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Enhancing participation of deaf engineering students in lab discussion

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Action on Diversity - Disability Experiences & Empathy

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Raja S Kushalnagar Gallaudet University

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Raja Kushalnagar is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Information Technology Program at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

He teaches information technology courses, and mentors deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students in information technology and accessible computing research.

His research interests focus on the intersection of disability law, accessible and educational technology, and human-computer interaction. He worked in industry for over five years before returning to academia and disability law policy. Towards that end, he completed a J.D. and LL.M. in disability law, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science.

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Gary Walter Behm RIT/NTID Center on Access Technology

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Gary W. Behm, Associate Professor of Engineering Studies Department, and Director, Center on Access Technology at National Technical Institute for the Deaf / Rochester Institute of Technology.

Gary has been teaching and directing the Center on Access Technology at NTID for eight years. He is a deaf engineer who retired from IBM after serving for 30 years. He is a development engineering and manufacturing content expert. He develops and teaches all related engineering courses. His responsibility as a director of Center on Access Technology include the planning, design, implementation and dissemination of research projects that are related to the need of accessibility. In addition to his responsibility, he manages RIT projects which is a subcontractor in the FCC Accessible Communication for Everyone (ACE) platform, formerly called Video Access Technology Reference Platform (VATRP). RIT team is engaged in designing UI, developing website, fixing software bugs, working with other software engineers, performing software testing and participating in outreach activities. He received his BS from RIT and his MS from Lehigh University. His last assignment with IBM was an Advanced Process Control project manager. He managed team members in delivering the next generation Advanced Process Control solution which replaced the legacy APC system in the 300 mm semiconductor fabricator. Behm has fifteen patents and has presented over 40 scientific and technical papers at various professional conferences worldwide.

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Shareef Sayel Ali NTID's ACE Innovaton Lab

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Shareef wrote and designed the RTTD software. He is still pursuing his BS in Computer Science at RIT

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Susie Michaela Harvey REU-AMI

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Karina G. Bercan Simmons College

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Deaf and hard of hearing (deaf) students are underrepresented in engineering disciplines, in part because they do not have full access to spoken information even with aural-to-visual accommodations. Some deaf or hard of hearing (deaf) students in lecture or labs rely on captions that display speech as text in real-time. They usually watch captions through a personal display. The disadvantage of focusing on a visually separated screen from the lab activities, is that they cannot easily see other students or current lab activity. This isolation contributes to student frustration and risk of doing poorly or withdrawing from introductory engineering courses with lab components. They also cannot tell who is talking or when, and cannot interrupt, and this sense of isolation contributes to lack of inclusion and sense of belonging. To a smaller extent, some hearing students misunderstand spoken information, especially in lab environments.

We extend and evaluate the use of our Real-Time Text Display (RTTD), to handle multiple speakers (RTTD-MS) for engineering labs. RTTD was developed to address the isolation of deaf students. It projected a real-time display of captions (RTTD) above a teacher who moved around in class lectures. We extend the RTTD system to track and display captions multiple speakers: RTTD-MS.

Our first study with RTTD found that deaf students in engineering course lectures significantly prefer it over captions on personal displays. Our second study with RTTD, over several engineering course lectures revealed that hearing students also preferred it over no captions at all. The hearing students preferred it because they could review spoken information that they misheard or missed, by reviewing captions that are displayed for several seconds.In this paper, we explore issues related to speech access and group communication through surveys and evaluation of RTTD-MS, for both deaf and hearing students in first year, introductory level engineering laboratory sections.

Our survey of first year deaf and hearing students about their perception of accessibility and inclusiveness of lab sessions sessions indicated that deaf students felt lab sessions were much more confusing than classroom lectures, and that they were not satisfied with the accessibility of captions, and did not feel included as they did not know who was speaking. New hearing students also, but felt they often missed information when they did not understand unfamiliar words or concepts in group activities in lab sessions. Our evaluation of RTTD-MS analyzed how deaf and hearing students used RTTD-MS to access information and feel more included in group activities in lab sessions. The study gathered both quantitative and qualitative information from each feature of the RTTD-MS display, such as speaker identification and the number of displayed lines. It reports the feedback and comments from the students on how direct and alternative access to spoken information promotes accessibility and inclusion of both deaf and hearing students in first year, engineering lab sections.

Kushalnagar, R. S., & Behm, G. W., & Ali, S. S., & Harvey, S. M., & Bercan, K. G. (2017, June), Enhancing participation of deaf engineering students in lab discussion Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28278

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