Don has been a legendary HLAA pioneer and leader and has been tirelessly and selflessly championing hearing loss causes for over thirty years. For those of us who know Don, it is hard to believe that he has decided to slow down his HLAA-CA indefatigable efforts and retire from the HLAA-CA board, after 33 years of amazing service.
Don was born in 1938 in Buffalo, New York, and has been a California resident most of his life, including being a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area for over 50 years. Don has 90dB bilateral hearing loss, which he grew up with since he was a child, first as a moderate hearing loss that developed into a severe-profound loss after working seven years as an offset pressman. Don is oral and does not use sign language. Don wore hearing aids for about 42 years, beginning when he was 20, and he received a cochlear implant in 2000. He worked for Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco for 32 years in various positions, including systems analyst, procedures analyst, and operations officer. Don is married to Florencia Senger, and they have one daughter and three grandchildren. They live in Martinez, California.
Don’s work with HLAA and its members started in 1983 when HLAA was called SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing). Among many of his many HLAA achievements, he was founder and first president of HLAA Diablo Valley Chapter, and he was cofounder and first president of HLAA-CA.
In 1984, Don founded the HLAA Diablo Valley Chapter, serving all of Contra Costa County. Don served as president of the Diablo Valley Chapter from 1984 to 1987, and was reelected its president in 2009.
In 1988, Don was appointed as the first HLAA State Coordinator by National and had 35 chapters reporting to him. He served in that position until 1992.
Don played a key role in forming and running HLAA-CA. As California state coordinator, Don organized the very first HLAA California state convention, which took place in Fresno in 1989. During a meeting in that convention, a recommendation was made to form an HLAA California state association, and Don Senger was appointed its president pro tem. He served as president pro tem from 1989 to 1992. In that capacity, Don petitioned for and received from HLAA National the first charter for a state association, making HLAA-CA an independent entity. He obtained tax exemption status and incorporated HLAA-CA as a non-profit organization to serve all hard of hearing persons in California. As president of SHHH California state association (now HLAA-CA), in 1993, Don filed the Certificate of Amendment of Articles of Incorporation to change the SHHH-BAM (SHHH – Bay Area Members) name to SHHH-CA (now HLAA-CA). Later in 1993, Don was formally elected president of SHHH-CA (now HLAA-CA), and he served as president from 1993 to 1995. He was then HLAA-CA Treasurer from 1996 to 1999. He served as a member of the HLAA-CA board of trustees from 1993 to 2000. In 2013, Don was appointed by HLAA National as Northern California Chapter Coordinator, and he served in that position until 2014. In 2016, Don was again appointed by HLAA National as Northern California Chapter Coordinator, and he served in that position February to September.
In 2003, the HLAA-CA board granted Don lifetime emeritus board membership, without voting privilege. From 2003 to December 2016, Don served as board of trustees member emeritus and special advisor to the board. In December 2016, after 33 years of amazing service, Don decided to retire from the HLAA-CA, effective January 1, 2017.
In 1991, Don founded the HLAA-CA state newsletter and served as its editor for more than ten years.
Since 1989, Don oversaw the development and implementation of ten HLAA-CA state conventions for hard of hearing HLAA members. He was co-chair of the HLAA-CA state conferences in 2007 and in 2012.
From 2005 to 2007, Don oversaw the development and implementation of a statewide program to increase HLAA membership through a six-month trial membership program.
In 2006, Don served as treasurer of the HLAA Northern California Walk4Hearing. In 2008, he assisted in securing sponsors and aiding host committee for the HLAA Northern California Walk4Hearing.
In addition to his HLAA work, Don was an avid advocate for hearing loss causes in other ways.
