Students with hearing loss find new methods of communication

Daily Toreador – Students with hearing loss find new methods of communication.

Hearing-impaired and deaf students face the challenges of understanding the people who surround them daily. Whether they have partial or no hearing, these students still find ways of communicating.

Hearing-impaired and deaf are not the same thing. People who are hearing-impaired have some ability to understand spoken language where as deaf students can hear nothing at all. Student Disability Services works with students in these situations to help them succeed in their classes by helping them understand what is being said.

Deaf and hearing-impaired students who have very little hearing are eligible to have American Sign Language interpreters attend their classes with them. These interpreters work with SDS and instructors to accommodate for students’ needs allowing them to participate in campus activities, said Larry Phillippe, student disabilities managing director.

“We try to help them focus on the fact that we’re here to translate information for them,” he said. “But you’ve got to start focusing on proficient written English.”

When in class, interpreters stand at the front of the class, keeping the professor in the student’s line of sight. The student can sit wherever they’d like since the interpreters aren’t working directly with them, which helps keep the student anonymous. Confidentiality is extremely important to SDS, said James Whitfield, assistant director and coordinator of interpreting services.

After registering with SDS, disabled students are eligible for note-taking services, priority registration for classes and for SDS to inform professors they need closed-captioning for videos.

At the beginning of each semester, students file requests for interpreters to attend their classes. But these interpreters aren’t only for classroom aid alone. Students can also ask to have one for attending events or group meetings. Part of college is getting involved in extracurricular activities, he said, and not allowing students the ability to have someone there to help them understand wouldn’t be fair. These students have the right to interact with their peers and translators help with this.

“I think it’s important that people realize that the deaf can do everything and anything except hear,” said Rebecca Markes, a sophomore human science major from Murphy.

Hearing-impaired students who do not use interpreters sometimes run into problems such as, professor’s accents, having to sit in the back of the classroom if there is little space or not having video and closed-captioned film clips.

“What people don’t realize also, is that some hearing students don’t always catch everything either and if they were to do the subtitling or closed-captioning, everyone would get it because they’d read it,” Whitfield said.

Other than offering students an interpreter to translate class lectures from English to American Sign Language, SDS works with professors and other students to help with note taking. Before the start of the semester, students will meet instructors and ask them to use NCR carbonless notepaper. With this, professors will ask two students to take notes on the non-carbon paper, which will create a duplicate copy for the hearing-impaired or deaf student. These notes can be an addition to the student’s own notes since they sometimes find it challenging to follow what the interpreter is signing while trying to write.

“A lot of students like to take their own notes,” Whitfield said. “Those notes can be a supplement in case that deaf person or hearing impaired student missed something or for lack of a better term, they didn’t hear something or didn’t see it.”

Most deaf students communicate   through American Sign Language rather than English since they cannot hear. Although some speak, read and write the language, it is different than the way most communicate. American Sign Language is not something that can be written; it is expressed through motions and facial expressions. Because it is an entirely different language, some deaf students have problems writing and reading English, Phillippe said.

New technology has helped the hearing-impaired and deaf community a great deal, he said. The invention of smart phones with email, texting and video capabilities have given deaf people the ability to always be in contact with others.

“There are so many changes now, especially in technology,” Phillippe said. “We all text now and that was probably the best thing to happen to deaf students: the advancement of instant messaging.”

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