Support for students who are deaf or hard of hearing

Issue: Volume 101, Number 3

Posted: 18 March 2022
Reference #: 1HATFq

With the use of masks in schools, Hearing New Zealand’s Stick with Us Campaign is providing an easy and fun way for ākonga to visually communicate their needs to their teachers and peers.

Wearing masks has become commonplace. For many it can be uncomfortable, but for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing it poses a real barrier. Leonie Wilson, National Communications and Events Manager for Hearing New Zealand, states,

“Masks are great for COVID protection but are definitely not so great for hearing or lip reading. Masks stop lipreading they also distort sound and decrease the decibel level of the speech by 8-20 decibels approximately.”

Hearing New Zealand had been asked by many people for ways they could identify themselves to others so that they could have their communications needs met more simply. The answer Hearing New Zealand came up with are bright stickers that can be placed on masks.  

“We have developed mask communication stickers for the Hard of Hearing (HOH), Deaf, and Hearing Aid wearers. The stickers allow easy identification of people who need hearing support and communication alternatives. It’s also an opportunity to be out and proud about who we are,” says Leonie.

The stickers are also a way for our community of identifying and support each other, and to show our identities.

The stickers are also a way for our community of identifying and support each other, and to show our identities.

The stickers provide an easy and fun way for the HOH/Deaf community to visually express their communication needs to people they are interacting with and allows those people to quickly respond to the types of communication that are needed.

For schools, this can involve incorporating assistive technology to communicate. Leonie explains,

“If our hearing aids have remote microphone functionality it really helps for teachers to use the dongle (hearing aid microphone) to help support us. If they don't have this function, then many of the Covid19 classroom changes can also be used to support us with the accommodations and assistive technology that are now more available.

“For example, Schools with recording and streaming of classes mean that students can now have live captioning/transcription turned on the platforms. Even though it is not 100 percent accurate it still really helps support our community, giving us visual access to what is being said.”

Leonie adds that having easy access to phone apps for live transcriptions is also helpful and that access to classroom notes and course materials becomes even more important with the use of masks.

As well as the communication stickers, Hearing New Zealand are also asking people to show their support for the HOH/Deaf community by wearing white cat pins. This ties into their White Cat campaign, which encourages people to get a hearing test. Many white cats have a hearing loss, but neither the owners nor the cats may be aware of this as the cats often develop compensations for the hearing loss. The same is true for humans, they might not be aware of their hearing loss until they are tested.

For further information about these initiatives, as well as other support please contact:

Liaison@hearing.org.nz or call Hearing New Zealand on 021 481 989 or call a local branch on 0800 223 445.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 2:10 AM, 18 March 2022

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