Bethany Baker plans to improve accessibility to education, communication and preventative care in her community as the first deaf nursing student here at UNF.
Baker’s parents found out she was deaf when she was six months old. From there, her family decided to move to Florida so Baker could attend the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. After growing up and graduating in St. Augustine, she decided to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue a degree in history from Gallaudet University.
“I know it’s a little bit…not related to what I’m doing, but I did move to Tennessee then, and from there I realized a history degree wasn’t going to get me anything,” Baker said, “so I had to think of another field.”
While in Tennessee, she met a 96 year old deaf woman who she continued to take care of and communicate with during the summer.
“The woman told me ‘Wow, this is the first time a person can not only take care of me but communicate with me.’ And so that kind of made me realize…how many deaf people would go to a hospital without any access to communication,” said Baker.
Nursing was a natural field to pick for Baker since her family is full of nurses. She decided to go to a CNA program in Tennessee. Baker became completely fascinated and hooked on that kind of care.
Shortly after, she decided to move back to Florida where her family was and began her studies here at UNF. Baker says she fell in love with the area, taking care of and communicating with the people here.
In her spare time, she reads and binge watches “Dexter” on Netflix.
Not only does Baker enjoy helping people, but she also loves animals. She volunteers at the Wild Life Safety and Rescue Association, and also pet-sits as a side job.
Baker believes that it’s extremely important that the deaf people in her community understand ADA law when going to a hospital. If they ask, deaf people are given access to a translator right away. Sadly, a lot of people don’t know this, and Baker wants to change that.
“I feel as though it’s almost my duty to go around to all the deaf patients and make sure they have accessibility to whatever they need,” she said. “And if they don’t, then I can advocate for them and explain their rights to them.”
Baker believes anyone can do what they set their mind to, and when she was asked if she has any advice to those going through the same process, she went above and beyond in her response.
“Deaf, blind, disability…it doesn’t matter. If there’s a barrier there, well, then the only barrier is actually yourself not doing anything,” she said. “Move the barrier and go ahead and do it. It might be hard, but it is worth it in the end.