Hearing loss complicates taking online classes during COVID-19

Blog Post

Shannon Gunderson, Journalism Student

As a student who has used a sign language interpreter her entire schooling career, I never expected that I would have to pass an entire semester of classes without one.

Since second grade I have had an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter follow me around class to class, signing everything I needed to know. Everything was translated…from lectures, to student questions/comments. COVID-19 changed this routine for me drastically. I have never been one to enroll in online classes, due to the fact that it would be difficult to understand what was going on through a computer screen. I don’t have the option of watching a live video with captions, or a sign language interpreter to stand in the background signing everything.

All of the sudden I was expected to accept that all of my classes would be online, and I would be expected to pass them easily.

I know I am not alone. With all of the public schools shutting down, there are hundreds of deaf and hard of hearing students left to figure out how they can survive the semester. While there are options out there for students, not all can afford these options. Devices that can assist those with hearing loss run a pretty steep price, and while grants are out there to be applied for, it can take months for them to go through.

I want to encourage deaf and hard of hearing  students to connect with their professors and ask what can be done to ensure they pass the class. Universities and public schools can choose to get a remote ASL interpreter for their students’ online classes, or may offer equipment to students like a Roger Multimedia Hub. There are options out there for students, but it will take some research to find the right alternative. I have been using automated captioning like Streamer and Microsoft Translator.

I still struggle with my solutions, but I am working through it. COVID-19 is a pandemic we never expected to hit us all this hard, but we have to make adjustments to stay safe in the end.