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Content Creation

General points

Hearing impairment covers a wide range of conditions from age-related deterioration to congenital deafness. The range of appropriate and reasonable adjustments will depend on the individual’s circumstances.

Some subject areas can pose more difficulties for learners with certain types of hearing impairment. Audio-rich subject areas like music, film and media studies can pose significant difficulties for learners with no hearing - though there are impressive precedents of people with hearing difficulties excelling in these fields. Less obvious are the secondary difficulties for sign-language users. Lacking the immersion (via background radio, TV, overheard conversations etc) of speech based language and literacies deaf people may struggle with nuances, abstract concepts and technical terms.

Assistive technologies

Technologies exist to support people with hearing impairments but the appropriate level of support varies with the extent of the hearing difficulties.

These include:

  • Induction loops can benefit many learners with moderate to severe hearing loss by enabling the learner to hear the tutor’s voice. They are less effective at communicating group discussions.
  • In some circumstances learners with hearing impairment could benefit from teaching sessions being recorded. This gives the learner the opportunity to:
  • turn up the volume
  • listen through headphones without the distractions of ambient sounds.
  • Interactive whiteboards can allow tutors to work in very visual ways - using images, diagrams and annotations to supplement spoken explanations. The ability to save content from an interactive whiteboard onto a virtual learning environment also benefits the learner who may be able to concentrate more on listening and less on notetaking.
  • Learner’s personal technologies can sometimes provide additional opportunities - for example downloading and storing MP3s (where there is useable residual hearing), downloading video clips or simply exporting key PowerPoints as .jpg images to be viewed on mobile phones - though the value of this depends on the nature of the original PowerPoint and the size of the phone.
  • Videos - even simple ones - can transform revision for deaf learners. Too often deaf learners have to revise in a second language: written English. Where lessons are supported by a signer it is possible to video the signer’s explanations so that the learner has revision materials in an appropriate preferred format. This need not entail lots of extra work - for example a number of cheap digital/video cameras will record video directly in electronic format which can be easily uploaded onto a Virtual Learning Environment or a mobile device for personal use.

Traditional resources and activities

Traditional classroom activities tend to involve speech and revolve around resources like books, handouts, overhead projector or whiteboard notes and videos. For learners with hearing impairment speech related tuition is difficult and some of the ‘standard’ resources (e.g. books, handouts) assume a literacy level in standard English which is unlikely to be realised for someone with sign language as their first language.

Critically, spoken instructions and explanations need to be:

  • Carefully paced so that BSL interpreters can keep up.
  • Primed in advance so concepts for which there is no standard BSL can be considered beforehand.
  • Supported with additional scaffolding - for example notes and diagrams on the whiteboard.

Written materials will need to be checked to ensure they conform to good plain English standards - see the Plain English Campaign website.

Digital resources and activities

Some digital resources such as video provide multiple channels for information - for example a sound track supported by subtitles and video clips. For some learners it is possible to access digital resources using their personal technologies such as laptops or mobile phones. Adjusting the volume on audio files will be sufficient for some hearing impaired learners but others will require transcripts or summaries of the information. Online activities such as discussion lists, chats, blogs and wikis can make effective substitutes for class based oral discussions.

Content creation for visually impaired learners - subsections