The Experiences of Non-Signing Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students and Their Academic and Social Integration Into A Primarily Signing Deaf University Environment

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What is the value of a predominantly signing Deaf University such as Gallaudet University for an oral deaf or hard-of-hearing non-signing student who grew up in the mainstreamed or inclusive educational settings? This study sought to explore the experiences of ten non-signing oral deaf and hard-of-hearing university students as they integrated, both academically and socially, into a predominantly signing d/Deaf university environment and the subsequent impact on their identity development. Using a qualitative grounded theory methodology to focus on the individual meaning that these students ascribe to their experience using their own words, codes, categories, and themes emerged in an inductive process that created a substantive theory describing the experience of these students. The final key category that embodied the overall emerging theory is the participant's process of developing a positive identity as a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual. The support categories for this key category are:

  • Diagnosis: Setting the stage for `self as different'

  • On the margins of the mainstream: Passing for Hearing

  • Catalyst: Gallaudet University as a gateway to a new community and language, `meeting others like me'.

  • Transitions: Finding a sense of place and self

  • Moving from the margins to the center: Developing a positive and affirmative identity as a Deaf or Hard-of-hearing person

What emerged out of this transitional experience is a transformative and life changing story of individuals who enter a new community, meet others like themselves, learn American Sign Language (ASL), and in the process develop a positive and affirmative identity as a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual. Overall, the emerging substantive theory based on the participants experiences is one that embodies the participants process of developing a positive and affirmative Deaf or Hard-of-hearing identity.