By Jennee Harmuth, staff writer
LaCynda Martinez has come a long way on her hearing journey. This journey includes from moving from the mountains of Alaska, to Arizona, to Arkansas, and back to Arizona where she operates Yuma Deaf and Hoh Connections. The group, which has a Facebook presence and was founded in August of 2018, aims to connect Deaf and Hoh individuals to resources not easily found in the area.
Martinez explains, “I decided to change that by creating a non-profit organization to help others with whatever crisis they face. Crises like that found in higher education, schools supporting IEPs, and provide interpreter or other services.” Martinez says she also wanted to see schools become more deaf friendly by providing deaf clubs and more.
“We work on getting other people that are deaf and hard of hearing into our group by showing them that they are capable of anything. We also recently had over 20 hearing people learn ASL in support of our community deaf and found out there is a deaf ally at a local college. We have accomplished so much and we look forward to keeping going,” Martinez says.
Martinez was born hearing until she was about three years old. It was then she slowly began losing her hearing due to a genetic disease she inherited from her father. “I lost most of my hearing in my right ear at age 13 and got cochlear implants at age 14. I also got a hearing aid on left,” Martinez says. “I didn’t learn ASL but I learned SEE in third grade at the hearing school I attended. Now I'm 29 and lost more hearing in my left ear,” Martinez further explains.
Coming into contact with Deaf Culture came with a move Martinez made with her grandmother early in her life when they moved to Arizona where she eventually attended Sequoia School for the Deaf and Hoh. This early immersion allowed Martinez to learn about Deaf and Hoh Culture through her peers.
In addition to heading Yuma Deaf and Hoh Connections, Martinez attends classes at Arizona Western College where she hopes to earn her English degree and go on to become a lawyer and business counselor, eventually earning her PhD.
In her spare time Martinez, who is a busy mother to three girls, one of which is Hoh, runs a business called Deaf Crafting Lady. In her business she engages in many artforms including crocheting blankets, hats, clothes, and also paints. “I have been creating different art for years and want to show deaf culture through it,” Martinez says. She also sells Paparazzi Accessories as an expression of her creative side.
If you would like to learn more about Yuma Deaf and Hoh you can explore the group’s Facebook Page.