This is the second in a three-part series that looks into the lives of disabled students on campus.
On a busy Saturday afternoon at the New Belgium Brewery, a woman stood on a bar stool, yelling a humorous haiku about beer. Watching her interpreter intently, Catherine Worrall sat quietly at a bar, smiling to herself, nursing a Mothership Wit.
She couldn’t hear the poem, but she knew what the woman was saying.
“The biggest challenge in being deaf is just trying to interact and communicate with people,” she said. Worrall lives in the residence halls on campus, and her roommate, Christie Hambright, doesn’t know sign language. “We usually communicate through writing or Facebook.”
Worrall, a junior history major, has been fully deaf since she was just an infant.
“I was born with my hearing, but when I was eight months old, I got a sickness that led to my deafness,” Worrall said, speaking through interpreter Amy Kroll. “It may have been caused from a doctor giving me an insulin shot . they never really knew what exactly caused it.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Center for statistics, about 34 million people in the U.S. have significant hearing loss. Nearly six million of them are completely deaf.
With the exception of the language barrier, Worrall says her education has been very similar to most. She and her family moved from Utah to Colorado in 2003, just after completion of her high school freshman year. After high school, she planned on pursuing a major in biology at the National Institute of Technology for the Deaf in Rochester, NY.
But after a year there, she moved back to Colorado after she felt that NITD was funneling her and other deaf students into jobs that didn’t utilize their fill potential.
Worrall said she generally only uses an interpreter during lectures to understand what the teacher is saying, but outside the classroom she communicates on her own and doesn’t let her disability keep her from everyday activities.
She drives her own car, lives on her own and attends school as any other student would; however, she said that she still faces some daily challenges.
Hambright said that although she didn’t know Worrall prior to living with her, she hasn’t had any issues living with a deaf person.
“The only daily issue we face is communication since I have to leave time to write or type whatever I want to communicate,” she said in an e-mail message to the Collegian. “. But I would like to learn sign language at some point in the near future.”
Most of Worrall’s family does not know sign language; her sister is the only one of her eight siblings, parents and grandparents who can communicate with her without a pen and a pad or an interpreter. Lip reading is difficult because not everyone speaks with the same level of clarity.
“People with beards and mustaches can be very hard to understand, and it is also hard to understand accents,” Worrall said.
Worrall will graduate in 2011 and has also started a sign language club on campus. The club meets on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the Lory Student Center food court and Wednesdays at 12 p.m. in the LSC sunken lounge. The club is for anyone who wants to learn or practice sign language.
Staff writer Chelsea Cushing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.