The academic challenges facing deaf students at Durban University of Technology.
This study will take the form of a case study of a group of Deaf Information Technology (IT) students and their Sign Language interpreters at Durban University of Technology (DUT). These students are enrolled under a Programme for the Deaf run by the Information Technology Department. The department provides additional assistance in the form of Sign Language interpreters who attend all their lectures and also provide extra tutorials for them. The aim of the research is to identify the main challenges encountered by this group of students at DUT. I first became aware of the existence of these students while engaged in an action research project at the beginning of 2005 and realised that this was an area that needed further study. There is a lack of research on Deaf students in tertiary institutions in South Africa and there are not many tertiary institutions which enrol Deaf students and provide them with a Sign Language interpreter. I realised that this was an area which needed to be researched and that the resulting findings could make a difference to the lives of Deaf students at DUT by identifying the main problems and perhaps suggesting ways in which these could be addressed. Group interviews with the Deaf participants were conducted with the assistance of a Sign Language interpreter in order to explore their challenges. Further interviews were conducted with the interpreters who were interviewed individually. The study was limited to Deaf students enrolled under the undergraduate Programme for the Deaf at DUT and, as a result, might not reflect challenges faced by any other deaf students at DUT or other tertiary institutions. The findings identified, amongst others, problems such as poor literacy levels of the Deaf students and lack of communication between the Deaf students and hearing staff and students on campus among other problems. The Deaf students felt marginalised and largely ignored on campus. There was very little awareness of Deafness among hearing students and staff at DUT. Some possible solutions to these problems were suggested such as including deaf awareness in the orientation of hearing staff and students.