Photo by Tate Tullier
For more than 3.6 million Americans who are deaf or have serious difficulty hearing – including more than 200,000 college students and 37,000 late-deafened military veterans – success after high school can be elusive.
Deaf people frequently experience inaccessible campuses and workplaces, negative attitudes and biases, low expectations, and other systemic factors that have resulted in substantial gaps in education and employment compared to hearing people.
To close those gaps in the US and its territories, the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) has received a $20 million, five-year grant from the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and will continue its far-reaching work at The University of Texas at Austin, where it is based in the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at the College of Education.
This award is a renewal of a previous $20 million OSEP grant, which established NDC in 2017 and was one of the largest grants awarded by the Department of Education to provide customized support, resources, and professional development to stakeholders that serve students with disabilities.
“The work we do at NDC pushes beyond providing deaf people with accommodations, and it pushes beyond the historic focus on their individual deficiencies. We advocate for examining the deficits within systems, then making systemic change with community-led strategies that center deaf people and their lived experiences,” said Garberoglio.
Their mission aligns with larger changes in the field and the College of Education’s commitment to Reimagine Education.
“NDC’s innovative, high-impact work reflects a cultural shift that’s happening in educational equity, as we strive to better serve diverse and underserved students,” said Charles R. Martinez, Jr., dean of the College of Education. “Deficits need to be repaired within our educational systems, not within our students. As NDC’s collaborative approach shows, and this significant grant supports, raising our expectations and transforming our systems can improve outcomes and empower more students to succeed.”
The only center of its kind in the nation, NDC is deaf-centered, reflecting the team’s commitment to collaboration within the center and with other organizations committed to eliminating inequities in education and society at large. To this end, NDC identified Eight Strategies for Deaf Communities to Enact System Change, which emerged through a series of community conversations across the nation that centered the experiences and needs of deaf community members.
“I have seen people and systems as barriers for deaf people,” said Ivanko. “Opportunities for education, training, and generally increasing capacity to serve deaf people has been lacking. NDC is changing that.”
Prior to NDC, best practices for educating and supporting the educational outcomes of deaf people after high school were not rigorously studied or shared broadly.
Since NDC’s founding four years ago, more than 750,000 people have visited their website, downloading resources and data reports more than 230,000 times – a download rate that is up 121% during the pandemic, as demand increased during the rapid shift to online learning and working. In response, NDC rushed to produce many new COVID-related resources in American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish.
The center also offers:
- A robust online learning library with topics ranging from Deaf 101 to test equity;
- An Engage for Change initiative that strengthens connections with local communities, state leaders, and national experts; and
- A Help Team responds to thousands of questions per year and has more than 28,000 people subscribe to its monthly newsletter.
The NDC team is committed to serving all deaf people. The Center’s resources provide deaf youth and their teachers, families, and counselors with the tools to help them navigate inaccessible environments. NDC’s work is making an impact.
NDC developed Deafverse, the first-ever ASL-accessible video game that is designed to boost deaf teenagers’ self-determination skills, and a Deaf Success video series on YouTube that provides real-world examples of deaf people in a variety of careers, including police officer, physician, and business manager.
NDC research shows how beneficial deaf role models are for deaf youth, including NDC’s own leadership.
Garberoglio, MA ’12, PhD ’13, is a proud second-generation UT Austin alumna who is grateful to her father, Walt Camenisch, MEd ‘78, and countless other deaf activists who paved the way. But there is a long way to go.
“Deaf people are still fighting for accessibility in postsecondary environments and beyond. This is the work of my career, and the work we do at NDC,” said Garberoglio.