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The Effects of the Use of Assistive Technology on the Academic Performance of Persons with Hearing Impairment: The Case of the University of BUEA.

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Present era has introduced persons with disabilities with a range of assistive Technological devices that have rapidly increased their educational, vocational, and frivolous activities. This study attempted to explore the Effects of the Use of Assistive Technology on the Academic Performance of Persons with Hearing Impairment; Case study in the University of Buea. A sample of 15 students was selected in the Faculty of Education, to investigate the effects of assistive technology on the academic performance of persons with hearing impairment in the University of Buea, specifically the effects of hearing aids, sign language interpretation and the human automatic note taker. The research design used in carrying out this study is the survey research design and specifically with the use of questionnaire. The findings of this study led to the conclusion that assistive technologies are overall assistance for the students with hearing impairment in their academic performances and there is no substitute to these devices that could assist them in such a quite differentiated manner. The role of high tech assistive devices as well as low tech devices has been highlighted prominently. It is divulged that there is a need to reduce the cost of assistive devices to be used by the students with hearing impairment.








1.0 Introduction.


Hearing impairment is a disability affecting the sense of hearing making it difficult for the individual to hear.  According to UNESCO (2003 page 4), the world system of education today entails that education should be for all, not leaving out people with hearing impairment, as also stated in the Salamanca conference of 1994, in Spain. So people living with disabilities, particularly those with hearing impairment, have the legal right to education. In the University of Buea, there are some problems encountered by these persons, especially on their academic performances, when it comes to educational achievements.


This chapter explains the following; the background of the study, statement of the problem, objectives of the study, Research questions, Significance of the study, Delimitation of the study and detail definition of terms.


1.1 Background of The Study.


Throughout the ages, persons with disabilities have been in one way or the other pushed to the margins of the society. Social attitudes reflected the view that persons with disabilities were unhealthy, defective and deviant. For centuries, societies as a whole considered these people as objects of fear and pity. The prevailing attitude was that, such individuals were incapable of participating or contributing in the society and that they must only rely on welfare or charitable organizations. The background of this study is broken down into contextual background, theoretical background and conceptual background, as follows:


Assistive technology has been defined by different educators and professionals around the world. In a common sense of the researcher of this study, assistive technology devices (ATD) are equipment meant to help persons with disability in many ways, depending on the nature of the disability. For the deaf, assistive technology may be used to improve their hearing capabilities and their assistive technology device may include hearing aids, to perceive lectures. The definition of assistive technology devices according to IDEA (International Disabilities Education Act (2004) as any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities including those with hearing impairment. This definition of assistive technology device by IDEA implies that, hearing impairment aids, phone text messages, and other devices such as projectors are parts of ATD that can assist the hearing impaired to learn or get access to information easily than without these items mentioned. Assistive technology device is mostly the application of technology in human life to assist where an individual is having disabilities or disadvantages that will reduce its educational capabilities.


It is not a hear-say that ATD help those with disabilities especially those with hearing impairment. Learning can be meaningful if an individual has his/her sense organs active. The sense that information can be acquired, that is, the ear, eye, nose and speech are very important for teaching and learning, as well as they are a great factor of influencing academic performance. Any individual whose hearing organ is not functional (impaired) as the ‘normal’, may likely not perform satisfactory academic performances without the use of ATD. The realist school of thought epistemology have it that an individual can know something through seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting because by touching or hearing a sound(speech) for instance, a connection is made between object and mind (Musa 2008). This assertion is in line with IDEA (2004) that ATD is a great equalizing force in education of students with disabilities both in terms of access to the general curriculum and in facilitating the ability of students to demonstrate mastery of their areas of study.


From the creation, man has always tried and strived hard to improve on his way of life. This could be socially, economically and vocationally. To achieve this, man must exploit his environment and make good use of any salvage materials that can help him to change his way of life towards positive direction. Persons with disability face a difficult challenge in overcoming this dream. Sometimes, the impairment creates these challenges to them, but on the other hand, they are usually so much hindered by the society’s attitude towards them. Some of these usually impose a great challenge to parents of persons with impairment. Most parents feel discouraged sending these persons to school. They generally assume that the child in question is not able to fully benefit in educational achievements because of his or her impairment.


The education of persons with special need has been influenced for a long time by the traditional beliefs, customs and attitudes held by different ethnic groups in Cameroon. Though the right to education is stated clearly in the Universal Declaration of Human Right (UNESCO 1994), certain areas of the country still denied children with disabilities the basic rights to education. For example, in Cameroon, in the University of Buea persons with exceptionalities still pay school fees and provide writing materials for themselves. Assistive technology can be traced back to the emergence of the early tools such as painting cave walls. The history of Assistive technology started in the 1900s with the introduction of educational films in the 1920s. Assistive Technology was used in large scale in the United States in World War II in training soldiers through films and other mediated materials. From that period, there has been some great evolution to this sector. And today instruction based on technology can be easily based on the idea that people can learn through visual and audio devices which assist in many forms like power point presentation and hearing aids.


Persons with hearing impairments face a lot of challenges even in their communities and social gatherings (AJOSE; African Journal of Special Education, vol. 2). They are sometimes excluded because of their impairment. In cases of community works, going to parks for leisure, beaches for sea breeze, they are often not allowed to take part in such activities sometimes because of the accidents or risks that could take place, since they cannot fully take care of themselves. Most often, the family members feel ashamed to take them to such places for fear of public embarrassment and handling of these persons with impairment.


Most societies today are less inclusive and do not have the knowledge on how to cope with persons with impairments. Especially communication in particular and other forms of socialization in general. The hard reality is this. Society in every nation, most especially in Africa, is still infected by the ancient assumption that people with impairments are less than fully human therefore, are not fully eligible for the opportunities which are available as a matter of right. (Justin Dart, disability rights activist, 1992, quoted in DEMOS, 2002).


Talking about assistive technology which refers to any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with exceptionalities. It is important to make mention of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that assistive technology must be considered for each student for whom an individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed. IDEA clearly addresses the need for schools to focus on using Assistive Technologies to enhance functional capabilities of students with impairment (Blaclehurst and Lahm 2000).


In Cameroon, special education became a reality in 1960s, but the government is still timid about instructional provision even though important policy documents bearing on special need education in Cameroon exist. The effort for provision of special need education is done more by religious bodies and individuals. This shows a continuous demand for partnership in educational offering in the declaration on education for all handicapped children; act (PL. 94-142) passed in 1975. In Cameroon, education for persons with disability was initially done by parents and family members of persons with disability. The traditional model which talks about education of children with special educational needs also gave opportunities to persons with disabilities to learn skills that pattern to the community depending on their intensity and gravity of disability. With this model, elders or traditional rulers especially in the societies in Cameroon helped persons with disabilities to learn skills which were mostly community base such as hunting, fishing and farming.


Nsamenanag (2004: p 227) explains that in Cameroon, education and care for children with disabilities was rooted in the community, church and charity associations. Special education in Cameroon started in the family circles where some parents and family members of persons with disabilities tried to teach their children skills related to the community.


With adaptation of Law No 83 / 013 of the 21st July 1983 on the protection of persons with disabilities and its enabling decree No 90 / 1516 of 26th November 1990 laying down the conditions for implementation, children with disabilities are expected to be educated in normal schools and centers.


The Cameroon Law No 2010/002 of 13th April 2010 relating to education of persons with disabilities states that “the education of persons with disabilities shall be subsidized with the acquisition of teaching aids to be used in their training by the state”. The guarantee persons with disabilities access to education and vocational training. This measures shall include: provision for their financial need, material and pedagogic support, persons with sensory impairment like blind, deaf, partially sighted and partially hearing loss are categories of persons with special needs who require Assistive technological devices to enhance their learning.


The advent in modernization and greater awareness led to the establishment or creation of the ministry of Social Affairs following Decree No 75,467 of June 28 1975. A department of national solidarity was also established to oversee the wellbeing of persons with disabilities. This department of national solidarity works in collaboration with the Ministry of Education which has put some efforts to promote the use of Assistive technology devices in the education of persons with impairment whether in the inclusive schools set up or special schools.


Tambo (2003) says that engaging time is actually very useful in the education of children with impairment to learn well, whether in an inclusively setup school or special school they must be able to understand the platform of better communication between them and the teacher, be it verbal, visual or auditing dialogue.


The hearing impaired students are described by Tambo as Kinesthetic learners. They learn by doing and from experiences they encountered in life in the past. And so, if they are placed at the center of their instruction and services are provided to facilitate their learning or Assistive devices, they could perform like normal students. The education of children with disabilities must be supported with some adaptive technological devices to improve achievement whether in an inclusive setting or special school setting.


Lenker (1998) explained that Assistive technology emerged as a viable area of specialization for occupational therapist in settings ranging from school to adult rehabilitation of developmental centers.




1.2 Statement of The Problem.


Since hearing facilitates communication, persons with hearing impairment face a disadvantage of effectively understanding and contributing in the teaching-learning process, which involves oral communication by use of language. Assistive hearing technologies have a crucial role to play so far as children with hearing impairment are concerned in the classroom. The researcher wants to find out whether the use of assistive technology devices have an effect on the academic performance of persons with hearing impairment. The role of assistive technology devices such as hearing aids which help the hearing impaired students get access to information from their teachers in the classroom, lacking what will be the consequence of hearing impaired learners is a big question the researcher of this study wants to investigate.




1.3 Objective of The Study.


1.3.1 General objective.


To investigate the effects of assistive technology on the academic performance of persons with hearing impairment in the University of Buea.


1.3.2 Specific Objectives.


To find out the effects of hearing aids on the academic performance of persons with hearing impairment.

To find out the effects of sign language interpretation on the academic performance of persons with hearing impairment.

To find out the effects of the human automatic note taker on the academic performance of persons with hearing impairment.

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