Philosophy

  iCommunicator™ was developed as a communication access technology to foster literacy enhancement and independent communication. Cornerstones and fundamental philosophical beliefs underlying development and implementation of iCommunicator are:

1. It is not intended specifically to replace sign language interpreters, but offered as an alternative to remove communication barriers.

2. Sign language is delivered in English word order (subject+verb+object) to cultivate linkages between written, spoken, and signed words and promote literacy development.

3. It must be recommended by the evaluation team and/or planning team as an appropriate assistive technology for the end user.



The Impact Of Hearing Loss

Prevalence and Impact of Hearing Loss

In the United States there are an estimated 28 million persons with hearing loss across the lifespan (ASHA, 2003). While more than 30% of people over 65 have some type of hearing loss, 14% of those between 45 and 64 have hearing loss.
Nearly 8 million people between the ages of 18 and 44, and 7 million children have hearing loss (Better Hearing Institute, 2001). Of that number, approximately 1.5 million persons in the United States, ages three years and older, are deaf in both ears (Collins, 1997). Research has shown that between 11.3% and 14.9% of school-age children have a hearing loss that affects their learning and development (Bess, Dodd-Murphy & Parker, 1998; Niskar et al, 1998). Carney & Moeller (1998) reported that the impact of early-onset sensorineural hearing loss has a multitude of consequences on a child's development. For instance, hearing loss alters the child's ability to extract linguistic clues from auditory language models. In the presence of hearing loss, limited opportunities are available to /'overhear/' information, which is how most persons with normal hearing learn the nuances of the English language. This deprivation leads to impoverished experiences with negative consequences for language rule formation, word knowledge, and vocabulary development. Subsequently, delays in vocabulary development, acquisition of grammatical skills, concept attainment, appropriate social conversational skills, and literacy development skills characterize many persons with hearing loss.


Access to Acoustic Information

Classrooms are auditory-verbal environments. However, a large number of America's 92,012 schools do not provide students with hearing loss the acoustic accessibility that is needed to fully comprehend messages. Noise, reverberation, and distance from the speaker compromise the student's speech perception abilities, even when the student is using advanced signal processing personal amplification. In these instances, the students need appropriate access to the spoken word. Listening is a critical and challenging experience for everyone, but even more so for the person with hearing loss who does not have a rich linguistic background to allow them to /'fill in the gaps/' during lectures, directions, and conversations. Adults spend 45% of their day involved in the listening process, but for children, it is estimated that 60% to 75% of their day is spent listening (Butler, 1975; Dahlquist, 1997). These communication challenges often signify communication barriers to listening and learning.



The Impact of Literacy Deprivation

Concern about the literacy levels of many persons who are deaf and hard of hearing was the inspiration for developing of the iCommunicator™ program as a communication access technology. Very often students who are deaf or hard of hearing do not demonstrate the same rate of progress as their normal hearing peers, and achieve only one-third of a grade equivalent advancement during an academic year (Wolk & Allen, 1984). The cumulative effect of this underachievement is evidenced by many students who are deaf or hard of hearing who graduate from high school with a fourth grade reading comprehension level (Holt Traxler, & Allen, 1997). These lower literacy levels often present barriers to post-secondary education opportunities. While 53.7% of high school graduates attend college, only 33.4% of students who are deaf pursue post-secondary education (Fairweather & Shaver, 1991).



Other Persons with Special Communication Needs

While the iCommunicator™ program was initially developed to provide persons who are deaf or hard of hearing with opportunities to achieve communication independence, this technology has applications for other persons who face unique communication challenges. Refer to Populations for additional information.



Access to Sign Language

English Word Order Translation

In the United States, there is a critical shortage of sign language interpreters. It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 interpreters nationally and that less than 25% hold certification. The iCommunicator™ program is not intended to replace sign language interpreters, but to serve as an alternative access technology for some persons who communicate in sign language. To enhance literacy development, the iCommunicator™ was designed to deliver American Sign Language (ASL) signs in English word order. Using this manually coded English system, end users are offered the opportunity to improve the association between spoken, written, and signed words and improve literacy skills. The video sign language library currently consists of more than 9,200 individual video clips.

Rationale for Selection of iCommunicator’s Sign Language Lexicon

The selection of signs for the iCommunicator program’s signing lexicon is based on the goal of using this unique software application to enhance communication and literacy skills. As children begin to develop reading and writing skills they become aware of print in the environment and the use of print by others. Children start to understand and use written symbols before formal instruction in school. In order to understand written material, children must understand the written structures that are used. Simple sentences that follow subject+verb+object (S+V+O) structures are easier for children to understand than sentences with more complex structures.

