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April 8, 2003

University for deaf brilliant idea

From: Belleville Intelligencer, Canada - Apr 8, 2003

The Intelligencer

Tuesday, April 08, 2003 - 10:00

Editorial - The suggestion Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf become a university for the deaf is a brilliant one.

MPP Ernie Parsons championed the idea at a recent public meeting at the school to thunderous applause from the hundreds of family members and interested parties in attendance. He reiterated the thought in an interview with Derek Baldwin in our Winds of Change special edition.

As things stand, Canadian deaf students seeking post-secondary education have three choices: attend hearing post-secondary education facilities and require the assistance of an interpreter and a note-taker (at the province?s expense); attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. (the only liberal arts university in the world designed exclusively for deaf or hard of hearing students); or attend the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y.

The lack of an non-integrated post-secondary educational facility for the deaf in Canada is at best a terrible oversight, at worse a discriminatory situation left for far too long.

Why the need for non-integrated education? Communication, plain and simple. Deaf students in hearing institutions are not able to be understood by their peers. Realistically, they are denied the opportunity to make friendships and participate in extra-curricular activities like student government, media and various clubs. And they are not able to fully benefit from the seminar-style educational approach that frequently depends on the back-and-forth debate of ideas between instructor and students in the class.

Though some argue for integration, others believe it?s a form of reverse segregation: a deaf student in a hearing environment is, for many intents and purposes, alone. The tremendous nuances of the spoken language are incredibly difficult for deaf students to master, giving hearing and speaking students an advantage from the onset of the educational process. A non-integrated school is a fair option for deaf students.

It would also be good business for Belleville. A Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf and Polytechnical Institute, much like Ryerson which offers both college diplomas and university degrees, could bring 600 new students to the area. Students from across the country would be drawn to the Canadian school, as would deaf students from the United States and around the world looking for choice.

The opportunity is a tremendous one, and is worthy of financial backing from the province, with support, we believe, from the federal government too.

© 2003  Belleville Intelligencer