Disability and Learning Support Service

Case study: supporting a deaf student

Case study highlighting the range of support that can be provided for a deaf student

Thomas was undertaking a postgraduate course of study which was taught through both lectures and practical interactive classes.  The course of study incorporated the communication of a lot of technical and detailed information, particularly during the interactive classes. Thomas had a significant hearing impairment and was extremely concerned about missing key data and facts that his classmates would have no difficulty in picking up.

Thomas studied at the University for several years progressing very successfully from undergraduate to postgraduate study.  In the first year of his studies at Edinburgh, Thomas was assessed for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) funding, and received a range of support, including equipment and assistive technology, as well as practical one-to-one support in the form of a notetaker for all classes and tutorials.  Over the years Thomas utilised the support, sometimes using an electronic notetaker (notetaking in real time using a laptop), at other times finding that a manual notetaker was more suited to his needs.  However, on undertaking his postgraduate studies, with the support of both a manual (for lectures) and electronic notetaker for the interactive sessions, Thomas quickly found that he was missing significant quantities of information delivered in the interactive sessions.  The electronic notetaker simply could not capture all of the contributors to the discussions and could not record all of the technical data as accurately as Thomas required.

Thomas discussed his concerns with his Disability Advisor, as the very different nature of his postgraduate course of study made a re-assessment of his support needs essential.  A number of new recommendations were made for Thomas's ongoing support, one of which was for the provision of a palantypist* for support in practical classes.  As the Disability and Learning Support Service does not employ any palantypists, a number of agencies in Scotland were contacted to request the provision of this support for Thomas. 

Palantypist availability is extremely limited, and it quickly became apparent that none were available in Scotland, and it seemed likely that the Service would have to arrange for a palantypist to travel from England and stay in Edinburgh for each occasion that Thomas required this support.  However, Thomas's Disability Advisor made contact with a London-based service that was able to deliver real-time palantypist support remotely, via an iPad using the lecture room's wi-fi facility.

The Service had not provided this support before, therefore, for the first class, we ensured that Thomas also had a notetaker with him, in case there were any problems.  Thankfully, the technology and the palantypist in London worked perfectly, and Thomas was delighted, commenting that "The technology is easy and effortless to use.  I personally find the system relaxing and an engaging way to understand everything as opposed to tiring when I normally rely on my hearing aids and a notetaker. The palantypist and remote captioning is a real lifesaver for a deaf person."

On the basis of this extremely positive feedback, the remote palantypist has been engaged for the remainder of Thomas's classes. The Disability and Learning Support Service will consider recommending this resource to other hearing-impaired students in future.


* Palantypist - A palantypist is a trained and qualified person who uses a Palantype machine and short hand code to note every word a speaker says.