*Correction: The sign for "Poconos" is wrong. The index finger should be used to point to the nose, instead of the middle finger.
There is a "new" organization — Deafville — that hopes to build at least seven “Deaf-friendly” neighborhoods in various states in the U.S.
Deafville made a major announcement last weekend that they are organizing a new Deaf community in El Paso, Texas at an already-established community named “Villages at Rio Valley.”
They’ve announced they will build a new community at the Poconos region in Pennsylvania and plans to build another in Nashville, Tennessee. The remaining four cities have not yet been announced.
Those communities are not “brand-new” — rather Deafville seeks out various already-established planned communities with roads, businesses, services — that might not be “doing well” — not attracting enough buyers — and then makes a proposal to bring in people from the Deaf/ASL community to fill up the vacancies.
Deafville also plans to build Ahava senior citizen living center in each those communities. The Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) will have to undergo at least 300 hours of ASL training before working with Deaf senior citizens.
Deafville is working with a home builder based in Canada — MgO Systems — to build the new homes — and they plan to bring in the building factories at the local communities and offer Deaf people job opportunities to work at those factories, which will pre-build 70% of the homes. Their building material is interesting — it can withstand very hot temperatures and is said to be energy efficient. The homes will be Deaf-friendly with doorbells/lights and open spaces.
Those communities will also have rental properties at condos and apartments.
The communities will not be “all Deaf” — but will have a high percentage of Deaf people spread out in a small area. Deafville said they’d train local businesses on basic ASL knowledge so it’ll be completely accessible for everybody. Regular hearing people can continue to live in those communities.
This is a somewhat mind-blowing news for the Deaf community — but it didn’t happen overnight. This was in planning since 2013.
I reached out to two representatives of Deafville — Phil Cabbage (Regional Director) and Brian Smithson (Director of Operations, El Paso) to find more about this.
This all started when a large nonprofit organization named Help The World Foundation (HWF), who was formed by four hearing investors from Indiana — who worked in real estate and in the medical field, decided to do something to support Deaf people’s needs.
HWF met with Phil Cabbage and his father, Don Cabbage, who is a late-Deafened person and a Deaf church leader — and they talked about the idea of building a Deaf community. Phil said he explained them about Deaf culture and the idea and desire by many Deaf people to “live” in a Deaf-World — mentioning Eyeth and the concept of Laurent, South Dakota.
The four investors were interested in it and gave a sum of money to them to start researching the concept of Deafville. Deafville staff then attended several DeafNation expos across the U.S. for four months in 2015 and asked people to fill out surveys to gauge if Deaf people were interested. They received over 600 surveys and said 80% of people said they would be willing to move more than 50 miles to live in a Deaf-friendly community.
So they did a “second round” of surveys — with more details on income levels, whether they would be able to afford a home, or preferred to rent, or if they needed government assistance. They found that many senior citizens had money ready to buy a home, many were ready to buy a home, and that many needed government assistance.
The surveys were enough to convince the four investors from HWF to go “all in” on this concept.
Deafville also seemed out city, state, and federal money to support the project to offer both homes and employment opportunities to deaf/disabled people. They’ve worked with banks to offer loans to Deaf people and special assistance if there are credit issues.
El Paso is the first Deafville community — they hosted an event on March 4 to explain about the concept. They invited DeafNation co-founder Joel Barish to give a presentation. They say they had many people interested and that there are already 10 Deaf people who had their applications approved to build new homes there. They can move in within 90 days.
Poconos and Nashville is expected to open up next, then four more cities will be announced. Those communities are expected to have similar models of having a senior citizen living center and local businesses offering employment opportunities for Deaf people. Next Monday there will be new job postings for the community in El Paso on the HWF website.
So, Deafville is definitely a big new addition to our Deaf-World. If you’re interested in living in one of those cities or want to know more, you can check out the deafville.com website — their contact information is there.