Having the ear of Presidents and leaders to protect those with disabilities.
At 85, Albert Pimentel still is sharp. And feisty.
At 19, Pimentel lost all of his hearing. What he’s learned over the past 65 years, however, is that a lot of people have a hard time hearing.
Or should we say listening?
“Normal-hearing people don’t hear very well,” Pimentel said. “They’re preparing their reply instead of listening to what a person is saying.”
So the Fort Myers resident made it his life work to educate others on the importance of helping people with disabilities or life challenges such as being tall.
Recently, Pimentel made a $50,000 donation to pay off The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center’s mortgage, (which now will be known as The Sally J. Pimentel Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center).
The location in Fort Myers was established 35 years ago. The generous deaf couple donated the largest amount ever received by the local agency which serves Deaf and Hard of Hearing residents. The Pimentels contrabution of $50,000.00 will be used for the agency’s mortgage pay-off balance and to establish a fund for any future building needs. In addition to its fund raising efforts through the years, the Agency has received grants from various sources, including the City of Cape Coral, Lee County and United Way.
Pimentel wanted to honor his wife, who taught the deaf and hard of hearing for many years.
Sally and Al Pimentel will be married 60 years in May.
“Not having a mortgage payment will allow us to expand our current programs,” said Dianna Druding, executive director/director of programs for the center. “We have a deaf mentoring program where one of our members goes into the school system. We teach life skills like going through a drive-thru or a bank.”
Druding said program officials have worked with Allen Park Elementary, Fort Myers Middle and Fort Myers High School as well as other schools.
In the mid-1970s, Pimentel joined other high-level activists to change the way people with disabilities were treated.
In 1974, Pimentel helped set up a committee to write the constitution and bylaws for the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities.
He worked with Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush on the Americans For Disabilities Act.
Pimentel also was on the board of trustees with Tom Golisano for Rochester Institute of Technology. Within the university was a national technical institute for the deaf. Dr. Pimentel was the first Executive Director of the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and instrumental in professionalizing the work of Sign Language Interpreters across the United States. He was also a professor in several colleges and universities, his wife; Sally Pimentel, has been a teacher of Deaf children in several different states for many years.
One of the biggest things Pimentel pushed for was universal design. He not only helped increase acoustics in buildings and the numbers of interpreters was part of legislation to put in ticking or beeping sounds on pedestrian signals to help the blind cross the street, ramps for the handicapped and injured and taller beds and ceilings.
“We brought in architects from all over the country so everyone could fit in, including disabilities,” Pimentel said.
“People would say, ‘You have to do this for deaf people.’ I’d say, ‘You have to do this for everyone. It’s not supposed to be special for anyone. It’s supposed to accommodate everyone.’”
Today, Pimentel encourages people to be their own advocates. He said it’s important for the deaf and hard of hearing to remain active socially and stay connected to friends or go to their favorite place of worship.
The National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders says about 15 percent of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.
Through this gift, the Pimentels hope the community will increase its financial support to realize the Agency’s goals: to enhance services provided to Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and adults, to expand the training of interpreters, to assist the thousands of citizens who are Hard of Hearing who can benefit from the acquisitions of self-help skills beyond the use of hearing aids, and to educate the local communities on the needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing citizens in all areas of life.
“A lot of people think hearing loss leads to dementia,” Pimentel said. “It’s the isolation. If you’re cut off and you can’t talk to friends, your brain is not stimulated. And you’re not gonna get new (brain cells).”
Even at 85, the issue still gets Pimentel emotional.
“I’m still very committed,” he said. “We have to continue advocacy and awareness.”
Contact information for the center:
Sally J. Pimentel Deaf & Hard of Hearing Center.
1860 Boy Scout Dr. B208
Fort Myers, FL 33907
239-247-5821 video phone for deaf
Find them on the web at:
Source: Sally J. Pimentel Deaf & Hard of Hearing Center, News-Press (USA TODAY Network)
Image credit: Sally and Albert Pimentel, Sally J. Pimentel Deaf & Hard of Hearing Center
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