A group of deaf and hard of hearing leaders in the Sacramento community had a vision of a resource center that would help remove communication and attitudinal barriers for deaf and hard of hearing people. These leaders gathered to organize and plan the implementation of an agency that was "of, by and for" deaf and hard of hearing people.
Services began at a borrowed office at a local community college through the use of volunteer interpreters. The demand for interpreters from the community was immediate and overwhelming. Within a year, requests for information and referral, interpreting, counseling, and employment assistance inundated the community college that the college asked NorCal to find its own office space.
The "founding members", with the help of many in the deaf community, established a Board of Directors for a non-profit organization that came to be called Northern California (NorCal) Center on Deafness. From this time and on, the governing Board had a majority of deaf individuals.
With funding awarded by the California Department of Rehabilitation that included a 20% cash match raised by tireless and dedicated board and community members, NorCal opened its doors in 1978 with seven paid staff positions and a small pool of freelance interpreters.
NorCal in conjunction with Greater Los Angeles (Council) Agency on Deafness [GLAD] and Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency [DCARA] began educating the California Legislature on the need for social services to be accessible to deaf people. This collaborative effort resulted in 3-year funding from the Department of Social Services as a research and demonstration project.
The research project demonstrated that the most efficient and effective service delivery model for serving the deaf population was a community agency that incorporated an "of, by and for the deaf" philosophy and provided direct, one-on-one services by people fluent in American Sign Language or the communication modes used by this population. This model continues to be used by NorCal today.
The model project became law in 1980. Since this time, NorCal has competitively bid and contracted with the Department of Social Services, Office of Deaf Access to serve Northeastern California, which currently covers 24 counties. This law requires the provision of seven categories of mandated services: Communication Assistance, Information and Referral, Counseling, Independent Living Skills Instruction, Advocacy Assistance, Community Education and Employment Assistance.