Henrietta, N.Y.—Monika Wydra’s dream is to use what she’s learned at the Rochester Institute of Technology to develop a major vaccine or cure for a disease, someday.
“That’s one of my goals,” said the 4th year molecular biology student.
She has interpreters, note takers and about 1,200 peers who are deaf or hard of hearing at RIT.
The school’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, or NTID, recently published a study
that defines the number of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the Rochester area.
There are approximately 19,438 deaf and hard of hearing people under the age of 65 according to the study. About 3.7 percent of the area’s 1.1 million people are deaf or hard of hearing, according to the report.
Researchers said it was widely known that Rochester has a high number of deaf members, but no clear-cut proof was available until this study was finished.
“I think what this helps is business and community leaders,” said Dr. Gerry Buckley, President of NTID.
One business that’s been following growth in the deaf community is Rural Metro Ambulance. The company does not have a formal training program for those who cannot hear, but has several first responders working daily with a basic knowledge of sign language.
“I know a little bit of medical sign language, but not enough to call someone fluent,” said Amy Ruffo, a paramedic with Rural Metro.
For those who don’t know any sign language, Rural Metro has computer tablets in each ambulance with programs designed to help bridge gaps in communication.
The Rochester Fire Department also has a couple of firefighters who can sign, according to Lt. Ted Kuppinger.
“The research information gives people a beginning point of how they can improve their services to people in the Rochester Community,” Buckley said.
A spokesperson for Rural Metro said the data, while not municipality specific, may help emergency responders push themselves to better serve the deaf population.
There are about 23,000 Rochester area residents above 65 who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to RIT researchers.
Many Rochester area residents who are deaf and hard of hearing came to the community because of services offered through the Rochester School for the Deaf and NTID, according to Buckley.