Silent Voices: the Experiences of Deaf Students in Community College
Author(s)Johnson, Serena Gail
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AbstractMost students with hearing loss attend community college, yet very little research on this population of students exists in higher education. This dissertation is one of the first to explore the experiences of mainstreamed d/Deaf students in community college. This research was conducted in order to gain a better understanding of how students who are d/Deaf interact navigate the mainstream postsecondary environment. Purposeful sampling was used to gather data from 19 individuals who attended postsecondary institutions not designed specifically for d/Deaf students. These participants were enrolled in an urban community college district in the southwestern U.S. and were receiving accommodations from their campus accessibility office. The sample included six Black females, one Black male, five Latinos, three Latinas, two White males, one White female, and two females who identified as multiracial. Data were collected through 30-60 minute semi-structured interviews in American Sign Language or spoken English, and a brief demographic survey. The interviews conducted in American Sign Language were then interpreted into English; one participant did not know ASL, and relied on oral communication. The theoretical framework of this study was Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory. Individual development does not occur inside a vacuum; utilizing this theory allows for the analysis of how a student interacts with his or her environment, and how the environment affects the student. Findings from this study provide insight on participants’ reasons for enrolling in college, their perception of academic rigor as compared to high school, and familial support during their college experience. Participants reported financial difficulty, despite their utilization of the state’s tuition waiver program for students with hearing loss. The need for communication access, and especially the quality and quantity of sign language interpreters featured prominently in participant responses. Participants also expressed a desire for more interaction between students with hearing loss and the general college population. Finally, participants shared their perceptions of the campus accessibility office and the individuals within it, campus administrative support, and their experiences with teachers and classmates. The results from this study help shed light on the experience of d/Deaf students in community college and provide insight on how to facilitate their success in postsecondary education. The author provides recommended practices for campus accessibility offices to adopt in order to effectively serve this student population, including specialized orientation for students and instructors, specialized advising, utilization of student feedback, and increasing campus and community awareness of services offered.
TypeThesis or Dissertation