Schools across the country have closed their classrooms because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Schools have switched to teaching students remotely. It is important that deaf and hard of hearing students have full access to their classes and education, even if it is remotely provided. It is also important for deaf and hard of hearing parents or families to have equal access to information from schools. This paper is to help families advocate for what they need during these times when their deaf or hard of hearing child receives remote PreK-12 education, especially in a mainstreamed setting. The position statement was developed by the NAD Policy Institute and was reviewed by: Tom Humphries, Ph.D.; National Deaf Education Conference (NDEC) which is a section of the NAD; and Hands & Voices, a national parents organization.
If your child’s school did not provide access for remote education, please fill out our online form (select “Education Advocacy”).
[VIDEO DESC & TRANSCRIPT: Tawny is standing in front of a solid background. The NAD logo is at the bottom right corner.
TAWNY: Schools across the country have closed their classrooms because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Schools have switched to teaching students remotely. This means if a deaf or a hard of hearing student starts to fall behind, the student may just accept the situation and consider it a different experience — this is not okay. It is important that deaf and hard of hearing students have full access to their classes and education, even if it is remotely provided. It is also important for deaf and hard of hearing parents or families to have equal access to information from schools. This should not happen, they must have full access too. We hope our guidelines will help families advocate for what they need during these times when their deaf or hard of hearing child receives remote PreK-12 education. This video will cover various topics such as: technology, what remote education looks like, social development, support services, information from schools, and what you can do.
Technology is important for remote learning. To access remote education, Deaf and hard of hearing students should have a computer or tablet, the right software, and high speed Internet. If families are not able to afford any of these, the school should provide such technology or connect families to programs that are able to provide them.
What does remote education look like? There are two kinds of remote education: Synchronous and Asynchronous. Synchronous education is when the teacher is teaching the class live, allowing live interaction during video conferencing. Asynchronous education is when the teacher provides instructions and materials for the students to do their work on their own at home, with no live video conferencing. Synchronous is live while asynchronous isn’t.
During synchronous remote education, the teacher and the students are on the same video conferencing platform online, and they should be able to communicate with each other. They should have the same access as they did in the classrooms whether it was with an interpreter on screen, using CART, or access to assistive listening devices. If a student uses an interpreter in the classroom, then the school needs to make sure that same interpreter is also interpreting in the video conferencing room. If the same interpreter is not available then the school must provide an appropriate state-approved and qualified interpreter who the student can understand and who should understand what the student says. Also, the screen size for the interpreter should be big enough for the student to access easily and understand what is being said. If a student uses a captioning service in the classroom, then the school needs to make sure that same captioning service is clearly accessible in the video conferencing platform. If that captioning service is not available then the school must provide a qualified captioning service. The school should not use computer generated captioning, also known as “automated speech recognition” (ASR) as it is not accurate enough to be used in a PreK-12 education setting. If a student uses an assistive listening device (ALD) in the classroom, then the school needs to make sure the student is able to access through their ALD what is being said in the video conferencing platform. The school should check to see what equipment the student can use at home to provide the same access during the video conferencing platform. If something isn’t working, the school needs to provide additional equipment to resolve any issues.
With asynchronous remote education, the school needs to make sure anything teachers send to their students, as well as families, are also accessible. If the teacher makes a video for students to watch, then it should be captioned and/or an interpreter should be provided to make sure the deaf or hard of hearing student has access to the video. It is important that deaf and hard of hearing students get the accessible information and material at the same time as other students. There should not be any delays for deaf and hard of hearing students to get access for these materials. If a family sees their child struggling, needing more accommodations, needing more support, or an extra interpreter or more captioning — this request can be done directly to the school asking for extra accommodations due to this unique situation.
Education is important, and so is social development. Like all other students, deaf and hard of hearing students need to interact with their peers for social development. Remote learning makes it harder for mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing students to interact with their hearing or deaf peers. Schools need to provide opportunities for students to interact with each other while meeting online, whether the deaf or hard of hearing student needs to interact with hearing peers or for deaf and hard of hearing students to meet with each other during remote education. We encourage families to look for support from local parent organizations, state advocacy organizations or national programs, as some provide online events. Families can also ask their child’s school to consult with their state’s school(s) for the deaf to help with encouraging social development interaction between students online.
Schools must make sure that deaf and hard of hearing students have access to support services such as: itinerant teachers of the deaf, speech pathologists, ASL specialists, educational audiologists, and other related service providers. Whatever services the deaf or hard of hearing student used before should still continue remotely. The school can make sure that the deaf or hard of hearing student meets with those support service providers through the video conferencing platform. The school needs to make sure those support service providers have access to the same technology to be able to support the deaf and hard of hearing students appropriately.
Schools should make sure that any information shared with deaf and hard of hearing families are accessible which means that when schools share any videos with the families, the videos should be accurately captioned or interpreted.
Families who think their deaf or hard of hearing child is having difficulty with remote education with either Synchronous and Asynchronous learning or are not getting equal and accessible information from their school — this can be frustrating. You can take the following steps to resolve the issue(s). If a step does not work, try the next step. Extra steps might not be needed or your situation might be resolved with fewer steps. The first suggestion would be to communicate with your child’s teacher. If your child needs more services for remote education than was used in the classroom, you can still ask for any additional service(s) necessary for your child to understand and participate along with their classmates. If that step works, then great! However, if the situation is not resolved, take the next step. Talk with whoever is responsible at your child’s school for hiring interpreters, or for coordinating captioning and other support services. Share your concern that you or your child are not receiving accommodations. If that works, then great! If the situation is not resolved, take the next step. Talk with the principal or superintendent of the school, and explain that you or your child is not able to learn or understand what’s happening. Ask them to work with you to make sure you and your child get the accommodations and services needed. If no one at the school will help you with the remote learning for your deaf or hard of hearing child, you can request an immediate IEP amendment meeting. You do not have to wait for your next IEP meeting. At the meeting, you can discuss your concerns and adjustments needed to make sure your child receives the appropriate accommodations during remote education. Or if you have a Section 504 plan, you can also ask for a 504 meeting earlier to discuss accommodations and increased support for your child. Use the free Parent Advocacy App to help prepare for the meeting. If you feel that the steps taken were not successful, you can request ADA accommodations directly from the school. If you believe more accommodations such as an interpreter or captioning are needed, more than what is provided by the school (regardless of having an IEP, 504 plan, or none), you can still request those accommodations at any time from your child’s school for yourself or your child. If all else fails, you can file a complaint either by yourself through the U.S. Department of Education or U.S. Department of Justice or hire a lawyer to file a complaint in court. This will ensure that the school realizes they must make accommodations for your deaf or hard of hearing child or for yourself. We hope this information will help you. We have a list of resources on our website to be used for more social development opportunities, how to get legal access, or educational resources to be used for your child or for yourself and your family.
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