Allysa D. | Posted on August 5, 2011
I’m excited to announce that I now have my very own blog page, Life Without Sound (thanks JHU_Joe for all the amazing tech work!). So in the future, you can find me here: Life Without Sound. You may wonder why I chose that to be the title of my page. Well, as most of you know, I am deaf and I would say that I experience life at Hopkins from a very different perspective. It’s been a year since I moved into Wolman Hall on 6th floor east and I have not yet fully written about my experiences as a deaf student at Hopkins. Since the very beginning of Pre-Orientation (which is like, the best week ever FYI), I’ve received many questions about my experiences at Hopkins and life without sound. So here goes:
Have you had any negative experiences pertaining to your hearing at Hopkins?
Surprisingly, none. And I say “surprisingly” because I was extremely anxious about being accepted before coming here. I was lucky enough to attend a high school where the community was very close and supportive. I was unsure whether Hopkins would be like that too. I’m happy to say that Hopkins has gone far and beyond my expectations. My friends are truly some of the best people I’ve met and several of my professors have been quite accommodating too.
What challenges do you face in the classroom?
A lot. I have more difficulty in math and science courses because teachers tend to use the blackboard often to write out equations, draw graphs, etc. A common occurrence is that professors tend to turn around to explain something on the board, with their backs facing me. When that happens, sounds go off. I can’t see their lips anymore and I miss everything they say. The interpreters can’t really help in this situation, because the professor is wildly pointing at points, shapes, and lines, and there’s no time for me to quickly look back and forth between the interpreter and the professor. I get reallyyy lost. With that being said, another challenge is often missing random things the professor says. For some of my classes, I need note-takers to have an extra set of notes so I can find all the gaps in my notes and fill them in. It can be a bit frustrating especially if you’re a person who’s very particular with your notes (like me).
But doesn’t the extra time you invest in your studies like reading over another set of notes help you study?
No. It’s not extra time. Rather, it’s time lost. It’s more of catching up to do, trying to fill in what I missed. Then I have to actually understand the material. While I’m busy catching up, others are reviewing or studying their material. So it can be a disadvantage sometimes.
Then what is an advantage of being deaf?
Being able to sleep really well at night or just simply turning all sounds off.
Why did you choose to attend Hopkins, a hearing university, instead of a deaf university? While I have nothing against deaf universities, I looked at hearing universities because I went to a hearing school and I was also raised in a hearing family. I also felt that I would miss out on all the opportunities Hopkins offered and I wanted to take what I could get. I applied early decision.
Do you ever wish you didn’t have interpreters? Eh. Sometimes. Because the university provides me with two interpreters, they are scheduled to attend my classes. So, it’s not wise for me to skip class. And yes, I like to skip class (but I don’t, I swear). I realized that in a way, it’s a good thing to have interpreters because I’m forced to go to class and in the end, it helps me because I never miss anything. Additionally, I’m really grateful to the university for providing me interpreters (for free!) so I will take what I can get. I also have a unique relationship with the interpreters and they’re really great people. They’ve always been advocates for me and I can always send them an e-mail/text whenever I can’t attend classes such as when I’m sick (I do get sick, I swear) or late. The worst is being late, though. I try not to put my interpreters in that position. Imagine them awkwardly sitting up in the front of the class with hands folded in their laps, having no one to sign to.
Do your friends know sign language? Some of them do. Especially my boyfriend (he’s hearing), who is almost fluent in sign language. But the majority of my friends don’t sign because they’ve found that I can lipread them well (to the point where they don’t even use their voice when talking to me – this one goes to you, Matt!).
What’s the disabilities office like at Hopkins?
Extremely accommodating. They assist all kinds of students and the director of the office is very, very friendly. Dr. Mosser is actually also a freshman advisor – if you have him, you’re lucky!! You can visit their website here: http://web.jhu.edu/disabilities. And yes, that’s an “O” in the American Sign Language alphabet on the front page of the website.
Can you drive?
I really don’t know why people ask me that. Yes, I can! And no, you don’t have to be able to hear to drive. You do miss the sirens and horns (you should be checking your rearview and side mirrors often anyways), but if you think about it, driving is mostly visual – there’s blinkers, stop lights, signs.
What about fire alarms? Especially when you’re sleeping?
Hopkins is pretty much equipped with visual fire alarms in many of the buildings. I’m not too concerned about that; plus, I’m often always around other people and I pretty much get the message if a fire alarm goes off…Hopkins was also very accommodating in regard to my dorm – they installed strobe light fire alarms so that it will wake me up if I’m sleeping. I can’t guarantee if that works though – I haven’t experienced it yet. The four times the fire alarm has gone off in Wolman, I was somewhere else! I also basically had #1 in the lottery for dorm selection (maybe I should add that to my advantages of being deaf list) because they had to know which room in advance so they could install the fire alarm system which takes awhile. Needless to say, my suitemates were delighted to get our first choice!
Is there anything you regret not doing at Hopkins? I would say not much. Though there are a few things that I do wish I could have done/do at Hopkins. I regret not being in a lot of clubs. The time I devote to my work is a lot more than others since I have to do more catching up and extra work. It’s also difficult to be in social groups where there’s a lot of talking and activities. It’s really hard for me to follow what’s going on. I’d also love to be a tour guide because I could just share everything about Hopkins and why I love it so much. But it would be too hard for me mostly due to visitors asking questions in the crowd – I wouldn’t be able to hear them/lip read that far away. Plus I can’t really walk backwards.
What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? Based on my experiences, be vocal. Stand up for yourself and get it done. Talk to professors or TAs if you need help. I was a bit hesitant asking for help and I should have done that in the beginning of the year. They help you more than you expect. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable or intimidating, but don’t let that get into the way. And, if you think that the disabilities office can help you (anything from visual aids, extended time on exams, note-takers, etc), then ask. They are very discreet and respect your privacy. Bottom line: stand up for yourself.
Well, I think that’s just about it. Those have been the commonly asked questions – that’s what life at Hopkins is for me.