EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT FOR DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING STUDENTS
Film My language - my identity
is a film about the importance of linguistic and cultural identity for Deaf persons. Stereotypically, Polish sign language (PJM) is frequently associated with primitive gestures, that is content-poor signs which have a negative impact on the Deaf person’s speech development. Sign language, however, is a natural language of Deaf people which determines the way they perceive the world … The film shows a conversation between a Deaf and a hearing person in Polish sign language.
Film If you were my teacher I would like to...
a film presenting the expectations of a Deaf person concerning an academic teacher, which – if met – would facilitate more efficient communication between them thus ensuring equal opportunities for the Deaf student in full access to education. The film presents a conversation in Polish sign language between two persons, one of whom is culturally Deaf.
The characters of the movie are (from the left) Małgorzata Czajkowska-Kisil and Joanna Łacheta – employees of The Institute for the Deaf in Warsaw and academic teachers in Polish Sign Language on the University of Warsaw.
Hearing disability is a term comprising several different groups, including hard of hearing and deaf/Deaf persons1. When looking for effective methods to support the student with hearing disability, it is important that you select suitable educational strategies based on the student’s preferred method of communication. This method may utilize oral language, sign language and bilingual strategy2. It is worth noting that in the first strategy information is conveyed via spoken language and made accessible through means such as a hearing aid or a cochlear implant, and supplemented by lip reading. A substantial number of those persons prefers using oral language.
In the studying process, deaf/Deaf and hard of hearing students may find it difficult to:
- fully participate in classes based exclusively on verbal communication (eg lectures without multimedia presentations, audio recordings, videos without subtitles)
- use their lip reading skills or focus on a sign language interpreter while taking notes
- participate in seminars and group discussions where many people fail to follow the rules of debate etiquette
- use their lip reading skills or a sign language interpreter if the speaker’s or interpreter’s face is poorly lit
- take oral exams and tests conducted in a traditional manner.
Educational support strategies
The following guidelines, if suitably applied and adjusted to the person’s individual requirements, will help to enhance equal educational opportunities. In order to provide effective academic teaching to deaf/Deaf and hard of hearing persons, the following conditions should be met:
Concerning coursework organisation:
- Use teaching aids that allow to convey information through visual channels (eg multimedia presentations, slides, graphs, charts, illustrations, photos).
- Distribute teaching materials well before the class (eg outline in both electronic and paper form, key points, bibliography, multimedia presentation).
- Allow access assistants to take notes for the student.
- Allow for new technology solutions, including assistive listening systems (FM) or a hearing loop.
- Face the student at all times when you speak to him or her. Speak clearly and at a measured pace so that the student can read your lips. Avoid exaggerated speech or gestures.
- Speak using clear and lucid phrases; highlight main points and keywords; explain the meaning of complex linguistic structures and specialist vocabulary.
- Write down new and unfamiliar vocabulary (specialist terminology) on the board, or print it and hand out to students.
- Make sure that you have the student’s attention before you speak. Make sure that the student and/or sign language interpreter is able to follow the order of speakers during class discussions. It may help if you suggest conventional visual signs to signal who is speaking (eg speaker raising his or her hand).
In case the student using a sign language interpreter:
- Provide the interpreter with teaching materials well before the class to help him or her familiarise with the topic.
- Speak directly to the student, not the interpreter. Avoid phrases that make the interpreter mediate between you and the student, eg “tell him/her”, “ask him/her”.
- Make sure that the interpreter is provided with a place where he or she can sit or stand close to the speaker (interpreter and student usually work at a reasonable distance). It may help if you provide the interpreter with a list of course participants or a class schedule.
Concerning credits and exams:
- Adjust the form of examination to the student’s individual requirements. It is advisable that persons with hearing disability take an oral exam as a written one or are assisted by a sign language interpreter. In case the student wishes to respond orally, you may consider bringing a printed copy of the questions to the exam.
- Make sure that classes are held in rooms with good lighting and good acoustics.
- Allow for short breathers during classes. Lip reading is a mentally exhausting activity and it puts a considerable strain on the student’s memory and attention. The sign language interpreter may also require such a break. If the course is demanding, two interpreters may take turns interpreting for the student.
- Arrange the seats in such a way that it is possible for all students to see each other. This will allow the lip reading students to fully participate in the discussion.
- Avoid standing in front of a window or other source of light which puts your face in the shadow. This makes lip reading more difficult and the student will not be able to make the most of the class.
The guidelines come from the handbook for academic teaching staff developed under the DARE 2 project (www.DareProject.eu).
1. The capital D “Deaf” refers to persons who communicate primarily via sign language and who identify themselves as culturally Deaf or have a strong Deaf identity. Most commonly the capital D “Deaf” persons were either born deaf or were born to deaf parents.
2. According to this strategy, deaf children are primarily taught to sign and only secondarily to use Polish (most commonly in writing). So far only initial attempts have been made to introduce this method in Poland. The method has been successfully used in many European countries and in the United States.