The ultimate goal of treating disabilities is to maintain a normal lifestyle, both independent and unencumbered. Of all the accessible technologies that I have seen, of all the education and rehabilitation programs that I have heard of, it seems like treating hearing loss is the closest to achieving this goal.

I just had the fortune of touring the Depaul School for Hearing and Speech here in Pittsburgh. What an amazing place. Combining assitive technologies (cochlear implants and hearing aids) with rigorous training, the school has  created a program that allows children born with hearing loss (even profound hearing loss) to learn and develop at the same level as children with perfect hearing.

Like the school’s name implies, the focus is on speech therapy eschewing sign language in order to take advantage of a limited developmental window where children learn to differentiate sounds and develop the faculty of speech. Sign language can always be taught later in life, while the ability to enunciate clearly has to be developed early in life.

Amazingly, if the child begins classes early enough, they are very likely to be mainstreamed–that is to attend regular public or private school–by kindergarten or first grade. The combination of Assitive technology and speech therapy is so effective that in many cases, as the child ages, you would;t be able to  tell they have any hearing loss by speaking with them.

Touring the school was deeply inspiring, and it makes me hopeful that we will see similar successes with other disabilities in the near future. I want to thank Lillianfor taking the time to show me around.

School for deaf children reminds us of the promise of accessible technology