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Ask MNCDHH: Accessibility Resources for College Students

You ask, we answer

5/7/2019 10:17:30 AM

Icons of a student with a graduation cap and a college building.

Question: My 19 year old daughter attending the U of M grew up deaf in one ear. Recently her good ear has declined dramatically. She is struggling emotionally and academically. Are there supports for young people who have similar issues? The groups we see for [D/HH] youth seem to be for people who are proficient in ASL or are completely deaf.

The response to this question was written by Dann Trainer and Haley Kimmet, University of Minnesota Disability Resource Center (DRC).

Answer:  This is an important question and one that we see sometimes with Deaf/Hard of Hearing students who may not use sign language to communicate. We have a few suggestions to get you and your daughter started.

First, we encourage your daughter to connect with the University of Minnesota's Disability Resource Center (DRC). Our office is here to help students set up reasonable accommodations (such as live captioning of classes, closed captions on videos, notetakers and more) that can help reduce a lot of the stress and strain that can come with navigating a hearing loss in the classroom and on campus.

To get started at the DRC, you can set up an initial meeting with one of our access consultants on staff by calling 612-626-1333 or emailing If your daughter is nervous about connecting, some students prefer to stop by our office's drop-in hours to gather more information in a short 15-20 minute meeting. Our drop-in hours are listed online. 

During the initial meeting, the access consultant will ask questions about your daughter's experiences in and out of the classroom and work with her to set up an accommodation plan, which can include accommodations in the classroom, in employment, for group projects, and at other events/meetings on campus. In addition to the accommodations, the access consultant can help your daughter explore other potential resources on campus that might be helpful. The Disabled Student Cultural Center (DSCC) is a student-led group that has a gathering space on campus and provides opportunities for students navigating campus-related barriers to gather. The consultant can also share mental health resources that can help with counseling and building strategies for managing stress, such as:

  • Boynton Mental Health Clinic
  • Student Counseling Services
  • Learn to Live (online counseling that is free to UMN students)
  • UMN Student Mental Health

There are also a variety of academic supports and other services available, including:

  • Writing Support Center
  • Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence
  • SMART Learning Commons
  • Julia M. Davis Speech-Language-Hearing Center

For other high school students who may be applying for college, there is usually an office or a designated point of contact to help you navigate services and accommodations that can help make your time on campus more accessible. Some suggestions for questions/accommodations to get started include:

  • Interpreters - does the college have staff or contract interpreters they work with; will you have the same interpreters for the class for the whole semester?
  • Captionists - does the college work with captionists trained in CART, TypeWell or C-Print and do they work in-person or remotely?
  • Media Captioning - does the college have a process for adding captions to uncaptioned videos, podcasts, and other audio content offered as part of your classes?
  • FM Systems - does the college have equipment they can loan or do you need to provide this?
  • Arrange for advanced notification of course materials to be emailed to students before class.
  • Request that instructors repeat questions or comments from students in the class.
  • Request instructors provide written instruction to students before in-class activities begin.
  • During small discussion groups, ask for permission for your group to find alternative spaces such as hallways or another empty classroom if quieter than the classroom.

If you are thinking about attending college, we encourage you to start thinking now about your top preferences for school and to consider a campus tour or overnight stay as an opportunity to learn more. Be sure to request accommodations if they will help you have a more meaningful campus tour/experience!

Many colleges also have the option for you to visit their disability services office by making an appointment or using drop-in hours. This may be a good time to bring along an IEP or 504 plan from high school if you have one, and use this to begin a conversation about accommodations. 

Much like we have here, it can be helpful to inquire about the college's tutoring services, housing accommodations, clubs/organizations, career services, audiology clinic, etc, and see if the disability services office can help connect you. 

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