After 85 years, Calgary's deaf community opens first ever centre

Clark Archibald, President, and Norma-Jean Taylor, Vice-President, join members of the Calgary Association of the Deaf to celebrate the grand opening of their own facility. The Calgary Association of the Deaf was established back in 1935 and today has more than 300 active members. The new facility is located in northeast Calgary. Saturday, March 7, 2020. Brendan Miller/Postmedia Brendan Miller/Postmedia

More than 100 members of Calgary’s deaf community gathered Saturday to celebrate the Calgary Association of the Deaf’s first permanent home.

The new space, located in the city’s northeast, is the first time since the organization was founded in 1935 that it has a building of its own to serve as an spot for deaf Calgarians to socialize and access community programs and services.

“We decided it was time to have a place we could call home so we could offer all the services that our community looks for,” said CAD vice-president Norma-Jean Taylor.

“Up until now, we’ve rented spaces and we’ve moved all over the place, but now we have somewhere we can call home.”

The community went without a consistent physical meeting space for 85 years due to a lack of funding, Taylor said. The CAD saved up money for years, largely through casino fundraisers, before it began searching for a home.

Excitement among Calgary’s deaf community was so great, Taylor said, a second grand opening was scheduled so everyone could join in the celebration.

“For me, this is home,” said Imran Hakamali, a deaf Calgarian who attended the opening Saturday. “Deaf people as a community have their families, of course, and people in their schools or their workplace. But as a community at large, we have been desperate for a home for quite a while.”

For Hakamali, the space is truly communal.

“I think regardless of whether you’re hearing or deaf, this is an amazing place to get an introduction to the community and visit and see what we’re all about,” he said. “We want to emphasize that everyone is welcome here.”

The CAD plan to host American Sign Language classes for families of deaf children, immigrants and those who lose their hearing later in life. They hope to offer services for deaf seniors to reduce isolation as well as general social nights.

“You can see the deaf community here supporting this effort. It’s something the community here has desired,” Taylor said.

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