UI aids those with hearing disabilities

BY EMILY MELVOLD | MAY 04, 2009 7:30 AM

For the hundreds of deaf or hard-of-hearing students at the UI, such simple tasks as waking up, greeting someone at the door, and taking notes in class all prove to be challenging.

Living with a hearing disability can be a constant struggle, but advisers at the UI Student Disabilities Services work to make students’ college experience a little easier.

The service assists 600 to 700 students each semester, providing technological devices and personal support.

Vibrating alarms and watches help students wake up on time, and their dorm rooms come equipped with a doorbell that triggers the lights. In the classroom, some students are assigned interpreters, while others have someone type everything their professor says.

“Things as simple as going to the cafeteria can be difficult at times because of the amount of background noise,” said Carly Armour, one of the four UI Student Disabilities Services advisers.
Armour knows firsthand what her advisees are going through on a daily basis — she was deaf during her college years, too.

She said students with hearing disabilities have more opportunities in today’s society than in the past.

“Technology has made a social life and communication between deaf students a lot easier now in 2009 compared to 1997, when I was at Georgia College & State University,” Armour said.

As an adviser, she said one of her job’s top priorities is to empower students to advocate for themselves and teach them how to educate people about their needs.

Earlier this month, a group of six deaf and hard-of-hearing students took first place in a volleyball tournament at Harper College held for students with the same disability. Armour coached the team.

“I was so proud of them and the way they represented the University of Iowa,” Armour said. “Not only did they win, but they had great sportsmanship.”

UI sophomore Phillip Wachowski, a second-year competitor, was the team’s captain.

“It was great getting to interact with the other deaf students from the other schools,” Wachowski said. “There were a lot of cool people.”

UI freshman Brent Putz, another player on the volleyball team, agreed, adding it’s hard to find other people who are deaf on campus.

The two students hang out together and help each other with reading lips and signing.

Wachowski, who wears hearing aids, didn’t learn to sign until he came to the UI.

“It’s nice to hang out with other friends who are deaf, too, because you don’t get exhausted from one event in the same way you can with other friends,” Armour said.

Members of the American Sign Language Program meet every Thursday to spend time learning and practice signing.

“We sometimes call the ASL club the deaf and hard-of-hearing students’ personal support group,” Armour said.

UI Student Disability Services is always working to improve disability culture on campus, Armour said. She added she would love to see Kinnick Stadium have announcers’ and commentators’ captions on the screens.

“College is practice for the real world, where they will have to educate people every day on how to meet their needs,” Armour said. “I love working with this population.”

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