DAQL’s Founders and Board of Members:

DAQL consists of individuals who believes in their prime purpose is to help others. They have the same goal to end mental health stigma and addiction in Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities by building a strong support system, community education, and sharing community resources.

  • A young Japanese man smiling with a mohawk wearing a dark blue suit with yellow and stripe tie as well as light blue dress shirt standing behind the flowers in the background.

Makoto Ikegami is the Co-Founder of Deaf Access to Quality Life (DAQL). Dr. Ikegami has the desire to deliver culturally and linguistically competent mental health services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing populations and reduce their experiences of communication disparities in the healthcare system, especially mental health services. While Dr. Ikegami is involved in the development of DAQL, he is also the ASL Therapist for one of CaringWorks’s residential programs, Hope House, which is a program for men who are seeking recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction. Dr. Ikegami’s responsibilities at Hope House include assessment, psycho-education, and individual and family psychotherapy for deaf and hard of hearing members. Prior to joining CaringWorks, Dr. Ikegami worked for 8 years at PAHrtners Deaf Services providing case management and outpatient therapy to deaf and hard of hearing people with mental health concerns. Dr. Ikegami received his MSW from Gallaudet University in 2009 and received his DSW from Walden University in 2019. The title of his dissertation was Social Workers’ Experiences with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People with Mental Illness. Dr. Ikegami is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) for the states of Pennsylvania, Florida, and Georgia. Dr. Ikegami has made a number of presentations related to addiction and mental health and serves as a Board Member at Large for The American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association (ADARA) and an Advisory Committee Member for BRIDGES Deaf Advocacy Program: Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence (GCADV).

Rod Godwin, COO

Rod Goodwin is a co-founder of Deaf Access to Quality Life, Inc. Mr. Goodwin is a seasoned, hands-on executive with over 25 years of financial, operational, and strategic human resource management experience. Mr. Goodwin currently serves as the Assistant Regional Director for Operations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Michigan. He is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and as a Society of Human Resource Management – Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). Mr. Goodwin helps organizations leverage talent, technology, and resources to achieve operational excellence. His core competencies are strategic & operational planning, financial management, audit management, human resource management, change management, information technology, HR policy development, EEO and diversity, and business operations.

Karen Bonner, Chair

Karen Bonner, from Snellville, GA, is a Board Member of the DAQL team. Although a Georgia native, Karen has worked in the Knoxville, TN and Eastern Shore, MD areas serving the D/HH population in group home and residential programs before returning to Georgia.  Her experience in this area is what drives her in advocating for accessible housing and transitional programs for our D/HH population. For the last 10 years, Karen has worked for the State of Georgia, serving in different positions at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf and currently on the Mental Health Team as a Behavior Specialist. She has also worked for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities as a Communication Specialist.  Karen is graduate of the BSW program of University of Tennessee and the Administration and Supervision Master’s program at Gallaudet University.
Karen draws her passion from connecting individuals to support systems that serve as a bridge toward their independence. Karen is excited for the future of Georgia through DAQL. 

Brian Leffler, Vice Chair

Brian Leffler is currently residing in Athens, GA, and works as an ASL Lecturer at University of Georgia. Presently provides administrative support to the DQAL team. A native from Buffalo, New York and has worked in the nonprofit community in Atlanta and about, namely with Georgia Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing and with Deaf-Blind Access of the South for the last seven years. He received a BA in Biology from Gallaudet University and a Masters in Deaf Education from McDaniel College, with a focus in education and change of the Deaf community. Brian developed a strong sense of devotion for the nonprofit sector as a beneficiary of an informal community outreach program for Deaf-Blind in Seattle, Washington 17 years ago. This experience gave him a deep appreciation for how nonprofits seek to improve the quality of life for our region in Georgia.

Jenna Morris, Secretary

Jenna Morris is the secretary and board member of DAQL. She lives in Augusta, GA. She grew up along the U.S./ Mexico border. She has a BA in Health Education from Ashford University and is currently completing a Master’s of Public Health at Liberty University. She currently works as non-profit consultant and grant writer for Gateway Grant Services. She is experienced in research, fundraising, grant writing, program planning and evaluation, and statistical analysis. She is Hard of Hearing and has two (and a half) kids, with one child who is also Hard of Hearing. She is passionate about education, access to mental health care services, and providing language inclusion for Deaf/Hard of Hearing children

DeAnna Swope, Treasurer

DeAnna Swope is the treasurer and board member of DAQL. DeAnna holds a BA in Social and Criminal Justice as well as an MA in Public Administration from Ashford University. Deanna’s passion has always been empowering others and advocating for those who have no voice. DeAnna wears so many hats. DeAnna’s currently working for BRIDGES as the program manager that provides a direct service toward Deaf and Hard of Hearing survivors. DeAnna is also a current vice president and director of Deaf Women’s Outreach for I Am My Sister’s Strength Inc. DeAnna is a certified life coach for Diamond Speaks LLC. DeAnna has been involved on several boards and is looking forward to seeing DAQL thrive.

Christie McBree, Board Member

Robert Green, Advisor

Robert “Bob” Green was born deaf. He has twin sister who is blind. Bob grew up in San
Diego, CA. He went to California School for the Deaf in Riverside, CA. After he
graduated from high school, he attended Gallaudet University. He received BA in
Psychology. He was employed with State of Georgia for 34 years. His last position was
State Coordinator of Deaf-Blind under Georgia Department of Labor/ Vocational
Rehabilitation Program. He is retired since 2012.
Bob was involved in Deaf and Deaf-Blind communities here in Georgia for many years
such as Georgia Association of the Deaf, Georgia Association of the Deaf-Blind, Deaf-
Blind Access of the South, Total Living Community, Georgia Advisory for Deaf-Blind
and many more. He was chair of Georgia Association of the Deaf Conference three times
– 1985 (75th anniversary), 1993 and 2009 (100th anniversary.
Bob worked as part-time American Sign Language instructor at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston, GA from 1986 to 2015. He also worked as part-time as ASL Activity Coordination at Hope House that was under Caring Works, Inc. Bob has been married to Karen since 1991 and has two grown adopted sons. He also has five cats!

