National Technical Institute for the Deaf Welcomes Veterans with Hearing Loss

Veterans groups and Congressional reps applaud initiative




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A college specializing in technical education for students with hearing loss is reaching out to U.S. troops who have suffered significant hearing loss as a result of exposure to gunfire and explosions during their military service.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology, has established the Military Veterans with Hearing Loss Project at RIT/NTID. Recent veterans with hearing loss can earn bachelor or graduate-level degrees at RIT with access services—such as real-time captioning and notetaking in the classroom—from NTID.

A Web site for the initiative has been created to offer prospective students more information about the college and details the services available: http://www.rit.edu/ntid/veterans.

Nearly 1,300 deaf and hard-of-hearing students attend NTID. They receive access services as needed in classrooms throughout the RIT campus, including live captioning and notetaking services as well as sign language interpreting.

“It makes sense for us to welcome the men and women serving our country who could benefit from the education and access services we offer,” says NTID President Alan Hurwitz. “Our talented faculty and staff have experience helping those who have suffered a sudden hearing loss. RIT/NTID would be a perfect option for veterans seeking to continue their educations. We are happy to help serve the men and women who have already sacrificed so much to serve our country.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports hearing damage is the most common disability for veterans. More than 46,700 veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom have reported hearing loss. That damage is permanent for many veterans.

Exposure to more than 85 decibels continuously or 140 decibels for any length of time can damage hearing. A rifle can produce 160 decibels of sound. On average, the men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq have served longer time in combat than any other U.S. military conflict.

NTID is a federally-funded college with more than 40 years of experience providing services to students with a wide range of hearing loss, including students whose loss may be sudden or progressive. NTID provides comprehensive services for those using hearing aids and for cochlear implant users. There are 250 students at RIT/NTID this year with cochlear implants.

The access services provided to college students with hearing loss are unparalleled at RIT/NTID. More than 50 classroom captionists provide real-time captioning to students on campus. There are also more than 120 sign language interpreters employed at the college for those students who benefit from interpreting.

Congressional staff members and veterans groups are excited about this opportunity for returning veterans:

  • “Hats off to RIT and NTID for offering this great program to the brave men and women who have served our country,” says New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. “There are many veterans who will benefit from the world-class services available for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at NTID and RIT.”

  • “Our veterans deserve the full support of their community and I am proud to help RIT announce its plan to welcome returning veterans with hearing loss,” says Rep. Eric Massa, (D-Corning), a retired Navy commander whose district includes RIT. “Programs that address the needs of our returning veterans such as this deserve support from their representatives in Washington, and I look forward to helping strengthen this effort.”

  • “Our brave men and women in uniform have sacrificed much and deserve our gratitude and support when they return home,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, (D-Fairport). “I am proud to support RIT/NTID’s initiative and applaud their commitment to ensuring that our service members with hearing loss can attend school and successfully begin the next chapter of their lives.”

  • “RIT is to be commended for making NTID’s first-rate program available to the brave men and women who were reunited with their loved ones, but not without making a lasting sacrifice,” said Rep. Chris Lee (R-Clarence). “This program provides vital leadership at a critical juncture in the fight to improve care for our wounded warriors.”

  • “The dedicated men and women of our armed services make tremendous sacrifices abroad,” says Rep. Dan Maffei (D-DeWitt). “Some unfortunately sustain injuries that, even after they return home, have permanently changed their lives. I am so pleased that RIT/NTID is making the effort to include returning service men and women.”

  • Jim McDonough, Director of the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs, says: “I applaud the RIT/NTID initiative to tailor its educational programs so that our returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans with hearing loss can attend college ‘barrier free.’ We look forward to working with the school’s leaders to help serve these veterans as they continue their education and move from soldier to student.”

The first veterans may attend an orientation program this summer and begin classes this fall. As many as 10 veterans could be admitted each year, growing up to 50 veterans over time. The same standard academic requirements for admission to RIT/NTID would be applied to veterans.

RIT recently announced it will become a “Yellow Ribbon” college, offering significant discounted tuition for recent veterans pursuing their educations at RIT. More than 300 RIT students are currently receiving veterans’ benefits. The amount of the discount depends on their length of service.

NTID was established by Congress in 1965 to offer deaf and hard-of-hearing students a technical college education. Students from every state attend RIT/NTID. Students live, study and socialize with more than 15,000 hearing students on the RIT campus. For more information, visit www.rit.edu/NTID.