The Web contains a wealth of information for trainers who work with deaf students. But, sorting through all that information to find what you need can be overwhelming. During my own research, I came upon a few sites that can bring an instructor up to speed without their having to fight information overload.
It’s the law
Any instructor working with students with disabilities should be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The best way to become familiar with ADA is to go to the ADA home page. Here you can learn about the rights students have by law, as well as the responsibilities of the instructor and training organization for providing the necessary assistive technologies. It also provides numerous cases of how individual organizations have already accommodated people with disabilities under the law, including some in the area of deaf education.
Where to start
Hearing instructors who are teaching the deaf for the first time will most likely need a list of tips and techniques that they can use to help them communicate with the students. There are two sites that provide just that. The first is Strategies for Teaching Students with Hearing Impairmentsfrom Kent State University. This site covers everything from using facial expressions to get your point across to working effectively with a sign interpreter. It gives techniques for the effective use of the chalkboard and other visual aids, such as captioned video presentations and overhead projectors. There is also a section on how to design quizzes for the hearing-impaired that take into account that American Sign Language (ASL), not English, is their primary language.
Teaching Strategies from the Beginnings Web Site is another excellent introduction to teaching the hearing-impaired. While this site is mainly intended for parents of deaf children, the teaching techniques listed here are equally applicable to instructors teaching deaf adults. In fact, this site reinforces and expands upon many of the techniques listed on the Kent State site.
Learning about deaf culture
The more an instructor knows about a student’s cultural background, the better he or she can respond to a student’s learning needs. Working with deaf students is no exception. Hearing instructors will be at a loss if they are not familiar with deaf culture. One site that I found particularly helpful for hearing instructors in this regard is Anne-Marie Rathwell’s Web page A Hearing Teacher Can Survive in the Deaf Community. Rathwell’s article describes the challenges faced by a grammar school teacher as she tries to relate to the deaf community—challenges shared by teachers of deaf adults and any hearing person who works with the deaf community.
Another site that is a must-see for any hearing teacher is About.com’s page on deaf culture. I found the link to the article “About American Deaf Culture” particularly useful. This article describes two different perspectives hearing people have about deaf people—a pathological view and a cultural view—and how they can influence their dealings with the deaf community.
Ensuring computer accessibility
Instructors teaching Windows classes will want to make sure that the computers are accessible to deaf students. For example, instead of using sounds to alert students of computer events, the machines should be configured to use visual cues such as flashing toolbars. Any audio messages should be displayed as text. The Microsoft Accessibility Web site gives step-by-step instructions for using the control panel and the Accessibility Wizard to set options for deaf students or anyone that has difficulty hearing sounds from the computer.
Are your online courses accessible?
In addition to classroom computers, trainers must also ensure that deaf students can use all computer-based training materials. For example, while hearing students may find the audio and video portions of WBT classes helpful, these features would be useless to deaf students.
To find out whether a Web-based course is suitable for a deaf student, it should be tested against Bobby 3.2, a Web-based tool provided by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST).
Users simply provide the URL of their WBT to Bobby at the CAST Web site, and Bobby will analyze the Web pages to see if they provide disability access. More importantly, for the hearing-impaired, Bobby checks for text equivalents for non-text elements, such as audio and video clips.
Anyone developing WBT, or any type of computer-based training, will find some excellent advice at IBM’s Special Needs Systems Guidelines site. This site not only provides a checklist to be used during the planning stages of any Web-based courses, but also provides programming and testing techniques that can be used to develop a truly accessible WBT.
While these sites provide a good introduction to teaching strategies for the deaf student, they are really just the beginning. Each site mentioned above also includes a number of links for further study. Additionally, you should check out the Online Deaf Library and the home page for the Council on Education of the Deaf Web site at Kent State.
Another feature of all of these sites is that they also point you to sites dealing with other types of disabilities. Some students may have more than one disability. The more you know how to assist these students, the more effective you will be as an instructor.
What changes have you made in your presentation skills? How have you adjusted the computers to accommodate deaf or hard-of-hearing students? Send us your tips on how to help deaf, blind, or disabled students.