“First of all, I want to share that the Deaf need to be viewed as a cultural linguistic minority group, not as a medically disabled group,” explains Ficker-Halupnik. “We use American Sign Language (ASL), a visual language with no written form. It is not English as many assume. It has its own syntax and uses physical and facial expression. English is my second language. For this reason, English can be challenging for Deaf people.”
Ficker-Halupnik, who is 31, says that as a Deaf individual herself, she constantly faced elements of discrimination, oppression and ignorance from a very young age, including being discouraged when she was in middle school from enrolling in AP classes in high school, despite a teacher’s recommendation.
Born to hearing parents, Ficker-Halupnik reports that 90 percent of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, while 10 percent are born to Deaf parents. One of her two sisters is also Deaf. “My mother learned ASL to communicate with us,” she explains via e-mail. “She has been a big advocate for my sister and me to have access to a better education and she encouraged us to be readers.”
She graduated cum laude from Miami University with her bachelor’s degree in Social Work and chose to pursue her master’s degree at UC because the program provides a master’s degree with a special emphasis on mental health.
Her internship involved working with a community mental health center in Indiana. She provided therapy for Deaf clients and educated clients about how to report discrimination or oppression.
“She has been an outstanding student,” says Susan Carlson, a UC field service professor and director of field education for social work. “She has been a tireless advocate for providing appropriate services for the Deaf. She is a star.”
Ficker-Halupnik says she has also worked with UC’s Disability Services Office regarding improving services for Deaf students, and adds that the office was “more than willing to hear my frustrations and feedback” about her communication and accessibility needs in and out of the classroom.
She will celebrate her achievement at hooding with family, including her husband, Greg, who is also Deaf, and their three young children.
“The Deaf population is among the most underserved and neglected groups in accessing mental health services. This is the area I will be working on, hoping to improve Deaf access to mental health services and recovery.”