The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI hosts deaf-awareness panels


By KayLynn Harris
[email protected]

Iowa City’s deaf community has come a long way, but experts say there are still statewide issues waiting to be addressed.

The American Sign Language Program at the University of Iowa hosted two panel discussions on Sept. 22 and Sept. 25 in honor of Deaf Awareness Week. Panelist discussed the difficulties deaf people face, especially in Iowa.

Community leaders — along with students within the deaf community — shared their experiences and frustrations about deaf awareness.

During both panels, speakers stressed the issue educational resources availability for the deaf in Iowa. There are 95 teachers who specialize in teaching deaf students for Iowa’s 300 school districts. Half of those teachers are over the age of 50 and nearing retirement.

Though the UI offers a minor or certificate in American Sign Language, there isn’t a program in the state of Iowa to become certified to teach the deaf.

Steve Gettel, superintendent for the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, was among the many panelists who spoke. He expressed the need for more interpreters in Iowa’s school systems.

He said there are fewer than 250 licensed interpreters in Iowa and under 120 in the public schools. However, he said, there are more than 1,200 deaf and hard of hearing students in the state.

Gettel emphasized the lack of interpreters makes it difficult for deaf students who don’t attend a school for the deaf to receive an equal education within the hearing world.

Theresa Legg, the secretary of the Cedar Rapids Association of the Deaf, noted her frustrations with the shortage of interpreters.

“It’s difficult trying to get an interpreter, especially in remote parts of Iowa,” she said. “Today, you can video-call interpreters, but there still exist issues with that system. There is a need that isn’t being met.”

UI student Katy Clay, who is hard of hearing and nearly deaf in one ear, knows the challenges.

“It was difficult for me at first here. Some professors were slow to adapt technologies like captions when showing videos,” Clay said. “It was frustrating to want to learn but have limitations.”

Though adjusting was challenging in the beginning for her, the UI does provide special services and educational support for all hearing impaired students.

UI Lecturer Tim Sheets, who is deaf and teaches American Sign Language, also served as moderator for the discussions.

“I came to Iowa City in 1983, and the community was not deaf-friendly,” he said. “However, as time went on and the deaf population grew it has become much better, and I think that will continue.”

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