DeafTEC, or the Technical Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, is an AccessATE partner and ATE grantee. DeafTEC, as their name suggests, strives to make STEM fields more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing (HH) people, and to increase the number of deaf/HH individuals in highly-skilled technician jobs. DeafTEC also serves as a resource on STEM programming for schools and educators with deaf/HH students, and for potential and current employers. While their focus is very clearly on deaf/HH people, many of the materials provided by DeafTEC can be easily adapted for other disabilities, or even utilized to simply accommodate various learning or work styles. Here, we will highlight a few of their many resources.
Universal Design for Instruction
Universal design is defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” It is one of DeafTEC’s favorite principles on which to build accessible materials, classrooms, and workplaces. Their Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) resource discusses the application of these principles to various aspects of instruction, from technology, to physical space, to personal interactions, and beyond. DeafTEC’s section further defines UDI and explains its importance, explains its eight core principles, discusses how to incorporate these principles in the classroom, and offers additional resources for those seeking further or more specific information.
Best Practices for Teaching and Teaching Tools
DeafTEC’s Best Practices for Teaching builds off of and applies the UDI principles discussed in the section linked above, adapting them specifically for educators in classrooms with a mix of hearing, deaf, and HH students. These best practices not only benefit deaf/HH students, but all students, as they improve the overall access to learning. This section of DeafTEC’s website breaks the idea of “good teaching” into 11 aspects, ranging from how to set the tone on the first day of class, to pacing, to lab and field work, and more. Most sub-sections also include videos from students and teachers offering their firsthand experience and thoughts on the topic. DeafTEC also offers a number of Teaching Tools, one of which is a simple and handy piece of software to help instructors pace their presentations.
For Employers: Resources for Hiring and Inclusion
DeafTEC’s For Employers: Resources for Hiring and Inclusion highlights the advantages of hiring skilled deaf/HH individuals, and how their perspectives and contributions to the workplace can give an employer an advantage that competitors might lack. It also provides definitions, examples, and recommendations for employers when it comes to accommodations; explains the difference between deafness and being hard-of-hearing; discusses on-the-job communication; provides recommendations for the hiring process; and additional resources beyond. This section is valuable to have on hand when speaking with industry partners and other potential employers of your deaf/HH students, and can even be helpful for students, to help them know what employers can offer and how to advocate for themselves.
DeafTEC offers training workshops on the needs of deaf/HH people in both academic and workplace environments, which can be especially helpful if you have never had a deaf/HH student or employee before. Their workshops are split into four areas of focus. The first is Project Access, which seeks to improve the teaching practices of high school and college faculty. The second, Working Together, teaches employers how to create a workplace environment and communication standards that benefit both deaf/HH and hearing employees. Writing in the Disciplines can assist high school and college faculty in their approach to their STEM classes in order to provide students with writing practice. Finally, Promoting Student Success in Math Through Best Practices provides secondary and post-secondary instructors with tools for more effectively teaching math to deaf/HH students.
A small but mighty resource, Survival Signs is a video collection of 38 American Sign Language (ASL) signs that may come in handy in the classroom (no pun intended). Not every teacher of deaf/HH students is fluent in ASL and they often require interpreters. Knowing just a few relevant signs can help you connect with your deaf/HH student(s) and make communication a bit smoother. Additionally, seeing your efforts to learn a bit of ASL shows your deaf/HH student(s) that you care, and that you are interested in providing an inclusive learning environment.