At NDC, we have worked with many colleges to assess their capacity to give deaf students access to the entire college experience. Looking beyond academic classes, colleges also provide various programs, services, and activities for all students, such as student organizations, residential life, athletic events, health services, study abroad, and on-campus work experiences.
Research has found that deaf students often face barriers participating in these activities because they are not fully accessible. Some reasons could be due to having a decentralized system for processing accommodation requests, unclear policies and procedures, or lack of training among campus personnel.
It is also important to remember that accommodations alone do not provide equitable access. An accessible and inclusive environment is one that does not require deaf students to constantly work at assimilating into the campus culture. It is one that considers access on all levels that allows deaf students to participate in the full college experience.
NDC identified six critical areas of access that colleges should consider improving at their campus. Access is the responsibility of the campus as a whole, which means everyone can contribute to deaf student success. Let’s look at the six areas of ACCESS improvements:
- Attitudes that are positive and welcoming towards deaf students lead to better outcomes. Promote opportunities for your campus community to learn more about diverse deaf people and how to provide inclusive interactions.
- Campus Technology is always evolving and is important to ensure standard accessibility requirements are met. Capitalize on technology that allows students to communicate independently.
- Communications, both formal and informal, happen all around campus. Develop accessible communications such as American Sign Language translations for important email announcements and adding captions to all videos on your website and social media.
- Environment means ensuring audible information around deaf students is accessible on campus. Examples include accessible fire alarms, doorbells, public televisions with closed captions turned on, and assistive listening loop systems installed in large rooms.
- Services include your system for providing access to services and accommodations. Request procedures should be clear and easy to navigate for deaf students whether it’s for a course, meeting, or other event on campus. Proactive and centralized coordination of services and budgets improve support not only for deaf students, but deaf faculty, staff, or campus visitors as well.
- Social Engagement, such as networking opportunities, is a powerful tool for college and career building. Encourage deaf students to get involved in student organizations, internships, social activities, and have a process in place to provide communication access to these events.
Don’t delay, start today! Ask deaf students to give feedback on your current practices and help identify barriers. NDC can also assist with evaluating your current capacity and provide resources to increase campus accessibility.