Deafness rehab training possible with funds

By Michael Berg

A $306,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Department will allow 30 NIU students to be trained as deafness rehabilitation workers.

The grant, received by NIU’s Department of Communicative Disorders, will be used for three new courses, said Sue Ouellette, professor and grant director.

Undergraduate equivalent courses have been added to graduate classes and internships in Chicago-area clinics also have been added to the program.

The 30 students will be chosen on the basis of grade point average, class standing, interest in the profession and commitment of the applicant to work in the field after graduation.

Eight trainees each year will be chosen: four juniors and four seniors. They will receive tuition, fees, and a monthly salary in the program.

Deafness rehabilitation workers are employed in hospitals, state and private clinics or vocational settings. They work with two types of people. Some work with young adults who have grown up with disabilities and after graduating from school want to become independent and join the work force.

The workers also aid adults who were able-bodied but due to injury have been disabled and need to relearn everyday life.

Oullette said the rewards in this area of work include the “satisfaction you feel when you teach a disabled person to remove environmental roadblocks and fulfill their potential.”

Environmental roadblocks include inaccesible workplaces and employer’s attitudes. “The deaf don’t consider their deafness a disability. It is a communication difference,” Oullette said, adding problems come when they try to speak with hearing people who don’t know sign language.

NIU is only one of two schools in the country that have undergraduate education in deafness rehabilitation service. East Central University in Oklahoma is the other. Seven or eight schools have graduate level courses, Oullette said.

Since the beginning of NIU’s graduate program in 1976, the graduate placement rate has been 100 percent.

The program has received 25 grants from the U.S. Department of Education since 1976.