Deaf and hard-of-hearing students face several significant challenges in the classroom and they can have both visible and invisible needs. These obstacles can hinder their educational experience and require education institutions to adopt strategies to ensure these students have equal access to learning opportunities. Vitalii Potapchuk, Co-founder of Amsaan Project, a pioneering organisation committed to creating an inclusive world where communication and technology transcend barriers, explains how embracing technology has emerged as a powerful tool for bridging this accessibility gap.
In the forthcoming era of education, real-time insights are poised to revolutionise the learning experience for students of determination, particularly deaf individuals. WHO reports that approximately 1.5 billion individuals globally experience varying degrees of hearing impairment. Of this, there are around 34 million deaf children worldwide. By 2050, nearly 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss. At least 700 million will require hearing rehabilitation, indicating that this is a growing global issue that must be addressed in all spheres.
Education, like many other spheres, is geared to the needs and behaviours of the average student, and people with disabilities typically fall outside of the usual experience. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students face several significant challenges in the classroom and they can have both visible and invisible needs. Challenges include classroom acoustics, language deficiencies, experiential gaps, reliance on lip-reading and residual hearing, inadequate teacher knowledge and awareness, social discomfort, limited collaboration opportunities, curriculum and instruction disparities and a lack of necessary resources. These obstacles can hinder their educational experience and require education institutions to adopt strategies to ensure these students have equal access to learning opportunities.
Embracing technology has emerged as a powerful tool for bridging this accessibility gap. To enhance the academic performance of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, educational institutions should prioritise the provision of essential technologies and incorporate them into the classroom setting and student experiences. The World Federation of the Deaf, hosting its 2027 Congress in Abu Dhabi, UAE, asserts the rights of deaf children and students to quality, inclusive education delivered in their national sign language(s) and written language(s). By addressing deaf students’ needs from the outset, a more inclusive and supportive learning environment can be created.
Remote sign language interpreters: enhancing accessibility and flexibility
In the realm of deaf education, the reliance on in-person interpreters introduces challenges such as potential delays or unexpected logistics issues. Technology can be utilised to integrate real-time remote sign language interpreters who are accessible through a mobile and tablet application, providing a reliable and flexible solution. Students can seamlessly join lessons from anywhere in sign language, overcoming the constraints associated with physical presence. The importance of this approach is underscored by the scarcity of interpreters globally, allowing educational institutions to be more adaptable and accommodating. For comparison, in the U.S. there are only 2,038 sign-language interpreters to cater to 37.5 million hearing-disabled adults.
Equal rights for deaf students: bridging the educational disparities
Focusing on the education of deaf students is imperative because it aligns with the fundamental principle of equal rights. Deaf individuals, like their hearing counterparts, deserve equal access to quality education. The UAE has strategies in place for adopting and employing tech solutions and tools in education with local authorities like the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) developing a comprehensive Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework to create equal opportunity for students of all abilities.
Most students who have disabilities are too shy to be singled out or seen lagging behind their classmates, making their struggles invisible. Real-time insights provided by technology like Amsaan contribute to levelling the playing field by breaking down communication barriers. This technological integration ensures that deaf students have equitable access to educational resources, opportunities and support.
The integration extends beyond convenience; it addresses a systemic challenge in the availability of interpreters. For example, Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) software plays a crucial role in classroom settings by aiding in voice differentiation and transcribing spoken content, facilitating class participation and managing interruptions. When powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, these software systems can also be trained to comprehend course material by incorporating relevant articles, books, current events and terminology. Consequently, educational institutions can confidently offer real-time captioning of lectures and webinars, benefitting not only deaf or hard-of-hearing students but all learners. Real-time captions serve as a valuable visual aid, enhancing content retention for a broader student audience.
Flexibility beyond classroom hours: empowering deaf students in their learning journey
Technology that bridges the knowledge gap for students with hearing disabilities not only facilitates learning within the confines of traditional classrooms but extends its impact beyond these boundaries. Incorporating remote sign language interpreters empowers deaf students to access educational support after school or university hours. This is particularly beneficial for resolving queries, seeking additional guidance, or collaborating on projects remotely. Students can engage with them to seek assistance with homework or clarification on lessons, fostering continuous learning.
Furthermore, the flexibility offered by remote interpreters allows for a novel approach to higher education. Sign language interpreters can seamlessly participate in classes conducted by different institutions without the logistical challenges associated with extensive travel. This not only enhances the learning experience for deaf students but also enriches the educational landscape by promoting cross-institutional collaboration.
Ultimately, the commitment to advancing deaf education transcends technology, representing a broader goal of ensuring equal rights for deaf students. Embracing real-time insights facilitated by remote sign language interpreters marks a transformative era in the field, fostering inclusivity and empowering all students to enhance their learning experiences. Beyond aiding those with hearing loss, technology-driven solutions, such as speech-to-text captions, cater to diverse student groups, including those studying in non-native languages or learning on the go.
By promoting the integration of technology and remote interpreting, technology companies like Amsaan strive to create an inclusive educational environment that empowers all students to pursue their academic journeys unhindered by communication barriers. Inclusive education has the remarkable power to reshape career opportunities for people of determination around the globe.Click below to share this article