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HARRY HAS A NEW WAY TO TALK
By Marshall McClung
Harry Edwards of the Atoah community has recently acquired a new way for him to communicate. Spinal meningitis left Harry unable to hear or speak since the age of one. Harry uses sign language or written notes to communicate in person, but was left at a disadvantage when it came to using the telephone. This could be critical should an emergency arise and he needed to call 911. All Harry could do was call that number and ring a cow bell which left the dispatcher on the line not knowing what the nature of the emergency would be.
Harry and his nephew Jimmy Hyde recently met with Tzena Keyes of the Asheville Regional Resource Center, Division of Services for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. Keyes issued Harry a Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD). The TDD transmits and receives teletypewriter messages and prints them on paper. The TDD has a keyboard similar to a typewriter or word processor. Should Harry have to call 911 with an emergency, he calls the number, connects the telephone to the TDD and types his message.
Dispatcher Randy Lynn demonstrated what happens should Harry call 911. A recording alerts the dispatcher that the call is from a hearing impaired person. The 911 system brings Harry's name1 address, directions to his home, and a message that this is a hearing impaired person on the computer screen. The dispatcher would respond with a request for information as to the nature of the emergency. This message would be printed on Harry's end as would his reply on the dispatcher's end. The TDD machines cost around $600, but can be furnished free for those who qualify. Certain income limitations and need for the machine would have to be met. Harry has the only TDD in Graham county at the present. County dispatchers made Hyde aware of who to contact about receiving a TDD and Terry Slaughter, Graham County Emergency Management Coordinator helped with arrangements.
Harry was taken to the North Carolina School for the Deaf at Morganton when he was seven years old. His mother, Daisy Edwards, said the hardest thing she ever did was leave Harry there crying, not understanding why he was being left, and her unable to explain to him. Harry stayed at this school until he was eighteen and returned to Graham County. Harry worked at odd jobs in this area and at Enka.
Tom Price, a district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service here hired Harry on a three month appointment to do some map drawing. Harry finished the project in about six weeks and did a perfect job. Harry went on to work with the Forest Service in the Southern Region Office in Atlanta as a Cartographic Technician in the Geometronics Section. Harry went on to spend 25 years with the Forest Service. He received several performance awards during his career including the U.S Department of Agriculture Award for Outstanding Employees with Disabilities and the President's Award for Outstanding Federal Employees with Disabilities, presented in Washington, D.C..
In spite of his impairment, Harry leads a normal life and is a great help to his mother, Daisy who is 86. All of Harry's immediate family and many of his other relatives know sign language and can communicate with him.
There are in this life those who do not hear and those who do not understand. There is a vast difference in the two as Harry demonstrates so well.
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