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Osprey Media. – Belleville Intelligencer

Official thinks program a good idea

By Samantha Craggs
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A one-year transitional program at Sir James Whitney School for deaf students preparing for university is an interesting idea, says the local area services co-ordinator for the Canadian Hearing Society.

A new study by former Loyalist College president Douglas Auld proposes a residential program designed to tear down barriers and decrease the drop-out rate of deaf students in post-secondary education. Such a program, if it came to fruition, should focus programming on literacy, said Anna Strati-Morrison.

“Currently in this region, there are no literacy programs funded for the deaf community,” she said.

Auld’s report, ‘Creating a New Post Secondary Institution to Improve the Learning Experience for the Deaf, Deafened and Hard of Hearing Students in Ontario: A Feasibility Study’ was recently submitted to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students still lag behind their hearing counterparts when it comes to university success, as do their unemployment rates, because the system does not meet their needs, Auld said.

One of the largest barriers is the lack of American Sign Language/English interpreters in the education system, said Strati-Morrison. She would like to see colleges and universities standardize interpreter qualifications for students.

“The Canadian Hearing Society has a screening process for interpreters which include education, skills testing and an interview,” she said. “Something similar should be established by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.”

The lack of qualified interpreters keeps deaf students unemployed and underemployed, she said.

“Our community needs to be open to education about the unique needs of the deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing people,” she said. “There are still many myths out there about the deaf community, for example that we are incompetent and unable to communicate.”

Auld’s report concluded that even if deaf university and college students attending U.S. schools were to return, Ontario could not afford a deaf-only university. Instead, said the University of Guelph professor, the province should establish a two-semester program

“Current and past approaches have not worked as well as they should and there is now a moral obligation on the part of Ontario to take bold action to assist these students,” the report reads.

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