FOX 7 Discussion: First statewide Texas Deaf Chamber of Commerce

The United States' first state deaf Chamber of Commerce has been created in Texas. Jason Shaw, the president and chair for the Texas Deaf Chamber of Commerce, joined Mike Warren over Zoom to talk more about how this could help deaf-owned businesses in Texas.

Mike Warren: There is now a Chamber of Commerce specifically for deaf-owned businesses in Texas, and it's the first statewide deaf Chamber of Commerce in the US. Here to talk about this is Texas Deaf Chamber of Commerce president and chair Jason Shaw. Thank you for joining us. Frst question, why did you decide to create the Texas Death Chamber of Commerce? 

Jason Shaw: Yeah, very big question. Back in about 2012, I started my business as an electrician contracting service, and I saw a few other business owners that approached me and asked, do we have an organization of some sorts where we can unite and work together to find out there was nothing really official? There are a few networking, but nothing really official went to the governor's Small Business Forum and I noticed there that there were different Chamber of Commerce Department present and might like different Chamber of Commerce. And I found that they were all different, which is all one thing. So there were LGBT women, black businesses, things that would serve their community if they had the entire culture language and they understand each other better rather than having one larger entity. So I figured, why not have one for our community? Because we have so many deaf business owners 

Mike Warren: What kind of programs and services are you developing for different businesses? 

Jason Shaw: There are several initiatives that we have in place that there are two critical ones that I want to touch on. We have a mentoring program to be able to help not just business owners, but also people who want to just start a business. They don't know where to start. So we provide workshops and mentoring services to help them with starting up their business. The second one is an apprenticeship program. And you notice that in the deaf community from K through 12, we've got primary school like here we have Texas school for the Deaf here in Austin. But then at the college level that plays in between. I feel like there's a gap there. Something is missing and there's a lot of that. People are trying to go into different trades, like electrician training, like I'm in, for example, they go to a trade school and they attritional apprenticeship programs very resistant to providing access or having a purpose for that. So that's where we can set up an apprenticeship program to fill in that gap. And that was the first apprenticeship program nationwide.

Mike Warren: What would you say is the big difference between your organization and all the other chambers of commerce out there?

Jason Shaw: Typically, it's very simple, it's definitely for deaf people by deaf people,  

Mike Warren: You know, in what ways do you think the city of Austin could improve the economic climate for deaf-owned businesses? 

Jason Shaw: Sure, here in Austin alone, we actually have one hundred one deaf-owned businesses and 58 organizations, and that's that community. So how can Austin help but notice that one issue all the same? Boston as a whole has been great. But there is one weakness in a deficit that they notice. They have what's called this business enterprise for the city contract, for business owners to be able to have the ability to donate on jobs. And they don't have to worry about displaced people. People with disabilities like, for example, Houston, they do have that. So that is one part that I see improvement on the people that have disabilities and that people have more opportunities 

Mike Warren: Talking about the challenge that business owners face and deaf-owned business owners. Is there a separate challenge that the deaf-owned businesses face that hearing-owned businesses do not? 

Jason Shaw: Sure. One good example is like going to the banks, they want to get along, how are you going to provide the interpreters, is that on me or the other side of it? So that's where the Chamber of Commerce can come in and the Texas Chamber of Commerce, we can pool our money and resources that contract with government agencies to provide that type of access. 

Mike Warren: OK, we are out of time. Jason Shaw, I want to thank you for spending some time with us. And we wish to wish you the best of luck with this Chamber of Commerce. 

Jason Shaw: Thank you for having me. I very much appreciate it. OK.  

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