#FreeBell at School

Photo Credit: Renee Kakareka

Photo Credit: Renee Kakareka

Last week we talked about our vision of how #FreeBell can fit into the lives of Deaf people. This week we wanted to take a deeper dive into how we think #FreeBell can help in an educational environment. Over 75% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students are placed in mainstreaming programs in public schools. This has several challenges and can create some difficulties. If Deaf students do not receive the proper support they can fall one to four grades behind.

FreeBell can help with this by providing a new way for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students to communicate and socialize with their peers. As the child develops reading and language skills FreeBell can help them every step of the way. When the child is younger FreeBell can help them with its sound localization features. This will show them what direction a sound is coming from, provide them with visual cues, and help them to better follow spoken conversations. Deaf students often have to concentrate harder to follow along with conversations, especially if they are not in the student’s preferred method of communication. This can tire out students and make it harder to concentrate, this condition is called auditory or concentration fatigue. The cues FreeBell provides can help reduce this issue.

As we have all surely experienced, once students reach middle school they become very self-conscious. For Deaf students this means they often stop using assistive devices. But FreeBell does not look like a traditional assistive device, it looks a lot like the new style of bluetooth headphones that have become so popular in the last few years. This can help resolve the real or perceived social stigma that might exist around other types of assistive devices.

When a student is sitting in the classroom they will be able to wear the microphone device and interact with their teacher and fellow students through the application on their phone, tablet, or computer. Most students already have access to these types of electronic devices, around 80 percent of elementary school students use a tablet regularly, and 80 percent of high school students own a smartphone. This means the majority of students already regularly use a device that they could use with FreeBell.

Imagine young Susie in a lecture situation where she is able to listen to and participate through her eyes and touch. The teacher is given a discrete microphone to wear that works with the FreeBell application, which shows to Susie what the teacher is saying with captions. When a student sitting behind Susie asks a question she sees the sound location indicator and feels a subtle vibration on the back of her neck from the wearable. This gets her attention and lets her know where the sound is coming from. At the end of the school day Susie is able to look at her captions from the day, take notes on them, highlight the most important points for studying later.

FreeBell has the potential to empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing people while fitting seamlessly into their lives. Education is just one scenario, but there are many others. Check the blog next week to see how FreeBell can help Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the workplace. If you do not want to miss that post be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or on Google Plus!



Daniel F