Media Advisory: New Resources Available for Deaf Students During COVID-19

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

This image of a deaf teen boy gesturing "Now" in sign language. He is wearing a full sleeve purple sweatshirt. He has a smile on his face.

AUSTIN, Texas — Parents and educators can make online learning accessible for deaf and hard of hearing students during the COVID-19 pandemic with new online resources from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes at the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin.

WHERE: Online: nationaldeafcenter.org/covid19

MEDIA: Stephanie W. Cawthon, Ph.D., a professor at The University of Texas at Austin and director of the National Deaf Center, is available for interviews about making online education accessible for deaf, hard of hearing, and disabled students. Contact directly: stephanie.cawthon@austin.utexas.edu.

BACKGROUND: In the rush to move classes online during the COVID-19 pandemic, deaf, hard of hearing, and other students who need special accommodations are at risk. With its commitment to close educational and employment gaps for deaf people, the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes has customized resources for deaf students and their families, as well as for educators and service providers at colleges, high schools, and vocational rehabilitation agencies who are struggling to make online learning accessible and equitable.

New multilingual resources include:  

Research shows there are over 200,000 deaf and hard of hearing students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. Common accommodations, such as video captions, benefit everyone — including fluent English users, students with ADD/ADHD or learning disabilities, English as Second Language users, and more. Only about half of deaf college students file documentation or request accommodations from their institutions and, when they do ask for access guaranteed by law, their needs are frequently unmet.

“This is a critical matter of equity and access for hundreds of thousands of deaf students in the United States. Online classrooms are not automatically accessible. There must be an intentional effort to provide access, accommodate needs, and adjust our new learning environments to serve all students equally,” said Stephanie W. Cawthon, Ph.D., director of the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes and professor at The University of Texas at Austin College of Education.

The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes is a technical assistance and dissemination center federally funded by the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and Rehabilitation Services Administration to provide evidence-based strategies at the local, state and national levels. The National Deaf Center is located at The University of Texas at Austin College of Education.

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Type of Resource: coronavirus, COVID-19

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