Change of pace for amateur historians

There was an element of history to it, but Derek Rumball’s presentation to the East York Historical Society on March 31 was more about opening our eyes to the challenges faced by those who can’t open their ears.

Rumball is the executive director of the Bob Rumball Centre for Deaf, a long-term care residence in Barrie. It’s part of a small network of agencies for the hearing impaired stretching from the GTA up to Parry Sound. It’s named for Derek’s father, noted athlete Bob Rumball, who is enjoying his senior years at a retirement residence in cottage country.

“My dad has a great history in the city,” Derek told the society’s members at their meeting in the S. Walter Stewart library branch. “He was a Toronto Argonaut and an Ottawa Rough Rider and had an opportunity to really change people’s lives through the work of the church but also through the social services part.”

EYHS president Pat Barnett said she hoped Rumball’s presentation to the group would illuminate some of the issues for those dealing with sensory loss.

Rumball explained the work of the centre: “These are people who are culturally deaf, whose first language is sign language. And we also have services for the people in their senior years who are deafened, who are losing their hearing and need technical advice and maybe just help, because of their hearing. But the homes that we run and the dining services and all the type of things that we run are for those whose language is sign language — because if I started to talk like this….” At that point, he continued in sign language, to illustrate the difficulty of making oneself understood by people who don’t have the ability to translate.

Rumball went on to explain that it’s fortunately becoming easier for hearing-impaired people to, for instance, order food at McDonalds… through new technology that gives the deaf community the ability to communicate — like showing their food order on their smartphone.

“The greatest device that has happened to our deaf community is the Blackberry or the cellphone, the ability to text communicate over the phone or cellular network,” Derek said. “The ability to communicate without someone in between.”

Christopher Salmond, one of the directors of the East York Historical Society, said he was impressed with Rumball’s presentation.

“I think he presented himself well and he got across the aims and principals and vision of his dad and the organization as it stands today,” Salmond said.

To end the speech, Derek left the guests with his motto: “Make tomorrow better than today for somebody. Love the people who are hard to love.”