Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

A National Research Agenda for the Postsecondary Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: A Road Map for the Future

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

A National Research Agenda for the Postsecondary Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: A Road Map for the Future

Article excerpt

This article describes converging nationwide changes in the postsecondary education of students with hearing loss during the past 30 years. Simultaneous trends in the economy, labor force, and business practices have magnified the need for literacy, postsecondary training, and career skills. These conditions stimulated institutional and professional activities that led to drafting a National Research Agenda report to guide development of federally funded research projects in postsecondary education. These studies will enhance better understanding of the complex interactions of diverse support services, learning-living environments, and student populations in a broad continuum of post-high school vocational and academic training program s. The conceptual frame-work of the Agenda is explained, as are its expected goals, criteria for research projects, benefits, and outcomes. This article interweaves the perspectives and roles of postsecondary and vocational rehabilitation professionals, federal officials, and researchers contributing to the preparation of the Agenda report. Relevant national research studies are died and consumer involvement in research is emphasised.

Postsecondary education and vocational rehabilitation (VR) professionals recognize the value of research studies on college students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The results of assessing on-campus programs assist administrators, faculty, and support staff in improving academic instruction, career training, and student services. Surveys of alumni are beneficial to appraise the outcomes of college placements. Information on graduates' socio-economic attainments also boost fund raising from various donor groups.

In recent years periodicals reaching deaf consumers and professionals have frequently reported about 25,000 deaf and hard of hearing students enrolled in college. This is a very significant underestimate. During 2000 15.1 million students were attending the nation's 5,000 colleges and universities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). By using the most reliable demographic research available (Ries, 1994) we conservatively estimated that 3.1% of the college-age group (18-35) had a hearing loss, thus 468,000 of these students were deaf or hard of hearing (also see Watson & Schroedel, 2000). More specifically, 345,000 were hard of hearing, 115,000 deafened after age 19, and 8,000 deafened before age 19. A national survey of college students in 1989-90 estimated that 258,000 had a hearing loss (U.S. Department of Education, 1993). By contrast, surveys of campus officials, including those knowledgeable of students with disabilities, reported between 20,000 and 24,000 deaf and hard of hearing college students during the 1990s (Hopkins & Walter, 1999; Lewis & Farns, 1994, 1999).

A major cause of these underestimates by college administrators was that few hard of hearing students were requesting campus support services due to factors such as denial of their hearing loss (Schroedel, Kelley, & Conway, 2002). These authors discussed many general auditory and psychological characteristics of hard of hearing persons. They pointed out, for example, that it could be erroneous to exclude an unassisted mild hearing loss as a disability because most persons with this condition do not use hearing aids and many may experience chronic depression and social isolation. The disabling social psychological consequences of a so-called "mild" hearing loss may be more severe than profound deafness. At least Deaf persons have a clear identity, meaningful peers, and a viable social community.

Accurately defining target populations is equally important to service providers and researchers. Note that those who are deaf are unable to hear and understand speech; whereas those who are hard of hearing have difficulties hearing and understanding speech (Ries, 1994). These demographic definitions are not directly comparable to terms used by federal agencies such as the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to describe these populations. …

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