Hearing Impaired Students and Online College

| Bobby Rich

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Online college and online degree programs offer excellent opportunities for individuals with hearing impairments to earn accredited degrees at every level. Students with hearing impairments may have difficulty gaining the full benefits of learning in a traditional classroom setting. However, with evolving learning accommodations and assistive technologies like captioning and transcription services, online college offers students with hearing impairments a more accessible, flexible, and personalized educational experience.

Advocacy groups and support resources are available for students with all types of disabilities, both general and specific. To learn more, check out Learning Accommodation Resources and Advocacy Groups

And for more on how disability legislation can impact your student experience, check out Key Legislation Impacting Students with Disabilities.

Or read on for a closer look at the new and exciting ways that learning accommodations and assistive technologies are creating learning opportunities for students with hearing impairments:


Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, disability accommodations have become increasingly commonplace in public setting. But these accommodations aren’t limited to on-campus students. Most accredited online colleges also provide a full selection of accommodations and benefits in accordance with the law, including:.

1. Additional time

Additional time is a commonly-issued accommodation for students both online and on-campus. For a variety of reasons, the standard time limits on essays and exams can place undue stress on students with disabilities. With a documented request from the campus disability resource center, many professors are happy to accommodate students with a reasonable apportionment of extra time.

2. Alternative completion options

Professors and departments may be required to allow you to complete assignments and exams through alternative completion options. For example, if you are deaf or hard of hearing, assignments that require a verbal presentation should be modified to accommodate your specific needs and abilities.

3. Captioning, Interpretation, and Transcription

Online courses rely on two primary methods of delivering information: text, and video. Colleges are required to make sure that educational materials are accessible for all students, and in the case of video
whether it is a pre-recorded lecture, a live-stream, or a film
this typically means that what you are watching will be captioned, and it may also come with a transcript for later reference. In the instance that you should need to attend an event offered, or required, as part of your degree program (or your graduation ceremony), schools are typically required to provide a sign language interpreter for audience members with hearing impairment. If you plan to attend on-campus classes, you will likely need to make arrangements with your college or degree program for a live-captioning service.

4. Disability resource center

For any of the accommodations noted above, your school’s disability resource center is likely the best starting point. Here, you can work with school counselors to identify your disability and your learning accommodation needs. Disability counselors will work with you to ensure your needs are met and that you can connect with other groups and services on campus. Counselors can also help you seek out and apply for scholarships and funding to aid in your education, or in the acquisition of assistive technology. Likewise, if you have a grievance concerning discriminatory treatment, the disability resource center is the place to report the issue.

5. Online library services

Though not strictly “disability accommodations,” online library services are extremely useful to everyone, and for students with hearing impairment in particular. Conducting research can be challenging, but research librarians can help by providing in-depth project discussion, one-on-one research consultation, and assistance in navigating the databases, search techniques and filters at your disposal. Most libraries also provide digital document delivery, which means that any catalogued document that you need can be scanned and delivered to you as a PDF, which can be super useful when combined with some of the assistive technology listed below. Contact your school’s library for more details.

Assistive Technology

1. Captioning and transcription tools

Watching educational videos can be a big component of online degree programs, whether in the form of a recorded lecture, a film, a live-streaming lecture, a live class discussion, or a one-on-one video conference with a professor or mentor. Many of these video artifacts will be captioned or come with transcripts, but not all will. Fortunately, captioning and transcription tools can help ensure that you don’t miss a thing.

  • Ava
    Ava improves communication by providing live transcription through an app for Android or Apple devices. This can be especially useful if your online degree requires a practicum or internship component.
  • InnoCaption
    Available for iPhone and Android devices, InnoCaption is a real-time smartphone captioning app.

2. Hearing aids

Hearing aids have enjoyed considerable technological advancement in recent years, achieving clearer, stronger and more discreet results all the time. If you need hearing assistance, there are plenty of good options available. Below are a few.

  • Beyond
    Designed specifically for use with iPhones, Beyond combines advanced hearing aid and smartphone technology to give users a top-quality experience with full smartphone control.
  • Cellion
    By utilizing Bluetooth technology, Cellion hearing aids don’t just help you hear the world around you, they allow you to stream audio from other devices right into your ears, which can provide direct audio access to class lecture videos or live streams.
  • Evoke
    Billed as “the world’s first smart hearing aid,” Evoke hearing aids provide a high-tech, super-personalized experience for wearers, allowing you to dial in the device to fit the specific demands of your lifestyle.
  • Lyric
    Designed to be as discrete as possible, Lyric is a hearing aid that sits in your ear canal. Its size and shape allows it to be easily used with ear buds.
  • Opn
    Utilizing advanced technology to provide a more natural, “open” hearing experience, Opn responds dynamically to the world around you to provide 360 degrees of audio, instead of just funneling what is directly in front of you.

3. Productivity and organization tools

Staying organized and productive can be tricky, especially in the high-speed world of smart phones, social media, and streaming services. If you have trouble making effective plans and staying on task, there are lots of tools available to maximize your productivity and organization, some of which are made specifically for those with hearing impairments. Below are a few.

  • Edison
    Online college comes with lots and lots of communication via email. Edison is an email assistant app for Apple devices that helps you keep your inbox from overflowing.
  • Finish (iOS)
    Available for iPhones, Finish is a productivity app that helps you manage to-do lists, calendars, and goals to guarantee that you get things done.
  • Z5 Mobile
    Most communication with schools can be done through email or live chat boxes, but some professors and administrators can be elusive. Sometimes you need to call them directly. Z5 Mobile provide a video relay service, allowing students who are deaf or hearing impaired to communicate over the phone using sign language. An interpreter sees what the user signs, speaks it for the person on the other end, and interprets the response into sign language for the user. This opens up new communication channels for sign language users.

4. Study assistance

If you don’t study, you aren’t going to pass your exams. You need a study method that is right for you, and the following tools are designed to help you do just that.

  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking
    The most popular speech-to-text software out there, Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s dictation features can be set up to transcribe a speaker in real-time, making it very useful for following along with video lectures, as well as for reviewing the lecture later while studying.
  • Livescribe Echo Smartpen
    Extra useful for keeping notes, this smartpen records our writing and audio, then transfers it to your computer. Its features can help you study by recording and organizing your in-class notes. This way, you can review anything you may have missed, and rearrange your notes in a way that accommodates your study style. When combined with captioning software, the audio recordings can be useful for those with hearing impairments.
  • SoundNote (iOS)
    Available for Apple devices, SoundNote is a note-taking app that allows you to type, draw, and create audio recordings while taking notes and storing all of it in a central place. The audio recordings can be combined with a captioning software of your choice to aid in study.

5. Writing Assistance

Writing claims a spot of major importance in earning a degree. You don’t have to like it, but you need to be able to do it. Below are some tools that can help.

  • Co:Writer
    Utilizing advanced predictive-text technology, Co:Writer helps you draft, revise, and edit by suggesting words and changes based on your writing.
  • Draft:Builder
    Another tool from Don Johnston, Draft:Builder helps you through the writing process with a suite of outlining, note-taking, and draft-building tools.
  • Ghotit Real Writer and Reader
    Ghotit Real Writer and Reader provides a full array of writing assistance functions, including dictation, spelling and grammar assistance, as well as an integrated dictionary.
  • goQ Software
    Offering a variety of programs, including wordQ and speakQ, goQ Software provides students with writing assistance in the form of predictive text technology.
  • Grammarly
    Free and useful for anybody, Grammarly offers spelling and grammar editing assistance in the form of a Google Chrome app.
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