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Communication Access Options for Students

As a Deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind student, your communication access needs and preferences can vary, depending on the situation and context. When determining the most effective accommodations for the classroom or online, there are many aspects to consider. It is possible that if you are hard of hearing, using an assistive listening system in the classroom, such as an FM system is great, but this may not be as effective in a virtual classroom. In this  case, a speech-to-text option such as TypeWell or CART will be a more effective option. If you are a Deaf student, a sign language interpreter may be effective for some classes, but TypeWell or CART may be a better choice for other courses.  Because everyone’s communication needs are unique, and classroom instruction and environments vary, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.

Here are some communication access options to consider:

  1. Assistive Listening Devices
    Assistive listening devices (ALDs) such as FM systems, infrared and sound-field systems amplify the volume on an instructor’s voice. ALD’s are prescriptive if they are connected through your hearing aides and a recommendation from an audiologist is required.

    ambient noise in the room, mobility of the device, compatibility with your hearing aide(s) format of the class etc. You can access further information on adaptive technology and funding options by contacting your advisor at your institution’s accessibility services office.                                                                                                                                                 
  2. Sign Language Interpreting
    ASL interpreting is an accommodation for students who communicate using sign language. The interpreter is professional trained to faithfully and accurately convey the spirit and content of the communication in the classroom. In B.C., interpreters are designated as Registered Sign Language Interpreters (RSLIs) and to work in college or universities, they are also typically accredited though the ACE-BC Post-Secondary Interpreting Screen (PSIS).  Providing effective access, requires the interpreter to be familiar with the course content, prepare and discuss the interpreting preferences and needs with a student. Consider: You can review the BC ASL and Oral Interpreting Guidelines by checking our resources page. The document explains student, interpreter and institutional responsibilities.                          
  3. Note-taking
    Notetaking is an accommodation that provides a condensed summary of the classroom lecture, discussion, meeting or event, in a systematic style that matches the student’s preference, such as point form or a more comprehensive format. Notetaking accommodations can be provided through copies of a classmate’s notes, or as a hired service, using a laptop with notetaking software or apps. With paid note-taking services, everything that is heard is captured using a laptop and an edited copy of the notes is provided afterward. Effective notetaking is a skill that is acquired through training and strengthened through practice. Notes generally do not include details of who is speaking, comments etc. That kind of information is captured in a transcribing or captioning service such as TypeWell or CART real-time captioning.
  4. TypeWell Transcribing
    TypeWell transcribing is more like real-time captioning rather than note-taking. The transcriber uses a laptop computer and specialized software to transcribe the content for the student to view on their own laptop, tablet, or even smartphone. Transcripts indicate changes in speakers, environmental cues, and meaning-for-meaning content.Consider: May not be well suited to some math and science courses. May present some challenges in group work. Allows for autonomy in the classroom and offers an option for the student to speak for themselves, or read out what the student types.                                                                                                                                                                          
  5. Real-time Captioning (CART)
    Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) provides a word-for-word, or verbatim transcription service, which is read on the student’s laptop or device. The captioner uses steno equipment and specialized software to capture what is being said in the classroom. The student receives a verbatim transcript of the lecture and discussion.Consider: There is a high volume of notes due to the verbatim process. The service may not be well suited for math and science courses.          
  6. Remote Interpreting and Transcribing
    Remote services as an assistive technology, offers real-time support in circumstances where the interpreter and the student are in different locations. Careful assessment and consideration of circumstances is important when determining the feasibility of remote services. Through high- speed internet, software, and/ or web-based platforms, communication is facilitated by the instructor’s use of a microphone and an off-site interpreter or transcriber listening to the instructor, and providing the communication access service. Consider: With remote interpreting, visibility can sometimes be challenging, depending on the size of the screen. There may be a time lag between classroom activity and the interpretation; and may prove difficult with multiple speakers. Online classes with many other students on screen can make it difficult to see the interpreter on screen, and adaptations will be important to consider (either adjusting the technology and viewing options or using a separate device for seeing the interpreter separate to the online class platform). Remote service delivery is also dependent on good acoustics for transmission to the service provider, technical support – computers, video camera, microphone, high-speed internet access, adequate lighting for the interpreter and student. An assessment of the circumstances (number of people, set-up, technology etc.) in which access services are requested will assist in determining the effectiveness and appropriateness of this service. Testing and training are important for implementation and ensuring effectiveness for all parties in the learning environment. Troubleshooting, establishing back up plans and regular assessment are also essential for maintaining effective service.