ODHH History

In the late 1970s, the members of Washington State Association of the Deaf had expressed grievances to the legislature about access to state government. In response, a directive by the Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services established a position. The position, "Deaf Services Coordinator" was established in 1978 and filled in 1979. The position had since evolved into the "Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing" providing telecommunications, accommodations, and social services and became more inclusive with hard of hearing, deaf-blind and speech-disabled people. ODHH has only had two Directors throughout its' 31+ years. To learn more about the two Directors' Administration milestones look here.

ODHH Milestones


Deaf Services Coordinator Task Force with the Governor's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped seeks a state position for the deaf within DSHS.


14 people applied for State Coordinator for Deaf Services position.


ODHH establishes Regional Coordinator covering Region 1 and 2 with a YMCA office near the Spokane Falls River.

Legislature approved a grant of 25 million dollars, which is known as Referendum 37. With funds available from this grant, 4 deaf service centers were established in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Yakima.


Regional Coordinator office move into the new Spokane Deaf Center, serving only Region 1.


ODHH and Mental Health Division Project: Statewide Mental Health Coordinator. Dr. Tina Wax was first coordinator and later it was Dr. Thomas Golder until budget cuts eliminated the position in 1987.


The title "State Coordinator for the Deaf" changed to "Director of Deaf Services".

Legislature approved $90,000 for the Yakima Deaf Center (nonprofit) to serve Region 2. Gary Mann was 1st Executive Director.


Created the TTY Relay & Distribution Program Manager position.

One of the first states to establish a "TTY Distribution Program" One of few states having contracted trainers providing installation, troubleshooting and training at clients' homes continuing to this day.


Legislature approved funds for the 7 "Deaf Centers" in Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Yakima, Tri-Cities, Spokane and Bellingham.


First state to fund telecommunication relay service as a direct provider with its own call center and relay agents prior to passage of Americans with Disabilities Act.


ODHH and Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Project: Statewide Coordinator. Bryon Bridges was first coordinator.


With the recommendations from the 1991 Blue Ribbon Committee, "Washington State TTY Task Force," the Legislature approved substitute Senate Bill 6377 to change ODHH role from providing relay services directly to becoming a Telecommunications Relay Services administrator.


AT&T won the bid to run the TTY relay program.


Creation of the "Communication Access Taskforce" to review accommodations options.


Created the Assistant Director position. Sprint won the bid to run the TTY Relay Program.


First state to fund video relay service as a pilot project, collaborating with Sprint and Communication Services for the Deaf (South Dakota).


First state to distribute web cameras and videophone (DLink DVC-1000).

First state to participate in Captioned Telephone relay service and equipment trial.

ODHH and Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Project: Establishment of Northwest Deaf Addiction Center based in Vancouver.


Communication Access Taskforce resulted in creation of statewide interpreter services contract under General Administration.

Leon Curtis received the Governor's Distinguished Leadership Award as Sustaining Leader. Leon Curtis retired after 24 years of service. He has served 5 Governors and 12 DSHS Secretaries.

Eric Raff was appointed as ODHH Director.

Contract with PROVAIL to serve clients with speech disabilities in Western Washington.


Created the Information & Referral, Advocacy position.

ODHH and DASA receives "Governor's Award for Public Value and Benefit" for the NWDAC project.


General Administration (currently the Department of Enterprise Services) transfer contract to ODHH. ODHH begins the provision of statewide interpreter services for deaf and deaf-blind to access DSHS and state government activities.

Created the Sign Language Interpreter Management position.

Provision of ODHH owned Assistive Listening Devices at all Regional Service Centers for hard of hearing to access DSHS services.


Established public video phone sites at Regional Service Centers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.


Contract with Eastern Washington University to provide installation, troubleshooting and training of equipment, serving clients with speech disabilities in Eastern Washington.

First state to fund "Communication Facilitator" to promote deaf-blind access to Video Relay Service.

First state to fund research, design and development of new "Deaf Blind Communicator" telecommunication device.

Eric Raff was nominated by DSHS for the "Governor's Award for Leadership in Management".

Created the Information Technology Manager and Database specialist positions.

Provision of Visual Magnification Device at Southeast Service Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing-Yakima office for deaf-blind access to DSHS print


"Deaf Blind Communicator" released to public and recognized nationally.


Established a 'videophone' demonstration site displaying various videophones at ODHH office for state employees.

Established a small 'museum' display of old telecommunication and captioning devices at ODHH office.

Created the Office Manager position.


Deaf and Hard of Hearing Information System become operational. DHHIS is a new database system to collect data and track performance measures.

Expansion of "Communication Facilitator" to include mobile services to eliminate transportation barriers for deaf-blind.

Legislature approves transfer of Department of Services for the Blind funding and contract with Deaf-Blind Service Center to ODHH.


Partnering with Department of Enterprise Services, statewide Communication Access in Real Time Translation contracts is released.   CART provides real-time captioning services to enable deaf and hard of hearing participation at DSHS and state government meetings. 


Established "E-News", electronically distributed news to stakeholders.

Released its new website and includes more features such as online Directory of Services and statewide Calendar of Events.


ODHH realigned under Aging and Long-Term Support Administration.

Installed induction loops in Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Community Service Offices throughout Washington State.

Final rules for Legal Interpreting Standards.