September 28, 2007

Cornell Works to Accommodate the Hearing-Impaired

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Imagine the complications you would encounter if you were a deaf or hard-of-hearing student at Cornell. How would you wake up on time without hearing your alarm clock? How would you know when someone is knocking at your door? A variety of campus services as well as outside resources can assist students with hearing impairments in solving these problems.
This semester, 15 students with different levels of hearing loss are registered with the Students Disabilities Services at Cornell. They receive accommodations ranging from Personal FM systems that can amplify sounds for them to lecture note-taking services.
SDS can also equip their dorm rooms with special amenities. “Before a student registered with SDS moves into a residential hall, SDS will notify the director of that hall, and the director will work with the Campus Life facilities office to set the room up for that student,” said Erin Sember, a former residential hall director on West Campus, who is hard of hearing.
Housing accommodations provided by SDS for hearing-impaired students include bedshakers, strobe alarms, special doorbells and telephones.
When there is a fire alarm, strobe alarms can alert the student by flashing lights instead of beeping. If the student is sleeping and fails to see the alarm lights, a bedshaker placed under the pillow or mattress will vibrate to awaken him or her.
According to Michele Fish, associate director of SDS, one of the service’s goals is to ensure hearing-impaired students’ safety.
Hearing-impaired students can also receive special doorbells that use light to inform them of visitors by attaching an alarm to a regular lamp or a special light. Also, there are telephones with volume control available to hearing-impaired students.
Apart from housing accommodations, the University also provides hearing-impaired students with special academic accommodations, such as preferential seats in a lecture room and real-time captioning, to help them access educational resources. They can also request extended time on exams.
“I need extra time because it takes me more time to process things on tests. I don’t know why, but my hearing impairment seems to cause a double-step to process things,” said Jeremy Kaller ’10, who is granted extended time on exams.
Rebecca Herman ’11 was born deaf and did not start learning language until she recovered approximately 80 percent of her hearing with a cochlear implant at 9 years old. She said, “I started to learn language very late, so I need more time to process information.”
The length of the extended time depends on the student’s situation and course arrangements. Fish said, “SDS will send the instructor a Faculty Notification Letter, and then the student and the instructor can discuss how the accommodation will be carried out.”
Herman now has a 50 percent time extension.
SDS offers bedshakers connected to a fire alarm system, and many students bring their own bedshakers to serve as alarm clocks. “I don’t wear my cochlear implant when I’m sleeping, so I cannot hear. But the bedshaker will shake to wake me up,” said Herman. She also watches captioned TV in her dorm.
In addition to the accommodations provided by Cornell, there are also outside resources that can help students with hearing impairments, such as hearing ear dogs. Sember, who is now a special programs administrator on North Campus, has a hearing dog called Maggie. She got Maggie from an outside organization. Maggie can remind her owner of alarms, horns on a busy street, doorbells and even when someone is calling her name. “She gets my attention in a gentle way and shows me whatever makes the sound,” said Sember.