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Online accredited degree programs and online study in general has opened a whole new world of possibilities for millions of people. We now have the opportunity to improve our education or advance our careers from the comfort of our own homes and on a schedule that suits our lifestyle. For students whom are hard of hearing, however, the evolution of online learning is even more important. Deaf and hard of hearing students can find education in a traditional setting challenging whether that is when reading your module materials, writing assignments and completing assessments, group activities with other students and lip-reading and taking notes. 

To enable more hard of hearing people to access higher education, improve their career prospects and progress in their career, there are support systems available to make this more possible, or at least a slightly easier process. Thanks to the range of assistive technology and the power to study in your own way and at your own pace, online study provides a more personalized and accessible educational experience. Here are just some of the features of online study which can benefit those who are hard of hearing. 

Wide Variety of Courses

Regardless of the career you want to progress in, being deaf or hard of hearing should never be a barrier to your ambitions. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensured that disability accommodations are required for both on-campus and online students. The world of online study offers accredited courses and qualifications in every industry from graphic design or counseling to accountancy or even a master of engineering management online degree. You can choose the best course according to your career aspirations without worrying about where it is in the country.

Extra Time

There are many possible reasons why time limits on examinations or assignments can put those are hard of hearing (or students with other disabilities) at a disadvantage. If this applies to you, get in touch with your lecturer or the team responsible for disability resources to request extensions. 

Alternative Assessment Options

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may find it difficult to complete some assessments or assignments because of their disability. For example, some people may find giving verbal presentations challenging and so may be able to present their work in a written presentation instead. 

Transcription, Audio Description, and Captioning

Online degrees and courses are conducted by text, audio, and video. Educational materials need to be accessible for every student. Pre-recorded videos or a live stream of a lecture can be captioned and provided in transcript form. Depending on the university or college, they may also be able to provide a sign language interpreter if you ever do attend events or sessions on campus. 

Disability Support or Resource Center

Wherever you choose to complete your online degree, the school will have a disability resource center or support team who will work with you to create a learning program to suit your needs. If you ever have any issues with accessibility, you should raise it with this department. They may also be able to help you find any relevant scholarships or assistive technology which could help you in your studies.

Online Library

Your degree will require some independent research and your best resource is likely to be the school’s online library. With documents in a digital format, you can take advantage of some of the fantastic assistive technology to store and make notes on key information so that all your resources are stored in the same place.

Assistive Technology

The fast-paced world of smart technology, live streaming, and social media can make it difficult for any student to stay focused, organized and productive, but this is even truer for those who are hard of hearing. Online degrees involve watching lectures and videos or taking part in live streaming discussions and seminars. A lot of this material can be captioned or may come with subtitles, but this may not always be possible.

Luckily, there are many tools and software programs which can help students to keep their education on track, and some are specifically designed to help those who are hard of hearing. Here are just a few to consider. 

Captioning and Transcription Tools

  • Ava improves communication by providing live transcription through an app.
  • InnoCaption is a real-time smartphone captioning app.

Hearing Aids

  • Beyond is an advanced hearing with smartphone technology.
  • Cellion uses Bluetooth technology to stream audio from other devices providing direct audio access to class lecture videos or live streams.

Productivity and Organization Tools

  • Edison is an email assistant app for Apple devices that helps you manage your inbox.
  • Z5 Mobile is a video relay service, allowing students who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate over the phone using sign language

Study assistance

  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking is speech-to-text software which transcribes a speaker in real-time.
  • Livescribe Echo Smartpen records writing and audio (which can be combined with captioning software) and transfers it to a computer so you can review your notes later to include anything you’ve missed.
  • SoundNote (iOS) is a note-taking app which enables you to type, draw and create audio recordings (combined with captioning software of your choice) while taking notes and storing everything together. 

Writing Assistance

  • Co:Writer uses predictive-text technology to help with drafting, revising and editing.
  • Draft:Builder features outlining, note-taking, and draft-building tools.
  • Ghotit Real Writer and Reader functions include dictation, spelling, and grammar plus an integrated dictionary.
  • goQ Software provides predictive text technology.
  • Grammarly is a free Google Chrome app which provides spelling and grammar editing assistance. 

In Conclusion

Studies have found that only 48% of deaf people are working, as compared to 72% of hearing people. It’s crucial that this situation changes and that more people in the hard of hearing community feel able to make the most of their intellectual and professional potential whether that’s through traditional education or online learning. The key is to find the environment and study strategies which suit you so you can advance your education or career with as little undue stress or difficulty as possible.

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