Accessibility service coordinators play an integral role in the provision of equal access to the post-secondary educational process and environment. Facilitating and promoting accessible and inclusive learning environments is an important element in supporting students’ success. Hiring service providers to accommodate students’ communication equity needs, liaising with post-secondary institution administration and classroom instructors, providing exam accommodations and other services are essential for supporting individuals who are Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind students at their post-secondary institution.
When accommodating a Deaf, hard of hearing or DeafBlind student with a service or service provider, there are a number of factors to consider for ensuring full communication equity in the post-secondary learning environment.
Each student is an expert in their own lived experience with communication access. Understanding the student’s preferences, based on experience and proven effectiveness of the different access options is crucial. Students may also benefit from exploring factors and/or services they may not have previously experienced, and in developing confidence in advocating for their communication access needs is important. Accommodations are not equally effective for all students and require individualized considerations.
Examples of Communication Considerations
Deaf students who use American Sign Language may prefer Registered Sign Language Interpreters in many courses but may be more comfortable with a Typewell or CART transcriber in more technical STEM courses for example.
If a student has slower reading skills, or has an additional disability, reading captions through speech-to-text services such as CART or TypeWell may not be an effective option.
Hard of hearing students who do not use sign language might require CART or Typewell transcribing in one setting but prefer to use an assistive listening device to rely on their residual hearing when in another setting. If the hard of hearing student does know sign language, a sign language interpreter may also be an effective service for communication access.
DeafBlind students may use an intervenor, but depending on residual vision they may require tactile interpreting with a Registered Sign Language Interpreter or a transcriber instead.
It is important to assess the following conditions when determining the most effective services that will allow the student the equal opportunity to communicate in a manner that is equitable to peers who can hear.
- The course format, method and style of delivery will greatly influence the service decision. A hard of hearing student may have success with using an assistive listening device (ALD) such as an FM/ DM System, along with preferential seating; however, factors such as the pace of the class, an instructor’s accent, or a significant amount of class discussion may pose difficulties with this access option.
- Online content. This could create the need for a different or new means of communication access that would not normally be required in the classroom environment due to the visual aspects being changed or impeded in online learning environments. Differences between classroom and practicum environments may also dictate a change in service options.
- Physical setting. For hard of hearing students, factors such as the size of the room, the lighting and acoustics could also affect service option decisions. If the student’s access is impacted by these factors, it is likely that relying on speechreading and/or their assistive listening device will be ineffective, and access through transcribing or interpreting services will be necessary. Field placements, lab settings, or other physical demands, such as with a student working on machinery, underneath a vehicle, or in an ambulance for example, may impact the usual form of communication access with an interpreter or transcriber. In such circumstances, adaptations or alternate forms of service will need to be considered to ensure equitable access.
Some questions to consider when considering captioning services:
- Does your company follow the CRTC guidelines [PDF] for captioning videos as provided in Closed Captioning Standards and Protocol for Canadian English Language Television Programming Services?
- How long have you been providing captioning services?
Additional questions when considering a vendor:
- What is the cost per minute to create a verbatim transcript?
- What is the price difference between open, roll-up and pop-on captions?
- Is there a discount for series of orders?
- What is the fee structure for editing?
- What is your average turnaround time for an hour length video?
- Do you handle the obtaining of copyright approvals?
- Are you able to convert video formats to meet your requirements or do we need to provide the video to you in a specific format?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- What are your billing options?
Planning for accommodations that facilitate full participation in a student’s education and campus life experience can be complex and multi-faceted. A Deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind student requesting services for accessibility is required to present documentation such as medical and educational reports. Ideally it will include an audiological report outlining the daily functional limitations in an educational setting and specify accommodations that will address these, such as whether or not an amplification device is recommended for example.
If the student is applying for a Canada Study Grant, this information is required on the Ministry’s Verification of Permanent Disability form.
The audiological report is a medical diagnosis of hearing loss based upon an internationally agreed upon standards. However, decibel losses do not always correlate to a student’s communication needs. It should never be the sole criterion for a determination of support services.
Other factors to be considered would include:
- Language development
- Communication skills/preferences
- Program type (face-to-face/on-line)
- Class type (lecture vs. lab)
- How much class discussion in involved
- Use of assistive listening systems
- Co-op or practicum component
The Audiologist can be a key resource as part of a multidisciplinary team to assess and to determine the needs of the student.
The Audiologist can:
- Make recommendations about appropriate amplification for the student based on his/her degree and type of loss, his/her lifestyle, type and size of classes, educational environment; vocational goals, etc.;
- Assist in the development of communication strategies (e.g. lip-reading, listening strategies), and; conduct FM assessments to ensure compatibility with hearing aids and school environment.
Accommodations are intended to level the playing field so that all students have the opportunity to develop the same skills and abilities expected of all students.(NEADS report)
To conduct your own assessment of the student’s needs, refer to Determining Effective Services