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Donald M. Tinsley
Community advocate

Donald M. Tinsley, Sr. is a veteran community advocate—well-known in and outside of Indiana’s Deaf community. He’s a quiet kind of leader, not given to talking about his own accomplishments.

An alumnus of Indiana School for the Deaf, he studied at NTID and received his Associate’s degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) in December 1976, then, as he notes, “worked as Electronic and Engineering Technician at seven different companies for 18 years.”

Since 1995, he been Program Director of Indiana Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS). He has served on the Culture Inclusion Committee for the Governor’s Planning Council for People with Disabilities (GCPD from 1993 to 1998, and chaired of the Relay Indiana Consumer Advisory Committee. He graduated from GCPD’s Partners in Policymaking Academy (PIP) in 1994.

He founded the Indianapolis chapter of National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA)—Indianapolis Black Deaf Advocates—and served as its first president from 1994 to 1996. He chaired NBDA’s 16th Biennial Conference in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2002, he served as NBDA’s Treasurer.

When Sprint opened Relay Indiana in 1993, Tinsley served on the Consumer Advisory Committee (RICAC) for the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation (InTRAC) from 1993 to 1997, and chaired RICAC from 1995 to 1997.

He was elected vice president of the Indiana Association of the Deaf (IAD) in 1999. In April 2003, he made history at the IAD’s biennial conference, when he was elected its first Black president; he served for two years.

Currently, he is a member of IAD’s Board of Directors. He continues to volunteer for his community. In 2005, he was recognized by NBDA for his accomplishments. He also received the NAD’s 2006 Robert Greenmun Award for his excellence in leadership and contributions to the IAD.

He and his wife Gloria, an alumna of Tennessee School for the Deaf, have two grown hearing children: Don Jr., a branch manager for Rent-A-Center in Indianapolis, and Rebecca, who earned her doctorate in Biochemistry in 2006 from University of Michigan, and works at Colgate-Palmolive in New Jersey. Don and Gloria also have two grandchildren: Destiny, 12, and Donald Tinsley III, 7.

He graduated from Aenon Bible College in Indianapolis in 1991, becoming an ordained minister, and conducts an energetic Deaf Ministry at local churches. He notes proudly, “I’ve ministered to the Deaf Community for approximately 25 years,through teaching Sunday School classes for the Deaf, leading home Bible studies, and helping to establish Deaf ministries at several churches. Currently, I’m the Deaf Ministry leader at Mount Zion Apostolic Church in Indianapolis.” Mount Zion hosts an annual Deaf Ministry Conference for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing locals, “to empower the Deaf with the gospel.” It includes a “workshop designed to teach and train interpreters in a manner that demonstrates a respect for Deaf culture and language.”

In the secular sphere, he has given numerous presentations on Deaf and Black Deaf Culture, Black Deaf History, the ADA, and Deaf Leadership training. Recently, he conducted an illuminating and enjoyable workshop on anti-discrimination legislation at the Pre-Conference Institute of the First National Deaf People of Color Conference in Indianapolis.

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