“She’s not paying attention; she’s not trying!”
A college professor in California recently sparked a national controversy with these words, shouted at a hard of hearing student in their class when the student failed to respond in what the professor believed was an appropriate amount of time.
Many people found it outrageous that a college professor would not account for the time it takes for a question to be conveyed to the student through a communication access service. But, for deaf students, this interaction was not nearly so shocking.
“There has been no institutional interest in learning how to become more deaf friendly,” said one student in a national survey about the experiences of deaf students on campus. “The attitude is one of begrudging tolerance at best.”
In this video, Sachiko Flores recalls a time she was sidelined because she was a deaf woman. She was limited by other people’s expectations. Video description
Root Causes and Systemic Change
Research from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) has identified these kinds of negative attitudes and biases as one of the root causes of gaps in education, employment and other outcomes between deaf people and their hearing peers.
“Deaf students succeed when their community — family members, teachers, coaches, counselors — believe they can,” said NDC Director Carrie Lou Garberoglio, PhD. “Deaf youth have the same potential as their peers, and need authority figures to recognize and develop that potential.”
The COVID-19 pandemic shined a unique spotlight on many of these issues as schools struggled to adapt accommodations for deaf students in the sudden shift to online learning. Deaf students reported feeling more isolated and having more difficulty keeping up with their studies during the pandemic, in part due to this failure by their institutions.
Create More Equitable Environments
The problem is not with a single professor or institution, and will not be solved overnight. But, steps can be taken to let deaf people lead and create more inclusive learning, working, and living environments.
Professionals who receive training on working with deaf people reported more positive attitudes about deafness. To support faculty and instructors working with deaf students, NDC offers a variety of tools and resources that promote deaf awareness and cultural sensitivity:
Deaf 101 (online professional development)
Attitudes and Biases as Barriers for Deaf People (online professional development)
Instructional Strategies for Deaf Student Success (online professional development)
Teaching Deaf Students Online (online professional development)
FAQ: This is my first time teaching a deaf student, what should I keep in mind?
The NDC | help team is here to support deaf success. If you have any questions about working with deaf students, contact us today!