In the late 1960’s, the U.S. Department of Education initiated funding to establish four direct-service regional vocational-technical postsecondary programs for the deaf located across the country. These programs included California State University, Northridge (CA), Delgado Community College (LA ), Saint Paul Technical-Vocational Institute (MN), and Seattle Central Community College (WA). With the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973, an increasing number of students who were deaf or hard of hearing began enrolling in mainstreamed colleges throughout the country. As a result, in 1996 the Department of Education restructured the priority for this funding away from direct services for students and focused on providing technical assistance to postsecondary programs serving students who are deaf or hard of hearing by establishing four regional technical assistance centers. The four PEPNet regional centers were established at California State University, Northridge (CA), Saint Paul College (MN), Rochester Institute of Technology (NY), and the University of Tennessee (TN).
The priority was restructured in 2011 to establish one national technical assistance, dissemination, and personnel development center that strives to improve outcomes for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The National Center on Deafness (NCOD) at the California State University, Northridge (CSUN), one of the original regional centers, now serves as the lead institution for pepnet 2. The NCOD has a long and rich history of providing quality services and innovative resources to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Additional information about the National Center on Deafness at CSUN may be found at http://www.csun.edu/ncod/.
During the initial phases of PEPNet, the primary focus was assisting postsecondary institutions and campus Disability Services Offices with little or no experience accommodating students who are D/HH. Providing classroom and programmatic access in colleges and universities was an obvious starting point, but it soon became apparent that a full, equitable educational experience requires more than classroom access in higher education settings, such as campus life experiences, cultural activities, and other school-sponsored activities that were not previously accessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Over subsequent project cycles, PEPNet's scope of work expanded to include a broader group of stakeholders, including personnel from Adult Basic Education programs, technical and trade schools, vocational rehabilitation services, and transition services.
Although the rapid development of technology during PEPNet's first 15 years offered individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing a broader array of steadily improving accommodation options, it also increased the complexity of providing those accommodations to a growing number of stakeholders. pepnet 2 continues to investigate available resources and provide information and training on emerging and improving technologies (such as FM systems, remote interpreting, captioning, and online learning systems / tools) used for providing instruction or classroom access.
As described below, the project’s structure, focus, resources and products have evolved to meet changing needs of stakeholders.
Coalition of four independent programs
|Focus:||Shift from providing direct services on campus to offering technical assistance and dissemination to institutions regarding access services to students who are deaf/hard of hearing.
|Accomplishments:||Implemented national and regional activities; developed a national strategic plan; conducted a national needs assessment; developed a national PEPNet website linked to four regional center websites; hosted a biennial national conference; developed online "Orientation to Deafness" training; and developed resources, materials, and training opportunities through each regional center.|
|Structure:||Four semi-autonomous regional centers
|Focus:||Refined technical assistance and dissemination to an increasing number of institutions regarding access services to students who are deaf/hard of hearing.
|Accomplishments:||Continued to implement national and regional activities; refined national strategic plan; conducted national needs assessment; developed online training related to transition planning; developed resources and materials at the regional level, but disseminated them nationally; continued to host biennial national conferences as well as regional training activities; developed regional databases to record contact information and activities/services provided.|
|Structure:||One national organization with four separate but equal regions under one single brand
|Focus:||Emphasized collaboration and coordination of efforts in providing personnel development, technical assistance/dissemination, and technology use activities to a growing group of stakeholders.
|Accomplishments:||Changed project names to reflect PEPNet and each region served; conducted national needs assessment; developed work groups to address common activities and needs related to project functions, as well as specific projects/activities; continued hosting biennial national conferences and professional development activities; initiated national meetings ("Summits") on transition services; developed products/resources at the regional level, but also through cross-regional development teams.|
|Structure:||One national Center|
|Focus:||Increase the education, career and lifetime choices for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, by building capacity of individuals, institutions and agencies to effectively serve this diverse population.|