Real-time captions helping deaf kids realize potential

Hearing impaired

Shannon Fox, 18, tries out a new device which will allow hearing impaired students take part in classroom discussions more easily, using an i-pad. With her sister Meghan, 12. Picture: Kristi Miller Source: The Daily Telegraph

THEY’RE the classroom subtitles helping to bridge the education gap for deaf and hearing-impaired children.

New NBN-enabled online captioning technology transmits the teacher’s voice to a remote captioner who streams voice-to-text to the laptops of deaf students in real time.

Ai Media CEO Tony Abrahams said the teaching tool, on trial in some NSW and Victorian schools, helps deaf children reach their full academic potential.

“In the first trial, we had a girl go from the very bottom of the class to coming first in the yearly exam in just 10 weeks because she could follow what was being said in class,” he said.

“But more significantly, she had access to the notes from the class as an excellent study aid.

“That has made an amazing difference. Teachers have adapted their teaching style to suit captioning, for example by repeating the question so it comes up in the notes. And the parents can get more involved to help kids with learning through their homework.”

Year 12 student Shannon Fox, who was born without ears or ear canals, was only able to go to a mainstream school after numerous surgeries but wishes she had access to online captioning.

“It would save me having to ask a teacher to repeat themselves or constantly ask questions. It’s up on the screen to back-track on,” the 18-year-old said. “It would help me lots during the HSC and my disability wouldn’t impact other people in the class.”

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said NBN-facilitated technology has benefits beyond “fast movie downloads”.

The importance for people with any disability to interact in a standard setting rather than do it differently is critical,” he said. “The benefits of the NBN for people with a disability is the untold story of the NBN. For me as a blind person, I can get books and other materials downloaded in seconds. People in regional areas can get virtual consultations.”