Support Services For Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
Students who are deaf or hard of hearing most often need and utilize academic support services for college success. These accommodations vary from student to student. Resources are either easily supplied or are difficult to do so. Often it is a combination of both. This section will address the most commonly needed services for deaf and hard of hearing students. This section may not prioritize any needed service over any other, realizing each student needs and resources vary.
Each student who enrolls in college for the first time or after a long absence, needs the support and guidance of a counselor. Many colleges utilize interpreter services for students who are deaf and hard of hearing to see a counselor on campus who services all students. It is not mandatory that there be a program counselor for deaf and hard of hearing students who can communicate with students in a comfortable communication mode. What is imperative, obviously, is effective communication. This means, in the spirit of the law, that the student’s communication preferences are clear and understood by that individual student. Some students can communicate quite effectively by lipreading, still others cannot effectively follow communication without sign language. It may seem that faculty and staff very often make assumptions as to what is effective communication. There may be a possibility of communication, although not necessarily effective.
Counseling plays a key role in helping students to develop a realistic educational plan. Guidance is provided in career decisions, academic challenges, independent living and personal needs. Counselors often serve as advocates for student and faculty matters and between funding sources, such as Vocational Rehabilitation. Career assessment and placement testing are initial tasks that counselors often find helpful in assessing a particular student prior to advisement. Counselors often coordinate the support services that a student needs in order to be academically successful.
From a pivotal point, the counselor basically oversees the entire academic program a student needs. Sometimes, a student may present a problem that requires intensive therapy or treatment and needs outside assistance. (See appendix for Mental Health resources). Students requiring interpreting services while receiving treatment are covered by federal and state laws. Most mental health professionals who work exclusively with deaf and hard of hearing people are required to be able to sign. However, mainstreamed treatment poses a separate problem and thus, interpreting services will be needed. Contact your local mental health professional for guidance.
One of the most critical components for any program for deaf and hard of hearing students is interpreting services. The success of a student’s educational experience is greatly dependent on the quality and availability of interpreting services. Interpreters function as a means of enhancing communication between a deaf or hard of hearing student and a hearing person(s) who does not use sign language. As any interpreter role clearly indicates, its importance is in bridging the communication gap between two or more people using a different language.
Some programs for the deaf and hard of hearing utilize part-time interpreters on a contract basis depending on the need for interpreting services. Other programs have full-time interpreters on staff. Still others utilize both full-time and part-time interpreters. This varies with the size of the program and the student enrollment. The extent and skill of intrepreting services needed for each student is dependent on the enrollment and curriculum requirments. Often health related programs require long hours of lab and clinical practicum. Remedial programs where there may be several students together in class utilizing a single interpreter require less scheduling and frees up interpreters for other assignments.
There are several types of interpreting services that may be used in the academic setting. They are listed as:
- Sign language interpreting – ASL, signed English, or pidgin, the interpreter 'visually' relays the spoken word to the student in whatever sign system agreed on.
- Oral interpreting – the interpreter 'mouths' the words spoken for the deaf or hard of hearing student. Sign language may sometimes be used as a filler.
- Tactile interpreting – is used by deaf-blind students who need to "feel" the formation of signs that the interpreter is making. The student places their hands on the interpreter’s hands while interpreting. On-the-palm printing can also be used by some students.
- Low-Vision interpreting – is used by deaf / low-vision students who cannot see the interpreter from an usual distance. The interpreter and student face each other at a closer distance, whereby the student can see the interpretation.
Notetaking services are a vital service for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Watching an interpreter or reading the lips of an instructor does not allow the student time to take notes. Many students use notetakers on a regular basis to supplement class lecture and lab along with an interpreter. For some classes that are a "hands-on" type of instruction, notetaking may not be as important as in a class where a lecture is taking place.
Notetaking is a service that must be rendered when requested by a student with a documented disability, (See Student Responsibility heading). Some commonly used methods of notetaking are as follows:
- Volunteer notetaker – usually another classmate agrees to share notes with the cost of supplies and copies absorbed by the deaf or hard of hearing student.
- Paid notetaker – usually a notetaker that is hired by the disability services unit to take notes for a student. Often this is someone that is not a classmate.
- Stipend notetaker – another classmate agrees to take notes with compensation through the disability services unit. Compensation is determined by a fee per credit hour by the amount of credit hour of the course. At the end of the semester, the notetaker is compensated for notetaking.
