Emily Addison is driven, focused and ambitious. Her family, friends and the Clemson faculty who know her well can attest to these qualities, and these are the traits she wants you to see first. The fact that she is deaf and has to approach course work and college life with a different set of tools is just a minor detail for her in the grand scheme of things.
Addison, a senior communication major from Weddington, North Carolina, was born profoundly deaf, and her parents found out when she was five months old. She grew up taking mainstreamed classes and was always the only deaf person in the room, which wasn’t unusual because she was the only deaf person in her family. Her disability made her choice of major easy.
“My hearing loss requires me to be creative and resourceful in how I communicate with others,” Addison says. “I think deaf and hard-of-hearing people should have more of a presence in media, and people need to see that not all deaf and hard-of-hearing people have the same lifestyle.”
Addison is accompanied by a transliterator instead of an interpreter who is responsible for passing along to her everything that is said in class. Instead of using sign language, transliterators provide information to the person who is deaf or hard of hearing using cued speech. Transliterators also voice for a deaf or hard of hearing person who may be hard to understand.
Addison is unable to take notes during class because she has to watch the transliterator, so lectures are transcribed for her. The main challenge comes when the transliterator is tasked with keeping up with conversations in group discussions. Addison said that Clemson’s student accessibility services department and the communication department have been extremely accommodating throughout her time on campus.
“All of the professors that I’ve had during my time here have been great,” Addison said. “I’ve been able to develop relationships with faculty that I hope to maintain after graduation.”
Addison said the many different career options available through a communication degree drew her to the major. She has always had an interest in technology because it has played a critical role in helping her communicate, and technology has turned out to be a very important component of the major.
Addison will graduate in May, and she plans to pursue a job as a social media coordinator. She enjoys creating content for social media platforms and during her time in the major has become increasingly interested in the analytical side of social media.
Addison also hopes to one day create a non-profit organization that focuses on helping deaf and hard-of-hearing children of all ages learn how to advocate for themselves and how to overcome obstacles. Addison likes to think that she advocates for this population in all the things she does, from her academic successes to her hobbies and passions.
One of her passions is traveling. She said her adventures in London, Rome and Venice have allowed her to meet amazing people, explore a location’s history and take in beautiful sights. She relishes the opportunity to gain a sense of freedom while exploring other cultures. In an effort to spread her experiences to others—and hone her skills as a communicator—Addison started a blog that documents the travel experiences of someone who is deaf.
“I want to be an example and an advocate for people who are deaf or hard of hearing because I want them to know that it’s possible to go and explore,” Addison says. “However, there are some challenges when it comes to traveling with a hearing loss, which is one of the main reasons for my blog.”
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