In 1986 John Brown, who was profoundly deaf, established the Hearing-Impaired Centre for deaf and hearing-impaired people in Maidstone Community Support Centre. His aim was to bridge the gap between the deaf community and the hearing world. Two years later, working in partnership with Kent Social Services, Hi Kent Association was registered as a new charity name.
The Maidstone Hi Centre became the first resource unit offering working displays of environmental aids, provision, and installation of the equipment.
“Hi” was selected to represent Hearing Impaired as well as the philosophy of hearing integration through total communication. The 'Hi' logo incorporated the 'ear' symbol of deafness as the dot over the 'i'.
In 1993, further Hi Centres were set up, including our Canterbury office, with core funding from Kent County Council Social Services.
On 30th November 1995 the Association transferred its assets and activities to Hi Kent on its incorporation as a Company Limited by Guarantee. The following year Hi Kent moved to self-contained premises centrally within Maidstone, where we remain today. It officially became a Registered Charity (1052036) on 18th January 1996.
After taking over the roles and responsibilities of another charity in 2002, Hi Kent began operating the Volunteer Visiting Scheme. We went on to receive The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2007 for this scheme, a Volunteer-run Hearing Aid Maintenance Clinic network across the county.
Our BSL classes, in conjunction with Kent Adult Education, continue to be well attended and enjoyed by all. Pass rates remain high, and interest grows as BSL becomes more widely recognised.
Our lipreading classes were introduced in response to an identified need around 2008. The continue to be very much valued by our clients and there is often a waiting list to join a class.
Again, based on the needs of our clients, Tinnitus Support Groups were started in 2013 to give help and advice to sufferers.
We continue to provide our Assessment Service that has been offered for over 20 years, funded by KCC. For many years, this was for people who had developed hearing loss and were aged over 65. Since 2021 this service has been expanded to include anyone from the age of 26 and BSL users.
During Lockdown we worked to ensure our services continued, helping people the best we could during this time. Numerous needs were identified during the pandemic resulting in:
- The creation of Social Groups to help with the increased isolation by those with hearing loss
- A new Technology Support service became vital to help people deal with ever more complicated technology to communicate with others in their daily lives
- Our Information Gateway Service provides clients with advice on many topics, and signposting to other sources of help where needed. This is also available for BSL users
Hi Kent continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the modern world. Our staff remain as passionate and dedicated as ever about providing all our services, however they change and evolve in the future.