What’s It Like Being Deaf In College? (American Sign Language Vlog) (Mostly)

What’s It Like Being Deaf In College? (American Sign Language Vlog) (Mostly)

October 17, 2019 46 By Stanley Isaacs


[sound of pencil writing] [Pokemon game sound] Hello! Today’s video is about to be about mainstream colleges and universities. People have asked me if I had the same experience I did in high school in college, but I didn’t go to college so I can’t answer that. So I asked my friends to make a video about their experiences. There are a few stories to watch. Please enjoy. Hello, my name is Joseph Ausanio and, um, I’m a deaf actor and screenwriter. I remember when I went to RIT, I was a film student. I remember I was fortunate to have great interpreters. But that was not the case. I remember when I had film professors who didn’t know how to, um, work with deaf students, and I’ve experienced oppression from the other film students. For example, they thought that um, not, not all but, uh, but a few thought, um, deaf people can’t do anything. Really. I’ve had uh, students who ask me: really, film school, with us? I would say, yeah. Because film school was very competitive to get in, so it made it sound like deaf people can’t get into film school or something. So, I remember I had film professors who would not caption, who would not put on the closed captions for the films. And so my professor couldn’t turn on the captions, so, she called, um, the tech support to come over, but they were like, oh we’ll be there in 30 minutes. So the teacher was like, you know what, forget it. So she came over with that she said to my interpreter to say, it’s going to be 30 minutes when they come, so I’m going to have to go ahead with the movie without the captions, so, sorry. So, she turned to me, I’m sorry. I was really upset because I had to watch my interpreter in the dark. And I remember, that day, when my interpreter was really mad, so she was signing, and I could not see any, any word that she was signing. I was really upset because, like, really? So, and also, uh, I remember there were others students who were like, really mean to me because, I remember I had to use my voice, because I chose to use my voice in the classes. So I remember when there was a forum where the students would comment on the other students’ works. And, um, I was practicing my senior thesis, so we have a statement to share with the class. So, I remember when I was talking about my senior project in front of the whole class, and one student walked to me and said, if I were you, I would have a sign language interpreter next to you, so that way you cannot afford to be misunderstood. And that comment really hurt me because, you know, I’ve worked so hard on my speech, my entire life, and I was really hurt by it. I remember when, um, I would try to, you know, reach out to the hearing film students and say, I would like to work with you, you know. But it seems that uh, the hearing students are here and the deaf student is here. So, there was a big divide between that and that was hard for me. I didn’t really have a great experience in film school, but I was hoping to learn, you know, from my peers, but I didn’t really get that. So, I was able to sort of collaborate with the other deaf students, but I wanted to, you know, work with the hearing students but, they didn’t seem like they wanted to, even though I tried to reach out to them and say, I would like to work with you, you know, but, they were like, oh no, we’re, we’re good, thank you. Which was hard for me. So, and also, I remember, uh… There were, uh, there were, it was really wrong because, you know, I wanted to, you know, just, you know, that. And also, um, the accessibility services, I was fortunate to have good interpreters and I requested for the same ones, you know, to interpret for all of my classes. So that was great. When I was younger, I, you know, I was from kindergarten to twelfth grade, I was fortunate to have great interpreters and, you know, I was able to get the assistance that I needed. But it was interesting that college, one professor didn’t know how to work with deaf students. So, that was really different for me. So, I was fascinated because I wanted to, you know, learn from the best because my professors came from the film industry and they were hired to come to the school to teach us. So that was, that was, I did not have the best experience in film school. So, there’s that. Thank you so much for watching. I’m (sign name) Rylyn, R-Y-L-Y-N. I saw Rikki posted on her Facebook status that she was looking for some people to share their experiences in mainstream schooling. So, I want to share my experience with you all. I had gone to post-secondary for 7 years. My first 2 years studying was at a technology institute to receive a diploma in Digital Graphic Design. Those two years were the most amazing experience and quite easy ride and I graduated with a good GPA. Then I decided to continue with the studying to receive a bachelor degree (BA). Those five years was a challenging and great journey. I had wonderful accessibility that was provided by the university. They had a partner with an interpreter agency that focused on interpreting in the education field. Also, the university provided a note taker in