ASL and Hearing Impairment

By Laura McDonough and Jambar Contributor Katlyn Kritz

For students with deafness and other hearing impairments, communication can be difficult.

Kristin Melanson, sophomore in biology pre-med at Youngstown State University, said she has been studying American Sign Language for the past four years.

She said since she started learning ASL she’s come into contact with numerous hearing-impaired people.

“I work at an optometrist office, and we had a little boy come in with only one implant,” Melanson said. “I signed to him and he was very happy. After that he could pick out the glasses he wanted.”

She said no one else at her workplace knew how to sign and that it’s important people know the basics.

“I personally think all medical staff should have to learn ASL as a job requirement,” Melanson said.

This may prove to be difficult for YSU students, as ASL is not offered as a major or minor, and not many sections are offered to fulfill the language requirement for some majors.

Rich Magazzine, YSU ASL instructor, said he has been trying to get an ASL minor for the past year.

“The school would greatly benefit from having an ASL minor,” Magazzine said. “It could offer more opportunity for deaf students to be involved on campus.”

He said it would be beneficial for pre-med students to take ASL classes as it would make them more versatile.

“I would love to teach more ASL classes,” Magazzine said. “Deaf culture classes would be a good class.”

He said YSU would benefit from having an interpreter and hearing-impaired student center.

Gina McGranahan, assistant director of the Office of Disability Services, said her office is equipped to assist students with various levels of hearing impairment.

She said what Disability Services can do for students depends on their level of impairment, the class setting and if they are able to use ASL effectively.

They can get note takers, interpreters or access to a service where someone will type a summary of what is said in the class or a real-time word-for-word transcription.

McGranahan said she didn’t know the exact number of students with a hearing-impairment at YSU because some don’t need to use Disability Services.

“There’s such a fluctuation in hearing impairments, and it depends on what kind of classroom you’re in, if you need services or not,” McGranahan said. “In small quarters a lot of students don’t need [help], but if you’re in one of those big lecture halls, some students need more than others.”

She said whether a student needs extra help may also be determined by how well they can read lips.

Deaf and hard of hearing students, such as Rachel Jones, a senior communications major, have struggled with navigation on campus.


She said the school would benefit from making certain changes such as having a more efficient way of sending schedules to the disability office.

Jones said she wants her schedule sent directly to the disability office after creating it, instead of having to worry about her emails getting to them.

“I would’ve majored in ASL if YSU offered it,” Jones said. “I would love to see more people taking ASL classes.”

She said she wishes there were more things like ASL meetings and deaf culture classes.

Jones said deaf people spend a lot of time accommodating people that are not hearing impaired.

“If more people could sign we wouldn’t have to work so hard to read lips or carry around a pen and paper,” she said. “It’s nice finding hearing people who will at least meet me halfway.”

Jones said if a student doesn’t know how to talk to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to simply ask them about it.

“A wave or a tap on the shoulder will tell us you’re there,” she said. “ASL is more than English with hands. It’s a language like any spoken language.”