Jed Dar Juan, a third-year visual communication student, gets to school early. Not just the usual “parking is a nightmare early,” but earlier. She does so to ensure that she sits in her 8 a.m. class in a specific place, because she is partially deaf.
“I sit in the front corner so I can hear my peers and professor,” Dar Juan said. “Everyone speaks so quietly, but I just don’t want to miss anything.”
According to the Office of Deaf Access, California is home to 3 million deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) people. About 800,000 of them live in greater Los Angeles and its surrounding counties. Yet, they continue to be marginalized by society. In response to discrimination and lack of accommodation, DHH people came together to create a proud culture of their own.
Deaf Awareness Club co-founder and president Mandana Jahangirian has always straddled both worlds. Both of her parents are deaf, so from a young age she has been immersed in deaf culture as a CODA (child of deaf adults).
Within her first year, Jahangirian noticed the lack of deaf awareness on the Cal Poly Pomona campus. Both her father and her sister are alums and neither had heard of any DHH-centered groups or events. With the obvious need, she knew that she did not just want to teach American Sign Language (ASL), but also to educate others on all matters regarding deaf culture.
“My sister and I always say that we are blessed to have deaf parents, Jahangirian said. “It’s given us this perspective into a whole culture that so few people know about. I really want more people to know about it.”
Every week, the Deaf Awareness Club meets to practice sign language, watch documentaries and explore facets of DHH experience. Jahangirian hopes to include more events and guest speakers this year.
The club is in its second year, but the participant numbers have been dwindling. Jahangirian notices fewer people coming in every week. She believes that participants don’t feel the incentive, as many of them are not deaf.
Mitu Verma graduated from CPP in June 2018 with a bachelor’s in liberal studies. She is deaf and utilized the Disability Resource Center (DRC) for interpretive assistance. While she felt that the staff and their resources were incredibly supportive, her biggest challenge was communicating with her peers.
Something as simple as ordering vegetarian options at Subway was a challenge, with many occasions of her requests being ignored. If her interpreter was late to assist in class, her classmates would not engage with her. If teachers turn their back, she would lose track of the discussion. These instances soon made her grow tired of self-advocating.
“Nine times out of 10, someone shows frustration. They don’t show respect and they’ll have an attitude because they may have to communicate in a different way that might take more time,” Verma said.
Yesenia Ramirez is a lead interpreter for the DRC and she believes that the CPP community may improve in the coming years. While the deaf and hard of hearing presence on campus is rather small (three deaf students use ASL and about 10 use Real Time Captioners), it may not remain so.
Mt. San Antonio College has a reputable cultural and academic center that provides resources to 150 DHH students, 90 of which use ASL. Their programming goes above and beyond by providing peer mentorship programs, field trips, study groups and student success events.
In previous years, not many DHH students chose to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona. One reason is that CPP does not have the same resources as other deaf-serving institutions along with the semester-quarter credit conversion issues. With Cal Poly’s recent change to a semester system, Ramirez believes more deaf students will remain local and choose the university.
“The students that come here who are deaf or hard of hearing, they wanted to come here even knowing that it would be more of a challenge,” Ramirez said. “But now, it’s an easier place to transition into.”
Deaf Awareness Club meets every Thursday at U-hour in Building 9, room 271. Everyone is welcome. If you are in need of accommodation resources when on campus, contact the DRC at https://www.cpp.edu/~drc/index.shtml.
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