Federal grant to assist NIU in helping educate the deaf

By Matt Gilbert

A grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help create a new curriculum at NIU to train health care providers in instructing the traditionally underserved deaf about health care.

The three-year grant will total $418,656 and will come from the Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The grant will cover 94 percent of the project, with NIU covering the rest.

“It’s really an exciting project for us.” said Sue Ouellette, a professor of communicative disorders and director of the Research and Training Center on Traditionally Underserved Persons Who Are Deaf.

“The chair of our National Advisory Council for the Research and Training Center was doing some work in the inner-cities of Chicago with some people who are deaf. (He) pulled me aside one day and said, ‘Sue, the real problem here is simply a lack of basic information about health care. Without that, nothing else makes much difference.'”

Ouellette said the intent is to develop health care curriculum materials for deaf people who function at a lower than optimum level because they are not getting the services that they need, sometimes because they live in inner city or rural environments.

“For many of these individuals, there is no reason why they couldn’t be functioning better than they are,” she continued.

“Members of minority group populations are at risk for not having adequate access to quality health care. When you add the double whammy of deafness there you create a situation where there is an individual who is highly at risk,” Ouellette said.

The project will be executed in three phases. The first will be to go out and find out what people feel needs to be included in the curriculum.

“We want to go out and ask deaf people and their families, (persons) who work in an inner city environment (and) health care providers.”

The next phase will be to take the information collected and use it to create the curriculum.

The third phase will be to field test the curriculum, make sure it works, make any modifications that might be needed, package it and then go out and train health care providers and persons who perform rehabilitation services to the population so that they can use it, Ouelette said.

Ouelette will run the fiscal and administrative aspects of the project and be responsible for seeing that the project meets its objectives. The day-to-day operations will be run by Project Manager Stephen Larew, research associate for the department of Communicative Disorders on Research and Training Center on Traditionally Underserved Persons Who Are Deaf.