College Blog: Deaf in Rochester

For one deaf student, traversing Rochester has its benefits and drawbacks

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The College Blog is a partnership between City Newspaper and Rochester Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Dr. Hinda Mandell. Each week City will post blog posts from several of Mandell's journalism students, who will write about what concerns Rochester-area college students, both on and off campus.

"When my hearing friends want to go out somewhere that I haven't heard of, I get wary about going," said Bonnie Greenberg, a 25-year-old communications student at RIT. "I'm not sure how I'll be accepted in places where hearing is [expected]."

Like many students at RIT, Greenberg is a member of the deaf community. As of 2012, there are a total of 1,529 RIT students enrolled in the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. For these students, leaving RIT's campus and entering the world of downtown Rochester can be a very difficult transition. But to Greenberg's surprise, some Rochesterians are quite receptive.

Greenberg said she visits downtown Rochester about once a week.

"In my opinion, most places in Rochester do accommodate the deaf community in more ways than, say, the places at home," said Greenberg, who is originally from New Jersey. "And they're less likely to look at you like you have an extra head if you tell them you can't hear."

Greenberg named Tilt Nightclub and Pearl Nightclub as two venues where employees used sign language to communicate with her. She added that employees at IHOP on Jefferson Road in Henrietta always give her paper so she can write down her food order. And then there's a shoe store in Marketplace Mall where a particular employee regularly signs to Greenberg and volunteers to help her when she walks in.

"Apparently, I shop there a lot," Greenberg said. 

While this student has her favorite places to socialize, shop and eat, Greenberg said she rarely tries new clubs and restaurants in Rochester, since she's scared of being looked at "like a crazy person."

Greenberg recalled a recent night out with her friends at a club near East and Alexander.

The club "made me feel awkward. One of the bouncers looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to go to a nightclub when I can't actually hear the music," she said.

Greenberg said she'd spend more time downtown if she felt that more places could accommodate her needs. Though she is quite satisfied with the few places she frequents.

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