How we help academic institutions with language accessibility
It’s critical that we as a nation support our college students that are English Learners (EL) and Deaf & Hard of Hearing (Deaf & HoH).
According to the National Association for the Deaf, 1.3% of all currently enrolled college students are Deaf. A broader public school statistic from the National Center for Education Statistics puts some 10.4% (or 5.1 million students) in the category of students learning spoken English.
To build a more inclusive society and ensure the futures of millions, it’s our job to help academic institutions with their language accessibility needs.
In this piece we’ll explore just how we support students and colleges through our people-first approach to language services!
How do schools support their Deaf & HoH and EL students?
You can tell a lot about the quality of a school based on how they support their disabled and English Learner students.
The first place that students should go to ensure the appropriate accommodations is to their Student Disability Services Center. While the names might be slightly different depending on location, their job is to help students successfully navigate higher education through accessibility support and connect them to communities that enrich them.
At any of these centers the staff and Accessibility Manager will have Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act memorized! These acts protect students from discriminatory and exclusionary classroom environments, through ensuring ready access to interpreters, translated materials, accommodations for tests and physical/spatial support needs.
It will be the job of the Accessibility Manager and their team to coordinate and implement all of the above support needs.
So, what kind of services are needed?
We can think of services on campus in 2 main ways; services that support the students and services that support the institution itself.
Student support can come in a multitude of ways
A qualified interpreter can be paired with a student that needs linguistic support in the classroom or lecture hall. A sign language interpreter would be paired with a Deaf student and interpret their courses or extracurricular event needs. This also goes for the virtual classroom – getting an ASL interpreter on a class Zoom or video conference is incredibly easy nowadays. For Deafblind students hiring the right Tactile interpreter is a must!
One-on-one meetings are a critical way for teachers to connect with students, share input, and offer critique or praise on projects. An interpreter can support a student here by interpreting these kinds of deeper interactions.Deaf students love pep rallies too! An interpreter at that student union comedy show, pep rally, game or artist talk would be a perfect way to integrate language accessibility.
Tutoring and writing centers are another place where an on-site interpreter can support a student seeking to improve their writing or solicit feedback from a writing coach.
Institutional support for a college
Deaf and Hard of Hearing faculty, admins, guest lecturers etc. would need ready access to an interpreter to ensure they’re getting a seat at the table. Say a visiting research team or grant project team are in town, book that interpreter to ensure ready access to communication is locked in!
While students will benefit from translation support, at a larger scale a university needs to engage its current students, potential students, non-English speaking parents and more through multilingual, translated content. This could be their brochures, contracts, webpages, social media and promotional videos.
All of these components require a university to easily be able to work at a much larger scale and offer the right information, flawlessly translated. Research teams working across borders and cultures would also benefit from translation, transcreation, and localization services.
Have you ever been to a live event or orientation and noticed those live captions on the bottom of the screen? That’s Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART).
This service is great to use in tandem with a sign language interpreter for live events, to make sure the speaker or message is easy to follow for everyone at the event. CART can also be integrated into webinars, online orientations, or cyber events and conferences.
Over the phone Interpreting
Over the phone interpretation support should be integrated into student services or any university information centers that might be fielding calls from individuals that don’t speak English or are learning it.
It’s the fastest way to tap a qualified interpreter into assist on a three-way call!
Honoring a responsibility to creating an inclusive environment
One thing that’s important to remember in all of this is how important it is to make sure students have the support they need and feel authentic connection to the institutions, classes, and peer groups that they navigate.
Having that interpreter and knowing how to properly use them can make all the difference in their success and academic retention rates. An environment of inclusivity and support can help get them to that graduation finish line and set them up for success.
If you want to learn more about how you can better support your students and academic institutions, schedule a chat with one of our team members!