Center to use grant in research for deaf

By Tricia Roegner

After receiving a $3 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education last year, the new Research and Training Center is now in full operation.

Sue Ouellette, NIU professor of communicative disorders and director of the new center, said the center is functioning very well despite trying to get organized in its new location.

“We’re in the process of trying to pull together the new facility, but at the same time make progress on our new projects,” Ouellette said.

The grant for the Research and Training Center will support a series of research, material development and training programs to address the needs of the low-functioning deaf. The first-year funding, through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, is $600,000 (90 percent) along with NIU’s contribution of $65,191 (10 percent).

The center received the grant after Ouellette sent a proposal to the Department of Education, clearly explaining NIU’s communicative department’s 30 years of experience serving the low-functioning deaf population.

“Receiving the grant was due to a complete effort by the whole communicative disorders department,” Ouellette said. “It was definitely not by my work alone.”

Ouellette said the NIU Research and Training Center is now one of six regional affiliates from across the United States which consists of agencies also serving under served persons who are deaf.

Greg Long, associate professor and director of research at the center, who also worked toward bringing the center to NIU, said although they are still getting organized, the center has been able to work on their new projects.

“The center will try to look at the needs and issues (of the low-functioning deaf) on a national level,” Long said.

Also, the center provides graduate students in the communicative disorders major to work at the center.

Sandy Agnos, one of the graduate students currently working at the center, said she feels extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work at the new center.

“I’m very excited to see what is happening with the center,” Agnos said. “Once I’m finished (working at the center), I’ll be much more professionally qualified.”