Accessible spoken content hacks for hearing impaired students

1 in 6 university students are hearing impaired. Spoken information is an integral part of learning, whether you’re being taught in a lecture, discussing in a seminar or collaborating in a group project, the barriers hearing impaired students face are clear to see. Deaf student Josh Salisbury speaking to the Guardian highlights: “I’m often reminded…that we live in an audio world, in which deaf people regularly face social exclusion and loneliness”. 

Across higher education the implementation of pro-active adjustments such as lecture capture, subtitles and hearing loops are not consistent, meaning more hearing-impaired students than necessary rely on note-takers and those who use BSL interpreters find that too often availability simply cannot meet the demand. The Rochester Institute of Technology has found that many “deaf and hearing-impaired students only read captions; they do not sign. And those who watch the interpreter signing have trouble taking notes.”  

Free, accessible and multiplatform apps which harness AI technology known as Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) can help to overcome such barriers and give hearing impaired students greater control.

We’ve done our research and pulled together our favourite live transcription apps. Read on to discover the ways they can transform your learning experience: 

Live Transcribe

Google’s recent release Live Transcribe is making waves on the accessibility scene for what it offers people who are deaf or hearing impaired: the ability to participate in conversations with spontaneity. Live Transcribe uses your phone to provide a transcription of speech to text on your screen in real-time, adding punctuation and adapting to context. To reply without speaking simply tap type out your replies. A blue circle in the corner pulses slightly to indicate the noise level, and if somebody resumes speaking after a period of silence, Live Transcribe will let you know with a helpful vibration. 

Live Transcribe currently requires an internet connection to work and it has only been released in a beta version to a limited number of Android phones. Even so, in the future this app could be a game-changer for hearing impaired students in seminars and one-to-one tutorials.  Independence is so important to inclusive learning, and this solution places with the power of conversation quite literally in your hands.

Microsoft Translator

Microsoft’s new mission statement is “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” and they certainly seem to be enforcing that within the accessibility space. 

Microsoft Translator is a free app currently capable of allowing up to 100 participants to communicate with one another in a conversation captioned in their preferred language. All participants must have specific access code to join a conversation, which you can do via the app or the website. In a seminar setting you will be able to follow the live subtitling and then participate by simply tapping the microphone icon to speak or by typing to reply. The interface is clear to understand and follows the familiar format and style of a group text conversation, with each message being stamped with the participants name. The Microsoft Translator also saves conversation transcripts for students to revisit later and process at their own speed, a very useful tool when it comes to note-taking.

In a lecture setting, Microsoft Translator live feature can be used with the Presentation Translator add-in for PowerPoint to instantly display subtitles on the speaker’s screen as well as your own device! Microsoft’s ASR technology has received particularly high praise for its ability to learn and adapt to the speaker’s vocabulary by reading everything in the lecture slides content and notes.  Captioning has undeniable benefits for all students who struggle with concentration and processing speed, with a recent study conducted by 3PlayMedia revealing that 71% of students without hearing impairments use captions at least some of the time.

Bonus Hack!

Why not try using Microsoft Translator as a collaboration tool in your next group project? In addition to making group discussion not only accessible, but possible for hearing-impaired students, saved transcriptions can be a handy way of tracking the progress of a project.

Otter Voice NotesOtter Voice Notes in use on a laptop and smart phone

Forbes magazine describes Otter Notes as “not perfect, but surprisingly good”; a fair endorsement for a particularly user-friendly ASR app which offers 600 minutes of transcription free per month. The stand out feature of Otter is its ability to identify multiple speakers without requiring them to also be running the app, which is very useful during group discussions in seminars. If you tag a line of dialogue with a person’s name and select “rematch speakers”, Otter has a fair go at applying that to the rest of the transcript.  

What really sets Otter apart, however, is its focus on assisting rich note-taking. Otter enables you to edit the text as it is transcribed, highlight key phrases and search automatically tagged key words.  You are even able to import outside audio and video files to transcribe within Otter. Missed a lecture? If you have access to recorded lectures at your university, import it into Otter to transcribe! 

Bonus hack!

Otter Notes also has some fantastic tools to offer students with learning differences such as dyslexia! The audio recording of any transcription is available at the bottom of the screen to sync with the text. When the audio is played, the text spoken is highlighted to help to track the text and increase comprehension- perfect for proofreading essays or decoding complicated lecture content! Check out these previous instalments in our hack-in-the-box series on Microsoft OneNote and Google Keep for more top tips!

Studying in Higher Education? Support is available...

You don’t have to think of yourself as disabled to be eligible for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). If you are a UK student with a disability, long-term condition or a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia you may be eligible for extra support. Specialist hardware, software and one-to-one study support are some of the ways DSA can help you. Check if you’re eligible for DSA now by using our free Higher Education Support Checker.

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