Wavefront Centre comes from humble beginnings in BC. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, two distinct groups existed for people with hearing loss and deafness – the Vancouver Adult Deaf Association (VADA) and the Vancouver League for the Hard of Hearing (VLHH). These groups addressed the social, recreational, and self-help needs of their members. But in 1950, a local Vancouver Quota Club committee investigated what more could be done to help all people with hearing issues, whether they were Deaf, Deafened, Deafblind, or Hard of Hearing.
The result was the formation of a new society borne out of VADA and VLHH in 1956. Both groups kept their own identities but supported the new entity – the Society for the Advancement of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (the “Society”). This Society was incorporated on February 9th, 1956. The Society drew representatives from the Quota Club, the Parent-Teacher Association of Jericho Hill School for the Deaf, and Metropolitan Health Services. Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons were elected to the Society’s first Board of Directors.
From 1956 to 1960, the Society was devoted to creating an organization that could address the needs and concerns of its constituents and laid the groundwork for today’s Counselling and Sign Language Interpreting services. The Society purchased its first headquarters at a little house on Main and 18th. As the organization grew, its name was eventually changed to the Western Institute of the Deaf (WID) in 1965. In 1966, WID hired its first Audiologist to assist individuals with hearing aid needs. WID continued to grow in its vision and its services and realizing it was outgrowing its current space, WID sold its home and upgraded to larger premises in 1969.
In the 1980s, WID decided to develop income-generating options to support the organization’s free community programs, so the Audiology Department was authorized to start selling hearing aids as a social enterprise. WID also began to sell assistive devices beyond hearing aids in what is known today as the Communication Devices Showroom. Then in 1989, WID’s name was changed to the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WIDHH) to better reflect the true scope and diversity of all the individuals that we continue to serve today.
In 2007, WIDHH opened its first satellite office on Willow Street and Broadway. This location was needed to address the growing waitlist for Audiology clients at its West 7th Head office location.
In 2010, WIDHH opened its second satellite office in Port Coquitlam. This location serves both Audiology and Employment Counselling Services clients who live in the Tricities and Fraser Valley regions.
Over the years, WIDHH’s Head Office in Kitsilano began showing its age and was no longer able to accommodate the growing needs of the community we served. In 2002, early discussions began to find a new space and over the next several years, several consultations and feasibility studies took place, and real estate options were explored. In 2015, WIDHH formally embarked on a capital campaign project. A prospective location on 4th and Quebec was found, and discussions ensued over the next several years. In 2018, WIDHH entered into a formal sales agreement to construct a new, purpose-built facility on 4th and Quebec. This new office was completed and opened to the public in October 2019. See our Capital Campaign section to learn more about our new building.
In the preparatory work for the capital campaign, research showed WIDHH needed to develop stronger name recognition with the public. Therefore in 2018, a rebranding process was initiated to develop a new name and fresh identity for WIDHH. On July 23, 2019, WIDHH launched its rebranded name and website, Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility. Our new name respects our origins in Beautiful BC and our proud history. At the same time, the new brand reflects our vision and our outlook for the future. See our Rebranding Story to find out more about how the name Wavefront Centre came to be.
Wavefront Centre now serves over 16,000 clients and has expanded programming in a multitude of areas. Through innovative employment, interpreting, hearing health and communication device services, Wavefront Centre strives to help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing achieve full communication accessibility through the work of the following departments:
- Audiology (hearing clinic)
- Employment Counselling and Job Finding Resource Centre
- Seniors Outreach
- Sign Language Interpreting
- Clinical Research
- Lend an Ear, hearing aid loan program, for low-income clients
- Communication Devices showroom
- Communications and Marketing
- Speechreading classes
- Community presentations
Through this unique platform of key services, Wavefront Centre is changing the communication landscape for individuals who have previously been limited by barriers. Our vision is a society where Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing individuals can interact freely without communication barriers.
With the recent move into our new purpose-built facility, Wavefront Centre is proudly leading an endeavour that will set new benchmarks for communication accessibility.