Distance learning for university students with hearing loss can be tough in ways I never thought about.
When my university suddenly shifted all classes online, my main challenges have been against situations that initially appear to be outside of my control. Although I had plugged my Roger Select into my computer, it was the online etiquette that people adopted, which made class discussions difficult. Although I expected technological obstacles when distance learning began, I didn’t expect these other challenges. For example, students turning their cameras off and not showing their faces. Here are four different tips I have used to make distance learning accessible.
Regardless of whether your classes have started or not, I highly recommend getting in touch with your professor. Being proactive can help make the transition easier for you and the professor. That way the professor can find a platform that is accessible to you from the start. That way they don’t need to change the platform after classes have begun. If lessons are already underway and things are working as they should, still reach out and thank them. A thank you can go a long way.
A thank you will both show your appreciation and highlight how they are making their class accessible to you. It may increase their understanding of accessibility and awareness of it. This could possibly lead to them making sudden changes to how the content will be delivered in the future.
One of my professors changed the way that they delivered their lectures by adding closed captions. As long as you continually communicate with your professor, you can help provide some consistency in your access to education.
I am sure that some of you have seen the memes online of those that had forgotten to remove specific embarrassing backgrounds in zoom when they logged on to a class. However, unfortunately, not all people will turn their cameras on. They choose to speak behind a black screen with a display of their name.
For those that depend on lipreading, this makes hearing everyone challenging, especially in class discussions. If this appears to be the norm of your class, get in contact with your professor to explain why it is important to see everyone’s face. Also politely ask them to promote that people should turn their cameras on. A professor can be your ally in making it a norm for everyone to show their face when they are speaking by reinforcing it. Using this method can also avoid attention being drawn specifically to you.
If my professor has not posted the video lecture with closed captioning and is unwilling or technologically challenged and unable to change the format-what should I do? This is the time when being creative and finding solutions on your end could be the least complicated way to make learning accessible.
Having the Google Live Transcribe app open and playing the video out loud has worked for me in a pinch. Don’t have an Andriod? You can turn the speech to text on any device such as on Word, and it can type it out. Better yet, these lecture notes can easily convert into study notes. These solutions allow the ability to have closed captioning for situations where a speaker is not shown or for the pre-recorded lectures without closed captioning.
Trust me, you haven’t been forgotten if some lectures have already been posted without closed captioning or professors are difficult to reach. With the sudden move to place everything online, it has been a significant shift for everybody. Every once in a while, I need to continue to remind myself that. Sometimes some things are not in place, not intentionally, but because of how suddenly everyone has to make significant changes. That being said, certain non-accessible situations should not become a norm.
It should not always be placed on you to make everything accessible for yourself. However, in the meantime, that is when you can try to be creative and find a system that works best for you. Whether it is the Google Live Transcribe App, plugging in your Roger FM, or making your name and background on zoom, say, please turn on your face cam when you speak. Regardless of your solution, do not make distance learning about becoming distant from your peers and education. Best of luck with your studies, and I hope everyone is safe and healthy!