For many students, virtual learning is not a platform which they are familiar with. And in the case of children with visual and hearing impairments, it's even more difficult.
With the pandemic in force, students and teachers have realigned themselves with online classes. But what about students with hearing impairment? How have they been coping during these tough times?
Aravind*, a class 8 student of the O.L.C. Deaf School, Mannakanad, Kottayam, Kerala has been struggling to attend the online classes since school started in the month of June this year.
“All our teachers are well versed in sign language, but the problem arises when it comes to things like speech therapy which requires the teacher to sit with us and help us vocalise. A lot of our learning is completely different from the regular schools and that makes it a lot harder for us,” he explains.
To get a better understanding of the problems being faced by these students and the solutions they are adopting, we spoke to three professionals in the field.
Here’s what they had to share.
Use The Video Conference App To Its Maximum Potential
Asha K., a teacher at the Government Deaf Vocational Higher Secondary School, Kunnamkulam, Thrissur has been taking online classes for her students for the past two months and shares some of the solutions she implemented to make the online classes effective for her students.
“These students have already gone through a lot of mental struggles because of the restrictions they face every day because of their disabilities. With the pandemic in place, things have become ever harder for them and we have been doing everything on our part to make the situation better,” she explains.
“We’ve also started making use of writing on boards, screen sharing and visually-descriptive videos so that the learning can be a lot more exciting for the students. Besides this, we also encourage our students to turn on their video at all times and use the chatbox to communicate with the teachers,” she adds.
Asha also goes onto explain how the involvement of the parents or a guardian is crucial when it comes to online classes.
“The children have to feel included and an interest to learn must be inculcated in them along with that. This can only be possible if there is strong involvement from the parents’ side. For a person with hearing impairment, even a bad internet connection can be a triggering factor as it becomes an obstacle in their learning process. These external factors can only be sorted out by the parents,” Asha explains.
A Learning App For Students With Hearing Impairment
Blee TV, a free mobile app and web portal with access to useful and informative content covering financial literacy, current affairs, English language, science and technology, and self-help in sign language was launched in 2018 for people with hearing impairment. We spoke to Jahanvi Joshi, one of the founders of the initiative to understand how the app has been helping people during the pandemic.
“Several teachers themselves don’t know sign language and with the online classes in place, they are also required to have a lot of technical knowledge to send out videos to their students and that has put a lot of strain on the teachers,” she explains.
“We have partnered with several schools in and around Maharashtra and have been able to introduce them to the Blee TV app. Along with this, we have also launched Bleekits, which include ‘Bleekits’ — remote learning kits which include several books, with support from our CSR partner Mahindra CIE. We now will reach almost 2,500 kids in the coming month,” Jahanvi explains.
Make Use Of YouTube Videos With Captions
Several students in the primary sections with hearing impairment are not well versed with sign language and have been facing difficulties as well. Susan George hailing from Kochi, a parent of one such student shares how she and her child have been coping with these obstacles.
“When it came to a situation where the teachers of my child’s school were helpless and struggling to conduct online classes for the primary classes, I decided to teach her on my own,” Susan explains.
“The first thing that came to my mind were YouTube videos. With the entire internet at the tip of my fingers, I knew there would be several online resources that I could make use of to teach the syllabus to my child. I took about a week to compile videos and articles related to her syllabus and then I started a routine so that she would feel comfortable and would become normalised to it,” she adds.
For many students, virtual learning is not a platform which they are familiar with. And in the case of children with visual and hearing impairments, it’s even more difficult. Adopting these techniques and creating predictable patterns can make it easier for students to get into a routine of learning and possibly tackle the obstacles they face through online learning.
*Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)