On Campus Experiences of a Student Who is Deaf

By: Aylin Dunham
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As reported originally by The Post of Athens, Ohio, Kirsten Pribula is a college student who lost her hearing at a young age due to an autoimmune inner ear disease. When deciding on a college, Kristen looked at Gallaudet University, a school that is specifically designed to accommodate students with all levels of hearing loss. Kristen was set on becoming a graphic design major, however, a subject that Gallaudet could not offer her. To pursue her dream of becoming a graphic designer, she chose to attend Ohio University, despite initial fears that she would be the campus’ only student who is Deaf.

Along with a handful of other students who are Deaf and attending OU, Kristen works with the Office of Student Accessibility Services to pursue the accommodations she needs, according to The Post article.  To remove barriers in the classroom, Kristen uses interpreters and notetakers. Occasionally if there is an assignment she is unable to complete, for example, if the assignment requires watching a video that is not captioned, the professor will give her an alternative project. Kristen expresses that she does not like this “special treatment” and wishes she could complete the same assignment as everyone else.

Outside the classroom, Kristen sometimes has problems communicating with her peers and participating in student life activities. Oftentimes initial conversations with other students can be awkward. Carey Busch, the assistant dean of student accessibility at OU, says there has been a lot more interest lately from students who are Deaf or hard of hearing students and want to participate in campus culture and events. Interpreters are not usually available at events or in club meetings, making student life an area where accommodation has a lot of room for growth.

Kristen and other students who are Deaf are increasingly selecting mainstream colleges rather than specialized schools like Gallaudet where they know accommodations will be 100% taken care of. Accessibility departments at universities all over the country have been hard at work to accommodate the influx of students with disabilities, but there is a lot more that can be done. Both in the learning environment and throughout campus culture, changes can be made to improve higher education experiences for students who are Deaf. Kristen wishes people would be more comfortable and open to accommodating her communication style, “they just have to work a little bit more because I’m the one working hard a lot.”

Read the complete article and interview with Kristin: Students who are deaf face challenges on campus