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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento
December 08, 2003
Deaf-blind student beats odds,
set to graduate from CSUS
who was born deaf and gradually lost her sight as well, will join about 2,000
other new California State University, Sacramento alumni when she takes part
in fall commencement this month. The ceremonies are scheduled for Dec. 19 and
20 at Arco Arena.
Presley will be
the first deaf-blind graduate of CSUS. She will earn her bachelor’s degree
in social work and participate in the College of Health and Human Services commencement
ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 20.
“I didn’t allow my disability to interfere with my goals, to be
a hindrance. I wanted to see this through to the end,” says Presley, who
came to CSUS as a transfer student from Modesto Junior College in 1996. She
communicates through a tactile sign language interpreter.
“Now finally this is my last semester. I’m at the end of the track,”
Presley says. “It’s been a big challenge, and I had help. I couldn’t
do it all on my own, the research, getting on the Internet, using the software.”
She credits her internal strength, her husband, and the staff at both CSUS and
the state’s vocational rehabilitation program for seeing her through.
Presley has Usher’s Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes hearing
loss, and Retinitis Pigmentosa, an eye disease which causes progressive blindness.
When she initially enrolled at CSUS, she could see well enough to read large
print. But her eyesight deteriorated, forcing her to leave school for a year
to finish learning Braille.
She recalls that relying on her new Braille skills added another layer of difficulty.
Reading requirements seemed even more daunting. But the self-described “star
student” from high school says she continued because she wanted to complete
her education and get a good job.
Presley was born
in Berkeley and raised in El Sobrante. As a child, she attended two public schools
with self-contained deaf classes before attending the California School for
the Deaf in Berkeley (now in Fremont). She has attended two community colleges,
another four-year university and a technical school, initially studying computer
programming and data processing. She briefly worked for the IRS before returning
to college, but marriage and children brought a temporary halt to her pursuit
of a bachelor’s degree.
Being both deaf and blind is rare. Though reliable statistics are hard to come
by, DB-LINK, the National Information Clearinghouse on Children Who Are Deaf-Blind,
estimates that in the United States 35,000 to 40,000 adults as well as 11,000
children (ages birth to 21) are deaf-blind. Major causes include syndromes such
as Usher and Down, congenital anomalies such as fetal alcohol syndrome, prenatal
dysfunction such as AIDS and post-natal causes such as head injuries or stroke.
Not all people considered deaf-blind have a total inability to see or hear.
But the combination of the two impairments, when they’re severe, requires
unique educational approaches and other assistance.
Experts don’t know exactly how many blind-deaf students have earned college
degrees nationally or in California, but there aren’t many. In recent
years in California, a blind-deaf student is known to have graduated from CSU
Los Angeles, while another is expected to graduate from CSU Northridge next
After graduation, Presley hopes to help other deaf-blind individuals as a vocational
rehabilitation counselor. She not only has personal experience, but a near encyclopedic
knowledge of the struggle for services and education that those with disabilities—particularly
the deaf-blind—have faced.
“Unfortunately, the deaf-blind population is still very underserved as
far as providing education, job skills and life skills, especially here in California,”
Sources on deaf-blind:
• American Association of the Deaf-Blind – (301) 495-4403 and www.aadb.org.
• DB-Link – (800) 438-9376 and www.tr.wou.edu/dblink
• Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults –
(516) 944-8900 ext. 326 and www.hknc.org.
complete fall 2003 commencement schedule is attached.
will once again have seven ceremonies over the course of the two days, one for
each of the University’s Colleges. By the end of the current academic
year in spring 2004, about 5,000 students are expected to graduate.
|| College of
Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies
Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Health and Human Services
Arts and Letters
Engineering and Computer Science
one-half hour prior to each ceremony.
Tickets are not required, and programs will be available at the event. Parking
at Arco Arena is $10, as it is for all public events at the facility.
More information about CSUS commencement is at (916) 278-4724 or www.csus.edu/commence.
Additional media assistance is available by contacting the CSUS public affairs
office at (916) 278-6156.
California State University, Sacramento Public Affairs
6000 J Street Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 (916) 278-6156