“We must improve the conditions of study for the deaf”

Landshut University of Applied Sciences has researched the situation for deaf students in Bavaria. The finding was that the necessary support is often lacking.

When Isabell made use of the services of a sign language interpreter at the start of her studies due to her deafness, she was faced with a bill of 20,000 euros in the second semester because the costs were disallowed for the time being. This and similar examples are described by Prof. Clemens Dannenbeck, Prof. Uta Benner and Carmen Böhm of Landshut University of Applied Sciences in their final report, which has now been published. As part of the research and practically oriented alliance on “Inclusion at universities and accessible Bavaria”, they researched how deaf people experience the opportunities for academic education in Bavaria. For this they interviewed deaf people who were either studying or had already completed/abandoned their studies. The result of their evaluation was that, although the conditions of study for the deaf have improved in Bavaria compared to how they were previously, deaf students nevertheless continue to experience additional organisational effort, inadequate support, a lack of understanding and social exclusion.

Additional burden for deaf students

“We must continue to improve the framework conditions for deaf students,” emphasises Benner, a professor in the Faculty for Interdisciplinary Studies. Her colleague Prof. Dannenbeck adds that “Our research findings made it clear which areas continue to need addressing at Bavarian universities.” For deaf people, starting their studies often involves tedious application and appeal procedures, for example if they depend on communication assistance such as the services of an interpreter. Although seeking out such services has become considerably easier over the past ten years, those affected still need to apply for them themselves. An added complication is that many lecturers do not put all information in writing or do not make their scripts available. Many deaf people therefore have to ask their fellow students for their written notes, a request which does not always meet with understanding. As a result, they feel excluded, perceive themselves as outsiders or fail in situations associated with their deafness, e.g. by not passing examinations.

Professional advice and continuing training

“Deaf students often exhibit a high level of self-care, diligence and ambition. If they could apply all the energy they must expend on administrative matters and devising new learning strategies effectively to their studies, it would be a big relief for them,” says Benner. In their report, the research team at Landshut University of Applied Sciences therefore show how universities can specifically improve the framework conditions for deaf people: As well as targeted advice and support for their studies (e.g. through the application of communication assistance), the researchers recommend training and continuing education for university staff to boost their communication skills and knowledge of accessible communication (e.g. by means of mobile transmission systems). The promotion of further research projects in this area is also important.

Free information for universities

Based on the findings they gleaned, the researchers have also developed informational material, which is available to Bavarian universities free of charge. “We didn’t just want to conduct research, we wanted to help on a practical level too,” says Benner. For this reason, as the next step the research team at Landshut would like to develop and implement a consultancy concept in order to improve accessible communication at Bavarian universities in a concrete way. “We have already drafted an initial project outline,” explains Benner. “It would be great if we can also implement this project.”

The informational material for colleges and universities is being published online in German at: www.haw-landshut.de/studium/im-studium/bibliothek/publikationsserver.html
(publication server for Landshut University of Applied Sciences) and www.uni-wuerzburg.de/inklusion/startseite/ (website for the research and practically oriented alliance on “Inclusion at universities and accessible Bavaria”).

About the project
“Deaf students in Bavaria” is a sub-project that is part of the research and practically oriented alliance on "Inclusion at universities and accessible Bavaria", which ran from early 2017 until March 2019. The alliance includes Landshut University of Applied Sciences as well as the Universities of Bayreuth and Würzburg along with Deggendorf institute of Technology, Ansbach University of Applied Sciences and Munich University of Applied Sciences, with the aim of conducting inclusion research in a practically oriented way. The project leads at Landshut University of Applied Sciences are Prof. Clemens Dannenbeck and Prof. Uta Benner, with the project overall being managed by the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg. The project is being financed by the Bavarian state parliament. The total funding amounts to one million euros.

More information about the project can be obtained by contacting the following email address: gehoerlos.studieren@haw-landshut.de

Photo: Landshut University of Applied Sciences
(free to use if source cited)