Introduction of DAQL:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Co-Founders Dr. Makoto Ikegami and Rod Goodwin, are delighted to announce the new 501c3 public nonprofit’s launch of Deaf Access to Quality Life.  As a social assistance organization, our mission is to enhance the quality of life of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) people by: 

  1. Providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services; and
  2. Advocating for accessibility and fostering empowerment.

Deaf Access to Quality of Life will offer a continuum of mental health care, allowing clients to move through different levels of care and participate in the greater community at all levels.  

Projected programs and services will include:

  1. Psychiatric Treatment (Psychiatric Evaluation)
  2. Psychological Testing (Psychological Evaluation)
  3. Community Residential Rehabilitation (Supportive Housing for People with Serious Mental Illness)
  4. Community Living Arrangements (Supportive Housing for People with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities)
  5. Case Management (Engagement & Need Identification, Care Coordination, Referral & Linkage, Monitoring, and Follow-Up)
  6. Medication Administration
  7. Psychosocial Rehabilitation (Teach Independent Life Skills in a variety of community settings such as homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices, stores, banks, etc.)
  8. Individual Counseling
  9. Family/Couples Counseling
  10. Peer Support

Program prioritization will be dependent on the outcomes of needs assessment and grant funding. Still, our ultimate goal is to provide effective cross-disciplinary services, which will result in the best care for our clients.

We need your talent, ideas, donations, and grant writing expertise.

We want to ensure that Deaf Access to Quality Life is a caring and responsive organization. We would love to discuss ways to better support and empower the DHH Community!  If you are interested in providing advice and support, please contact Makoto Ikegami at (678) 999-3032 through videophone or email at makoto.ikegami@daql.org.  If you have any suggestions or guidance concerning relevant funding opportunities, or if you have expertise in grant writing, please contact Rod Goodwin at (202) 904-7892 or email at rod.goodwin@daql.org.  We appreciate your support and look forward to working with you.


Co-Founders: Makoto Ikegami, DSW, MSW, LCSW & Rod Goodwin, MBA, SPHR


Before the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed, many Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) people struggled to access both public and private, government and community resources available to all citizens, including mental health services. Over the course of many years DHH people, their families, and concerned organizations have filed lawsuits in several states including Missouri, South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia in an effort to expand and secure access to those services. And it is largely because of those lawsuits that these states were able to develop specialized mental health and substance abuse services. And as evidenced by these suits, there continues to be a need to remove the barriers that exist so that DHH people can have equal access to mental health services in the United States. 

In 2011, the State of Georgia reached a settlement with two deaf adults (Renita Belton and Matthew Erickson), who were profoundly mentally ill and developmentally disabled. Because of their deafness, they were denied access to mental health services unlike individuals without such disabilities. According to the court documents, it is estimated that Georgia has approximately 3,387 deaf individuals who also suffer from severe mental illness. Many hundreds of deaf Georgians have been denied both basic and meaningful support from public health services. Deaf individuals are still not able to receive therapeutic benefits from group mental health facilities because of the lack of ASL (American Sign Language)-trained staff. Georgia has no group home facilities designed to accommodate DHH individuals who have a mental illness. There was a follow-up hearing on September 17, 2018, and Judge Richard W. Story expressed concern about the lack of accessible mental health services for DHH people in Georgia. We must recognize the need for mental health and substance abuse services for DHH people. At the same time, we must address the struggle of many states and service providers to recruit and maintain professionals with the cultural and linguistic competencies to work with deaf and hard of hearing people.

The National Association of the Deaf has made several position statements about mental health services for DHH people. They have asserted that DHH people in the United States need to access mental health services through direct communication. There is a lack of recognition of the cultural and linguistic needs of deaf and hard of hearing people with serious mental illness in accessing healthcare providers at the state level. Also, there is a lack of coordination with academic institutions that educate and train mental health professionals to become culturally and linguistically competent to meet this population’s needs. These deficiencies in state policies have continued to be significant issues at the state level and below.

Because this situation continues to exist, in 2019, Deaf Access to Quality Life (DAQL) was founded to empower the Deaf community in Georgia to address the challenges faced by a lack of culturally and linguistically competent mental health services for DHH people. Even today, the needs of DHH people with serious mental illness have continued to be unaddressed. There are still unresolved social justice issues, which continue to disadvantage DHH people with serious mental illness who are already largely disadvantaged, vulnerable, and underprivileged.

In addition to offering mental health services for DHH people in Georgia, DAQL acts as a launching pad to provide empowerment and advocacy to help members in the Deaf community obtain safe and appropriate accommodations and have reasonable and competent access to the full range of available services. DAQL recognizes the necessity and importance of generating more professional education opportunities for mental health professionals to develop clinical practice skills. DAQL will enhance knowledge about DHH people with serious mental illness, especially appropriate and effective interventions for those who have language dysfluency. DAQL will also address the lack of education and training opportunities for professionals working with this population. There is a need to address the lack of understanding of Deaf culture in a society that harms the dignity and rights of DHH people with serious mental illness. DAQL demonstrates leadership to advance cultural competence within and beyond our organization, challenging institutional oppression and building and sustaining inclusive institutions and communities. DAQL is committed to being a social change agent that demonstrates the leadership skills required to work effectively within families, schools, service providers, and organizations that lack specialized knowledge about DHH people with serious mental illness.

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