- Recorded notetaking – means that a lecture is recorded on tape and then brought to the disability service unit to be transcribed into printed format. This can be done on a daily basis, ideally. However, when it is not feasible to transcribe the recorded information efficiently, it is best to use this method for a class that meets once or twice per week as opposed to daily.
- Instructor’s notes can be obtained from an instructor after a class if the instructor has previouly agreed. This is an option when there is no notetaker available.
Students are expected to supply their notetaker with paper and carbon paper as needed. The cost of copies are the responsibility of the student. Carbonless paper can also be purchased, although more expensive and if subjected to sunlight it will eventually lose its capability as a carbon.
All colleges understand the importance of academic success for their students. Tutorial services should be available to supplement classroom learning. Tutorial services at some colleges are offered through an open lab facility for all students regardless of subject. Still others have labs for a specified subject, such as English or writing. Some departments offer their own lab for their specific curricula. A tutorial lab for deaf and hard of hearing students or all students with disabilities can be another approach. Basically, the resources available at a given institution along with the students needs, determine the feasibility of any tutorial supplement.
Some suggested guidelines for providing and maximizing tutorial services on campus are:
- If there is a campus-wide tutorial center, encourage students to use this center. Accommodations that are necessary, will need to be prearranged, such as interpreter services.
- Peer Tutoring utilizes a classmate as a tutor. The instructor can often assist in identifying a student who can function as a tutor for the student in need. Another student who may be deaf or hard of hearing can be an excellent tutor or study companion.
- Instructors are another resource where students can get tutoring. Both the student and the instructor will need to determine the specifics of the tutoring and request the accommodations needed.
- Disability Services professional staff can tutor students in a given subject, if knowledgeable. If there is a lab facilitator that can sign, that individual can be assisted by other staff such as interpreters and counseling staff when more tutors are needed.
Although, tutorial services are not mandated by any laws, it is an imperative supplement for many students, disabled or nondisabled. Keep in mind that the main goal is to ensure that students receive equal and quality services that will contribute to academic success.
ASSISTIVE LISTENING DEVICES (ALD)
Most students who use a hearing aid have difficulty understanding speech due to competing background noise. Hearing aids have a tendency to enhance all sounds at the same time, thereby drowning out the sounds of speech. Several amplification systems are available to improve hearing ability in large areas, such as lecture halls and auditoriums, as well as in interpersonal situations (group discussions, and instructor conferences). These systems work by delivering the speaker’s voice directly to the ear (with or without personal hearing aids), thus overcoming the negative effects of noise, distance and echo, thereby improving understanding ability.
There are four (4) types of assistive listening devices and systems (ALDS) available. They are listed below:
FM is an abbreviation for "frequency modulated" radio waves. FM systems consist of a transmitter and a receiver. With a microphone and transmitter sound is converted in electrical energy. This energy is "modulated" on a specific FM radio frequency where it reaches the receiver which is tuned to the same frequency. The receiver, worn by the student, "demodulates" the radio signal and the electrical energy is then delivered to the ear of the listener. This can be accomplished in two ways; by using a earphone headset, or via a hearing aid with a "T" (telephone) switch and a magnetic neckloop. Using a neckloop requires the conversion of electromagnetic energy to electrical energy and then to acoustic energy. It sounds complicated when explained, however, it is a fairly easy system to use. A FM system provides good sound quality and is very effective for those with severe to profound hearing loss. Because the radio waves can penetrate walls, precaution must be taken to use separate frequencies in adjacent rooms.
An infrared listening system transmits sound via invisible lightwaves. An infrared transmitter can be directly connected from a sound source (e.g. microphone, T.V. jack). Speech enters the microphone where it is connected into the electrical energy, and then made louder at the amplifier. The electrical signal then enters the transmitter. At this point, the transmitter using lightwaves sends the electrical signal (speech) to the individual’s wireless receiver where it is again changed back to electrical energy and thus, into sound. A neckloop with electromagnetic coil can also be used with this systems, if one has a hearing aid with a "T" switch. Inviduals with a mild to moderate hearing loss seem to benefit more from the use of infrared amplification system than someone with a severe loss. Since lightwaves do not pass through walls, transmission is confined to the room containing the sound. Additionally, infrared systems are not affected by other nearby radio frequency signals, but clear transmission can be affected by a large amount of sunlight.