Individuals who are deaf may use American Sign Language (ASL), Pidgin Sign English (PSE) (also known as contact signing), Manually Coded English (MCE), or English to communicate in face-to-face situations. ASL is a visual-gesture language with a rule structure that is different from English and other languages and has a very limited written format. Manually Coded English is a sign system that represents English in a visual-gesture modality. Manually Coded English was designed to make English visible. The three best known Manually Coded English systems in educational programs for students who are deaf are Seeing Exact English (SEE I), Signing Exact English (SEE II), and Signed English (Coryell & Holcomb, 1997; Gustason & Zawolkow, 1993). These manually coded English systems consist of a set of invented signs to represent English structures, such as pronouns, verb tenses, plurality, adverbs, possessives, comparatives, and articles. Pidgin Sign English, or contact sign, refers to the use of ASL signs in English word order, with some inclusion of English morphemes. PSE, or contact sign, is not a language in itself, but an incomplete version of ASL and an incomplete version of English.

Students with special needs are placed in a variety of educational settings to meet their educational needs. Options range from inclusive settings (regular education classes) to segregated classes (self-contained special education classes or residential schools). The increased emphasis on placing students in inclusive classes stresses the importance that students have good communication and literacy skills. Parents abilities to communicate with their children, as well as their active involvement in their children’s education, and children’s desire to actively interact with peers in all environments, support the need to develop children’s English skills.

To support an individual’s improvement of communication and literacy skills, the use of the S+V+O structure is used as a basis for the selection of signs for the iCommunicator program’s signing lexicon. The S+V+O structure enables children to learn the English language. For other applications of the iCommunicator software program, such as the workplace, English word order delivery of sign language is judged to be the most appropriate delivery mode. The use of real-time captioning and signing, as needed, are beneficial to the communication and language development of a variety of special learners, including persons who are deaf, deaf-blind, visually impaired, autistic, or aphasic. It also has applications for persons with motor problems or difficulties in multitasking, persons with specific learning disabilities, and other persons with unique communication challenges.



Systematic Evaluation and Recommendation

The manufacturer supports careful and systematic evaluation of potential end users, and special use applications of the technology, to determine the appropriateness of this communication access technology. To ensure positive outcomes, evaluation and planning teams must ascertain if the iCommunicator is the right technology for the right application for the right end user/application and implemented in the right way. Various federal regulations specify entitlements to assistive technology and the state and local interpretations of these regulations should guide evaluation and planning teams in the assistive technology evaluation and recommendation process. Similarly, in the workplace environment or public access venues, a supervisor, disability office manager, and/or the human resource department manager would be involved in the decision-making process.



References

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2003)
The prevalence and incidence of hearing loss in children.
Website: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/children.htm

Bess, F., Dodd-Murphy, J. & Parker, R. (1998)
Children with minimal sensorineural hearing loss: Prevalence, educational performance, and functional status.
Ear and Hearing, 19, 339-354.

Butler, K. (1975)
Auditory perceptual skills: Their measurement and remediation with preschool and school-age children.
Paper presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention, Washington, DC.

Butterworth, R. & Flodin, M. (1995)
The Perigee Visual Dictionary of Signing
New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

Carney, A. & Moeller, M. (1998)
Treatment efficacy: Hearing loss in children.
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, S61-S84

Coleman, J. & Wolf, E. (1991)
Advanced Sign Language Vocabulary: A Resource Text for Educators, Interpreters, Parents, and Sign Language Instructors
Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher

Collins, J. (1997)
Prevalence of Selected Chronic Conditions: United States 1990-1992
National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 10 (194): 1-89

Coryell, J. & Holcomb, T. (1997)
The use of sign language and sign systems in facilitating the language acquisition and communication of deaf students
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 28, 384-394

Costello, E. (1994)
American Sign Language Dictionary
New York: Random House

Costello, E. (2000)
American Sign Language Medical Dictionary
New York: Random House

Dahlquist, L. (1998)
Classroom amplification: Not just for the hearing impaired anymore.
Website: http://www.dinf.ne.jp/doc/english/Us_Eu/conf/csun_99/session0134.html


Fairweather, J. & Shaver, D. (1991)
Making the transition to postsecondary education and training
Exceptional Children, 55, 412-419

Gustason, G. & Zawolkow, E. (1993)
Signing Exact English
Los Alamitos, CA: Modern Sign Press

Holt, J. Traxler, C. & Allen, T. (1997)
Interpreting the scores: A users guide to the 9th Edition Stanford Achievement Test for educators of deaf and hard of hearing students.
(Gallaudet Research Institute Technical Report 97-1). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University

Humphries, T., Padden, C. & O?Rourke, T. (1994)
A Basic Course in American Sign Language (second edition)
Silver Springs, MD: T.J. Publishers

Niskar, A., Kieszak, S., Holmes, A., Esteban, E., Rubin, C., & Brody, D. (1998)
Prevalence of hearing loss among children 6 to 19 years of age: The third national health and nutrition examination survey
Journal of the American Medical Association, 279 (14), 1071-1075

Reikopf, L. (1994)
The Joy of Signing
Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House

Sternberg, M. (1998)
American Sign Language Dictionary
New York: Harper Perennial

Wolk, S. & Allen, T. (1984)
A 5-year follow-up of reading comprehension achievement of hearing-impaired students in special education programs
The Journal of Special Education, 18, 161-176

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