|Growing up in Florida, Kelleher, like many of her peers, didn’t have any deaf or hard-of-hearing friends. Until she came to Gallaudet, she used hearing aids to “help keep up in conversations.” Most deaf people (around 80%) are born to hearing families, many of whom do not learn ASL.
It’s lonely and isolating, she said, but it’s something you get used to because you have to.
Once she got to college, though, she had “full communication access.” She could sign with teachers and classmates, as well as use ASL to order coffee and crack jokes at parties. Finally belonging somewhere these past few years has been a “haven,” she said.
So being forced to abruptly leave her school months early has sparked panic, fear, dread, and anxiety, students said — not just because of the comfort and social connection fostered by the campus but also the stability, acceptance, and services that deaf students do not have access to when they go home.