Deaf college students across the country continue to feel left out and overlooked on campus. In a report released last week by the National Deaf Center, deaf students rated accessibility at their campus at a 3.2 out of 5. Let’s change that.
Colleges provide accommodations to reduce barriers, yet this does not necessarily create equitable opportunities. Equity calls for inclusive practices in all settings, not just in one.
Now, disability support professionals, deaf students and faculty can learn how to use the ACCESS measurement tool to rate accessibility on their campus, and turn that rating into an achievable action plan to make improvements on campus.
“Improving Campus Access” is a free, self-guided, online course that walks participants through the ACCESS measurement tool and lays out clear, easy-to-follow tips for ensuring deaf students are getting an equitable college experience.
“Campuses must know what services they need to have ready,” said Ashlea Hays in a course video. “They should start thinking about various types of accessibility to have available; not only sign language interpreters but DeafBlind interpreters or SSPs (Support Service Providers).”
Hays adds that interpreters are only one piece of the puzzle. Not all deaf people use sign language, and many prefer other types of accommodations.
“What about other possible options?” she asked. “‘Deaf’ encompasses a wide spectrum. There is not one way to be deaf or DeafBlind.”
College campuses offer rich experiences for students both inside and outside the classroom. More work needs to be done to ensure deaf students are a part of everything the college has to offer.
Read the Report
The course is a part of Project Opening Doors, an ongoing initiative to help raise awareness about inclusion and accessibility issues on campus. NDC’s resources are intended to support colleges and universities to improve access for all students, and specifically educational attainment for deaf students.
“ACCESS Is More Than Accommodations,” released last week, is a report based on survey results from deaf students across the country. The report revealed the experience of deaf students on campus and introduced the ACCESS measurement tool — a groundbreaking tool to help campuses better understand how accessibility fits into a broader definition of inclusion and equity.
NDC is still collecting responses for the 2020 Campus Accessibility Report, and this year will include feedback from faculty. Students who take the survey qualify for an Amazon.com gift card, and campuses with enough responses will receive a free, customized report for their campus.
Take the course
The Improving Campus Access short course is a natural next step for professionals who want to ensure deaf students are included in the entire college experience.
“Deaf students are less likely than their hearing peers to earn their degrees,” said Stephanie W. Cawthon, Ph.D., director of the NDC and coauthor of the Campus Access study. “The lack of access on campus is likely contributing to that statistic by isolating deaf students on campus. Most students — hearing or deaf — do better when they are engaged with their studies beyond the classroom.”
Research has shown that students who are active and engaged on campus are more likely to earn their degrees. Yet, colleges, universities and trade schools often limit their definition of access to accommodations provided in the classroom.
This course explains in-depth what ACCESS really means and provides useful advice for improving access on campus in a holistic way.
Those campuses looking to take campus access to the next level can reach out to NDC | onsite, a free service that provides a customized action plan that takes into account campus resources, strengths and weaknesses.
The Help Team is also available to answer specific questions or concerns, connect people with resources, or provide guidance and clarification on a variety of issues, usually within two business days.