Alumna speaks on deaf life in a hearing world

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, the National Student Speech and Language/Hearing Association sponsored a talk by Pam Hatch, retired principal of the Rochester School for the Deaf and Rochester Deaf Woman of the Year. Her presentation in Newton 202 gave students a brief insight into the world of the deaf community and RSD.

Hatch, a graduate of Geneseo, started as a math teacher at RSD 32 years ago. She was born partially deaf and, by the time she was in high school, she had progressively lost almost all of her hearing.

After attending public school her entire life, her experience when she began working at RSD was a "whole different world" which contrasted to her experience growing up in a hearing school where "for me, having a disability was normal, having to speech read was normal."

Her disability through childhood, coupled with her influence in the deaf community, lent her a unique perspective on the topic of the cochlear implant, which offers deaf people the opportunity to hear, and how it has been received in the deaf community. Initially, she explained, many of the older adults in the community feared that it would "take away our culture and they thought that people wouldn't sign anymore."

Hatch explained that this, however, is not the case at all: Individuals who choose to receive implants remain very much a part of the community. She stated in her recent encounters with the community, "Talk is more positive" about cochlear and that she would consider applying for one in the future.

Hatch went on to describe the culture of the deaf community. She explained that it consists of people from a variety of backgrounds: parents, children, deaf parents with hearing children and hearing parents with deaf children.

There are stark differences between each individual groups, she said, most notably hearing parents with deaf children. There are those parents, she noted, who attempt to make sure their child develops as normally as possible and then there are those who choose to embrace the deaf culture and learn American Sign Language. She emphasized the difference between mainstreaming children, where deaf kids are integrated into hearing classrooms, and schools like RSD where all of the students, teachers and faculty members are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Hatch addressed about the change that has occurred in deaf education over the past several decades. She explained that in the 1970s, the concept of education in the deaf community moved away from a boarding school scenario to weekly sessions, where students return home for the weekends. She explained that although the quality of education between the types of schooling scenarios may be comparable, socially mainstreaming may not always be meeting all the needs of the students.

Student reaction to the speaker was very positive and many took the time to stay after the presentation to speak with her and ask questions.

"I was very impressed with all that she has done to provide assistance to people in the deaf community," said sophomore Erin Filippini.