Your generosity and investment moved us toward a more inclusive world with fewer barriers!

Adult Education & Outreach

AEO served  1,927 unduplicated clients. There were 200 students in ASL I, II, and III classes that were onsite, online, or community based. AEO presented 43 workshops on Deaf culture and ASL in Middle Tennessee businesses, universities, congregations, and agencies and hosted one weekend SSP (support service person) for those working with the deaf-blind. 

After 1,056 employees of the Metro Nashville Police Department took mandatory in-service about serving the Deaf and hard of hearing last year, almost 200 more completed the training this year. The in-service consisted of three, twenty-minute videos--ADA and Deaf Driver Safety, Deaf Language and Culture, and Legal Interpreting. 

In community building, AEO hosted twelve, monthly Game Days and with Interpreting Services, four outings to Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theater.


Our annual WellFEST was moved to September 2020 to take place during Deaf Awareness Month. 

COVID-19:  All AEO programs and services moved to virtual space. ASL classes continued online. We were also able to launch our first one-on-one ASL classes in addition to group classes. AEO set up a phone tree for emergency situations, and we did regular checks ins with our community to make sure members were okay and had needs met. New, online workshops and Game Days are under development, and Deaf Night In will launch online in August 2020.  AEO was critical the production of COVID-19 videos and other outreach communications during this critical time. 



In January 2019, we introduced a bill that became the #WordsMatter law when signed by Governor Lee on May 8, 2019. This important legislation changed the terms "hearing impaired" and "hearing impairment" to "deaf or hard of hearing" and "hearing loss" throughout Tennessee Annotated Code. Language empowers or disempowers, and our community has suffered oppression and discrimination based on ignorance and misunderstanding, too often perpetuated through labels that imply a brokenness or "less than" status. This language change, sponsored by Rep. Jason Powell and Sen. Steve Dickerson, empowers our community and changes perception that come to shape our reality.  In July 2020, we celebrated our first Legislative Heroes to thank those who had sponsored bills for us. 

We continued work to provide open captions movie showings in 2019-20 and also sought, unsuccessfully, sponsors for legislation to require one open caption showing of every movie showing in theaters with two or more locations in Tennessee. 

We entered the conversation about licensure for interpreters. Currently, Tennessee has no system for licensing qualified ASL interpreters. There are national certification systems, but there is little knowledge or understanding of certifications or the hiring of qualified interpreters. The lack of licensure can lead to unqualified and ineffective interpreting and no recourse for the Deaf community. 

We continued advocating for increased availability and quality of mental health services for the D/deaf and hard of hearing, taking a lead role in a statewide task force and also offering mental health interpreting trainings for interpreters and mental health for the D/deaf and hard of hearing trainings to providers. 



BridgesWEST served 155 unduplicated clients in Community Services its first nine months of operation. From the first day, we focused on community outreach, sharing information about the programs and services we offer. In our offices, we created space for client access to computers and videophones. We worked with and advocated for clients with jobs, taxes, education, housing, food security, and more. We worked to build relationships and collaborations with other nonprofits. We hosted workshops on a variety of topics, including Self-Advocacy, Benefits 101, Tax Days, and more. We hosted monthly Game Days and special community events like Trick or Treat and Signing Santa. 

We launched The Signing ACEs, our youth program, in Memphis in collaboration with the Mayor's Office of Youth Services who opened their I AM INCLUDED program to D/deaf and hard of hearing students. We had a dozen students participate for the academic year and during a special summer session. 

We provided almost a thousand hours of interpreting services in our first nine months and provided multiple professional development workshops for interpreters in our service area. 


COVID-19:  Unfortunately, we had to cancel a Community Meeting and a Town Hall with Disability Rights TN as COVID-19 broke out. We look forward to rescheduling those when we can. We moved all our services to virtual space and continued to serve clients. A third of the clients we served were between March and June. We hosted an online #IdeaExchange and received feedback and brainstorming from the community. In June, we helped our Black Deaf community organize the March for Equality & Justice. We launch Deaf Night In and Game Days online in August. We also have upcoming workshops. We have interpreted all press conferences for Mayor Harris and Mayor Strickland and their COVID-19 briefings. 



Empowerment is our case management program. Empowerment served 164 individual clients, primarily in the areas of jobs, housing, individual access, and education. Other priorities were food security, training opportunities, educational advocacy, and advocacy for access to health care, mental health care, and other services.  

