Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can benefit from personal devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. But these tools don’t totally resolve hearing issues. In addition, individuals who lip read may only understand 30% of what is spoken. Students who are deaf or hard of hearing may use sign language interpreters or real time captioners in class, but instructors can apply the following simple teaching techniques to make their teaching more accessible to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Video presentations need captions in order for the content to be accessible to students, employees, and other potential viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captioning also benefits individuals whose first language is not the primary language used in the video, people who need to see the spelling of words used in the video, and those who wish to search through a collection of videos for specific content. An engaging way to raise awareness within an organization and to quickly caption a collection of important videos, is to host a captioning party.
It is common to give a presentation at a conference with accompanying visuals. But what if there are individuals in the audience who are blind, have low vision, or are at a great distance from the screen so that they cannot see the visuals clearly or at all? What if there are individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in the audience and cannot hear your presentation clearly or at all? You can employ presentation practices that ensure that everyone, even those with sensory impairments, can access the content of your presentation.
Women and other under-represented groups often report being interested in applications fields that improve the world around them. For example, Margolis and Fisher (2002) found that women were interested in using computers in order to do something useful for society. Likewise, students with disabilities have demonstrated an interest in using design in order to improve the experiences of individuals with disabilities (Blaser, Braitmayer, & Burgstahler 2012).
Many engineering departments, libraries, and universities are launching new initiatives to create makerspaces to foster innovation. These facilities are physical spaces where students, faculty, and the broader community can gather and share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build.
It is important to ensure that individuals of all backgrounds and abilities can actively contribute to the design process. Makerspaces can be made accessible by considering the following questions:
In courses related to assistive technology and accessibility, engineering students often design projects for individuals with disabilities. You can prepare your students for working with clients with disabilities by:
There are over 35 million people in the United States who have disabilities, all of whom have different needs. A lot of the assistive technology they need is either unavailable, very expensive, or requires custom modification. Many people with disabilities cannot afford custom modifications. For the past twenty years the University of Toledo has been introducing students to assistive technology through senior design projects.