Deafness and Hearing Impairment
Special Needs in Educational Software
Most accessibility accomodations address improving the usability of standard software, often by offering alternative ways of using it. However that does not address the needs for different educational tools.
For example, students who are pre-lingually deaf (those who are born deaf or lose their hearing before acquiring language) have a much harder time learning to read and write. This leads to a host of other problems later in their education.
According to the Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth, during the 2003-2004 school year, there were approximately 39,000 deaf children attending elementary or secondary schools in the United States1. And those are only the documented children. Some of those students have at least some reasonable level of language skills, but a good percentage do not. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2002, "there were 250 million people in the world have disabling hearing impairment and that two-thirds of them live in developing countries"2. Many of them have no access to education at all.
At Gallaudet University, in Washington, DC, there is a primary school, a secondary school and a university all serving deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals. All told, there are about 1700 deaf/HoH students attending one of the three schools.
Some of the proprietary software currently available can be found on the TecEds Reviews3 page of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. (The search engine there seems a bit broken.)