every classes that I took. It did help me a lot to have interpreters so I wouldn’t miss what the professor was saying. I never had any issues with professors for being Deaf. On the first day of each semester, they were confused as to why there were two interpreters in the classroom. And those were the great experiences but the reason why I mentioned that it was a challenging journey is because I was the only Deaf student in my program. I took a communication degree; the program was called Information Design that focused graphic design area. I was isolated during those five years. I did have some students that did some group projects, and stuff like that. But, we never really built a friendship due to the language barriers. It kinda sucked because I had to do things on my own. It was kinda depressing because I had to survive through each classes being alone for 8 hours per 5 days. I almost decided to quit school because I couldn’t bear it anymore but I was very close to completing my degree and endured it all through to the end. I graduated with a bachelor degree in communication and got an amazing job in Toronto. I am always grateful for the university and their great accessibility that helped me survive through the university regardless of isolation. I went to university at Rochester Institute of Technology, RIT for short. Remember, I’m talking only about MY experience. I’m not talking for other people, only my experience. For accessibility, RIT has 120 full-time interpreters. And they hire a lot more freelancers. So accessibility in the classroom was never a problem, I never had to worry about it. However, for tutors, or clubs… That was more difficult to get interpreters for. Part of it is because of clubs tending to have meetings at night. A lot of interpreters aren’t available at night. So… That was more of a struggle. And you have to commit to going to all the meetings. For example, if you don’t go to a club meeting three times in a row, they will cancel interpreters for the rest of the time. Unless you attend often. And even if you don’t go, the interpreter still gets paid, so they kind of lose money that way. You have to commit to going if you request an interpreter. For tutors, it’s also hard because sometimes tutors will have it right after class, but you can’t because of another class or the interpreter’s not available after class. With tutors, it’s easier to have the same interpreter as you have from the class, which is not always possible. Because… Scheduling conflicts. Generally, interpreters aren’t a problem for accessibility. Bullying, I didn’t experience any myself. But I know some other people did. It often happens in the classroom when the teacher, or other students, don’t understand the deaf student’s needs, what they require for being in the class. About teachers, they’re not always fully accessible for deaf students. I had one teacher myself, who refused to provide her PowerPoint slides to anyone in the class. The problem with that was that I had to take notes by hand, because she banned phones, laptops, they weren’t allowed. I had to take them by hand. So I’m like okay, so you expect the deaf person to write notes, look at the PowerPoint, AND look at the interpreter… all at the same time? It’s impossible. Hearing people can write and listen at the same, kind of. But they can’t copy a PowerPoint, and listen, and write at the same time either. I did argue with the teacher, trying to convince her to give the PowerPoints for at least the deaf students because… [hands flailing] But she refused. So I had to go through the Accessibility office, until I was finally able to get the PowerPoints directly from her, but she wasn’t happy about it. So, when teachers aren’t fully accessible to students, I have to go up them and educate them on what my needs are. And understand this, I can’t educate them on general needs for everyone. The needs of deaf students are different. MY needs may be different from that student’s needs. They may need more PowerPoints, need more notes from the teacher, and I may only want the PowerPoint, that’s it. So when I talk with the teacher, I have to be clear with them that I’m discussing my needs, that’s it. They need to go talk with the other students to make sure that they’re meeting what their needs are too. We don’t all have the same needs. I did struggle from time to time with RIT, because it’s not a deaf university. It’s a “mainstream” university. In my major, I was often the only deaf person in that class. Because of that, I had almost no support network. I had to get by myself, or try to talk with the teacher, or try to talk with some students in that class but… Generally, it was easier if I had another deaf student with me, because we could support each other. That’s a big part of why I changed majors halfway through, because my old major had NO support. Now, it’s better, yes, because I stood up and said this is a problem, you need to fix this for future students. But I can’t continue with this right now, so I changed majors. After changing majors, I still had the occasional class that I was the only deaf person in that class, but it was a big improvement, having some other deaf students supporting me in that class. Overall, my personal experience at RIT was good, yes. The