Deaf & Hearing Impaired Students
Deaf & Hearing Impaired Students
The major challenge facing a student who is deaf or hearing impaired is communication. Speech reading (lip reading) is a partial solution. At best, a person who is deaf can read only 30 to 40 percent of the sound spoken English by watching the speakers lips.
Another form of communication used by many, but not all persons who are deaf or hearing-impaired, is American Sign Language or manual communication. In sign language, thoughts are expressed through a combination of hand and arm movements, positions, and gestures. The intensity and repetition of the movements and the facial expressions accompanying the movements are also important elements of manual communication. Fingerspelling is usually used in sign language. Fingerspelling consists of various finger and hand positions for each of the letters of the alphabet. This alphabet is called the American Manual Alphabet.
Students who are deaf will also communicate in writing when speech reading, sign language, or fingerspelling cannot be used effectively Faculty members should not hesitate to write notes when necessary to communicate with a student. Many students can, and do, speak. Most people have normal organs of speech and many learn to use them in speech classes. Some people cannot automatically control the tone and volume of their speech so the speech may be initially difficult to understand. Understanding improves as one becomes more familiar with the speech of the person.
Telecommunication Devices For The Deaf (TDD or TTY) allow the person to use the telephone. These devices provide visual communication, rather than amplifying or modifying auditory transmission. These devices are located in the Campus Access and Equal Opportunity, Tech Opportunities/Counselor for Students with Disabilities, and Personnel offices. A TTY-payphone is placed in the Learning Resources Center.
Students vary to some degree in their communication skills. Factors such as personality, intelligence, degree of deafness, residual hearing, age of onset, and family environment all affect the kind of communication the student uses. As a result of these and other variables, a student may use a number of the communication modes discussed above.
The main form of communication within the deaf community is sign language. In view of this, many persons who are deaf have not mastered the grammatical subtleties of their second language - English. This does not mean that professors should overlook errors in written (or spoken) work. However, they should know that this difficulty with English is not related to intelligence but is similar to that experienced by students whose native language is other than English.
In the classroom, most students who are deaf will use an Interpreter. The presence of an interpreter in the classroom enables the student who is deaf to understand what is being said. There are two types of interpreters - oral and manual. The oral interpreter mouths what is being said while the manual interpreter uses sign language. The two methods are often used in combination. There is a time lag, which will vary in length depending on the situation, between the spoken word and the interpretation or translation. Thus, a deaf or hard-of-hearing students contribution to the lecture or discussion may be slightly delayed.
Interpretation will be easier in lecture classes and more difficult in seminar or discussion classes. Because class formats are so varied, it is recommended that the professor, interpreter, and student schedule a conference early in the course to discuss any special arrangements that may be needed.
The interpreter and student who is deaf will usually choose to sit in the front of the classroom. The interpreter is aware that sign language may be a distraction to the class and the professor. The interpreter has also learned that the initial curiosity of the class wanes and the professor adapts easily to the interpreters presence. Interpreters who are certified by the Registry of the Interpreters for the Deaf subscribe to a strict code of ethics that requires confidentiality of private communications and honesty in interpretation or translation.
Students who are deaf usually have someone take notes for them because it is difficult to follow an interpreter or speech read the instructor and take notes at the same time. Most students will be able to take examinations and be evaluated in the same way as other students. If the test is written, it has been found that some students who are deaf do better if an interpreter reads and translates the question to the student in sign language (because of English subtleties.) However, many other students prefer to read tests themselves. If the method of evaluation is oral, the interpreter can serve as the reverse interpreter for the student.
Sound Amplification Systems (also termed FM Listening Systems) can assist students who are hearing impaired, but not deaf. These systems consist of a transmitter, worn by the professor, and a receiver, worn by the student. The transmitter sends the professors voice to the receivers system via fm signals, thereby improving the students ability to hear the professor.
Assumptions should not automatically be made about the students ability to participate in certain types of classes. For example, students may be able to learn a great deal about music styles, techniques and rhythms by observing a visual display of the music on an oscilloscope or similar apparatus or by feeling the vibrations of music. Some students will have enough residual hearing so that amplification through earphones or hearing aids will allow participation. It is always best to discuss with the student the requirements of a class and to determine if there are ways that the materials can be modified so that the student can participate in what may become an exciting learning experience for all concerned.
In conclusion, the following hints compiled from personal experience and from publications of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and Gallaudet University will facilitate the participation of deaf and hard-of hearing students in (and out) of the classroom:
1. Look at the person when you speak.
2. Dont smoke, chew gum, or otherwise block the area around your mouth with your hands or other objects.
3. Speak naturally and clearly. Dont exaggerate lip movements or volume.
4. Try to avoid standing in front of windows or other sources of light. The glare from behind you makes it difficult to read lips and other facial expressions because it causes a shadow to fall on your mouth and face.
5. Using facial expressions, gestures, and other body language is helpful in conveying your message.
6. If you are talking through the assistance of an interpreter, direct your conversation to the individual. This is more courteous and allows the deaf person the option of viewing both you and the interpreter to more fully follow the flow of the conversation.
7. When other people speak who may be out of the deaf or hard-of-hearing persons range of vision, repeat the question or comment and indicate who is speaking (by motioning) so the individual can follow the discussion.
8. The use of visual media may be helpful to students since slides and videotaped materials supplement and reinforce what is being said. Alteration in lighting may interfere with the students capacity to read manual or oral communication. These materials may be difficult to interpret because of sound quality and speed of delivery. Therefore, interpreter lag may be greater. If a written script is available, provide the interpreter and student with a copy in advance.
9. Captioned visual aids such as Captioned Films for the Deaf are extremely helpful. If appropriate, foreign language films with English subtitles are also useful.
10. When new materials will be covered which involve technical terminology not in common usage, if possible, supply a list of these words or terms in advance to the student and interpreter. Unfamiliar words are difficult to speech read or interpret.
11. Avoid speaking with your back to the person such as when writing on the chalk board. Overhead projectors are often a good substitute and allow you to-face the class while writing.
12. When particularly important information is being covered, be sure to convey it very clearly. Notices of class cancellations, assignments, etc. can be put in writing or on a chalk board to ensure understanding.
13. Establish a system for getting messages to the student when necessary. Class cancellations can be particularly costly if an interpreter is not informed, in advance, of such changes.