There are currently more than three million people who are deaf and hard of hearing living in Australia. This number is expected to reach 10 million by 2050i. Of this amount, almost half of children with communication limitations attend mainstream classesii. In fact, of all children with disability attending schools, close to half have communication limitationsiii.
In addition to the educational disadvantages these children face, decreased communication with others can lead to a range of negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and a feeling of social isolationiv. Studies have shown that people who are deaf and hard of hearing, despite a normal distribution of intelligence and aptitudes, continue to be more at risk of lower rates of completion of postsecondary education and higher rates of unemployment and underemployment than the hearing population v. However, it can be difficult for teachers and educators to know what they can do to help students and make their classroom and learning environment more accessible.
Knowledge of the practical options within the classroom environment can offer increased learning outcomes to all children. Soundfield amplification systems (a simple microphone/speaker system that helps boost audio) in classrooms are of significant benefit for children with a hearing loss. It also offers assistance to teachers within the classroom as they experience less vocal strain.
Another option is captioning, which has been shown to boost learning and literacy benefits for all students, beyond access for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, such as those with learning difficulties and where English is a second language. In fact, one in three students in Australia can benefit from captions in the classroomvi.
The problem is finding all of this information in one place. A new online hub that offers this central source is a site called techfinder.org.au. It’s filled with information on communication technology resources for school, work and daily living.
Development of techfinder.org.au
In response to a national study showing the need for a central, accessible information source people can understand and trust when it comes to the communication technologies availablevii, Conexu created techfinder.org.au, an online community hub for people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech and communication impaired ( plus the key influencers in their lives such as family, teachers and carers) to go to get the latest info on communication technology, and share experiences with one another.
Following this national study, Conexu held a number of community focus groups, met with organisations and conducted one-on-one community testing to develop the site and make sure it was relevant, useful and accessible. In October 2015, techfinder.org.au went live. Each week more articles, resources and videos are added to techfinder.org.au. Conexu continues to work closely including individuals, educators, employers and parents to ensure the most useful information is available.
Sample of articles for teachers and educators:
Please get in touch if you would like to contribute to techfinder.org.au – write a blog, submit a product or resource idea, or review a product you use in the classroom. Send us an email us at email@example.com.
Conexu believes communication barriers should never stop people from reaching their potential. We are a national non-profit organisation, and experts in both technology and communication access. Our purpose is to use technology to bridge the communication divide between hard of hearing, Deaf or speech impaired Australians and the broader community.
We work across the areas of living, working and learning to ensure people have the same experiences others have through communication options. From people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, carers, health professionals, government and everyone in between.
We ensure people with diverse communication needs are supported and inspired to embrace new technology and provide training to show individuals and their families how to get the most from technologies for their situation.
Our research programs focus on areas that make the biggest difference in people’s lives. Once we identify these needs, we have relationships with organisations both in Australia and globally, that allow us to understand what technology is available as it develops anywhere in the world. Where solutions exist, we trial these in Australia.
This article was written by Jody Bowman, spokesperson for the Conexu Foundation.
[i] Access Economics (2006), Listen Hear!, 5; Speech Pathology Australia (2013) Communication impairment in Australia, retrieved from http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/ library/2013Factsheets/Factsheet_Communication_Impairment_in_Australia.pdf; Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Population Projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101, retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3222.0main+features52012%20(base)%20to%202101.
[iv] Hawthorne, G. Hogan, A. (2002), “Measuring disability-specific benefit in cochlear implant programs; developing a short form of the Glasgow Health Status Inventory, the hearing participation scale,” International Journal of Audiology 41:535-544.
[v] . (Stinson & Walter, 1997) (Access Economics, 2006; Blanchfield, Feldman, Dunbar, & Gardner, 2001;MacLeod-Gallinger, 1992; Schroedel & Geyer, 2000; Winn, 1997)
[vi] CapThat! (2015) www.capthat.com.au
[vii] National User Needs Analysis (2013) http://www.conexu.com.au/images/PDF/CXU_NUNA_Infographic_Final_Web.pdf