Universities have a wide range of choices when it comes to making their content accessible for Deaf students, ranging from live lecture captioning and transcripts, to closed captions alongside recorded content. What’s more, technology has brought economies of access, allowing a piece of content to be captioned once and reused across multiple platforms. As we approach the new term, check out these five steps to provide greater access for your students.
1. Start by offering live access
Student note takers are great and so are transcripts. But for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, nothing beats the power of real-time access, and for this you can’t compete with the access provided by sign language interpreters and live captioning. It’s immediate access that allows the student to follow along with the pace of the lecture.
The choice between the two is a personal one and can depend on the student’s preference and fluency in either English or a sign language (such as Auslan, BSL or ASL).
Pre-lingually deaf people or culturally Deaf people usually learn a sign language as their first language and English as a second language later in life. Therefore, they generally feel more comfortable and have a higher level of comprehension in sign language via the use of an interpreter. However, some students whose first language is a sign language still choose live captioning as it provides them with direct access to the written English language, which is the language that they will be using for most assignments and exams.
Post-lingually deaf people have become deaf later in life, and so they are often more comfortable communicating in English. They may have little or no knowledge of a sign language and generally prefer captioning to provide them with access.
2. Think of the output
The process of live captioning is creating a live, accurate record of everything that’s said. This means that at the conclusion of the session you have an accurate written record of that lecture’s content. This can be provided to students immediately following the lecture.
3. Look at all the access points
Universities are prolific content creators – a single university produces more content in a year than all of Hollywood. And since the advent of lecture capture systems, most of this content is available for students to watch off campus. What was considered appropriate access a few years ago, may be considered insufficient today.
Similarly, there are more cost-effective ways of providing access thanks to the advent of additional accessibility options. You need to make an assessment of your university’s facilities against your students’ needs. Does your university use a lecture capture system like Echo, Mediasite or Panopto? Are your students’ subjects taught in Echo-enabled lecture theatres? If you can answer “yes” to these, you now have the ability to offer captions for all recorded content.
4. Extend the access
Recent technological advancements in captioning mean that the captions created in a live environment can be extended into closed captions quickly and with minimal effort. This means you can offer your students live captioning and then extend these captions to the recorded lecture as captured in your lecture capture system.
5. Assess the benefits beyond disability
Live and closed captions not only provide students who are deaf and hard of hearing access to the university’s content, but they also assist students who have English as an additional language. What’s more, adding captions to the lecture capture system makes all of the content searchable, assisting every student with their revision, increasing the number of students who can benefit from captioning.