Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Deaf Children and Inclusive Education

by Joyce Mortimer
Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is a word-for-word speech-to-text interpreting service for people who need communication access. It was reported recently by irishdeafkids that a deaf student in Trinity College Dublin is receiving Real-Time Captioning services in order to benefit fully from tutorials. This service is being provided by Premier Captioning and Realtime Limited in Wicklow.
Qualified stenographers carry out Realtime Translation. With the use of a stenography machine the stenographer listens to the audio of the tutorial, types in what is heard and this is then transmitted to the student’s laptop screen (or even an iphone). This technology can provide an almost verbatim transposition of the tutorial. The technology allows for several lines of the text to be displayed on the screen almost instantaneously with the tutorial. This enables the student to keep up to speed with any demonstrations or presentations that may be being given. Captioning can be provided either on-site or remotely, which means the stenographer does not have to be in the classroom. This lends itself to a much less intrusive and much more inclusion education system. What is required from the University is Internet access in the classroom and small microphone for the tutor.
In the U.S. the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically recognises CART as an assisting technology that ensures effective communication access in education. It is encouraging to see a leading University like Trinity College Dublin availing of a service such as this. The effective inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education is a complicated task. The use of assistive technology, such as CART, is a means of accommodating students with hearing impairments, as required by Irish Law.
The Employment Equality Act (EEA) (1998) has significant implications for those involved in higher education. The purpose of the Act is to promote equality and positive action and to prohibit discrimination across nine explicit grounds. In relation to accessible educational materials/alternative formats - the Act requires providers of goods and services to make such reasonable accommodations as are necessary to enable people with disabilities to avail of services which, without such changes, would be difficult or impossible for them to access.
The Equal Status Act 2000 applies to people who attend or are in charge of educational establishments. (The Equal Status Act was amended by the Equality Act in 2004). The legislation states that an educational establishment discriminates against a student with a disability if it does not do all that is reasonable to accommodate that student.
The Disability Act 2005 was designed to improve access to a wide range of public services (including education) and facilities for people with disabilities and states that all public bodies must ensure that their services are accessible. Therefore, information should be provided in a range of accessible formats (i.e. Braille, audio, large print etc).
The National Disability Code of Practice (2005) states that this requires that educational institutions to, among other things, make relevant information accessible in a range of formats, such as Braille, Plain English, large print or audio.