Empowerment also offered a new collaboration with the Financial Empowerment Center. We hosted an FEC counselor onsite weekly, providing interpreters and a social worker to work with the counselor. If there were identified barriers to program participation, we were able to provide some direct financial assistance to remove those barriers. 

COVID-19:  The need for the empowerment program have intensified during COVID-19, particularly help with ensuring delivery of stimulus checks, accessing unemployment (including advocacy with the Department of Labor due to their not recognizing calls through Video Relay Service), housing, and food security. 

Interpreting Services

Interpreting Services served 742 individuals, not including students and audiences.  Over 24,000 hours of interpreting services were provided by two staff interpreters and more than thirty contract interpreters, including 634 hours by Deaf interpreters.  Deaf Interpreters are highly-qualified interpreters who team with hearing interpreters to meet the specific needs of clients where there is an additional language barrier.  


Interpreting Services also provided 11,716 Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) minutes.  VRI allows us to provide services quickly and cost-effectively to remote areas but never replaces the value and quality of having an interpreter in person. 

We mentored three, senior interpreting students in an intense internship and continued our ongoing collaboration with Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre. 

Interpreting Services continues to work with courts and law enforcement to ensure best practices and legal compliance when working with the Deaf and hard of hearing community and improving access to mental health services for Deaf and hard of hearing consumers. Interpreting offered a robust program of high-quality professional development for interpreters with topics ranging from legal interpreting, language deprivation, and mental health interpreting to best practices in team interpreting, medical interpreting, and narcotics terms. 

COVID-19:  From the tornadoes through early March through COVID-19, we have interpreted all the press briefings for Mayor Cooper and for Governor Lee. We transitioned to provide more VRI services to ensure our community did not lose access to services, and we hosted a number of professional development workshops online. Interpreting also launched the first Deaf Education Summit in collaboration with our Youth Education & Services department. Interpreting Services saw a dramatic drop in services and revenues, going from a record-breaking year with 900 hours of interpreting a week to weeks in March and April with 50 to 150 hours.  While those hours are picking up now, we continue to work with those challenges. We worked to provide resources to our contract interpreters who experienced hardship during this time. 


Youth Education & Services

Youth Education & Services, dubbed the 'The Signing ACEs,' (Advocacy, Community, Empowerment) had a great year. Students, K-12, in our afterschool program demonstrated significant growth. 67% of students increased one reading level in Failure Free Reading, the highest ranked, non-phonics-based reading intervention. 78% of students mastered 80+ multiple meaning words in American Sign Language. 100% increased their writing skills, and 78% of students mastered 95, grade level vocabulary words in English. 89% of students demonstrated growth in social-emotional learning. We took our Middle Tennessee Signing ACEs to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. 


Little ACEs serves children and their families from birth to start of school, offering weekly classes for parent and child together and a monthly visit from a Deaf Mentor.  The youth department welcomed a certified Deaf educator to the staff, and she partnered with qualified Deaf adults to develop an outstanding curriculum and evaluations. All the children made significant gains over the year, and parents reported a 50% increase in feelings of competency. 

These early intervention programs address the severe language deprivation Deaf children born to hearing parents. Almost 95% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, 75% of whom never learn to sign. All children in our early intervention program demonstrated measurable growth in both expressive and receptive language, and parents reported a higher sense of competency and communication. 

Club Sign Me Up, an after-school club to learn ASL and Deaf culture, worked at three schools in Nashville. Visit for more. 

COVID-19:  The Signing ACEs, our after-school program, transitioned online and continued some summer sessions because the summer camp our students usually attend did not happen. Club Sign Me Up transitioned online and finished the academic year successfully. Camp Rise & Sign, our sleepaway camp in May, was not able to happen. Camp Sign Me Up, our summer camp for hearing students to learn ASL, moved to a virtual camp and met really well. We're excited to see our virtual spaces expand, particularly as they allow us to reach students in outlying and more rural areas. Because virtual school is not as successful for D/deaf and hard of hearing students, we will focus on creating support classes and networks for our K-12 students who were traditionally in our after-school program. In addition to the first Deaf Education Institute held in collaboration with Interpreting Services, we are providing workshops specifically on Remote Learning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students as well as IEP guidance and advocacy. We will offer Club Sign Me Up and Little ACEs throughout the year.