I have a question for those who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, and for the wider disability community at large. It is a question that has been concerning me, and I fear it might be controversial. But I’m not one to shy from asking the tough questions. And I really DO want to understand. So I hope someone can explain it to me.
Before going further, I must point out that I am a disability rights advocate. Some even called me a “rabid” disability rights advocate! I believe in equal access, and fight for it routinely. Now that’s out of the way…
The issue I am struggling with has to do with reasonable accommodations. Specifically, in the context of tertiary education. Imagine the following situation:
A Deaf student requires an interpreter during lectures. They also request reasonable accommodations for their final exams. The accommodation requested is extra time to write their exam – 3h30 instead of 3h00.
The interpreter for the lecture is straightforward. The Deaf student requires equal/equivalent access to the study "material". That’s a no-brainer.
What I struggle with is the request for extra time for the examination. This would be a written examination. It does not involve communication with another person. Everything is in writing. What would be the basis to justify the extra time?
The only thing I can think of is that English is in fact not the student’s primary language. That, in fact, Sign Language (signed or written) is their primary language, and there are significant differences between both. I know that both languages are significantly different. So not being a native English speaker will cause problems for the Deaf student in terms of both comprehension of the exam questions, and their ability to answer in "proper" English.
The issue here, from my perspective, is "how is that any different from a Chinese student’s problems with English?". We wouldn’t expect a non-native English speaker student from a different country to receive extra time to be able to answer their exam questions. So why would the Deaf student receive extra time because their English isn’t too good when the French student isn’t receiving extra time because their English isn’t too good?
So, people, what am I missing? There must be another reason for which the Deaf student should be entitled to extra time in their exams, other than not being comfortable with English. And if that *is* the reason, then how can it be justified to give this Deaf student extra time, but not the foreign student?