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Canadian Hearing Society strike leaves Belleville’s office shut

By Lindsey Harren [1]

BELLEVILLE – Unionized [2] workers have been off the job for almost a month at the Canadian Hearing Society [3] and reduced services are starting to have an impact in the community say the striking workers.

CHS provides services like teaching sign language and providing interpreters for people who struggle with hearing loss. In Belleville, they partner with students from Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf. Belleville has a large number of deaf people because of the school being here. CHS staff estimate there are roughly 200 to 300 deaf people in the area.

James Snyder is one of those members in the deaf community. Through an interpreter, he told QNet News that the community is disappointed with the strike.

Jen Vanderheyden understands the concern. She’s one of the striking workers. She’s been the program assistant in Belleville for 7 years. Vanderyheyden said that no one is benefiting from the strike and is concerned for senior clients.

She says that senior’s tend to be be stigmatized for hearing loss. So many of CHS services deal with enhancing daily living, she said.

Walking beside Vanderheyden is Janet Ellenberger. She is the picket captain for the Belleville strikers. She has been a hearing care counsellor for just over 27 years. She relies on the health benefits she gets with her job to support her husband, a self-employed farmer. She also is dependent on having bankable sick time, in order to get to medical appointments with her 94-year-old mother.

When she was working, she drives from her Coe Hill farm. She stays in Belleville 2 nights during the week. With the strike things have changed.

“With the strike I’m driving down every day, said Ellenberger.

The Canadian Hearing Society is concerned with the accessibility of care, according to Kara-Ann Miel, director of marketing and communication with the CHS.

Miel said that despite the office being closed in Belleville, most services are still available despite reduced staff. People are being re-routed to Kingston office if they require further assistance.

“So now what we are doing is leaning more on the freelance interpreters to fill the needs of the community,” said Miel. “We are doing the best we can. Getting back to full service is better for everybody.”