Sunday, June 12, 2011

Deaf Students In College

You sit in a classroom full of students, rolling your eyes looking ubiquitously. You are like a black sheep, different from all of the other students in the class. You are the only one that cannot understand what is going on. Who are you? This is the life of a deaf student and what deaf students experience in college. They face many struggles attending colleges. Most people have a little understanding of what it really is like being deaf while also attending a hearing school. There are many barriers that deaf students face in college.
What would it be like for you to not have the ability to enroll in any class that you want to take? This is what deaf students experience during college enrollment. Deaf students cannot enroll in any class they want to unless they first go to the Office of Disability Services  in order to get approved for accommodations. If the student decides to change their mind and adjust their schedule they would have to go to the Office of Disability Services again. Unfortunately, the new altered schedule may not get approved. The office might tell the deaf student that they do not have interpreters available for the new student’s schedule. This is one of the biggest setbacks I have experienced while going to college; I do not have the ability to register for classes and change my schedule when I want to. For example, last semester the Office of Disability Services  informed me that I have to change my schedule, because they could not find a captioner to accommodate me according to my course plan. It was the last few days before the semester started, so I was terribly worried about how I could change my schedule. What would have happened if the courses I wanted and was able to take were completely full?  probably i would have missed my classes, or I would have to had to changed my work schedules which would not have been possible. This is something that we-deaf students, have to deal with in college.
Although deaf students now get the accommodations they need for classes, they have also to face difficulties in the learning environment. As a deaf student myself, it is very challenging to understand the lecture that the teacher is giving. Even with a sign language interpreter, it is still difficult to learn the course material. You have to focus on both the teacher and interpreter. If only we could have two brains and four eyes to have the ability to see both people. Classroom learning is exceptionally complex when it comes to note taking. It is nearly impossible for a deaf student to take notes that the teacher writes on the board while also paying attention to what the sign language interpreter is signing. if they want to take notes they would have to miss what the teacher explaining. Not all the information that the average hearing student receives would be received by the deaf student, even with an interpreter. In addition, deaf students also have difficulties trying to understand when there are conversations and student/teacher discussions in the class. Deaf students are always left behind because they are unable to fully participate and communicate using speech. Despite these obscurities, deaf students continue their studies while trying to be like the average college student.
One simple idea that many hearing students take for granted is socializing and communication. Socializing is something that deaf college students lack. Usually the deaf student depends on socializing through sign language clubs that occasionally meet on campus. If there are no clubs then deaf students are left without access to the socializing world, and can sadly become depressed and have the feeling of being left out. Unlike hearing students, deaf students face hard times communicating with their classmates and teachers.For example I took three classes last semester. There were almost  one hundred students in those classes, and I made no friends from those classes.  It is normal for the typical deaf students to experience difficulties getting to know their classmates and making friends. It is surprising that hearing students in college think that they cannot become friends with the deaf students. Usually it is because they don’t know sign language and, therefore, they think that they are not able to talk to the deaf. This is not true. Communicating with deaf students does not require the knowledge of sign language. As long as you want to get to know someone, it should not matter whether or not you know sign language. Hearing and deaf students can always communicate by writing to each other using pen and paper or by typing to each other on a computer.
Hearing people have an advantage because they can learn sign language. Even if they go to deaf colleges like Gallaudet University or National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), hearing students do not struggle as much as deaf students do, because they can always learn the language and have the best of both worlds. Deaf students cannot have the best of both worlds because they cannot learn to hear or listen. So that is why there are interpreters for the deaf to help deaf to communicate with the hearing world.
Students should understand that talking to or communicating with a deaf person does not require knowing sign language. Students and teachers need to understand that deaf students are not that different from other students. There is no telling the difference between being deaf and hearing except that the deaf person is unable to talk or hear. The deaf students are not less intelligent than hearing students. The deaf student is much more patient than what most people think. Remember how you would feel if you had to deal with all of those stresses?


  1. Hi there! First let me thank you for becoming a follower on my blog. : ) Secondly, I love your blog post. I know it can be frustrating and people can be insensitive. i have an idea. I saw that you can install this program on your laptop where when the teacher is speaking it records it and types it for you. I have thought about getting it myself. It seems like a pretty cool program. Secondly, can't your teachers give you a copy of their notes? Just a thought there.

    Lastly, the school shouldn't make you adjust your schedule because they "can't find someone" I bet you they can but they don't want to pay the money for one. But i am pretty sure it is in a law somewhere that they accomodate you. Not for you to accomodate them.

  2. Leigh
    you are more than welcome. And a program that can be installed in my laptop which can record and type it? I never heard about that program. what is is ?
    I was writing about general experience of deaf students in college. It is not just something that I only experienced. Most deaf students who goto college have to deal kind of what I have experienced. BTW, I am going to NTID this fall where everyone can communicate with me effectively. So I am no longer worrying about it.

  3. Hello! I am a college instructor with my first deaf student in the twelve years I've been teaching. He is enrolled in Communications (journalism, media production) and I went online to learn more about deaf students and people in general. It seems the signers have to also be very good. I wish that I could just communicate with my student outside of class because it's so hard to really not know anything about him. I thought maybe I should send him an email to start talking because I'm very friendly with all my students and I wish I knew how to be a better teacher for him. I want him to succeed but the writing is difficult. Do deaf students have a harder time knowing how to use verb tenses? Does sign language include tenses? Are there different ways to differentiate past and present tenses or are there different symbols? Are there sites that could help me understand better? Would you be interested in talking with me in email? My email is if you care to help me because I may not ever know if or when you might reply to this...

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