U holds second-annual Deaf and Hard of Hearing Day

Andy Mannix

Beyond the usual crowd of students trying to study for finals or catch a quick in-between-classes nap with the background racket of an amateur pianist, Coffman Union also served as a setting for the University’s now-annual Deaf and Hard of Hearing Day Monday.

Disability services founded the event in 2006 as a means of introducing deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students to the services and opportunities the University can offer them, Mari Magler, associate director of disability services and chairwoman of the deaf and hard-of-hearing planning committee, said.

“It’s a good opportunity for students to get together and have a day where they’re the focus of the attention,” Magler said. “They get to meet other deaf and hard-of-hearing students from around the state and kind of make some connections.”

Though the call of jury duty kept Magler from attendance, approximately 150 students made the journey from around the Midwest, along with 45 volunteers.

Tim Gerard, a sophomore from Lincoln High School in Esko, Minn., said he came to the event because he is interested in attending the University one day, and wanted to get an inside look.

He said he hasn’t heard of any other colleges holding an event like Deaf and Hard of Hearing Day.

In addition to an introduction to the University, this year’s event also focused on the theme of identity and leadership.

Scott Marshall, manager of the interpreter and caption unit of disability services who also played event host in Magler’s absence, said the idea was to get students thinking about their own identities and roles as future leaders. Marshall said college is often the foundation for shaping these concepts.

The day included speeches geared toward the theme from Vice President and Vice Provost in Equity Diversity Dr. Rusty Barcelo and former Miss Deaf Minnesota Ann Marie Mickelson.

Barcelo talked about how growing up with polio shaped her own identity, and how she drew strength from the experience.

Barcelo said she thinks Deaf and Hard of Hearing Day is the only event of its kind in the country.

“I think the University of Minnesota is leading in a very important way,” she said.

Sarah Angerman, clinical supervisor in the department of speech, language and hearing, said some services the University offers for deaf and hard-of-hearing students include interpreters, captioning and assisted-hearing devices.

Marshall said while the University has a history of being ahead of the game in the services provided for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, there are still things it is working to improve.

One thing Marshall said has been in the works is an opportunity for students to live on dorm floors made up exclusively of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Marshall said living in an environment that allows communication without interpreters would give students a chance to lead “richer” college lifestyles.

“The ‘U’ does its best to provide a positive atmosphere to give deaf and hard-of-hearing students a chance to experience college like anyone else,” he said.