As an advocate and leader, she's acquired a national reputation
Sheri Farinha, CEO of NorCal Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, is known throughout the California Deaf community (and beyond) as a veteran leader and advocate—and an effective one to have on our side.
She's from a mainstreamed background, a supportive, politically-involved family, and originally planned to become a teacher. But Larry Fleischer told her she wouldn't last a week. "Sheri," he told her, "you're an advocate at heart." He introduced her to the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD), where she learned and honed her skills as an advocate.
She has always worked as apart of a team, and given credit to her teammates. For example, she spearheaded the passage of the Deaf Child's Bill of Rights, which takes into account the language needs of each child when an IEP is being developed.
The fight against AB 2072, an unbalanced bill devised by a coalition of oral schools and the audiological/medical lobby and supported by an unscrupulous legislator, was grueling and frustrating, but the Deaf community prevailed, and the bill, which would have made the oralist coalition's agenda state law, was ultimately vetoed. The California Stakeholders for ASL and English (CAL-SAE) is poised for the next battle.
Sheri Farinha's experience as a mother (she has two grown CODA children, Alexandra and Ryan) benefited the entire community. When Ryan, age 3, injured himself at home and Sheri called 911 on her TTY and got repeatedly hung up on, she was not only angry, but channeled her anger into determination to make sure that this didn't happen again to anyone. She has continued her E911 and telecommunications advocacy.
She looks back on her career with pride but knows that advocacy requires good teamwork and "100% commitment from start to finish." She has high praise for NorCal. As for her personal life, she admits to having a hobby—"politics, politics, and more politics!" And, when she can, shopping and spending time with her children, friends, and pets.