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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Education in America: Voices of Children from Inclusion Settings

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Again, there seems to be a great divide between the perspective of the signing deaf students and the speaking deaf students. Overall, the speaking deaf students feel more confident in their education. Perhaps because they do not rely solely on their interpreter, they are able to gain more direct information from the teacher. Sam explained that the benefit went beyond getting a good education to learning how to live in the hearing culture. She is confident in her ability to succeed in this environment and feels she is able to glean valuable skills for future use in interacting with hearing people.

Does an Interpreter Provide Full Access?

The question of “What is interpreted?” was often initially answered by a list of subjects—math, science, and art. But when I asked more probing questions, the students began to think deeper about their daily experiences in school. They discussed their awareness of conversations and sounds that occur in their environment, most of which they can not access.

   She tells me what the teacher says . . . that’s all. And, she tells me what to do.

   I have an interpreter in school. She interprets when I’m a little confused. Sometimes she is not there for my rotations—you
   know, my nine-week classes—or like gym. She uses sign. She used to use C-Print [a speech to text technology system
   developed at NTID], but she doesn’t use it anymore.

   Sometimes my friend interprets things that are going on in the classroom. The interpreter interprets conversations, sounds
   in the hallways, conversations between the teacher and other students. If we are walking down the hallway and I see
   friends, we communicate directly, so she doesn’t need to interpret that, but if somebody really wants to talk with me, then
   she’ll interpret.

   Some interpreters only focus on what the teacher says, while others with more skill let me know about the conversations
   around me and environmental sounds, like noises in the hallway. As long as she interprets clearly what the teacher says,
   I’m all right.

Schools are filled with sounds and conversations. The direct instruction of the teacher may represent only a fragment of the auditory imput from the school. What gets interpreted? What gets left out? These are important questions, and the answers vary from school to school, interpreter to interpreter.

Julie’s comments give us a glimpse of the magnitude of the interpreter’s role in attempting to provide full access for the deaf student. Her interpreter provided interpretation for everything happening in the classroom, as well as “conversations, sounds in the hallways, and conversations between the teacher and other students.” Ashley, though, resisted the idea of using an interpreter in the hall with her. She emphasized only a need for the interpreter to provide a clear interpretation of the teacher’s message. Leslie and Sam do not use an interpreter to the same extent as the other deaf students interviewed, but they did voice a need to have an interpreter available to clarify information when needed.

The needs and desires of this group of deaf students vary. While some want access to voices in the hall and environmental sounds, others only need the support of an interpretation of the teacher’s voice. The responses indicate that a delicate balance exists between wanting access to the auditory environment and the possible social stigma of being followed around by an adult. The next section directly focuses on this second issue.

How does it feel to have an adult follow you around?

When asked about the availability of interaction and sounds outside of the classroom, some students shared the dilemma of choosing between access and having an adult follow them throughout the school.

   I feel embarrassed [having an adult follow me through the school]. I like having natural direct communication without an

   I feel like I’m mentally retarded, walking around with your own adult. I feel stupid and embarrassed. But I put up with it.

   That’s fine. I don’t mind. She’s not with me all the time; sometimes she’ll say she’s going to check her messages and
   meet me in class, and I tell her that’s fine. Or maybe in art class we are just working on our projects, so I don’t really
   even need her to interpret at all for that class period.

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