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Work-Based Learning Case Study

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James and Work-Based Learning: A Case Study in Accommodating a Student who is Deaf

Background
My name is James and I am deaf. I use American Sign Language (ASL) as my primary means of communication. With aided hearing and lip-reading, I can communicate fairly well one-on-one, as long as I can see the person's face and lips clearly. I am currently involved in a computer technician internship with a company that provides on-site computer repair, service and set-up.

Access Issues
We have bi-weekly staff meetings with a large group of people. Communication in a large group is difficult for me. Additionally, my job requires me to be out in the field a good portion of my day and in frequent contact with the office regarding customer needs. As I cannot use a basic telephone or cell phone, I need communication alternatives that enable me to perform my job duties.

Solutions
My supervisor made sure that a sign language interpreter was scheduled for all regular staff meetings. If an impromptu meeting was held and an interpreter was not available, my supervisor met with me afterwards to go over important details of the meeting. A follow up e-mail to me, as well, was also provided.

My employer obtained two pieces of assistive technology to help me communicate with the office while out in the field. The local deaf and hard-of-hearing community center was helpful in guiding us to an assistive technology store for people with hearing loss. One device I use now is an interactive e-mail pager. It is not much bigger than the size of a regular pager and it includes a small, but full keyboard. It allows me to receive e-mail, TTY (text telephone device), and voice-to-text messages from my office. I can also send e-mail, text-to-speech messages, and faxes.

I also carry a portable TTY in case I need to contact customers directly. I use the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS, an operator assisted phone call), which enables me to communicate with customers who do not have a TTY. For the convenience of my customers, we also included my pager number and the TTY relay number on my business cards.

Conclusions
This case study illustrates that:

  1. Some assistive technology is small, convenient, and relatively inexpensive.

  2. Several assistive technology devices and accommodations may make it possible for someone with a disability to perform required job duties.

  3. With appropriate strategies and accommodations in place, communication with a person who is deaf does not have to be a difficult and frustrating experience.

  4. TTY devices and TRS services allow individuals who are deaf to communicate with those who use standard telephone technology.