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Deafblind College Students Report Need for Experiences and Academic Supports | NEWS-Line for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists

Deafblind College Students Report Need for Experiences and Academic Supports


Attending college is not only about academics, but also about new experiences and gaining self-reliance. When students are deafblind, they may face additional complications. For a successful college experience, both students with disabilities and their instructors must make more adjustments.

An article in AER Journal: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness reports the experiences of 11 deafblind students at a technical college in the United States.

Most of the study participants have Usher syndrome, which causes varying degrees of hearing and vision loss because of retinitis pigmentosa. Four students were affected prior to entering high school, three while in high school, and two after entering college, putting them at different stages in their acceptance of and adaptation to their disabilities. Ten of the students were between the ages of 18 and 23, while one was 35 years old.

The study provides insight into the adjustments these students face in their daily lives, as well as into the academic supports offered by the college and those that are still needed. The students were interviewed using open-ended questions, allowing them to relate their experiences in detail.

The authors share several students’ personal experiences: One student, determined to live independently despite his mother’s reservations, expressed the need to find different ways to complete common tasks. Another told of the additional concentration and energy required to remain on a rowing team as her vision deteriorated. She eventually decided to leave the team despite her coach’s encouragement to stay.

Some students found their instructors to be understanding and helpful about their disabilities; others did not. The study provides four recommendations for service providers. They should:

1. be willing and able to provide assistance to students in accessing supports within the college and with agencies beyond the college;
2. be flexible in the expectation of time it takes to earn a degree—deafblind students may need a reduced course load to balance the time and energy required of them;
3. be knowledgeable about deafblindness and disseminate the information to other faculty, staff and students; and
4. foster self-determination and advocacy skills among students.

To learn more, visit: http://www.aerbvi.org.

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