:: The Cavalier Daily | Deaf at U. Va ::

Deaf at U. Va

Steve Austin, Cavalier Daily Associate Editor
Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ask third-year Engineering student Johnson Hu what it’s like to be shaken out of bed. Most students are used to starting the morning with the incessant ringing of an alarm clock. But Hu, part of the small but growing population of deaf students at the University, had his special clock installed by the University.

The University’s efforts to reach out to deaf students aren’t as high-profile as those of other, well-known programs, but they make a difference in the lives of students who need them.

The population of deaf students at the University currently consists of about 20 to 25 students, according to Gregory Propp, the deaf and hard of hearing service coordinator at the Learning Needs and Evaluation Center. But the number “has been creeping up the past several years.”

Leaving home for the first time, many students become more aware of the challenges of being deaf after starting their new lives on Grounds. Propp said the high school environment can be more accommodating, even though the University provides a range of services including “sign language interpretation to transcription, similar to what court stenographers produce.” Students might not have access to those services in high school, but what they do have — smaller classes and close-knit support network — is hard to replace.

Services provided by the University can be as involved as having “someone there in almost every class” or as simple as priority seating for hard-of-hearing students. The most common assistance provided by the University are hearing aides and LNEC note takers, according to Mark Laurent, president of Deafness Education and Awareness for all Students. He said there are fewer interpreters because “there isn’t enough support from U.Va.”

Life at the University extends beyond the classroom, however, and so do the resources and services provided for these students. Together with LNEC, Director of Housing Accommodations John Evans works closely with parents to purchase and install special equipment such as Hu’s non-audio alarm clock.

The services at LNEC have helped ease the communications between deaf/hard-of-hearing students and other students or professors, according to an email from Hu.

Deaf student Patrick Gildea, a first-year Engineering student, noted that he has had less helpful experiences with LNEC.

“Not everyone there is willing to help and you have to be really assertive,” he stated in an e-mail, noting that he often has had to quote the Americans with Disabilities Act to get what he needed from the center.

The American Sign Language department exists as another academic resource for the deaf population of the University. But, as Hu can attest, many deaf students do not utilize ASL classes because they are already fluent. Continue

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