The Value Of SMS Texting To Deaf Youngsters
At Griffith College, Cork, SMS texts are used to advise students of cancelled classes. Texting is a simple and often free method of communication that is available to anyone with a mobile phone. And these users range from young kids given phones by parents just in case of an emergency, to the elderly who may have a phone for the same reason.
Texting is an easy way for schools to contact parents and students if the school is closed due to unforeseen circumstances such as extreme weather. Alerts can be sent for parent-teacher meetings, if a child is sick and needs to go home or if a health issue arises, such as a meningitis outbreak.
In colleges, text alerts can quite often save lives. After the Virginia Tech murders in the US, campuses worldwide looked to install systems to text thousands of students within seconds. While students may not check their emails every day, texts are instant and could save lives in such situations.
Of course it’s not just emergencies that texts are useful for. What about making appointments at the doctor, hairdresser or dentist? Many receptionists will offer a text number on request. And this is one way for deaf teenagers to take responsibility for arranging their own appointments.
Text alerts can save time when it comes to travelling. Dublin Bus offers a service called BusTxt, which sends bus times directly to a user’s phone via SMS. The AA Roadwatch offers a similar service alerting users to delays. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals cannot listen to the radio so this is a logical substitute. Dublin Airport offers text alerts for flight arrival times, while many taxi firms in Ireland offer a “Text a Taxi” option.
What if you are meeting a friend and the bus is late or you have to cancel? You can easily text a friend so they are not waiting and wondering if you are going to show up. Or if you are meeting friends on a night out, everything can be organised by text from deciding the venue, the time and who to invite. If a lift is arranged, the driver can text their passenger from outside instead of beeping the horn or ringing the doorbell.
Kim Schwabe, a supervising teacher at the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind, said text messaging opens a lot of doors for deaf students. “They’re using whatever modes of communication they can,” Schwabe said. “Texting has added another tool in their tool kit.”
For deaf students at mainstream schools and colleges, texting is a great way to keep up with the crowd, share the gossip and find out where the action is.
College services do have to organise, however. A deaf friend recently posted on her Facebook page, “Annoyed…what part of text-only do people not understand?”. Instead of receiving a text, she was called about a cancelled class. Not recognising the number, she had no idea what the call was about and had to check it herself, which was unnecessarily frustrating.
Texting also has a role in the workplace. Notice of meetings can be relayed by text, front-door intercom systems can be bypassed by texting reception from the door, and teams can catch up on work or keep in touch via text.
Mobile phone applications are constantly evolving, but SMS is now the best tool for inclusion, alerts and communication. Until its successor shows up.
(compiled by Miriam Walsh)