Considerations for Effective Integration of Signing Math & Science Dictionary Apps into Science Museum Exhibits and What Can Happen

Lightning Talk
Judy Vesel, TERC, Inc., USA

Although persons who are deaf or hard of hearing are not necessarily considered “print disabled,” those who acquire and use sign language to communicate tend to internalize a linguistic structure that differs greatly from English. This results in significant literacy limitations that lead to the majority of deaf students leaving high school with reading levels at the fifth grade or below. It also results in museum visits being a low priority for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and use sign for communication as a wealth of information is presented as written text. Often there is very little provision for having it interpreted in sign language or for meeting the diverse communication needs of this varied audience.

This presentation will provide a video snapshot of what can happen when family visitors, ages 5-12+ who are deaf or hard of hearing and communicate in sign language use iPod Touch versions of a Signing Science Pictionary (SSP), Signing Science Dictionary (SSD), and Signing Math Dictionary (SMD) as integral components of their museum experience. Presentation of the unique features of each dictionary as a complete assistive tool designed according to the principles of the Universal Design for Learning framework will follow. Returning to the video, the presentation will focus on the Word Cards attached to exhibit panels. It will be explained that these were found to be necessary to get visitors started using the dictionaries.

The results of this work reflect the experiences of a limited number of families and cannot be generalized to all families with deaf or hard of hearing children. However, they will show that the apps are potentially useful tools. Family visitors with at least one member who is deaf or hard of hearing use them to help them read instructions and labels, look up terms, use the ASL sign, and engage in discussion. Additional ongoing studies will provide further insight to the degree to which this is true

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