INDUCTION LOOP DEVICES
This system employs the use of a coil of wire that transmits electromagnetic energy. An audio loop transmits sounds via a loop of wire that surrounds a seating area. There are two types of loops; a room loop, or a neckloop. Both of these coils have wires through which electricity can flow and be converted into magnetic energy and picked up by the telecoil in a hearing aid. The user’s hearing aid must have a "T-switch" on it. The "T-switch" functions like an antenna, picking up the electromagnetic energy and transferring it to the hearing aid which converts it into sound. A loop can be coiled around a room, desk or a chair. The person needing the benefit of sound must be within this specific area in order to hear. Coils sometimes malfunction from damage to the coil. Sound will not be converted as needed. Additionally, the use of a large loop can be problematic in some settings where mobility and safety may be an issue.
HARD WIRED DEVICES
Unlike the other systems, hard wired systems simply require a direct connection between the sound source and the listener. This is accomplished by a direct plug-in connection or through the use of a microphone. Basically, the listener is separated from the sound source by the length of a cord that is directly connected to their hearing aid. Not all hearing aids have the capability to be hard wired to a microphone. Without this feature, this would not be workable. Hard wired systems are not practical for large rooms, but in one-on-one situations they work well and are inexpensive. Like the wireless systems, hard wired systems make it easier to understand speech when it is presented in a noise filled or and large area. Sound is directly sent to the listener bypassing these setbacks which make it hard to hear. Sound is made louder through the volume control on the hearing aid. For those with conductive types of hearing loss, this works very well.
Tape recorders can be beneficial for some students with mild hearing loss. A student with this type of hearing loss is more likely not to utilize a sign language interpreter and must focus intently on the speaker. Having a tape for backup to play later can enhance the acquisition of a lecture. Again, this type of benefit would only be helpful for a person who can hear and understand the recorded message. However, in some situations an interpreter can interpret the taped message or it may be transcribed by hand by another individual.
Generally speaking, not all students require testing accommodations. However, for those that do, there are several methods that are helpful. A student must make such a request based on their disability. This can be done through the use of a documentation of disability form. This request along with any other supporting evidence of the need for testing accommodations, such as psychological, medical or educational assessment may suffice for this purpose. (See page 35 for the sample copy of the documentation form). Still there are situations where the counselor must make a decision along with the student and the instructor when there is enough evidence that a student needs testing accommodations. Each situation will need to be evaluated individually.
Some commonly requested testing accommodations:
Due to reading and language difficulties, some students who are deaf or hard of hearing may need more time to complete their tests. In the event that a student has a learning disability or a visual impairment, extended time is crucial for their test completion. Time extension may be time and a half, double-time, or even unlimited time. This is determined by the student, counselor and instructor based on the specific academic needs of the student. Because some class periods would not allow for time extension, other arrangements are needed to ensure the student is given adequate time to complete the test. This can be accomplished by designating a room in the disability office for student testing monitored by the counselor or using a campus-wide testing center (if one is available on campus). Some testing centers have separate testing rooms which are distraction-free. This is an excellent choice for a student who has an attention disorder. It is imperative that the instructor’s specific instructions such as time allotment, and use of any supplements to the test, be clearly specified in writing for the testing monitor.
For some students who have difficulty with reading, the test can be interpreted from English into ASL. An interpreter can assist the student by first reading the test questions and signing it in ASL. The student then will reply in ASL. The interpreter will translate what the student has said in ASL into English. For some tests this is an ideal solution when a student is being tested on what he/she knows about the subject. When a student is weak in reading, the questions are often misunderstood and answers are not correctly given even though the student knows the answer. Discretion must be taken to ensure that the student is not penalized for lack of reading skills when that is not the objective of the test. However, when the test is a test of English comprehension and expression, interpreted tests are not utilized, except for instructions, if needed.
