The very first time I had a deaf student, they said, “You’re my first deaf teacher.” It stopped me in my tracks. I had to suppress my feelings and function like a professor. I wanted the class to hurry up and finish, so then I could break down and cry. At the same time, I wanted to implore that student, “Do you know how lucky you are?” In this student’s mind, she sees that there are so few deaf faculty out there. There just isn’t representation. In fact, there is under-representation in general – in all career fields. For example, when I share that I have a background in archaeology, students are astounded because so many stories go untold. It does not occur to them that deaf can. We can do things they never considered or even imagined.Researchers at National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) did a research synthesis that summarized the literature about role models for deaf people, Role Models as Facilitators of Social Capital for Deaf Individuals. This summary showed that having access to role models is critical in the development of deaf people’s social capital. They help provide deaf youth with connections and networks, like getting a job or learning a particular skill or trade. Finding these connections, however, was made more difficult by the pandemic. That’s why NDC is here to help, with strategies to find this vital resource in our increasingly online world.
Connecting with Role Models OnlineConnecting with people, in general, has been difficult due to COVID-19. This has resulted in an increased reliance on technology to get access to information, and people. While fostering role model connections in person is ideal, leveraging available online resources and technology is becoming another viable option to build these connections. There are benefits to incorporating online or virtual resources into role model programming and activities. For example, through NDC’s EFC | state initiative, the South Carolina team uses a virtual platform to bring deaf role models to deaf students, their families, teachers, and other professionals — combating low expectations and other biases against deaf people. Once a month, they choose a professional to highlight, with the intention of showcasing diversity of people, professions, education, and skills.
Online Resources are Available!Many videos of deaf role models are online and available for you to use in your program — check out our video library, and additional resources below: Video Resources:
- Black Deaf Center: Personal Stories
- Council de Manos: Know Your Story
- DawnPress Signs: Deaf Women and Role Models
- Deaf Spotlight Interviews with Deaf Artists (Facebook login required)
- DPAN: Real People
- National Association of the Deaf: Deaf at Work
- Past Preservers Spotlight: Amelia Dall, Archaeologist
- Silent Voice (CA): Deaf Role Models Page
- TED Talks:
- Deaf Action: Deaf role model videos (UK – note: in BSL with captions)
- Portrait Deaf Role Models in Africa: Documentary Videos (note: in different sign languages in Africa with captions)