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5 ways deaf students can advocate for themselves in college

advocate for yourself
As I prepare to go to college next year, I have been learning about the best ways to advocate for yourself as a college student. 
Here are the top five tips I have for other deaf students on how to best advocate for themselves when they start college.

1) Ask For All the Accommodations You Can

If you want to advocate for yourself, ask for all of the accommodations you can, even if it’s more than you end up needing. Part of putting yourself in a new environment (such as college) comes with unknown territory. High school and college classes are not going to be the same. Some situations you encounter in college will be different from high school. That means you have to be willing to try and experiment with new accommodations previously deemed unfit or unnecessary for your situations at the time. You may not know what you need at the beginning of the year. It may be better to ask for anything you can, because you can always decline those accommodations in the future as needed.

2) Realize That Accommodations are Everywhere

Accommodations really are everywhere, from walking between classes to sitting in a lecture hall to your dorm room. That was something that I hadn’t quite noticed until I was on a college campus. In high school you often think of accommodations needed for the classroom. But with college, especially when living on campus, accommodations aren’t just during school hours. They are now 24/7, and not just in the classrooms. Not only are you seeking educational accommodations, but also living accommodations. In dorm rooms, for example, you may need flashing fire alarms, an alert system to wake you up in emergencies, door alert systems, etc. The search for accommodations broadens as school is the place you live, not just study.

3) Don’t Give Up on What You Deserve

You have the right to all the accommodations that you need. Sometimes getting them is half the battle (though it shouldn’t be). Sometimes the other half is getting others to properly utilize your accommodations to the point of you benefiting from them. If you’re having a hard time with a professor, peers, or friends accommodating you, keep fighting. Sometimes the issue is lack of knowledge on their part. Maybe the solution is simply educating them. Other times it’s a deeper issue. Regardless, don’t give up. To advocate for yourself, always be willing to contact your university’s disability resources office as needed.

4) Be Willing to Continue Educating Others About Your Needs

As someone who has been at the same school for 14 years, I’d gotten used to the minimal amount of re-education required from me as most of it was done in my earlier years. But the education never ends. Don’t let that be attached to a negative outlook. As mentioned earlier, some people have not had much experience with those who are deaf/hard of hearing. Sometimes they need to be educated to help break that barrier, and that’s just another way to advocate for yourself. But educating others, no matter how endless it may seem, should not be viewed as something negative. Every time you educate someone on hearing loss and they become more comfortable, they will then be more educated and prepared for the next deaf/hard of hearing individual they meet. For each of us that can educate that one person, we’re building a more educated world for one another. If you don’t educate, they will never know – and that’s true for anything in life.

“Every time you educate someone on hearing loss and they become more comfortable, they will then be more educated and prepared for the next deaf/hard of hearing individual they meet.”

5) It’s Important to Keep Your Connections to Those Who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing Like You

It doesn’t matter where you are in life; this will always be applicable. Having connections with friends who are deaf or hard of hearing like you will help ensure that you are providing yourself with the support system you need. You never know when you may encounter a situation revolving around your hearing loss and you just need to vent to someone who gets it, when you may need some input or advice, or simply just another friend! These connections are important to have. While you could be fine without them, you could also be doing a whole lot better! You don’t know what you’re missing until you have it, so be proactive.
What other advocacy tips do you have?
Author Details
Emmy is a Phonak Teen Advisory Board member and wears an Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant and Phonak CROS.