Hidden Disabilities on College Tours: An Admissions Counselor's Perspective

Looking at colleges for the first time was not the experience that I thought I would be having. Instead of taking in the schools and hearing about  classes and activities, I was worried about something that most kids don’t have to worry about.

My dad, while most people may not notice right away, is deaf and blind in one eye.

My dad and I have always been incredibly close and moving away for college was a process that I wanted to include him on. He went with me to every school that I looked at, scoured websites, and talked me through every worry and concern that I had. He was excited for me to go to school, even when I was looking at schools out of state. My dad took me on every single college visit that I wanted to go on and made sure that I got to spend as much time as I needed at each school. However, there were issues we encountered at every school visit that we went on - my dad could not always understand what was going on.

My dad has had a cochlear implant, which allows him to hear, for most of my life. Learning how to talk to him and accommodate those quirks that come with the cochlear have become second nature. Not many people get to have that same experience. Each college tour we went on, I had to relay the information to my dad in order for him to fully understand what was going on. People wouldn’t look at him which made it hard for him to fully understand because sometimes all that would come through was noise. It really affected the experience for both of us.

After settling on going to BVU and working with the admissions department, I started looking for ways that would save other people from going through what my dad and I went through on all of the college tours that we went on. But change is hard, and it was hard to do while also attending classes and trying to be a normal college student. Hidden disabilities are ones that are hard to accommodate because many people do not want to say that they have a disability. This made it really hard, along with any legal things, to feel like we were making a change. My goal was mainly to bring awareness so that there were efforts that could be seen by those that did not want to disclose that they had a hidden disability.

One story that inspired me to try to bring awareness to hidden disabilities was one that one of my now coworkers told me about. There was a student at BVU years past that was blind and windchimes were put around campus to let them know where they were so that they were able to get around. That was really inspiring to me because something so simple, that would not be recognized as more than a pretty noise to most, was something that was necessary for this student. That story helped me to believe that change was possible.

Now as an admissions counselor, I better understand the struggle to accommodate every single student because we deal with so many students, as individuals and as a unit. However, it is possible to help those that truly want to be at our schools by showing we care and are trying. I knew that BVU was the place for me because they tried, even if it was not perfect. We are recruiting more than just the student, but also their family and effort means so much. So, try things to make those with disabilities or concerns of all kinds feel included. It really does mean so much as someone who has been there.

Some tips for those that are curious how to help those that are deaf/hard of hearing.

  • Face the person the entire time that you are speaking.
  • Do not slow your speech or speak louder. It makes it harder.
  • Many people read lips so make sure that you enunciate.
  • Just try not to get frustrated when you have to repeat something. We are all human and sometimes people are just trying their best.

If you and your school are doing things for those that have hidden disabilities or disabilities in general, let us know! We would love to hear from you and share so that everyone can try to figure out the best ways to help everyone.

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