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What's Up Magazine

Deaf Independent Living Association

Feb 10, 2012 12:54AM ● By Anonymous
, With determination, motivation, interaction, and especially the help of a local organization, that hurdle is more easily jumped.

Deaf Independent Living Association (DILA) is a non-profit organization that prides itself on servicing deaf individuals and those with hearing loss.

Offering residential, community, and employment support services, DILA prides itself on not only acclimating but also advancing the integration of the deaf and hearing loss community with the hearing community. Based in Salisbury, DILA serves the Eastern Shore with a multitude of programs and services for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, their families, and their friends with the goal to “expand community awareness about Deaf culture.”

Established in 1982, DILA was created with the belief that the deaf and hard of hearing community may be both active and independent. What began as an advocacy group has blossomed in a full-service agency with a suite of programs. The free referral service is one of the most tapped resources available, helping connect deaf individuals, businesses, and public service agencies to a variety of specialists, including sign language interpreters, educators, healthcare assistance, and more. DILA’s specialized programs are tailor made for individuals, teaching valuable management skills in finance, housing, social and communication skills, and transportation, in addition to many more activities of daily living.

Residential support is also offered and includes the opportunity to live in the DILA-managed Deaf Independent Residences (DIR), which are “specially designed, conveniently located houses that were purchased through a Section 8/202 program offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).” DILA’s literature further explains that, “Each house accommodates a maximum of three residents, grouped according to functional ability. Occupants are responsible for all food and personal expenses, and rent is based on HUD guidelines. All houses feature special modifications to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.”

Jennifer Whitcomb, executive director of DILA, who has been with the agency since 2006, has seen DILA and the individuals it serves flourish with programs such as these. “Witnessing the great work of the agency team in coaching and guiding the individuals being served; helping them rise from being disempowered to being empowered, [is what I enjoy most],” she says. “I enjoy watching people grow and achieve their dreams. It’s the belief in the dreams people can achieve that defines who we are and provides for our innovative services.”

Funding for DILA comes in many forms including fee-for-service contracts with State agencies, private foundation grants, individuals and businesses donations, and fundraising events. Additionally, ongoing programs are funded, in part, by the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration, the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services and Delaware Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“[As] the only deaf and hard of hearing agency on the Eastern Shore that provides [our type of] services to the targeted population, ” says Whitcomb, “we hope to expand our unique programs and to include other disability groups, whether one has a hearing loss or not. ” 

Visit for complete information about services and programs.