DISTRACTION- FREE TESTING
Some students who are deaf or hard of hearing have additional disabilities such as an attention deficit disorder which can interfere with test taking. One key factor here is to eliminate any possible distraction for the student. In a typical classroom, distraction cannot be controlled as in a separate room. A distraction-free room can be designated anywhere on a campus where there is an opportunity for someone to monitor the test. A room in the disability services unit, testing center, instructor’s office, etc. can be considered. In general, deaf people are sensitive to "visual noise" that goes on in a typical classroom environment. A student who is deaf or hard of hearing without a secondary attention disability, may find it much more comfortable to take a test in a private testing room. This is to be determined by the student, counselor, and instructor if a request should be made for this accommodation.
The key element here for any classroom accommodation is to ensure that students who are deaf or hard of hearing have equal access to the classroom experience. A visual learning experience is what is needed. This can be obtained in a variety of means. Some of the more common means are discussed in the next few categories.
Priority seating simply means that the student who is deaf or hard of hearing needs to determine the best seating arrangement depending on his/her individual needs. For the majority of students with hearing impairments, sitting in the front of the classroom allows the best opportunity for visual learning. If a student uses a sign language interpreter, then of course, the front seating would be the ideal situation to allow both, the instructor and the interpreter to be in view.
A student who is hard of hearing may choose the front seating as a means of being able to hear the instructor’s voice and/or read the instructor’s lips. Also, for taping the lecture with a tape recorder, sitting closer to the instructor is more effective. If a student uses an Assistive Listening Device, and does not need to lipread the instructor, there is more flexibility in seating as the ALD will enhance spoken speech regardless of distance.
Visual aids are instrumental in enhancing learning for all students, especially for students who require a visual learning experience. Films, videos, slides, drawings and use of the chalkboard are all visual aids. Handouts from the instructor reinforce the information that is discussed in class. Syllabi, study guides, course overview and outline for lectures and tests are all important elements of reinforced learning. Not to be overlooked, is the key role of notetaking. Notes allow a student to replay the classroom experience as needed and to have it reinforced.
Many films that are used in a college setting are not captioned. This poses a problem for students who cannot understand the film without some visual means. Where at all possible, films or videos should be purchased with captions. Often instructors are unaware of the issues that arise for a deaf or hard of hearing student when a film is shown in class without preparation. Most often instructors may be unaware of the captioned films as an alternative format.
Film substitutions can be made when a newer version of the film is made with captions. Films made since 1990 with the passage of the ADA, more likely, but not always are available with captions. Captions may be presented either in closed or open captioned formats. Closed captioned means that in order to see the captions a decoder is needed to decode the captions. Open captioned means that the film has captions that are always there on the screen (similar to foreign film subtitles).
When it is not possible to secure a captioned format, using an interpreter to interpret the film is a reasonable option, provided that the interpreter can be seen by the deaf or hard of hearing student. A small light, or leaving on an overhead light, light from a window or door are optional ways to ensure that the student can see the interpreter. The ideal situation is one where the instructor notifies the interpreter ahead of time when a film will be shown making it possible for the interpreter to be prepared with a light or make adjustments prior to the film being shown.
On occasion a class field trip is required. The classroom interpreter or a substitute interpreter usually can accompany the student(s). Every effort needs to be made to ensure that there is time for advance planning for an off-campus trip. Often there are regulations that must be followed before approval is granted for off-campus activities. If the student does not use an interpreter for communication, it will be necessary for that student to indicate to the instructor or speaker (if there is one), what assistance is needed. Students using an Assistive Listening Device can use this system for a field trip. For some types of trips, using a notetaker may be appropriate.
Often in conjunction with classroom learning is the laboratory experience. This is often expected and very often a required class supplement. Depending on the needs of the student and the type of lab work that needs to be carried out, the counselor can assist the student with identifying the best strategy. Some labs contain interaction with the instructor or assistant. Others require work groups of several students where communication would be a factor. Still other types of labs are solitary. Some labs may have a period of lecture at the beginning, midway, or toward the end of the period. This is a vital piece of information when trying to determine when and where an interpreter is needed.
For students that require the assistance of an Assistive Listening Device, this can be implemented the same way it is used in a classroom setting. When a lecture accompanies the lab, or the lab is intensive with lots of new information, a notetaker is a good option for the student. Keep in mind that it is difficult for anyone to do more than one thing at the same time (e.g., laboratory assignments, focus on the interpreter, etc.). It is more difficult for a student who is totally dependent on visual cues. By eliminating the stress of trying to accomplish several things at once, the deaf or hard of hearing student can focus on the assignments required.