WHEN Lim Hock Chun, Tan Shu Chwan, Tan Thiam Hor and G. Parameswaran joined Limkokwing University College of Creative Technology (LUCT) three years ago, they wondered if they had made a mistake.
Familiar with a deaf environment at school, the four were not used to seeing so many people talking around them.
Like the others, Hock Chun had attended a special secondary school where all the students communicated in sign language. ''I felt very lost at first and often turned to my tutor at the college for advice,'' he says.
Thiam Hor says they are very lucky to have friends at the university college who learnt sign language to help them. ''They usually sit in front of the class with us and help to take down notes. After that, we go through the notes together,'' he says.
The deaf students attend all lectures and tutorials, says Hock Chun. ''After class, the lecturers will meet us together with the interpreter or tutor and go through what was taught in class,'' he adds.
The four are studying for a Diploma in Graphic Design and Multimedia.
The deaf are very visual and use more pictures than words, says lecturer Ken Goh who teaches advertising.
''I've found it easier to show samples of work when explaining something to them. The hearing students are also very helpful and help us to get the message across to the deaf students,” he adds.
Graphic design lecturer Patricia Leong finds the deaf students very studious. ''Maybe because there is no distraction, the students are very hardworking. They also have a different outlook when doing projects. Perhaps this is because they see things differently, and because they cannot hear, their experiences are different from the hearing students,'' she says.
Pamela Kor, who picked up sign language from the deaf students in the first semester, says the students also use SMS (short messaging system) to communicate. ''We SMS each other. What I've learnt is that you can't use the short form of words as the deaf students will not be able to understand, so every word must be spelt out in full.”
Indonesian student Olivin Halim who has also learnt sign language from the deaf students, says it come in handy. ''The hearing students will be shouting something from upstairs if they want something but when it comes to the deaf, they will make eye contact and then sign what they want.”
The students do many things together, such as hanging out at mamak stalls and going to the movies, says Pamela.
LUCT senior vice president Gail Phung says the university college has been enrolling deaf students for the past five years and offers them a 25% discount in tuition fees.
Tutor Kelvin Suy, who is also deaf, was a student at LUCT and worked as a graphic designer for in-house magazines at the college.
He says: ''Having been a student myself, I understand the problems and frustrations of the other deaf students. This is why I applied to Tan Sri (Lim Kok Wing) to ask whether I could better serve my fellow deaf friends as a tutor instead. It's a tough job but I am really happy when more deaf students join us here at the college because I know I have made a difference in their lives.”
Suy encourages more deaf students to continue their education after leaving secondary school, saying they can learn to communicate in English.
''The sentences are structured differently and the object is placed first so there is often great confusion, but once the deaf get used to it, it is not a problem anymore,'' says International House English language lecturer for the deaf V. Yogeswari.
Yogeswari, who is deaf herself, teaches grammar, reading and writing to the deaf students at LUCT.
Studying at LUCT has made the deaf more independent.
''I was so used to having my parents at my side but now that I am renting a room, I find myself learning to be more independent,'' says Kelantan-born Shu Chwan.
His friend Parameswaran adds: ''If we have a problem, we SMS our friends. We are very lucky to have family and friends who help us to be independent.”
Twenty-four students have so far graduated from LUCT, mainly in graphic design.
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