A Northern Kentucky University senior with profound hearing loss has been denied help from campus disability services based on a policy, not her needs, the university recently ruled.
Because she was denied help and has been forbidden to use an interpreter in classroom settings, the student has been forced to give up her minor and declare a different area of study.
Crystal Hudson, a communications major, uses hearing aids and sign language. She said she can understand and communicate with others in a one-on-one conversation, but can’t follow a situation where there are multiple conversations — such as a classroom setting.
“I think she saw that she could spin her wheels and try to fight, or just understand that she could do what she could do with the education she started,” said Jeremy Gibbs, Hudson’s boyfriend. He attended the Feb. 22 hearing with Hudson that determined disability services followed policy. He interpreted the meeting for her so she could understand what was being said.
Hudson said that once she arrived at the hearing, she was dismayed that the meeting wasn’t about getting assistance, but rather to verify that the disability services office had followed correct policy and procedure when removing her access to an interpreter.
“The way the meeting went, by the end, NKU covered NKU’s butt, and Crystal was denied services,” Gibbs said. “[She was denied] by someone who has stated to the world on the internet that ‘everyone deserves equal opportunity.’ I’m not trying to criticize anyone; I feel like it was a losing battle, and I think that’s sad. The second it came down to ‘this type is worthy of our help, and this type isn’t,’ I knew.”
When asked about the appeal and its outcome, Cindy Knox, assistant director of disability services, said: “Unfortunately, I am not able to speak about specific student situations with anyone due to the high level of confidentiality at our office. Thank you for inquiring.”
Hudson transferred to NKU from Western Kentucky University in 2009. Initially, she was given an interpreter who helped her follow classroom conversations and professor lectures by using sign language. Hudson said she had maintained a 4.0 GPA while she had an interpreter.
Then, in fall 2011, Disability Services notified Hudson that they were no longer providing her with an interpreter because she did not have enough hearing loss.
“When my old rep from the state left, my case was reevaluated,” Hudson said. “[Disability services] could not deny the fact that I needed help, but they refused to use what they did have to provide that help.”
Once Hudson was denied an interpreter, Gibbs began attending Hudson’s classes with her to interpret. He interpreted until about two weeks into the spring 2012 semester, when one of Hudson’s professors told him he was no longer allowed in the classroom because Hudson’s request for an interpreter was denied by disability services.
Once Hudson no longer had an interpreter, she began having difficulty following lectures and was afraid her class grades would suffer. That’s when she decided to appeal disability services’ decision to deny her an interpreter.
Despite the direct correlation between having the interpreter and maintaining her grades, disability services continues to deny Hudson’s request for help.
To complete her degree on time, Hudson changed her minor from neuroscience to a concentration in psychology. The classes that Hudson was having the most difficulty in this semester due to the lack of an interpreter were her classes regarding the minor. Since she already had enough classes to be eligible for an area of concentration, it allows her to complete her studies on time.
Hudson said that now with only two classes, she isn’t struggling as much, and is excited to graduate in May. However, she said she wishes she didn’t have to drop her neuroscience minor to do so.