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Experts in Video Accessibility: Daniel Veit, Transition Specialist & Disabled Student

  • Earlier this week, the Sloan Consortium continued with it’s second of four webinars focused on Student & Faculty Success in Online Education, sponsored by 3Play Media. In January’s webinar we heard from school administrators who have implemented higher education accessibility policies. This time, students got to sound off. What Students with Disabilities Want Faculty & Administrators to Know explained in depth the learning concerns of disabled online students and alumni.

    Watch the webinar: Student & Alumni Panel: What Students with Disabilities Want Faculty & Administrators to Know

    Daniel P. Veit, a doctoral student at Drexel University and Transition Specialist at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, was one of our speakers. Veit’s first experience working with a disability services office wasn’t until pursuing his Master’s degree online at Drexel University. Prior, Veit attended Gallaudet University, a deaf school where the primary language is American Sign Language. In many regards, Veit’s experiences go beyond the ability to  hear. He is also communicating in his second language, English. Veit’s thesis examined online learning experiences, surveying deaf and hard of hearing students. As such, his personal history and research are particularly valuable.

    3PLAY MEDIA: When you sign up for a class, what steps do you take to facilitate your learning experience? How do you advise your teachers and what preparations do you make?

    DANIEL VEIT: When I sign up for a class, I inform the Disability Services Office about the class that I’m taking. That office then connects with the faculty to review everything over the line of courses. They see things that may be problematic for me. The faculty only identifies problems for my participation in a project like a voice-over or using PowerPoint. For audio setup and content, they handle that part in the Disability Office.

    Prior, I worked directly with a person who transcribed the content. Some weeks, there would be a lot of audio content. I wouldn’t ask for every piece of that. But the most critical pieces, I would ask for a transcription. For example, some weeks, in a class, there might be posted voice messages. I wouldn’t need them to transcribe all 20 to 25 students’ worth of all those comments.

    By the fourth or fifth class period, I can recognize how to capture the most important pieces. For the faculty, at the beginning of a course, it always takes an explanation that I am deaf and need captioning for audio and video content. Sometimes I have to fill in the gaps depending on the situation and the application. But I tend to have very supportive responses from both faculty and Office of Disability.

    3PLAY MEDIA: During the webinar, you said transcripts required more reading and conflicted with deaf studies. What did you mean by that?

    DANIEL VEIT: Maybe that was a misinterpretation. I meant that most deaf students identify as visual learners. There are three different learning styles, typically: auditory, visual, and tactile. When I did my thesis, I requested that the deaf and hard of hearing students identify their learning style. Almost 100% identified as visual learners. I want them (the Office of Disability staff) to keep that in mind for online courses that require a lot of reading. All of the audio-based transcriptions can be very complex for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

    I can’t hear. I can’t learn except from what I see. So online, it requires more of my time to go through all the written English material, instead of being able to sit and listen to a lecture which I’d be able to do in the classroom as it was translated into ASL (American Sign Language). Imagine if you were taking a course in French, it would be smoother if you were taking it in your first language as opposed to second.

    3PLAY MEDIA:  When do you use transcripts versus captions?

    DANIEL VEIT: It’s always nice to have captions embedded so you’re connected with the visuals and what is being spoken. Now, if there aren’t any visuals, I prefer a transcript.

    As a student, the frustrating part was the PowerPoints with voice-overs or videos with PowerPoint lectures.  Sometimes, I would get a transcript. Then, I would have to write and watch and make sure things were matching with certain slides. It was hard for me to do that simultaneously.

    3PLAY MEDIA: Assuming you went to the Office of Disability Services and the staff and professor knew that you were deaf, what percentage of video content that was used in your classes was made accessible and captioned?

    DANIEL VEIT:  All of it. I worked with one person who let me know about upcoming video or audio content. I would just select the most critical items for captioning.  Drexel University has been very supportive in giving me full access to all the class content.

    3PLAY MEDIA: Was there a lag between the time that a piece of video content was released to the class and when you received the captions or transcripts?

    DANIEL VEIT: There definitely was. Sometimes I would be a little bit behind and let the faculty know. When the transcript arrived, they’d give me a few extra days to do my part with it.

    Sometimes I would receive the captioned content a few days before things were due. Sometimes I wouldn’t get it until after the due date. I believe if I was more persistent or assertive, I could make sure everything was captioned prior to the due date, or at least the day before. That would have been ideal.

    3PLAY MEDIA: Could you tell us a little more about the findings in your master’s thesis?

    DANIEL VEIT: My thesis was about the deaf and hard-of-hearing students involved in online ed. I looked at a couple of different topics. What was the experience like? Do they have negative or positive online educational experiences? Also, what kind of accommodations were used for their online ed? So that was the crux of the study with deaf people, many of whom really appreciate online education and direct communication with the faculty and staff, which isn’t always possible in the normal classroom setting.

    Often in classes, there are some things that aren’t caught by deaf students with an interpreter. Also there is some isolation that is experienced in the classroom. Whereas online, a lot of deaf students feel they have open communication with everyone. People don’t even know they’re deaf. That’s pretty neat. A lot of the deaf students really prefer online communication and education.

    I also found sometimes there’d be a struggle with captioning and a barrier of cost. But schools are using more and more video- and audio-based content for the homework. Those were some of the issues that my study covered– online ed and accommodations online.

    3PLAY MEDIA: Last question, in the webinar you mentioned that you almost left Drexel University. Then you met with the Office of Disability Services and they helped you change your mind. What did they do to help improve your experience?

    DANIEL VEIT: Well, I was just getting started and hadn’t used the Office of Disability Services. My academic advisor told me to meet with that office, but I wasn’t sure about the procedures or how they worked. So for the first week of classes, I felt there were a lot of things that I couldn’t do or hear. I couldn’t do some of the homework. That really became overwhelming.

    When I called the Office of Disability Services to say I was going to drop the classes, they said: “Oh, shoot, we could have made that work.” So after a while, I decided to go back and take one course rather than two. Then I got familiar with the process and the procedures. That was the beginning of me becoming more comfortable with using online ed.

    3PLAY MEDIA: This has been really great and helpful. Thank you very much for your time.

    DANIEL VEIT: I really enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you.

    More about Daniel P. Veit:

    Daniel P. Veit a Transition Specialist at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, aiding students in the transition from high school to post- graduation life. Veit recently completed his Master’s thesis for a degree in Higher Education at Drexel University. His thesis focused on accessibility issues with eLearning and he surveyed deaf and hard of hearing students taking online classes. His research focused on accessibility issues and experiences. Before working at Texas School for the Deaf, Veit was a Career Consultant  at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. where he completed his undergraduate degree.

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