Five Strategies for Supporting Deaf Student Interns

Published on May 10, 2024

Are you involved in supporting deaf students through their internships or fieldwork? Maybe you’re a career counselor, a teacher, or a parent looking to support a deaf student’s journey into the professional world. Or you might even be a student looking for ways to self-advocate as you begin or continue your internship journey. No matter your role, supporting deaf interns as they take steps toward their future careers is a crucial component to their success. Here are five strategies to ensure they have every opportunity to thrive:

1

Check with your deaf intern to discover what this looks like for them. Imagine trying to navigate a new internship without clear communication. It would be like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces! For deaf interns, communication access is paramount. Some examples include utilizing on-demand video interpreting, as well as promoting the use of an office wide instant messaging system for people to easily communicate with coworkers. Establish an environment of open communication between the intern and their supervisors to ensure everyone is on the same page.

What You Can Do: Arrange accommodations like sign language interpreters, captioning services, or assistive technology—and do so in advance! Need support with coordinating services? Take our online module: Coordinating Services for Deaf Students! For more tips, watch our Accommodate Internships Too video!

2

Knowledge is power, right? Educate employers and colleagues about deaf culture and communication strategies. Break down misconceptions and promote inclusion. Take our Deaf 101 online module, raise your deaf awareness, and communicate strategies with your team.

What You Can Do: Raise awareness and keep your own attitudes and biases in check to create a supportive environment where deaf interns can thrive without barriers.

3

No two deaf interns are alike. Some may prefer sign language, while others rely on written communication. Be flexible and adaptable to their individual needs. Consider ways in which you can utilize Universal Design principles—share meeting notes, caption your training videos, and more.

What You Can Do: Flexibility is key! Allow for alternative ways to demonstrate skills and contribute to projects. Flexibility fosters confidence and allows deaf interns to showcase their talents effectively.

4

A mentor can be a guiding light in the professional world. Pair deaf interns with mentors who understand their unique challenges and strengths. A mentor can offer advice, support, and valuable networking opportunities. Through mentorship, deaf interns gain confidence and valuable insights that will benefit them throughout their careers, especially in fields such as healthcare.

What You Can Do: Watch our webinar to learn the impact of mentorship from deaf student perspectives! Find someone that can serve as the deaf interns’ mentor and work closely with them or connect them with others in the field. This ensure that deaf interns have access to the daily networking experience to gain info that could help them on their career track

5

Imagine walking into a workplace where you feel valued and included. That’s the kind of environment every intern deserves. DS offices and employers should check in frequently with deaf interns on how things are going, whether they are receiving adequate communication access, and whether or not they are encountering any challenges/barriers to their work.

What You Can Do: Foster inclusivity by promoting accessible resources, encouraging teamwork, and celebrating individuality. When deaf interns feel like they belong, they can fully focus on their work and reach their full potential. Check out our Deaf Postsecondary Access and Inclusion Scale report to learn about the three categories of access, belonging, and affirmation, and identify ways to create a more inclusive environment.

Supporting deaf student interns isn’t just about meeting basic needs—it’s about creating an environment where they can thrive and excel. By implementing these strategies, you play a crucial role in shaping the future of deaf professionals. Don’t forget: checking-in with your deaf interns is key! To learn more about additional strategies you can implement, funding for accommodations, and resources for interns, and to connect with others in similar situations, check out our Community Forum. Let’s work together to build a world where all interns, regardless of their hearing status, have equal opportunities to succeed!

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Useful For: Administrators, Audiologists, Disability Services Professionals, Employers, Students, Teachers, Vocational Rehabilitation Professionals

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