In this section we describe the aspects of some common fieldwork situations which might be problematic for d/Deaf students (and in many cases also for hearing students). We then suggest measures which staff could take to assist d/Deaf and hearing-impaired students. Staff need to be sensitive to the general difficulties which some fieldwork can cause for d/Deaf students, and should be ready to negotiate with each student as to what would suit them best.
As a general point, if a d/Deaf student has a sign language interpreter, that person should be able to accompany the d/Deaf student during all the fieldwork. In the UK the Disabled Students Allowance is available to students via their Local Education Authority to help provide additional support needed for fieldwork (see http://www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport/downloads/6144.pdf)
Because the essence of fieldwork is the practical application of skills, the very detailed advice given in the field is vital to the fullest exploitation of the learning opportunities. Yet, when you have a large group spread around you, even a modest amount of wind, traffic noise or the sound of running water or waves can create acoustic dead-zones around the person speaking to an extent unimaginable in a lecture theatre. Many of the actions suggested below will help all your students:
You may ask your students to interview key people in the community. Such interviews are often carried out by groups of students within which the tasks of asking the questions and recording the replies are shared out. In a fixed setting (e.g. everyone is sitting down around a table) the d/Deaf student can position him/herself so as to make lip reading or hearing as easy as possible. They should be able to take part in the questioning as normal but may not be able take full and accurate records of what was said. If the interview is on site (e.g. while touring a factory or farm, with people talking while moving around) positioning to allow lip reading and hearing may be very difficulty in practice. If the interview is in a very noisy environment (e.g. a factory) a lip reading student may understand more of what is said than the hearing ones.
Students are often required to carry out interviews with members of the public in the street, on doorsteps, or in car parks or shopping centres. For BSL users and lip-readers this may present a number of difficulties. It would be unacceptable if they were sidelined, watching the hearing students doing the task. Discussing with the students what they can manage will be essential. The aim is for them to do as much as a hearing student can.
It may be necessary to give reminders or emergency warnings of safety-critical information to students while they are carrying out fieldwork. The difficulty is that the information may have to be given immediately and in person; time may not permit pre-prepared handouts. A shouted warning will be ineffective for the wholly d/Deaf and cannot be relied on for those with partial hearing or hearing aids. The wearing of hats or hoods when the weather is bad will further diminish the amount that can be heard and will render some hearing aids ineffectual.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 116 2