By Lisa Marino, Brock University
“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to Foster, Long and Snell (1999), the enrollment number in higher education for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (D/HH) has increased specifically in mainstream settings. Even with increased enrollment, an issue noted by Myers and Taylor (2000) is that between two-thirds and three-quarters of D/HH students never graduate once they begin their post-secondary studies. As a result of high enrollment, an increasing sense of inclusivity in a classroom for these students is needed. In the case that an inclusive environment is achieved, students will have equal opportunity access to the curriculum while being a member of a school community.
With the unique sociocultural context of post-secondary atmospheres, students face a tremendous adjustment when attending mainstream higher education institutions. There are significant problems among D/HH students such as a high dropout rate and increased experiences of depression and loneliness (Cheng, Hu & Sin, 2016). We have come a long way from trying to figure out accommodation methods; the issue is now the appropriate use of these and the increase of support each D/HH student is receiving. Foster et al. (1999) comment that services are provided such as interpreters, note takers, and tutors. Through these third-party services, students are still lacking the clarity and immediacy of a teacher-to-student or student-student interaction (Long, Vignare, Rappold & Mallory, 2007). The overall issue is the quality of higher education life among D/HH students.
The majority of student attend higher education with the hopes of achieving career readiness and skills to land a well-paying job. Success in higher education has a significant impact on the future employment among D/HH individuals who often enter the workforce feeling unprepared (Smith, 2004). Today’s modern workforce is a complex aim for any and even more so for D/HH students.
Nagle, Newman, Shaver, and Marschark (2016) note that D/HH students are taking fewer courses than hearing students. Therefore, D/HH students are at a disadvantage when reaching the workplace because their academic background knowledge is limited. The underemployment of D/HH individuals suggests why this issue needs to be addressed in order to encourage the focus on their future careers.
Delaney (2017) explores the idea that many post-secondary institutions are not reaching out to draw more D/HH students to campuses. A useful tool for rethinking the way to approach support issues is the minority model (Smith & Andrews, 2015). The minority model encourages self-advocate and resistance of ableism among people with disabilities. This connects to viewing D/HH individuals as a linguistic minority rather than a category of people with disabilities. It is important to note that deafness is not itself a learning disability. These students are more visual and process information differently from hearing students (Heffernan & Cradden, 2017).
In my opinion, a possible solution is increasing the number of mainstream environments in K-12 school settings, therefore, the expectations of post-secondary institutions are to also provide similar support. D/HH students report issues communicating with faculty and support services and outline the limited chances for social interactions between their hearing peers (Smith, 2004). Similarly to hearing students, D/HH crave the personal integration into the social fabric of campus life and suggest these limitations play a role in their academics (Smith, 2004). Therefore, I suggest extracurricular activities that D/HH students can relate to. D/HH students’ sense of belonging is lacking but encouraging these interactions will result in a strong sense of social success and satisfaction (Antia, Stinson & Gaustad, 2002).
Rather than increasing the ability to “treat” deafness, closing the divide between the D/HH and the hearing world will decrease. Positive support and academic and social experiences in higher education encourages persistence for D/HH post-secondary students. The future for D/HH students in mainstream learning environments depends on more and accurate research. Delaney (2017) mentions the need for research to draw on the students ready to learn and provide voices on issues surrounding D/HH students. Moving toward, respect among D/HH students in higher education will be the result of offered accessible resources.
Higher education should look at K-12 inclusive environments to similarly offer all students the support they need. I argue that we must evaluate the way higher education serves D/HH students and smoothly integrates them into our loud society. These improvements are essential to keep in mind as enrollment increases among D/HH students.
Antia, S. D., Stinson, M. S., & Gaustad, M. G. (2002). Developing membership in the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in inclusive settings. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 7(3), 214-229.
Cheng, S., Hu, X., & Sin, K. F. (2016). Thinking styles of university deaf or hard of hearing students and hearing students. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 55, 377-387.
Delaney, C. (2017). Letter to the editor: The university under represents deaf students. The Daily Illini. Retrieved from https://dailyillini.com/opinions/2017/05/04/letter-editor-university-represents-deaf-students/
Foster, S., Long, G., & Snell, K. (1999). Inclusive instruction and learning for deaf students in postsecondary education. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 4(3), 225-235.
Heffernan, C., & Cradden, J. (2017). Deaf children and their families fight to be heard. Irish Times. Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/deaf-children-and-their-families-fight-to-be-heard-1.3199975
Myers, M. J. & Taylor, E. M. (2000). Best practices for deaf and hard of hearing student success in postsecondary education. Journal of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association, 34, 13–28.
Smith, D. H., & Andrews, J. F. (2015). Deaf and hard of hearing faculty in higher education: enhancing access, equity, policy, and practice. Disability & Society, 30(10), 1521-1536.
Smith, J. A. (2004). Deaf students in collegiate mainstream programs. Deaf Studies Today! 1, 289-305.