Approximately 32 million children around the world are deaf (Techaraungrong et al, 2017). There are several barriers to quality education for deaf students. A common challenge is that interpreters who speak sign language are not always as fluent as they are in spoken languages. Even if an interpreter for the deaf is able to communicate with the deaf learners, they may not be proficient in the curriculum. For example, if deaf students are in a computer class with an interpreter, they may not be able to fully participate if the interpreter isn't as familiar with computers (Robbins, 1996).
One of the greatest gifts technology has afforded educators is the ability to reach every student, regardless of exceptionalities or inabilities. This is where technology comes in. However, there are certain consideration that must be made when implementing technological tools for deaf students. Deaf children tend to struggle with reading and writing, which leads to misunderstanding of math, as well. Such rudimentary skills must be mastered in the early years of schooling in order to ensure ongoing academic success (Techaraungrong et al, 2017).
Multimedia allows children to learn information through a variety of sensory inputs, increasing the likelihood of comprehension and retention. Existing educational technologies cater to hearing students for the most part, and have more auditory cues to assist in learning. These, of course, cannot be used by a deaf student. For the deaf learner, more visual cues can be presented. However, to reduce cognitive load, it is best to reduce the amount of text, so that students do not have to divide their attention between reading and other visuals (Techaraungrong et al, 2017).
Furthermore, there is the issue of language. Several countries have their own form of sign language, and unlike spoken languages such as English, it cannot be assumed that the same signs are understood across cultures. If a sign language interpreter is featured on screen, for instance, creators should be cognizant of which sign language they are using (Techaraungrong et al, 2017). Since suitable applications for the deaf are already so scarce, their usage is further limited by the language barrier.
Therefore, when designing applications or technology for use by deaf learners, the design of the product is essential. In assuring that these design elements are taken into consideration, educators can make deaf students feel welcome and cared for.