Celebrating 35 years, HLAA will honor Rocky Stone, Tom Harkin at 2015 convention

David Kirkwood
May 18, 2015
Rocky Stone

Rocky Stone

ST. LOUIS–The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) will celebrate the late Howard E. “Rocky” Stone, its charismatic founder, and also honor former Senator Tom Harkin, another hero of the disability rights movement, during its annual convention June 25-28 at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel.



Since last fall, America’s leading consumer advocacy group for the hard of hearing has been celebrating the 35th anniversary of its founding by Rocky Stone. Stone, who suffered hearing loss during military service in World War II, began the organization, originally named Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH), because of the urgent need he saw to empower millions to help themselves to lead more fulfilling lives despite their hearing loss.

(Information on the convention and registering for it is available from HLAA.)

Rocky Stone, left, receives the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA's highest honor, in 1975, from  CIA Director William Colby. Photo courtesy of Stone Family.

Rocky Stone, left, receives the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA’s highest honor, in 1975, from CIA Director William Colby. Photo courtesy of Stone Family.

HLAA’s celebration will culminate Saturday evening, June 27 at an anniversary banquet with the theme “Rocky Stone: Operation 35,” a reference to Stone’s colorful career as a CIA operative before he started SHHH in 1979. Pointing to the importance of what Stone, who died in 2004, started, Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of HLAA, said, 

“So many of our members say HLAA changed their lives, saved their marriage, or provided the tools to sustain their career.”



Tom Harkin will receive the HLAA Advocacy Hall of Fame Award during the Opening Session of the convention on Thursday, June 25. Harkin, who represented Iowa in the U.S. Senate from 1985 through 2014, played a leading role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which for a quarter century has protected the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace, education, and public places.

Tom Harkin

Tom Harkin

The challenges that people with hearing loss face hold a special place in Harkin’s heart because his late brother, whom he grew up with, had that disability.



HLAA will present the National Access Award to Randy Smith, chief administrative officer and counsel of Regal Entertainment Group, for Regal’s efforts to make movie going accessible to everyone, including the hard of hearing. The Access Award recognizes individuals or organizations whose work significantly improves communication access for people with hearing loss on a national scale.

During an Awards Breakfast on June 28, Microsoft will receive HLAA’s Outstanding Employer Award, which acknowledges companies and agencies that have “gone beyond token compliance with ADA specifications to ensure an optimal environment that enables people with hearing loss to function in the workplace at their maximum capability.”

HLAA’s annual convention will also feature exhibits of products and services, workshops and other educational programs, and social events.

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