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Negotiating Accommodations: One Deaf Student’s Experience

Perseus with a white hat and sunglasses on in the streets of Florence
Perseus with a white hat and sunglasses on in the streets of Florence

To plan for study abroad in Italy, Perseus McDaniel found that arranging and funding accommodations can take time, and if at first you don’t succeed…try again!

Perseus McDaniel knows what it means to try, try again.

Perseus, who is Deaf, was accepted into a study abroad program in Florence, Italy to study literature and creative writing. While a student at Edmonds Community College, he planned and organized his trip, which included funding from the state of Washington for two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to join him.

Two and a half weeks before his flight to Italy, he learned that due to budget cuts, the state of Washington wouldn’t fund his ASL interpreters. Frustratingly, it was too late to arrange other funding and too late to get a refund on his plane ticket.

Then he tried again.

A year later, after arranging the necessary accommodations, including funding from the Edmonds Community College Student Government to pay for two ASL interpreters, he spent a semester in Florence studying geography and Italian language, a longtime dream of his that factors into his future goals. 

“I became interested in studying in Italy after learning how to read and write in Italian. Through my education in Italy I hope to work as an Italian-English sign language interpreter in the future.”

In his classes, he learned to read and write Italian, but did not participate in the spoken portions. He worked with staff at Edmonds Community College to request an approval to replace the speaking portion of his classes with learning to sign in Italian Sign Language (LIS), but it was wasn’t approved due to complications in the grading system. Instead, he opted to devote his free time to learning LIS and by the end of his experience, he was communicating directly with his Deaf Italian peers.

“I discovered that I could communicate with Deaf Italians smoothly, and even engage in long conversation. Being able to share tons of stories about our cultures, experiences, politics and fairy tales is my most savored experience from Italy.”

In addition, Perseus became passionate about sharing his own native language with his new overseas community and volunteered as an ASL teacher’s assistant and tutor, citing a desire “to raise awareness that eligible Deaf students can access study abroad too.”

Despite the initial hurdles and plans fallen through, Perseus is quick to tell you that his experiences in Florence were the richest of his life. The only thing he wishes he could’ve done differently?

“I’d stay longer!”

Perseus went on to pursue a degree in Graphic Design from Rochester Institute of Technology.

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