In What professors should know about TypeWell transcription Part 1, we walked through some basic questions you, as a professor, might have about making a course work for a student using TypeWell transcription as an accommodation. In this section, we'll tackle a few more questions we've heard from professors. Read on for more guiding principles about accessibility in the higher ed classroom.
How can I communicate with my student using TypeWell transcription?
You can absolutely still communicate with your student receiving TypeWell transcription services, and you should. (They're your student after all!) Transcribers can assist.
If your student is D/deaf or hard of hearing, here are some communication tips:
- Alert your student in some way before you begin talking to them. Use body language, eye contact, or tap their desk.
- Face your student and speak directly to them, not to us. Act the same as you would when you using an interpreter. We'll transcribe what you say, and they'll read and respond. Or they may be able to speech read. Or they may be able to hear what you say one on one. Regardless, you're talking to them.
- Try to keep ambient classroom noise down. It's exhausting for some students to strain to hear you over a fan, side conversations, or hallway noise.
Ask your student about the best way to communicate with them going forward. Of course, all students are different. To respect privacy, your first conversation on this topic should be one-on-one or in an email. That way, your student can share more with you than with their peers about their preferences if they wish. Some students will be totally fine chatting about this in public, but you can find that out in private.
What else can I do to make sure my class is accessible?
This question merits more than just a few paragraphs as an answer. Maybe you've heard the term "universal design" in regard to accessibility in education. Universal design is an enormous topic, so I'll narrow our focus here to a few specifics about media accessibility. And if you want to know more, check out the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.
Many good teaching practices will also make your communication more accessible. For example, one tenet of universal design is to make sure you provide important information in multiple ways at multiple times. Crucial assignment coming up? Have the same information on the board, spoken, noted in your course website and syllabus, etc. Want your students to know the information in your PowerPoint? Make the slides available before and after class.
Planning ahead to make multiple formats of information available might seem challenging. I understand. When I taught, practically everything I read or encountered seemed like potential lecture material I wanted to share in my next class. For me, that's one of the most creative, exciting parts of teaching. It still can be! It's worth it to make your newfound classroom material accessible to your student using TypeWell transcription. And it's not too hard. Here are some best practices.
Show the text of whatever you read aloud
We transcribers pride ourselves on accuracy and capture rates. But you should know, professor, that when you read anything verbatim, your pacing takes off into a gallop, beyond any rate we could possibly transcribe. At that point, we must resort to summarizing. Normally, you speak at a rate of around 150 words per minute, which we can handle. When you read from the article you bring in, or the assignment description you haven't passed out yet, or the poem you want the students to analyze, you tend to speak far more rapidly.
When you read aloud, hand out a printed copy and/or project the text on a screen.
In most texts you read aloud, the author has carefully sequenced and chosen their words. If the text is available, we can direct your student to read along and honor that author's efforts.
Caption your videos
All videos should have quality captions.
As a fun party game, try using automatic YouTube captions. They're usually made by speech-recognition software, and they're usually awful. This is the reason human transcribers still exist:
Auto captions can be hilarious. In fact, the internet has a hashtag for it -- #captionfail -- which is where I found this gem from Forrest Gump. However, caption fails are sobering reminders that the wealth of videos available on the internet is not available to all.
If there are no quality captions available on a video you want to show, submit it to your disability resource office for captioning well in advance of your use. If you're using videos you've made yourself, check out our post about DIY captioning.
I know we're talking about TypeWell users, but I wanted to note another video accessibility best practice. Videos should have quality audio description for students with low vision or blindness. Audio description is useful narration around existing audio content. The narration keeps listeners apprised of movements, actions, and other graphic information in a video. Currently, quality audio description is available even less often than quality captions. Your disability resource office can help you make your visual material accessible to all.
Provide a transcript for podcasts and author audio material
When you play podcasts or other audio materials, make sure you provide a transcript for your student and anyone else who may prefer one. Print out the transcript or project it on a screen, depending on what your student prefers.
All for one?
Captions, transcripts, visual text, and other accessibility practices are helpful not only for D/deaf or hard of hearing students, but also ELL students, visual learners, and more. This is one of the concepts of universal design -- when you acknowledge the variety of ways people learn best and you create accommodations accordingly, your solutions help more than just one individual.
The accommodations and communication practices you implement together this term will benefit many students in different ways. The perspectives and thoughts your student has will now be accessible to the rest of your class and to you. Tweaks in the way you hold discussion might bring about more spacious pauses, allowing students to gather their thoughts for even better dialogue. Projecting visual text on your overhead or screen will allow a visual learner follow along more easily. In short, "disability accommodations" for your student will create more ability for your entire class.
How can I learn more about accessibility for D/deaf and hard of hearing people in higher education?
As an educator, you'll want to continue to educate yourself on this issue. Your school’s disability resource department is a great place to start. They'll be able to clue you in to your school's policies and procedures around requesting alternate formatted materials and more. Below, I've provided some readings and links I've found helpful.
To learn more about TypeWell transcription
- TypeWell's "For parents/educators page" has a great introduction to TypeWell
- Our blog post -- "What is TypeWell Transcription?" -- gives a more in-depth description of this real-time captioning service
- Part 1 of this blog post series has some basic info for professors teaching a student using TypeWell for the first time
To have a better understanding of D/deafness
- We love this resource that differentiates causes and types of hearing loss
- Starkey, a hearing technology company, has an online "hearing loss simulator"
- This video simulates what it's like to use a hearing aid and a personal FM system in a classroom with various distances and levels of background noise
- The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes has great introductory resources
- The University of Washington has a list of accommodation resources for higher education
- The University of Michigan made this 20 minute video featuring D/deaf and hard of hearing students talking about their education and communication access (including seating arrangements, CART transcription, and more)
- Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing wrote this amazing list of tips for communicating with D/deaf and hard of hearing individuals
To learn more about Deaf gain and universal design
- DO-IT, The Center for Universal Design in Education, University of Washington, Deaf or Hard of Hearing has great resources for professors as well as an overview of universal design
- Psychology Today wrote an introductory article about Deaf gain
As always, give Strada a call or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any more questions. And if you find a great resource or have another tip, share it in the comments!
Ellie has been a TypeWell transcriber with Strada for two years. A former teacher, she has an MFA in writing, and she lives in Upstate New York.