Adapting signs to suit Deaf students

23 Feb, 2024
Adapting signs to suit Deaf students

In a bid to enhance accessibility and inclusivity in education, AUT’s NZSL interpreters have been working in collaboration with Ko Taku Reo – Deaf Education New Zealand on a glossary project over the past few years.

The project is to review signs used in various subject areas, and discuss any new vocabulary required, ensuring our Deaf students have access to accurate and consistent vocabulary throughout their academic journey.

The AUT interpreters have sought to help clarify the meaning and use of the concepts being discussed from their experience in these subjects and contribute signs from Deaf students who have chosen to specialise in these areas of study. The AUT interpreters involved in the project are Julie Coxhead, Lynnley Pitcher, and Mark Hodgson.

The project was created as many subjects do not have specific signed vocabulary, as they are not typically used in general conversation. Over the past two years, the project has focused on signs for English and Writing, Maths and Statistics, Computer Science, and with recent emphasis on Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. Throughout the day the recommended signs are filmed and later uploaded to NZSL Share for community feedback.

The project also aims to improve educational outcomes for our Deaf students through collaboration between compulsory and tertiary education providers enabling a greater consistency of signs across a Deaf child’s educational journey into adulthood. This also comes with awareness of how a sign may need to be adapted.

Rosemary Petersen, Disability Resource Manager at our Student Hub, says, “a sign that needs to be bigger in primary school, may need to be much smaller here to keep up with the pace at university. In discussion with the Deaf student, a sign may then be modified accordingly.

"Our interpreters also benefit from this collaboration by adding any new signs to their repertoire to use in AUT classrooms."

The networking is a wonderful opportunity for the staff, where all participants are learning a lot from each other. Feedback shows that this engagement has been brilliant," adds Rosemary.

AUT’s involvement underscores the university’s commitment to fostering inclusivity and accessibility in education, ensuring that Deaf students have equal opportunities to thrive academically.

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