The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, has received two grants for research and a new cultural awareness program at its Center on Access Technology.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has awarded the center $100,000 for the first year of a multiyear effort to provide a team of experts to consider the application and adaptation of the ways in which Cisco products can benefit communication access for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The research will provide recommendations related to 911 and 411 telephone response systems, evaluate possible use of avatars to enhance direct communication support for deaf and hard-of-hearing users, and evaluate Cisco TelePresence videoconference technologies for classroom and remote communication.

With RIT/NTID faculty expertise in deafness, access technologies, computers, engineering, software development, and business, and with the collaboration of appropriate individuals at Cisco, the project team anticipates that the results of this research will encourage Cisco to consider the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers in future products.

Additionally, the US-Japan Foundation, based in New York City, awarded NTID $72,000 for the first year of a planned 3-year project for high school students who are deaf from Japan and the United States to enhance and enrich their understanding of the Deaf and hearing cultures of each country. Faculty and students in grades 11 and 12 at Rochester School for the Deaf and Tokyo Metropolitan Chuo School for the Deaf in Tokyo will participate in the project, “SEEDS-International,” which stands for Secondary Educational Enrichment for Deaf Students–International: Sowing the Seeds of Cross-Cultural Understanding.

“Given the growing emphasis on global education and networking, it is crucial that deaf students have opportunities for international education and cultural experiences that better prepare them for life after graduation from high school,” says Nora Shannon, senior project associate at NTID. “Such experiences need to be systematically designed so that the students have access to communication that is taken for granted with those who hear. This kind of educational experience will enrich the education of youngsters who are deaf, enhance their understanding, foster cultural respect, and enhance relations among deaf people in the US and Japan.”

The project, which begins in September, will provide global learning opportunities and cultural awareness for deaf high school students. Delegations of students, faculty, and sign language interpreters from both schools will participate in three videoconferences, local cultural classes, daily journaling, week-long reciprocal school visits, and capstone presentations on their experiences to assemblies at their home schools.

[Source: RIT]