accessibility was good. The problems were minimal, kind of easily fixed, or I can figure out how to approach the problem. I know this is not the same for everyone who went to RIT. Some oral [deaf] students need different accessibility, they need a voice interpreter, not a sign interpreter. That is one problem that they’re still trying to solve with RIT. And there are still some teachers who don’t understand how to be fully accessible to everyone in their class. But yes, overall it was a good experience. Hi. I’m Stacy Abrams. I graduated from Gallaudet University as an undergraduate. For graduate school, I went to a “hearing” university. To get in their MA/PhD program, I had to take the GRE, and filled out a lot of applications. After I was accepted, I was very excited. After my first class, I submitted an assignment. My professor called me for a meeting in his office. We sat down. There was an interpreter present. After reviewing my paper, he said to me, “You write better than I expected.” I was baffled, and I told him, “I am not sure if that was a compliment, or an insult. I write better than you expected. What does that mean?” The professor then caught himself, and said, “Well, you know deaf students tend to have lower reading/writing levels.” I then replied, “That’s not true.” “If deaf children have the foundation of language, have great family support,” “and experience, then the deaf student will thrive.” “How did you think I get in graduate school? Did someone fill out my application?” “No, and I did not appreciate your comments.” The teacher then apologized repeatedly. I let him know that I forgave but I would not forget. After that moment, I started to wonder what the other teachers thought of me. There was no other deaf graduate student in the entire university. Although, there were a few deaf undergraduate students. I believe that I was the only culturally Deaf student, and that meant that I grew up only signing. I did not have any amplification, and I do not talk at all. After that conversation with that professor, I thought a lot about it, and I decided to write a memo to all the professors. In the memo, I explained how to use an interpreter the right way, how to use eye gaze with me, talking to me directly, and acknowledged that it was probably a new experience for most of the professors. They probably had never had a deaf student before, and it was also a new experience for me in terms of attending an “all hearing” school. After I sent the memo out, I realized that it really helped. Even though my graduate program was Special Education, professors still had no clue in how to work with a deaf student, who was a “typical” developing student who was at par with other students. That experience stayed with me forever. I realized that it did not matter, if the university was a well known university, and the professors were all PhDs, they may have no clue in what deaf really meant. The term deaf may be clumped in “Special Education”, but it was really a different bag. After that experience, I was no longer naive. That experience stayed with me always. Anyone could “not know” about dealing with deaf students. I either want or not want, it is still my job to educate them. My professors may teach me about Special Education, school, about becoming a teacher, working with families with children with “disabilities”, but I am equally teaching them, even though I may not have asked for it. I hope that after that experience 17 years ago, my professors have learned how to work with deaf students better after me based on their experiences with me in their graduate school program. I grew up at a residential school where there was equal access to communication and language. Some teachers may have low expectations of deaf students. However, I have already proved myself to be capable, I was in the MA/PhD program, or so I thought I did. The professors still had some doubts in my ability to get in graduate school just because I am deaf. So I have always tried to expand things further, or check in more frequently to make sure the professors/people were on par with me because maybe they did not really know and didn’t want to tell me. The experience was very humbling, and I came up with a solution and sent out the memo. I did my part. However, that sort of put a new pressure on me. I felt that if I quit, the professors would say, “That’s right. Deaf people cannot succeed in graduate programs because it is “too hard”, or “too overwhelming” that the deaf people cannot deal with the hearing world & the hearing community. Ironically, that was my inner motivation. It helped make me determined to do my best, and I stayed throughout the Master’s program, and I am still working on finishing up my PhD. I think I taught them as much as they taught me, maybe more, just because I was deaf. Alright, hopefully, you learned something today. I know I learned a lot. Huge thank you to everyone for making a video for this. I like having people come here and give their stories. So we can learn about different experiences and perspectives. If you want to follow me on social media, links down below. If you want to support my content, you can do so via Patreon or Kofi. I upload every Monday and Thursday unless otherwise stated. And I’ll see you later. Bye!