Sharon L. Applegate

Sharon Applegate

Sharon L. Applegate, SVP of '79, is highly regarded by her peers, both deaf and hearing. She is deeply involved in her profession and is a major contributor to the civic life of the deaf community in Massachusetts and beyond. Applegate is an exceptionally versatile, multi-disciplined and accomplished nonprofit executive with more than 25 years of experience in increasingly responsible positions in nonprofit agencies serving deaf, deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing and late-deafened people.

Since 2003, Applegate has been the Executive Director of DEAF, Inc. (Developmental Evaluation and Adjustment Facilities, Incorporated), in Boston, Mass., with satellite offices in Salem, Taunton and New Bedford. Since its founding in 1977, DEAF, Inc. has remained Massachusetts' first and only community-based, multi-service agency operated by and for Deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and late-deafened people.

Under Applegate's leadership, DEAF, Inc. has expanded health support services and outreach; implemented youth and elder services; improved standards for service delivery that have been recognized for their best practices; increased agency-wide technology capacity; increased visibility through a public relations campaign; established the first development department and, while growing the budget, maintained strict fiscal policies that have kept the agency in the black through changing economic times. The agency and staff are recognized throughout the deaf and mainstream communities for their leadership.

In its 32 years of operation, DEAF, Inc. has served more than 50,000 members of the deaf community of Massachusetts. The organization provides essential services not only to deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, and late deafened people, including youth and seniors, but their families, friends and employers, to encourage and empower consumers to participate effectively and productively with those around them. DEAF, Inc. offers health support case management, peer support, deaf-blind services, educational programs, information and referrals, advocacy, skills assessment and training tailored to consumer needs in a supportive community environment that is linguistically and culturally accessible to deaf, deaf-blind and hard-of-hearing people from diverse backgrounds.

Sharon Applegate

Before coming to DEAF, Inc., Applegate was the Assistant Executive Director of the New York Society for the Deaf (NYSD), and managed various city-wide comprehensive behavioral, social and rehabilitative services, such as New York City's Ryan White HIV-AIDS Case Management program, an OMH-licensed Mental Health Clinic and Psychiatric Treatment Apartment program, an OSAS-licensed Substance Abuse program and the OMRDD-licensed Individual Residential Alternative. Throughout her career, Applegate has held positions of broad leadership and executive, administrative and financial management responsibilities, including NYSD Assistant Executive Director, NYSD Director of Behavioral Health and Clinical Services, and NY Licensed Social Worker in the Inpatient and Outpatient Deaf Unit at Rockland Psychiatric Center.

Applegate holds two master's degrees from Columbia University (social work and public health) and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Columbia University. She also is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf, earning an associate degree in Medical Laboratory Technology. She lives in Framingham, Mass., with her daughter, Louise, who is a student at The Learning Center for Deaf Children.

How RIT/NTID has contributed to your success?

Sharon Applegate

It has been 30 years since I graduated from NTID. It was a major life milestone. When I think back to my time at NTID, I think about not only where I've come from but where I have been, and NTID's influence on my life then and now. I grew up as the only deaf child in a Hearing family and attended oral and mainstream public schools in Dayton, Ohio. NTID opened up the world for me. It was the first time that I learned without language barriers; all my classes, teachers, classmates and friends used American Sign Language. It was at NTID where I was empowered by language, culture and the network of my peers, but mostly importantly, also, through NTID's support and belief that deaf students can succeed in a hearing world.

I can trace my commitment to ASL and deaf culture to my years at NTID. While I had struggled in high school because of the communication access barrier, at NTID I was empowered to succeed. I realized that I could do more. I experienced the critical importance of communication accessibility as the foundation for human development and success. It was the stepping stone for me to higher education and bigger dreams.

My experience in the cooperative education program at NTID helped me develop my career skills and self-reliance. I learned how to work effectively in a hearing environment. I had independence, with support from NTID Center on Employment. This support, also with learning and working in ASL, paved the way for me to continue my education and succeed as an undergraduate and graduate student at Columbia University in New York City.

My new-found sense of self as a student at NTID enabled me to run for and win a seat on the school's Student Congress. There I developed the leadership skills that provided the foundation for my ongoing development as a leader in my community and the agencies that serve our communities.

Sharon Applegate

My own experience, being empowered through ASL and communication accessibility, has formed my vision for my career, first as a social worker working with deaf people living with ongoing mental health issues, as Assistant Director of New York Society for the Deaf, and now, most importantly, in my role as Executive Director of DEAF, Inc. in Boston, whose mission is the empowerment of deaf, deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing and late-deafened people to improve their lives through learning, support and advocacy and, of course, communication accessibility.