Accessible Experiential Learning Opportunities for Deaf Students

Published on October 28, 2021

This image shows a man using an angle cutter and sparks coming when the metal is being cut. He is wearing safety goggles and ear protection.

As part of our month-long recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, NDC recognizes the importance of all types of experiential learning, including internship and field experiences, to support future employment endeavors.

Experiential learning provides vital opportunities that lead to positive employment outcomes. Ensuring a positive experience with the internship or field placement site is an important stepping stone in the personal and professional growth of deaf students. Striving for inclusive learning includes learning about and understanding deaf student experiences, building partnerships with relevant contributors, and leveraging the experiences of those who have already navigated similar experiences.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have ripple effects in all areas of teaching and learning, including internships and field placements. NDC has responded to many inquiries about the hesitation of in-person service providers working on-site, barriers to communication with masks, and confidentiality concerns over having remote service providers involved in clinical settings. Despite these challenges, career centers, internship sites, and deaf students can work collaboratively on making the on-site learning experience a success:

  • Be a creative partner in problem-solving complex situations. The goal should be for the student to focus on learning during the internship or field experience rather than constantly focusing on access.

  • Provide a space that encourages innovative accommodation strategies for complex communication situations. Review different situations in the internship or field placement and how accommodations may change based on the setting.

  • Seek input from other colleagues on the NDC Listserv; ask questions about challenges and gather resources they may have used.

Learn More About Deaf Students

Experiential learning opportunities have benefits for the deaf students, and they also strengthen business outcomes. Work sites can improve their cultural competency and implement more inclusive business practices when including deaf interns and employees. Be mindful of the obstacles and barriers created by low expectations and negative attitudes about deaf people, and the impact they can have during the learning experience. Rather, shift the focus on deaf people’s ability to contribute to the internship or work experience. Help create a positive learning experience for deaf students by increasing your awareness about:

The Power of Partnerships

Partnerships between the disability services office, career center, and placement site will go a long way in coordinating equitable learning experiences in internships and field experiences for deaf students. When building these partnerships, consider these important steps:

  • Determine in advance who is responsible for coordinating accommodation services. Consider MOU agreements between the school and placement sites when it comes to arranging and paying for accommodations.

  • Create opportunities for deaf students to lead the discussion about their accommodation needs, placement goals, and how and when to disclose. These conversations will help get the internship or field experience off to a successful start.

  • Allow for flexibility. Internships and field experiences allow deaf students to apply their skills in a range of situations. Accommodations should also be flexible to these situations. Provide opportunities where deaf students can share feedback regarding the quality of accommodations and if they are a good fit for the situation.

Connect With Others

Connecting with others who have coordinated or participated in internships and field experience settings can help contribute to positive learning experiences for deaf students. Learn more about diverse deaf professionals through a variety of organizations representing deaf communities. Check out the following resources to facilitate connections with deaf mentors and professionals in the field to learn more about how they navigated different experiences on their way to their professional careers:

NDC is Here to Help

NDC is always available to support students and their families, state leaders, disability services professionals, and anyone engaging with deaf people.

If you would like individualized assistance or additional resources, our help team is here to respond to your questions and support you.

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Topic(s): All News
Type of Resource: employment, work based learning

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