I am currently reading the Master of Arts in Disability Studies at the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta. Due to COVID-19, I have been attending virtual lectures (and sometimes meetings too). The same thing that everyone else around the globe has been doing for the past two-almost-three months. As I prepare to complete the last few lectures of this scholastic year, I thought I’d share with you my experience of these digital lectures as a Deaf student.
Due to being Deaf, it is not as simple as just logging in. I book the services of the sign language interpreters in order to be able to follow what is being said. In the beginning, both the interpreter and myself would connect with the lecturer and the rest of the class on the Zoom meeting. Many of you already know how Zoom works – the large window shows the active speaker. However, in my case, instead of squinting and trying to view the interpreter on the small screen, I would pin the sign language interpreter’s window to enlarge it, in order to view just the interpreting. Yet we immediately realized that this option was uncomfortable because the interpreter and I were unable to see who is speaking. Moreover, viewing and sharing presentations while trying to look at the interpreter was also proving to be difficult.
So we opted for Plan B – that of using two laptops, as you can see from my picture. Both the interpreter and I would connect with the lecturer and with the rest of the class on Zoom via the first laptop. I do not pin the interpreter’s window, so I can view and share presentations, and I can also view the speakers. Naturally, I am unable to follow since I do not understand what is being said. That’s where (my husband’s!) second laptop comes in. On the second laptop, the interpreter and I connect together via another platform to do a video chat between us. We ensure that the second laptop’s microphone is muted so that the interpreter can hear the Zoom meeting clearly from her first laptop. Genius, right? I spend most of the virtual meeting looking at the second laptop (i.e. at the interpreter), and just steal a quick look at the first laptop to see who is speaking or to check the presentation. I guess the rest of the participants on zoom got used to seeing the side of my face! 🙂
Yet I have to admit that I do miss using the service of the sign language interpreters in person. Sometimes, the internet connection is poor and the screen is small, making virtual meetings exhausting. Moreover, sign language is a visual language that is best-used face-to-face, rather than via digital means. Nevertheless, the interpreters are very patient and they do their utmost to make such virtual lectures accessible, not just for me but for many other Deaf people using their services.
On a different note, did you know that in October 2020, there are various courses starting at the Department of Disability Studies? If you work in the field of disability or education, or if you are an allied health professional, you may be interested to get a deeper understanding of disability. Send an email on email@example.com to find out more, or visit their website on: