Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Assistance for deaf students at universities spreading"

Article from today's Japan Today:

Unfortunately the headline of this article is more optimistic than the reality of the situation. But read on anyway...

The number of universities assisting deaf students in Japan is increasing, with some taking such measures as using personal computers to project in words the contents of classroom lectures.

But as such assistance and methods are up to each university, the burden on students and their families is sometimes heavy, and one expert said "public assistance is necessary" to guarantee study opportunities for such students.

Gunma University, with campuses in Maebashi and Kiryu, has four students with aural impairments, and prepares screens in their classes on which the lectures of professors are displayed via a notebook computer tie-up between students and school staff who type in the words.

There are also three staff members specializing in sign language interpretation at the university to meet the need for speedy discussions.

Takayuki Morita, 22, a junior majoring in education who has hearing difficulties, said, "In high school I managed to study by myself, but I could not follow lectures at university without assistance."

But generous assistance such as at Gunma University is rare. A 19-year-old male student with serious aural impairment wanted to study agriculture after graduating from a special assistance school, but many universities did not allow him to take their entrance exam, saying it would be impossible for him to graduate due to his hearing impediment.

But in 2007 he was offered a place at a private university in the Kansai region of western Japan which accepts students with such impairments and had an official sent by the government to help summarize lectures.

Immediately before his enrollment, however, the university sent him a notice, saying, "The government has stopped sending an official. The faculty is unable to assist you."

The university hastily tried to recruit a volunteer but without success, and as a result his mother accompanied him to the university for about one year to act a sign language interpreter in class. "We want them to consider the situation from our point of view," she said.

According to a survey by the Japan Student Services Organization of Tokyo, there are some 1,200 students with aural impairments enrolled at about 30% of the universities across the country.

Seventy percent of these institutions offer assistance of some sort to such students, though this is chiefly "note taking" in which another student sits next to the impaired student and jots down the contents of lectures.

Many universities also start to set up a help system after they accept such impaired students, but it is difficult for them to gather the 20 supporters said to be required for each disabled student.

Even if supporters are sent from local governments and sign language circles, only a few of them are capable of dealing with the contents of specialized lecturers.

The central government is extending a subsidy of 330,000 yen to each impaired student at state-run universities and a subsidy of 1.5 million yen to up to five such students at each private university, but these sums are only just enough to cover the rewards for supporters.

Mayumi Shirasawa, an associate professor at the Tsukuba University of Technology, said, "Whether impaired students can study is currently determined by the universities’ own measures. It is necessary for the state to extend support to help secure specialist staff."

There are no deaf students at my university so I cannot comment on the situation here. What about at your own universities? Are there any deaf students? Do they have interpreters, note takers and/or any other kind of assistance?


DeafStudent said...

This is interesting blog. I am a deaf student at one university I am attending. However, I live in United States where the law is different. In US, I have a right under the law to get interpreters and notetakers or any other accommodation needed. Usually, it is university that provides interpreters and notetakers, and they are required to provide it. And interpreters are often hired professionals that went through training and classes at their college to be able to interpret.

This make me wonder what rights do deaf students have in their country? Do you know any law or rights that those deaf students have in Japan?

visual gonthros said...

As far as I know - and I hope somebody can confirm (or better yet deny!): there are no laws granting deaf students interpreters or note takers like in the U.S.