The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department: Their Community, Challenges, and Accomplishments


Picture of students and teachers from the deaf and hard of hearing department. Photo courtesy of Khadijah Samiya.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department has been a staple at Roosevelt for decades. The department aids in translating, teaching, and advocating for deaf and hard of hearing students at our school. Teachers and students alike acknowledge the community that has been built within this department, as well as the challenges they have faced and the accomplishments they have made whilst being members of the Roosevelt community and staff.

Ms. Krystal Abwa-Nije, the department’s chair, explained, “[she] learned sign from her deaf friends 17 years ago, which led to [her] path in helping people.” Struggles she faces include reminding staff to use ¨captions, modifying assignments [and] things, and making things  around the school more accessible in emergencies.” Despite these struggles, she´s learned “flexibility, patience, to expect the unexpected, and [to] have fun.” She emphasized the importance of learning how to listen ¨when [her] students are overwhelmed, or just need to talk.¨

Ms. Maya Yamada, a teacher in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department, mentions  that ¨ERHS has been great about supporting the deaf employees,¨ but she noted that ¨PG County hasn’t always fully understood what it means to accommodate deaf employees,¨ For instance, often accommodations aren´t always given when ¨we need to access the information like our hearing co-workers¨ and the interpreters provided aren’t always efficient or certified. Another staff member in this department, Ms. Hortie, also shares the struggles she faces. She stated that she encounters ¨barriers; related to communication and accessibility.¨ She also mentioned ¨a way to navigate the challenges is not easy,” since the “PGCPS system is behind related to deaf and hard of hearing issues,¨ making her feel limited.

Despite the challenges educators and students might face, student Emmanuel Clifton feels as though the department is “like a family” where “everyone understands each others struggles [and] wishes to be equal.” Though, he finds it frustrating that he “has to do everything on his own” when he is interpreting information from teachers. Similarly, Khammonie Power, another student in the department, recalled a specific challenge with having “problems [when] interpreters [who aren’t yet] certified because it’s difficult to understand them.” Student Malaki Barnes expressed a similar sentiment but experienced challenges with interpreting “what the teacher is saying sometimes [because it] doesn’t match.” To counteract this issue, Malaki “sometimes does [his work] independently.” 

It is imperative to mention that though the deaf and hard of hearing department faces their own challenges independent from the other departments here at Roosevelt, the administrators, teachers, and students in this department have created a loving community and have overcome barriers placed upon them.