Colombia: Accessing higher education is not an easy task for deaf people

The inclusion as a guarantee of fundamental rights of the deaf population in Colombia is nothing more than a utopia for the majority.

Students attending a university class.

Students attending a university class. / Photo: Pexels - Reference Image

LatinAmerican Post | Laura Rojas

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Leer en español: Colombia: Acceder a la educación superior no es tarea fácil para las personas sordas

Inclusion is the most powerful modern weapon that has emerged in the fight for the non-discrimination of people with disabilities, which throughout history society has become a vulnerable, fragile, weak, diminished group, has made them doubt their abilities and, therefore, has isolated them.

This time I will promptly refer to people with hearing disabilities, for whom the development of public policies has been expanded in order to guarantee the protection of their fundamental rights and the full development within society, if we compare them with other disabilities (cognitive, visual, etc.), but in an absurdly insufficient way.

In the development of a fundamental right such as education, one of the daily scenarios that thousands of people with hearing disabilities have to face is the struggle for access to higher education. Struggle because, although constitutionally the Colombian State is obliged to carry out policies and legislate in such a way that social integration of people with disabilities is favored, it has not fully complied with said mandate, but has merely given it purely superficial topic management.

A person without any type of disability who wishes to access higher education in Colombia has the possibility of submitting to the institution of higher education they want through the completion of the respective registration form and subsequent interview, also having multiple payment facilities of your academic semester. For a deaf person, it is "apparently the same", except for a small detail: it is not possible to understand the access to higher education of a person with a disability, in the same way as a person with all his abilities.

That is, it is absolutely insufficient to claim to argue that the right to access to higher education of a deaf person is guaranteed by the simple fact of allowing him to buy and fill out a registration form, if the education system and therefore, the educational institutions superiors are not trained (neither interested nor obliged to do so) in the deaf's own needs for the full development of their professional learning and training or worse, they hinder their admission.

Submit extra admission exams that are not required for hearing applicants, higher demands on the ICFES status test scores, multiple interviews, among others, are the obstacles that deaf people who aspire to access higher education in Colombia must go through and Those who manage to overcome it, encounter the greatest of all: the lack of a sign language interpreter.

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The public universities of the country are the only ones required to have a sign language interpreter in the classes that are required by deaf students, those who manage to pass the minimum score of the admission test required to enter these institutions, which is required to a hearing person; regardless of the language limitations a deaf person has.

From something as elementary as their literacy is not the same, therefore their reading comprehension either, because their mother tongue is the sign language and Spanish is a second language, as for listeners it is English (imagine yourself presenting the National exam entirely in English having an intermediate level in that language. Well, that's how a deaf person feels.)

Another institution that is supposed to be public is SENA, which prepares at technical and technological levels and, like public universities, is obliged to provide the interpreter service to deaf students, which does not comply because it requires, that to provide this service, a certain number of deaf students must be enrolled in the same course, shamelessly limiting the free choice of a deaf academic program, being forced to choose a program in which quotas are available to be able to have an interpreter and in the case of universities public, study one of the careers they offer and if your desire is to study a career that is not within their academic offer? There are private universities.

98% of private universities in Colombia do not contemplate within their internal policies the admission of deaf students and, therefore, the hiring of sign language interpreters, so when a deaf person is admitted to a private university they must assume in addition to the normal cost of the academic semester, the cost of your sign language interpreter, which easily equals the value of another semester, all because these institutions are excused in that the right to access to higher education of a person with hearing impairment It is covered with granting them admission and therefore, their paper arrives there, which is totally false, because the right is being guaranteed halfway, giving the deaf student an additional financial burden.

So, there are 5% of deaf people with a high school degree who can access higher education, because the others have no way to pay it, so it seems that the right of access to higher education of the deaf in Colombia is a right for the upper class and the state does absolutely nothing to change that, but it does speak of inclusion in a country where it is the last on the list.