Lauren M.B. Kinast

Rachel Mazique, Miss Deaf America ambassador for the National Association of the Deaf, discusses the difficulties of being the only deaf teacher and graduate student in the English Department at UT, Mazique shed light on the history of deaf communication and the communication barriers that are present the University.

Photo Credit: Kiersten Holms | Daily Texan Staff

Assistant English instructor Rachel Mazique is the only deaf member in the English department and she utilizes two interpreters who voice for her during her class. As Miss Deaf America, she said she uses her title to raise awareness about the deaf community and their unlimited capabilities.

Miss Deaf America, ambassador for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), discussed her experiences with the organization, deaf culture and deaf advocacy during a coffee style chat Tuesday in the Student Services Building.

Services for Students with Disabilities at the University of Texas hosted Mazique as the first in a series of events to acknowledge of Disability Awareness Month.

The goal is to expose people to NAD and explain how the organization works to promote advocacy for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people in the U.S., Mazique said.

“Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, so there is often that lack of exposure to someone the same as themselves,” said coordinator of the event, Lauren M.B. Kinast, who is herself hard-of-hearing. “So as someone being in this capacity, [Mazique] can really raise awareness of being a role model in the community.”

Mazique is an example of breaking the glass ceiling of incorporating a person with a disability into a teaching role at the university level, Kinast said.

“Often times, we’re under the notion that [the deaf and hard-of-hearing] have to teach at a university for the deaf, and why should we be limited to that?” Kinast asked. “Why not teach at any university with the understanding that we’d have to have interpreters?”

Until recently, University funding was not provided to faculty and staff for interpreter services and was left up to the individual departments to provide, said Linda Millstone, associate vice president for the Institutional Equity.

As the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for UT, Millstone said she looks at disability issues as a whole, and argued that faculty and staff are employees of UT and should receive centralized funding and the individual departments shouldn’t have to pay for interpreter services.

“This happened during the time when the University was looking at finances and central allocations underscore the University’s commitment to persons with disabilities,” Millstone said.

Now that Mazique is in a teaching position, Kinast hopes that it will open the door for other departments to consider bringing on other deaf and hard-of-hearing faculty.

“[Raising awareness] makes for a better human interaction,” Mazique said. “It helps to make people realize that being deaf is not just a lack of something, but it’s a cultural thing with a language, history, tradition, heritage. It’s a way of being.”

Printed on October 5, 2011 as: Deaf instructor raises awareness