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Creating a Path to Empowerment for Students Who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing

working together

Our goal for every student is to grow and blossom into the best version of themselves. For our students who are deaf or hard of hearing, advocating for and receiving the appropriate accommodations can be crucial to reaching their potential. It also can be quite a challenge.

To help pave the way to success for our students, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s Deaf/Hard of Hearing Support Program teamed up with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for the “Path to emPOWERment” conference. The event encouraged students to acquire the tools they need to succeed, and provided inspiration from those with similar experiences who have found success.

The conference focused on self-advocacy, work readiness, post-secondary training and career exploration. There was a resource fair showing off the latest available technology geared to individuals who are deaf/hard of hearing. Personal stories from professionals throughout various careers who are deaf/hard of hearing themselves showed the students that they don’t need to fit in -- they just need to be themselves.

Perhaps the most important lesson the students learned is that they are not alone and there are resources available to help ease the transition into life after high school.

Taylor Billett, a freshman at Riverview High School, found the conference beneficial as it alerted her to new opportunities. Taylor plans to attend college and hopes to attend more events like this in the future that will help her to be best prepared when the time comes.

“The conference taught me about technology that can help me achieve my future goals and about specialized programs for deaf and hard of hearing students that may help us pursue future careers,” said Taylor. “Because of this, I do believe there should be more events like this in the future.”

Riverview was one of the many schools represented. Others included:

· North Allegheny

· Pine Richland

· Mon Valley

· Avonworth

· Bethel Park

· Chartiers Valley

· Moon

· Brentwood

· Northgate

· East Allegheny

· Gateway

· South Allegheny

· Woodland Hills

The AIU Deaf/Hard of Hearing Support Program works closely with the staff of OVR to develop opportunities for groups and individuals in their journey to post-secondary life. Ashley Mullen, OVR Early Reach Coordinator, was instrumental in teaming with the AIU to design and provide this opportunity for students. Plans are already in the works for future events so that students can continue their paths to success with their best foot forward.