and retaining employment.
- Promotion of an interest in lip-reading.
- Aiding and furthering in each and every way possible helpful work among the deaf and hard of hearing."
Several note-worthy accomplishments occurred from our incorporation through the 1940s that included:
- An established Hearing Aid Bank.
- Whisper tests given to approximately 30,000 students in 27 public schools (of the 2,590 who failed and were referred to an ear specialist, 900 were found to be hard of hearing).
- Our first name change from the League to the Chicago Society for the Hard of Hearing.
- The first meeting for parents of deaf children, which subsequently met monthly.
In 1947, we changed our name to the Chicago Hearing Society (CHS). To follow were projects that included:
- Recreation programs to combat the isolation experienced by most Deaf children.
- A Health Education Program which included a federally funded pilot project investigating the psychological and social aspects of hearing loss among the elderly.
In 1970, CHS created its first community class teaching American Sign Language for hearing people, the first counseling program for the Deaf in Illinois, training programs for sign language interpreters, and in March 1979, established Illinois’ first sign language interpreter referral service. In the 1990s, CHS established its first mentoring program where Deaf adults mentored young Deaf, many of whom had never met a Deaf adult before.
In 1997, CHS merged with Anixter Center, a nonprofit human services agency that assists people with disabilities to live and work in the community. In 1998, CHS established a victim assistance program for Deaf and hard of hearing victims of crime, and in 2000 CHS offered domestic violence counseling services for the first time. In 2001, CHS created its first statewide coalition of parents and professionals providing support to parents with Deaf children.
In 2017, CHS expanded its services to the Illinois Department of Corrections providing communication access assessments for offenders who are Deaf or hard of hearing. In 2019, CHS established itself as the new provider for services for the DeafBlind Community, creating the DeafBlind community program.
Most recently, CHS served its 105th child through its youth hearing aid fund and translated our website into Spanish.
As we move into the future, our ability to expand and create new services for our community depends on donors like you. Even the smallest contribution helps in so many ways, please take the time to click below and show your support.