“Still, I’m just going to keep on barking,” Singleton said. “It can’t hurt to fight.” FREMONT – The first deaf retirement home in Northern California has ended up taking mostly hearing seniors, frustrating the project’s organizers, who hoped for a deaf-only enclave. Fremont Oak Gardens, which opened in May 2005, was meant to be a place where deaf seniors could rest and grow old in each other’s company. But bureaucratic hurdles and the San Francisco Bay Area’s tough housing market have led hearing seniors to move in, said Julian “Buddy” Singleton, 73, who is deaf and led the project. Now the home, specially outfitted with flashing doorbells, strobe-light smoke alarms and special telephones in its 50 rooms, has 19 deaf seniors, and 27 who aren’t deaf. The problem started when organizers of the $12.8 million project, eager to get the home built, accepted federal funds that set in place nondiscrimination rules and termed the complex “affordable housing,” which meant any senior had to be accepted. Hoping to be politically sensitive, admissions personnel asked applicants if they were “hard of hearing,” instead of deaf, and found that every senior said yes. Deaf residents feel isolated among the hearing, who separate themselves during meetings and activities, said Charlene Mullenix, 73, who is deaf. “The hearing people just say `hello’ and that’s all, then they’re gone,” she said through an American Sign Language interpreter. “The deaf stay around and chat for a while. We play cards, bingo. The hearing don’t ever show up to play with us.” There’s little deaf residents can do to create a more deaf-friendly environment, short of asking the hearing residents to leave, which is against the law.
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