The report was commissioned by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) to investigate deaf children’s use of assistive devices. The NDCS was interested to know the experience of families who had deaf children in Scotland during the pandemic lockdown periods and back at school with social distancing and masks. An assistive device is also often called an FM system or radio aid. It allows deaf young people to hear the teacher’s voice more clearly while not muting other peer voices in the classroom. It is possible to link the assistive device from a computer or TV to the child’s hearing aids. Eleven families from across Scotland were interviewed with the views of three associated professionals also collected.
The themes discovered included:
• Assistive devices were under-used, partly because of lack of training for families and schools in linking the assistive device to other equipment e.g. ipads
• There were delays in repairs and keeping assistive devices working properly
• Online learning was very challenging for the deaf young people and subtitles were not routinely available
• The amount of specialist support from teachers of deaf children went down throughout the pandemic period.
• Families could not understand why health and education did not have a more joined up approach to hearing aids (health) and assistive devices (education)
The study recommended that the Scottish Sensory Centre could host videos demonstrating proper use of linking assistive devices to other equipment. There should be a single point of contact for support with hearing aids and assistive devices. A national purchasing scheme would reduce the cost of assistive devices. Education Scotland should set minimum standards for subtitling on school videos, and provide guidance about how schools can create an inclusive, online environment since some sort of online learning is likely to continue after the Covid-19 pandemic.
O'Neill, R. & Shannan, B. 2022, The views and experiences of deaf young people and their parents using assistive devices at home before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottish Sensory Centre. Available at: https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/en/publications/30d61d64-34fb-4cc3-b6d1-6a437343782e