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Deaf People want to be Heard too!

Despite the fact that the philosopher Aristotle claimed, “Deaf people could not be educated [since] without hearing, people could not learn,” history has proven him wrong.

 

Schools and colleges have been built around the world just for the deaf/hard-of-hearing (D/HH), and the D/HH number an estimated 306,738,434 in the United States alone (according to the 2008-2010 American Community Survey). The need for equal rights for D/HH Americans was first acknowedged in the 1800s. Famous Deaf people like baseball player, William “Dummy” Hoy; actress Marlee Matlin, Deaf Miss America Heather Whitestone, rapper Sean Forbes and many more have defied the odds. Technology for communication has improved.

 

Discrimination has been fought against and beaten. Still there seems to be missing information and miscommunication about how many D/HH students attend WHS.

 

Mary Gullett, a FACTS Specialist at the Lincoln Center states that she only has three D/HH students on record. An anonymous teacher knowledgeable of the D/HH program here at WHS, claims that there are more than three, however, this reporter is aware of at least eleven D/HH students at WHS.

 

For these students, especially the ones who do not have an interpreter, it is hard to understand what is going on during class. These students would greatly benefit from notetakers, open and closed captioning, sitting in the front of their classes, and more.

As stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “Section 504 states that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity…” Meaning, people who are not considered “normal” have rights too.

“One thing that has bothered me since I have worked here at Waukegan High School, is why the school is not proactive for the D/HH students?”  asks sign language interpreter, Amanda Brandenburg.

The Maria Katzenbach School for the Deaf, also known as the New Jersey School of the Deaf, has a system to help notify their students of fire alarms, passing periods and more. To warn their students of a fire alarm, a huge flash of bright light flashes. How do the students know when their passing period is about to end?  A flashing light appears for fifteen seconds and when that light disappears, the students are late.

There are ways to better support D/HH students in Waukegan High School. For example; Different kinds of light signals for the school bell, fire alarms, etc. Even Deaf Awareness Week can be established every other month.

English Captioning for all of the televisions are very helpful, not only for D/HH students but for the other students in general. Teachers should learn the basics of Deaf Culture and how to interact with the D/HH (Keep in mind that some students would rather have their hearing loss private). WHS should give D/HH students more options to play sports. Coaches can develop hand signals to communicate with all their players, especially the D/HH players. Also, instead of only voicing announcements, why not pass out papers or broadcast it? Visual assessment is very critical. There are tons more ways to support the D/HH. D/HH people deserve to be treated equally and not be deprived of their rights.

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Instead of focusing on a cure for hearing loss (which is highly offensive in the Deaf Culture. Deaf people are proud of who they are), the public should shift its focus.  “Education is our number one priority,” said National Association of the Deaf (NAD) President Chris Wagner, “and we will not rest until deaf and hard of hearing students have full access to equal educational opportunities.” National Association of the Deaf.

D/HH must have equal rights like everyone else. So will Waukegan High School help improve D/HH students’ education?   Will we make changes and prepare ourselves for the next generation of D/HH?

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