Deaf Students Benefit At CU-Boulder From Aid Of Disability Services

Published: Sept. 24, 1997

(Note: To contact Cliff Moers or any TTY user, call Relay Colorado at 1-800-659-3656 to place your call.)

Sometimes called an “invisible” minority, some 17 deaf and hard of hearing students are quietly reaching their educational goals at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Though the deaf and hard of hearing population at CU-Boulder is small, students say the services provided are first-rate.

“The services for the deaf are among the best I’ve seen,” said Steve Hoefer, 26, who attended three other colleges including the National Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y., before transfering to CU. “I’m very happy where I am right now because people here are willing to make the difference.”

Hoefer is referring to the staff of CU-Boulder’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, part of the Office of Disability Services on the third floor of Willard Administrative Center. The office provides high-quality interpreters in the classroom and elsewhere, real-time captioning services and assistive listening devices for those who need them.

Students receive priority registration through the Office of the Registrar, and note-taking services also are available through the Student Academic Services Center.

“We want to minimize the myth that this is an exclusive school,” said Cliff Moers, coordinator of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. Students need only make an appointment with a staff member to assess their needs and take advantage of the services available. The office also works with a growing number of deaf and hard of hearing faculty and staff on campus.

The high quality of American Sign Language interpreters, who are certified by the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, sets CU apart from many other schools, said Moers, a Gallaudet University graduate. Interpreters also work as a team in the classroom to prevent mental fatigue and give the highest level of service possible to the student, he said.

Students who don’t know ASL or who need to have lecture information transcribed in English are eligible for real-time captioning services instead. In class, the student sits next to a stenographer, who transcribes classroom discussion onto a computer monitor for the student to read.

CU also offers a strong ASL program, which was recently approved for foreign language credit.

Meanwhile, 18 campus offices from Wardenburg Health Services to the Office of Financial Aid have TTY available, so deaf and hard of hearing students, faculty and staff can communicate with them directly. Outgoing TTY calls also are available for the student body at nearly a dozen locations on campus. The number of amplified telephones also is growing.

In addition to providing access to the university, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services also plays an advocacy role when students face problems.

Earth sciences doctoral student Jennifer Mangan said one of the biggest challenges that deaf and hard of hearing students face is a lack of understanding in the community about their needs.

“My first office last fall was a problem because the other three people in it could not deal with the fact that I am deaf and need special phone equipment,” said Mangan, 28, who later moved to a new office. “Another time, we requested interpreters for a play and bought front row tickets but when we arrived, they decided at the last minute we would be too distracting and put us in the back row balcony.”

Other times, Mangan said, people on the street speak to her back, saying “Excuse me,” or something similar, and then push past her in a huff thinking she ignored them.

Consideration and helpfulness have been Mangan’s experience in the classroom, however. “All of my professors have been more than accommodating. They all have tried to be helpful in any way possible,” she said.

To help educate people about the deaf and hard of hearing community, Mangan is heading the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance, a student organization. “Most people I have met so far have been open and willing to be educated,” she said.

For more information about Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at CU, call 492-4124 (TTY), or stop by Willard Hall, room 329.