Hard of Hearing at Gallaudet

Ever since I was the age of 13, I have been determined to attend Gallaudet University to pursue a college education. The year of 2010 was filled with many discoveries. I discovered ASL, Deaf culture, Deaf community, and Gallaudet University itself. I was raised by a non-signing hearing family, and I was surrounded by hearing friends and peers without having any previous exposure to ASL. I have lived my life as the only deaf person in my school, and I did not have any support or help. I spoke and used my hearing aids to hear, but when I discovered ASL, I discovered Gallaudet! Back then, whether if it was business, interpreting, or teaching, I did not really care about which kind of career I wanted. I just wanted to be at Gallaudet University.

As a hard-of-hearing person I expected Gallaudet to be welcoming to all people: Deaf, hard-of-hearing, hearing aids, cochlear implant users, and coming from either a hearing or deaf family. All would come to Gallaudet to interact with each other, and then to grow and thrive together.

As I grew up in Georgia, I have always shared an interest in going to Washington, D.C. to attend Gallaudet University. I wanted to be with my family and friends. Although Georgia was where I attended for my high school education, I still wanted to move my roots to Gallaudet.

My family wasn’t happy about my decision to leave Georgia. They wanted me to stay in Georgia or at least somewhere nearby. My family felt D.C. was too far away. But, I was already determined to end up at Gallaudet, and my family finally relented in the end. After graduating from high school, I took a year off from school to prepare myself and my family for my journey to Gallaudet. My application was accepted and everything worked out seamlessly! I was ready to go to Gallaudet University.

When I first arrived, stepping on Kendall Green’s campus, I realized there were so many people from all kind of backgrounds. There were people with cochlear implants, people who attended an oral school, and there were hard-of-hearing people! It was beautiful. The first semester went well, but as I went through the second semester, I met with a culturally Deaf person. I explained about my childhood and how I ended up hard-of-hearing. The deaf person appeared to have lost interest in interacting with me. Although the conversation continued for a while, the person seemed to be disinterested in the conversation. That person then left afterward, leaving me feeling insulted and degraded.

I have noticed that the hard-of-hearing students at Gallaudet feel left out. Some hard-of-hearing students enjoy listening to music. During my time here thus far, I have noticed some wore headphones and usually sign rigidly. It seemed like the culturally Deaf students of Gallaudet had a difficult time being inclusive towards the hard-of-hearing students. From my experience, each time I brought up my past about how I am raised orally and how I am hard-of-hearing, the Deaf person would get annoyed and appeared to not care about the conversation.

I used to think Gallaudet University was a place where everyone would hold in high regard. I thought Gallaudet was the perfect place where everyone was accepted without judgement. Unfortunately, the reality disagreed with my established image of Gallaudet University.

Gallaudet University is considered as the ‘Deaf Mecca’, the center of the Deaf community. Gallaudet is a beautiful and rich place with a variety of  people, with different cultures and different ways to communicate. Everyone here has their own styles. I was raised orally, but now I am signing. My goal is to become involved and work with the Deaf community. I have Deaf friends, and I work on the campus dealing with all kind of deaf people. But I still feel there is still some prejudice toward the hard-of-hearing people here.

I cannot speak for all the students here at Gallaudet University, but this is my personal experience which I want to share this with you. I wish Gallaudet would be more accepting and inclusive towards other people, and not only welcoming those “molded” Deaf people. “Molded” Deaf people are people from a Deaf family, Deaf school, and having ASL as their first language. I want to work with a strong Deaf community, but seeing how I came from a hearing family, learned ASL as my third language, attended a mainstreamed school, I have found it difficult to work with the Deaf community.

I don’t understand why most Deaf people do not like the hard-of-hearing people. I don’t understand why they do not like me. Yes, I can hear some. Yes, I enjoy music. Yes,  I speak with my friends and family sometimes because that is my MODALITY of communication. Aside from all of that, I still love ASL, and I still love Deaf culture. We, the hard of hearing population, are part of the Deaf community, too. Perhaps it is too much to ask for the Deaf community to accept us. Accept me too? Deaf and hard-of-hearing should come together to create one community. This is what truly matters.


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8 Responses to “Hard of Hearing at Gallaudet”

  1. Patti
    December 17, 2017 at 10:38 AM #

    I am “hard of hearing” also – it’s your self identifying w being H of H over being “soft of Deaf” that can turn folks off
    The term and conceptualization is Hearing dominant world given and when it’s used by us it is a first rejection
    – it is a
    – I am not Deaf-same
    – I am almost Hearing
    – I am On the spectrum of Hearingness
    It took me years to realize when I signed HH for myself I was actually using an offensive term – that I was unintentionally saying “me better”
    I never meant to that way. I meant it as full disclosure. I have a lot of hearing and thus privilege
    After realizing what HH communicates I examined what I really see myself as and it is “partially Deaf” “semiDeaf” “semimute”
    This more accurately shows who and how I am
    I suspect just as Hearing impaired was introduced to shift us more toward Hearingness so too was hard of hearing
    U do not see it in the old literature of Deaf publications
    If any stratification was used it was via the world semi Deaf
    We defined by our center. Not by the Hearing majority
    Are they rejecting u because you can physically hear and talks some or are they turned off cuz in mid conversation u unwittingly flaunted a privilege and aligned urself to a hearing centered label/identity rather than a Deaf one q
    I’m not denying that there is bias and prejudice at gally. Many of my ntid/rit students self report that ntid/rit is a much more accepting environment for the Deaf spectrum but even here I can see that the HH label conjures up a great deal of misunderstanding
    It definitely is an oppressive and loaded label
    Thank u for aslizing ur post and for opening this discussion
    Glad u will become a cdi
    Patti durr

  2. Barb orton
    December 17, 2017 at 11:44 PM #

    This makes me so very very sad.

