Student Disability Services offers assistance to deaf faculty, students

Erica Crist

Steve Vickery took advantage of accommodations offered by Student Disability Services when he was a student here.

Now Vickery is an American Sign Language lecturer in modern and classical language studies. He is deaf, and SDS still provides necessities for him, such as the videophone and relay service he uses to talk to people, via an Internet video connection between himself and an ASL interpreter from the National Video Relay Service Coalition center.

As a student, Vickery got his alarm clock set up by SDS. When it was time to wake up, the lights would flash and his bed would vibrate, he said.

Mary Reeves, the director of SDS and University Health Services, said deaf students in resident halls also need special smoke alarms.

Vickery has been deaf since birth because his mother contracted rubella during her pregnancy, he said. Although he can hear a little (about 70 decibels in his left ear), Vickery depends on these services from SDS to communicate and get through a normal workday.

“This is a world based on hearing, and for deaf people it’s a world based on sight, and a lot is taken for granted,” he said. “It’s not easy because there is a language barrier. Deaf students use ASL (American Sign Language) and hearing students speak, so you have to find other ways like writing back and forth, gestures, closed captions or interpreters to communicate.”

Similar barriers affect Joshua Doudt, freshman deaf education intervention specialist major, who is the fifth generation in his family to be born deaf.

“The communication between hearing people is very easy, and they can find friends more easily,” he said in an e-mail. “Deaf people only have one crowd to choose, and it’s hang out with deaf people no matter what.”

Because Doudt was born deaf, he can’t speak. Not only is communication a problem when you’re trying to find friends but also in the classroom, he said.

“I think it is pretty hard for me to adapt to the college campus for being the only disabled person in a whole classroom with 25 to 150 hearing students,” Doudt said. “Where I graduated high school at Maryland School for the Deaf, I received direct communication from the people.”

Now that he’s at a college where all of the professors don’t know ASL, the most crucial services that SDS provides him are note takers and interpreters, Doudt said.

“Having an interpreter is very important for me, because it is the only way I can receive the information from the teachers,” he wrote. “Without the great interpreter staff, I couldn’t manage or keep up in the classes. I need to tell many thanks to them.”

Jennifer Crowley, the interpreter coordinator at SDS, said this semester there are 18 contracted interpreters and four full-time staff interpreters for ASL who have been assigned to help students in classes.

As a deaf student on the Kent State campus, the worst experience Doudt said he’s had was when he walked to class without noticing he had accidentally hit the panic button on his car remote.

“I was walking down for few minutes, and I didn’t realize that the car alarm was on,” he said. “Everybody on the sidewalks or nearby the car was staring at me.”

But that’s life, he said. Doudt said he gets over things quickly with this positive attitude, and he loves his life at Kent State.

“When I decided to go through those adaptations in college life, I kept telling myself, ‘I am special person who reached Kent State University where not many deaf people are able do what I am doing right now,'” he said. “Nothing is easy, and I am prepared to fight through life and surprise some people and prove that a deaf person can be successful.”

Contact assistant features editor Erica Crist at [email protected]