Deaf, blind students gather at graduation to celebrate their unique accomplishments | education

OGDEN – Rather than using horns or other noisemakers, at a local graduation ceremony, family and friends hatched their hats to graduates with another gesture – they raised their hands in the air with outstretched fingers and wiggled their wrists.

Often referred to as silent applause or visual applause, it was fitting for the start of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, where four of the graduates were deaf or hard of hearing and three were blind or partially sighted.

Other local schools hold ceremonies where hundreds of students come to the stage to receive their diplomas, and the USDB degree has been low compared to just seven students. But each student gave a presentation at the event showing how they had overcome large obstacles in order to be able to twist their tassel.

“Our graduates are unique in the fact that the challenges they mastered were increased tenfold compared to other teenagers,” said Susan Patten, assistant director, Utah School for the Blind. “In order not to underestimate the challenges other teenagers had to face, but ours had to face together with the vision and hearing losses.”

One of these graduates was the visually impaired Hannah Hart. She attended the Utah School for the Blind in Ogden.

When Hart was 3 weeks old, she said her doctor told her mother that she had visual impairment as well as other disabilities. The medics who worked with Hart weren’t sure if she could ever walk or speak, but her mother signed her up for the parent-child program at the USDB.

“If the USDB and everyone else didn’t help me, I wouldn’t graduate from high school the way I am today,” said Hart from the podium. “I would be in a wheelchair. I wouldn’t talk I couldn’t do anything alone, but I’m doing my Abitur here. “

After graduating, she would like to pursue a career as a baker.

Another graduate, James Luneborg, attended the Jean Massieu School of the Deaf in Salt Lake City after his family moved to Utah in sophomore year high school.

Before moving, he had never been deaf in his life. Because of this, he never participated in any extracurricular or extracurricular activities.

“When I moved here to Utah, it really affected my life,” said a translator who translated Luneborg sign language. “I was able to exchange ideas with other deaf peers and take part in basketball and other events.”

Luneborg plans to become a day trader on the stock exchange at some point.

While visiting the USDB helped deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and visually impaired students find community and gain access to subject teaching, it did not solve all of the difficulties students faced. As with high school graduates around the world, the USDB student’s final year of high school careers has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patten said USDB never had to close any of its campuses due to COVID-19 outbreaks. However, it had to close some classrooms for a period of time, forcing students to study online.

“Our kids came back as soon as possible and our parents wanted to study in school, so they were very flexible when we said this class needs to be quarantined,” said Patten.

Most students in schools preferred in-person tuition as access to online learning can be a problem for those with hearing or vision problems. Blind and visually impaired students often cannot see a computer screen. Deaf and hard of hearing students who are quarantined at home are not always surrounded by people who can effectively communicate the answers to their questions.

Patten said schools have worked tirelessly this year to ensure students have all of the accessible devices they need to study at home, even if much of it is expensive. Some of these technologies included screen readers or a BrailleNote Touch, which cost nearly $ 6,000.

“The world of technology is constantly changing and we are on the right track,” said Patten. “We’re in the right place to make sure our kids have the latest and greatest. It’s not something they just want – it’s something they need. “

After the ups and downs of last year – and actually their entire educational careers – students also needed a graduation ceremony to recognize their achievement, Patten said.

She was grateful that attendees didn’t have to social distancing as much this year as they did in 2020 and that schools were able to hold a full, face-to-face graduation ceremony.

“It is very important to us to celebrate and congratulate these families and the students for having overcome so much,” said Patten. “We want you to know that you can really do anything you imagine because you have already done it.”

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