Don served for ten years for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of people with hearing loss. In 1992, Don was appointed by President George HW Bush to the FCC’s Emergency Broadcast System Business and Industry National Advisory Council, to assist in developing standards for the new Emergency Alert System in relation to needs of hearing impaired viewers. Between 1992 and 1993, Don researched and developed a report on resources for television stations to broadcast emergency bulletins in real-time, open captioned format for hearing impaired viewers. The report was distributed by the FCC to all television stations in the nation. Also between 1992 and 1993, Don coordinated efforts of the California Office of Emergency Services and San Francisco station KPIX to develop a way to receive emergency bulletins from the state office into newsroom computer systems, allowing stations immediate access to text messages that could be broadcast immediately in open captioned format. In 1993, he created television station sensitivity to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing viewers, and assisted in the development of the first real-time captioned local newscasts for the Bay Area. He assisted the FCC in the testing and evaluation of devices for the new national Emergency Alert System, including captioning systems and visual alerting devices. Don was honored by the FCC for outstanding service as a “model for other presidential appointees to emulate.” Don was reappointed in 1996 to the FCC’s new Emergency Alert System National Advisory Committee.
Furthermore, Don spearheaded multiple initiatives with the Californians for Television Access. From 1993 to 2003, Don was cofounder and chair of the coalition of San Francisco Bay Area agencies for the disabled, television stations in San Francisco and Oakland, California Broadcasters Association, and California Office of Emergency Services, working together to improve accessibility to television programs and emergency broadcasts by hearing impaired viewers. He was also chair of the Video Productions Committee and produced a Public Service Announcement on the benefits of closed captioned TV, which was released to 110 California TV stations in November, 1999. In 1993, Don developed a program to increase awareness and sensitivity among San Francisco Bay Area television stations concerning the needs of hearing impaired viewers, prompting four stations to begin real-time captioned newscasts and real-time captioning of emergency bulletins and follow-up reports. He created California legislative awareness of the new coalition and its capability to serve as a resource on legislation concerning television broadcasting and the hearing impaired. From 1993 to 2003, Don created interest among manufactures of broadcasting equipment for, and aided in the development of, devices to help alert hearing impaired viewers of emergency broadcasts on TV.
Moreover, Don led efforts at the California Department of Rehabilitation. In 1997, Don was appointed by California Governor Pete Wilson to serve on the California State Rehabilitation Council where policies and standards for the California Department of Rehabilitation are developed and monitored. In 2002, Don was reappointed by Governor Gray Davis. Between 1998 and 1999, Don served as Chair of the Policy and Procedures Review Committee. In 1999, Don was elected as Chair of the Council and served on the Council through 2004.
Don was active in many other initiatives. For example, in 1993, he assisted in the development of a telephone typewriter device in emergency call boxes for use by hearing impaired motorists. Between 1990 and 1992, he advocated for and assisted the California Center for Law and the Deaf in securing a state law requiring California state courtrooms to provide assistive listening systems for hard of hearing jurors, defend- ants, judges, lawyers, and others needing help to hear in courtroom proceedings. In 1985, Don advocated for and helped secure from the California Public Utilities Commission a requirement for telephone utilities to provide amplified handsets on 15% of their public pay telephones. In 1992, he advocated for and helped secure from the California Highway Commissions installation of hearing aid compatible telephones on emergency call boxes. In 1989, he served on Department of Rehabilitation Advisory Committee, advocating for specially-trained counselors to assist hard of hearing clients. He also advocated for and secured installation of an assistive listening system in Candlestick Park for Pope John Paul’s visit and mass in San Francisco. Between 1992 and 1994, Don served on the National Media Captioning Advisory Council under US Department of Education contract. He served on the California Public Utilities Commission’s DEAF Trust, Equipment and Policies Committee. He also served as a consultant to Pacific Telephone on equipment for hard of hearing people.
Deservedly, Don has received many awards and recognitions for his service to people with hearing loss, including:
- HLAA Best Chapter Newsletter, 1986
- Spirit of HLAA, 1988
- Alexander Graham Bell Centennial Celebration Award, 1990
- Wells Fargo President’s Award for Community Service, 1990
- HLAA Keystone Award, 1991
- FCC Commendation for Playing a Vital Role in the Emergency Broadcast System, 1992
- DCARA Frederick Schreiber Advocacy Award, 1995
- Oticon Focus On People advocacy category award (second place), 2002