An Open Letter to My Deaf Community and the Hearing

Avamere at Chestnut Lane, specialized Deaf and DeafBlind senior living community in Gresham, Oregon

Written by Avamere Living

April 15, 2021

My name is Renée Rickard. I love to do water activities, such as waterski, jet ski, and wakeboard. I also love to play videogames. I have an older hearing sister but use American Sign Language (ASL). I graduated from California School for the Deaf in Fremont. I expanded my career starting as a caregiver, making my way up to Executive Director with Avamere at Chestnut Lane in Gresham, Oregon.

I am also Deaf.

I am the only Deaf individual in my family. My parents found out I am Deaf when I was 6 months old, and we moved to Fremont from the San Francisco area for me to obtain a better education. My parents learned ASL through ASL classes and Deaf neighbors so we could communicate with each other and develop a strong relationship. I grew up in the hearing world and Deaf world, and it is a rich experience for me to understand both.

In 2010, I moved to Portland, Oregon, and a Deaf person I met at the grocery store told me about Avamere at Chestnut Lane, the only senior living community specialized for the Deaf and DeafBlind in the country. I immediately applied as a caregiver and today am honored to be Executive Director. I have been working here for over 10 years and love my job.

Most of our residents and many of our employees are Deaf, and all our team members communicate with American Sign Language. What’s so special about our community is it’s a space just for us. When members of the Deaf community are out in public, we’re the ones that have to adjust to the hearing world. For instance, I have to let hearing people know that I am Deaf when they try to talk with me. I have to ask for paper and pen at the grocery store or to order food at a restaurant. For every appointment and phone call, Deaf people require the use of an ASL interpreter. But when people visit Avamere at Chestnut Lane, they are stepping into our world, and they’re the ones that have to adjust to the environment.

To my hearing friends, family, and team members across Avamere, see the members of the Deaf community as they are – people. Our way of communicating is different than yours, but that is the only major difference between us. See us the way you see your friends, family, and fellow team members – as individuals with unique passions, skillsets, and impacts to make in this world.

To my fellow members of the Deaf community, keep showing who you are. When people look at you, all they may see at first is someone who is Deaf. Being Deaf is a part of you, but this singular piece does not fully encapsulate you. Let your personality and skills shine and continue to make great contributions in the spaces you occupy.

During Celebrate Diversity Month in April, take extra moments to recognize what makes our Avamere family diverse, whether it be color of skin, religious beliefs, who your friends and team members are attracted to, our Deaf and DeafBlind community, and more.

Because here at Avamere, we all belong.

Follow Avamere on Facebook and visit to keep up on Avamere’s DEI efforts and observances we’re honoring. 

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