The volume in David Wolford’s world has always fluctuated wildly between high and low.Growing up in China Grove, he could hear just fine for the first six months of his life. Then a bout with meningitis stole all the sound from his ears. At age 5, his hearing returned with the help of a cochlear implant. But now, at 24, the aging implant hobbles along, barely giving him 23 percent of the normal hearing range.In 2010, when Wolford started The Silent Club at UNC Charlotte, an organization for deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students, he could relate to the people in each category.The club not only introduced those with hearing loss on campus to each other, but also bridged the gap between the hearing and nonhearing worlds.But now The Silent Club, a success that grew to 50 members in its two years, is on the verge of fading away. Wolford, who in May with a degree in mechanical engineering, is looking to the next generation to keep the organization from disappearing.“I’m hoping for someone to take over the club and keep it going for many years to come,” he said, “for it to grow and spread.”He’s hoping others will see the benefits of such a unique club, which he said helped him tremendously.“I think it grew out of a desire to have more individuals with hearing loss that knew each other on campus,” said Jo Ann Fernald, director of disability services at UNCC, and also the club’s adviser. “It’s a big campus. There are 26,000 students here.”Wolford didn’t know any of the 30 students with hearing loss on campus until he recognized a classmate using a familiar device provided by the university for deaf students.The Office of Disability Services offers several services, from live translators to devices that amplify professors’ voices while diminishing ambient sound.“I had never met the guy before,” Wolford said of the student in his class. “He was another deaf kid. We were looking at the same professor, in the same classes, without ever knowing each other.”Loneliness can follow a deaf person, said Wolford. He’s had hearing people simply walk away from him if they don’t understand him. And the misconceptions of deaf people are plenty.“A lot of people think we’re dumb, or don’t know how we go through life day by day,” he said.In the past two years, the club has become a resource not only for deaf students to meet one another, but also a place where others can learn about the deaf culture.They can learn sign language or in how to read lips or other cues that deaf people use to communicate.“We share our stories, give a different perspective,” Wolford said. “It teaches people to not be scared to approach people who are deaf.”Wolford, who found a job as a mechanical engineer just a few weeks after graduation, would like to see the club continue for those who could use it.Fernald would like to see it continue for those at all levels of hearing.“I’m happy to continue being an adviser to the club,” she said. “I think everybody learns, and I think that’s one of the unique things about this university.”
Friday, Sep. 14, 2012
Silent Club seeks new leader
Campus club introduces hearing and hard of hearing to each other
Learn more: The Silent Club is a UNC Charlotte student organization that began in 2010 for the deaf and hard of hearing and their friends to gather, communicate and learn about the hard-of-hearing culture. The organization is looking for a president since David Wolford, the club’s founder and leader, graduated in May. To learn more, visit The Silent Club’s page on Facebook. For information about leadership roles in the club, email Wolford at firstname.lastname@example.org or the club’s adviser, Jo Ann Fernald, director of the Office of Disability Services, at email@example.com. UNCC’s Office of Disability Services gives hard of hearing students access to a wide selection of services on campus. To learn more, visit the office website at ds.uncc.edu.
Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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