When Mizzou senior Kendall Malkin took her first child development class in high school, she couldn’t let it go. In her work with preschool children, she loved observing their social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills, and watching them develop during the semester. But she wasn’t sure how to turn that passion into a career. So, when it came time to look at colleges, she sought out a school with a great child development program.
But Malkin has hearing loss, so she also required a university with a supportive disability center. When she was 8 months old, Malkin had bacterial meningitis and lost her hearing. When she was 2 years old, surgeons attached a hearing aid called a cochlear implant in her right ear.
“I needed accommodations to help me to succeed in college,” she says. “Mizzou really set itself apart with the Disability Center. I learned in high school that you will know which schools really care about their students based on the locations of their resources. The Disability Center is in Memorial Union, which is almost central to campus, making it easy to get to.”
Accessibility on Campus
Angela Branson, the center’s deaf services coordinator, works with two American Sign Language interpreters to assist about 30 Mizzou students who have varying degrees of hearing loss. Her favorite part of the job is working with students. “They say college is the best time of your life,” she says. “I love that I get the chance to provide access for students so they can fully participate in the college experience.”
Branson and her team go with clients to classrooms, advising appointments and other academic meetings and interpret the spoken word using sign language. They also provide interpreting services at university hospitals and clinics and arrange captioning for students who prefer that mode of access. The center offers live captioning on screens at lectures and special events on campus. When a professor records a lecture and puts it online, Branson and her team caption it for clients.
Each year the center serves about 1,000 students who have disabilities of many kinds — physical, mental, neurological — and helps them procure the accommodations they need. The staff also works to raise awareness about disabilities and change mindsets. The center sponsors speakers, including actress Marlee Matlin and farmer and reality television star Matt Roloff. This month model and deaf activist Nyle DiMarco speaks at Mizzou as part of Mizzou’s sixth annual Celebrate Ability Week, whose Oct. 10-15 events highlight the contributions and skills of people with disabilities.
Malkin wants others to know that no two people are alike. Each person with hearing loss handles it in his or her own way, but all can be as well-equipped as anyone else to take on the world. “You would never recognize that I am deaf unless I tell you so,” she says. “But that does not mean you should look at me any differently.”
She counsels respect and patience when dealing with all people. “You may not even know if someone has an ‘invisible disability’ like mine,” she says. And she offers a few suggestions for speaking with someone who has a hearing loss. “Look at the person when you are talking to them, talk as clearly as possible, and be patient if you need to repeat what you’re saying.”
Making an Impact
When Malkin stepped on campus her freshman year, she got involved right away. She serves as president of the Human Development and Family Science Student Association. She is a member of Kappa Omicron Nu, the honors society for her college, and of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. She spent a summer on campus as a Summer Welcome leader, works at the Disability Center as an exam proctor, and serves others on Mizzou Alternative Breaks trips.
"I love being involved in various organizations to make a difference,” she says. “I’m not too sure what impact I’ll leave on Mizzou. I just want to educate people that those with disabilities can do everything [anyone else] can do; they just may have to adapt differently. I want to inspire people to never give up. I know that college can get tough, but you have to keep positive and keep moving forward.”
The organization Malkin most proudly serves is MizzouThon, Mizzou’s Dance Marathon philanthropy, which she has helped lead for the past three years. She is inspired by how the organization helps children with serious illnesses and their families, and that feeling keeps her coming back. During summer 2015, she made her own impact on one of the Miracle Kids — children who receive care and treatment from MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital — MizzouThon serves. Declan Johnson uses a wheelchair and loves wheelchair basketball. Malkin wasted no time using her connections at the center to introduce her new young friend to Mizzou’s popular wheelchair basketball team and get him in to watch a game. That experience taught Malkin how important it is for those who experience life differently to feel they are represented.
“Declan got to see college students accept who they are and play a sport that he loves so much,” she says. “The team became role models for him. He was so excited. He said it was like Christmas for him and his family. I will never forget that.”
Malkin plans to graduate in spring 2017 and become a certified child life specialist. She wants to educate families about their children’s conditions; she believes using developmentally appropriate terms is one way to do this. It helps to educate both the child and family about the diagnosis and condition while also providing emotional and procedural support. She also wants to help families manage pain and reduce stress and anxiety while learning coping skills.
“Being a role model is what I aspire to as a child life specialist,” Malkin says. “I understand what it’s like to be challenged with my deafness. I want to help children in hospitals understand and have hope that they can get better and accept who they are like I do.”