  3. Gally Alumnus
    December 18, 2017 at 4:35 AM #

    Exactly. Those were common practices and attitudes even some 30 years ago at Gallaudet University. Still true today as this article can attest. It was quite prevalent back then when it came to discriminating on purpose against those who were not native signers and/or hard of hearing. I know. I was there. But I didn’t let others bother me with their discriminatory practices, closed-mindedness, elitist attitude, and bias. I learned to focus on my friends/students. I associated with people who were far more open-minded and welcoming. Antonio, don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on the positive. You will see this politically-correct, over-zealous attitudes in a deaf setting continues long after you’re done with Gallaudet University. The kind of environment secretly encouraged by both students and some staff people.

  4. Alli
    December 19, 2017 at 12:42 AM #

    I have not attended Gallaudet University, but I too, have experienced a prejudiced mentality among Deaf peoples toward me, a HOH, one-sided Deaf individual. It breaks my heart because I feel that I belong more in the Deaf world than hearing and had no choice in my first modality of communication. I feel you, friend.

  5. Karen
    December 19, 2017 at 3:36 PM #

    Hi! I must say, you’re not alone in this. For a long time, I felt exactly the same. I didn’t go to GU, but I did experience the same at Cal State Northridge. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way. I could understand why there’s some prejudice between Deaf and HOH, but not every Deaf member of the community have an open mind. My partner is Deaf and we have discussed this. I’ve come to conclude that as a HOH person, I have a privilege that my partner doesn’t. I can communicate with my family and my partner’s family using oral communication. Both of my family do not sign, except for my partner’s mom who uses moderate amount of sign. It’s difficult to channel identities and it’s crucial to be aware of the environment we’re in. At my parent’s house, we speak Spanish, but my partner doesn’t. Therefore, I ask to be patience with my communication because I need time to interpret for both of them. I feel like I’m in the middle of both communities, the hearing one and Deaf one. I have experienced discrimination from both sides such as “I’m not Deaf enough.” And “Am I a moron because I’m Deaf?” It’s been hard for me growing up, and even to this day, I learn to defend myself because of who I am. I completely understand where you’re coming from and I’m so glad I’m not the only one.

  6. Ross Mitchell
    December 19, 2017 at 6:26 PM #

    Everyone at Gallaudet should read the Harry Potter novels. I say this because Gallaudet has always struggled with students having attitudes similar to the characters who concern themselves with whether their classmates are from Magical (Deaf) or Muggle (Hearing) families. (Draco Malfoy and his closest friends are the first and most regularly encountered characters–students–in the books with such concerns.)

    Often, through reading fiction, we can recognize something about ourselves (and others) that is difficult to recognize in other ways. I believe the Harry Potter books would help students recognize the kind of behavior this article describes in Gallaudet’s social (student) life. Everyone reading Harry Potter doesn’t mean suddenly attitudes will change, but there is no hope of change without recognition.

    Gallaudet is a very special place. But, it is just like any other college in which people considered to be special sometimes turn out to be more exclusive than inclusive. Whether rich, white, legacy (parents went to the same college), Deaf, or otherwise special, there will be some (not all) people who take a superior attitude. Some (not all) special people have little interest in you if you’re not special, too. It happens everywhere.

    In the Harry Potter books, Hogwarts is a magical place, a great school in which magical people (whether born to Magical or Muggle parents) come together to learn and grow. In the USA (if not the world), Gallaudet is a magical place, a great school in which d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing students (whether born to Deaf, hard-of-hearing, or hearing parents) come together to learn and grow. But, neither place is perfect. Both have their challenges and disappointments.

    I think that if we all recognize that magical does not mean perfect, that students born to magical people are no better than students born to non-magical people, then Gallaudet can still be a great place even though not everyone in it has learned to be a great person, at least not yet.

  7. Patty Pfeiffer
    December 19, 2017 at 6:38 PM #

    I’m sure there are more people who are hard of hearing who have had a similar experience as you. I am so sorry.

  8. Rebecca Clayton
    December 19, 2017 at 9:33 PM #

    As a very proud hard of hearing girl with CIs and a voice to boot, I totally understand how you feel. I’ve gotten bullied often for using my voice on campus, talking on the phone, listening to music and more. It’s a shame thought because GU is so beautiful and historical but it’s hard to enjoy everything there is to offer when people are forcing you to change who you are and what you grew up with.

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