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Assistive Devices and Support

2. Assistive Devices and Support

a) FM Systems

FM systems are assistive listening devices used by students who are hard of hearing and who use hearing aids or cochlear implants. The instructor wears a small transmitter with a microphone that clips onto clothing at chest level. The instructor's voice is then transmitted to the student's receiver, which is connected to a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

The FM transmitter is light, easy to wear and makes a critical difference to the student's ability to hear as clearly as possible. It is important to understand, however, that no assistive listening device allows students to hear exactly as they would if they did not have hearing loss. Students may also need to have a clear view of the speaker's mouth to receive information at optimal levels.

The student is responsible for the care and maintenance of the FM device and for giving it to the instructor at the beginning of the class. For assistance in borrowing or using FM systems, contact the Director, Office for Persons with Disabilities (ext. 55140).

b) Note Takers

Students whose disabilities cause them to have difficulty taking notes often benefit from the services of a note taker. Note takers summarize and transcribe spoken information. Computerized note takers summarize spoken information on a notebook computer, where students may view the information on the screen or access the notes in alternate formats. Depending on the skills of the typist and the speaker's rate of speech, the notes can vary from summary information to near-verbatim captions.

Course instructors should remember that many students with disabilities prefer their identity remain confidential, even from the note taker. Course instructors must ensure that note takers are used in class in a way that preserves student anonymity and maintains confidentiality.

Students enrolled in the same classes as the student with a disability may serve as note takers on a volunteer basis or note takers may be arranged through the Office for Persons with Disabilities (ext. 55140).

c) Real-Time Captioners

Real-time captioners create and transmit verbatim captions of spoken information using specialized computer-aided equipment to convert their notations into text form, which is then displayed in real time. Real-time captioners generally sit beside the student with a disability and/or at the front of the class so that they can clearly hear the instructor and see all visual aids. Everything that they hear is transcribed (e.g., lectures, videotapes, student questions/comments, presentations, group activities).

With sufficient notification, real-time captioners may be arranged through the Office for Persons with Disabilities (ext. 55140).

d) Sign Language and Oral Language Interpreters

Sign language and oral language interpreters facilitate communication between persons who are deaf and persons who are hearing. Interpreters are responsible for conveying information; they do not participate in the dialogue as contributing members of the communication.

Interpreters adhere to a code of ethics, which includes a tenet of confidentiality. They may not divulge information about the student (e.g. progress, attendance, or other information) to anyone.

Sign language interpreters translate spoken English into sign language, and translate sign language into spoken English. In educational settings, they work together in teams of two, alternating at specific time intervals. Since interpreting is both mentally and physically strenuous, regular breaks are important for interpreters. This is to ensure that the interpreters can continue to be effective for the duration of the class and to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.

Oral interpreters use non‑vocalized lip movements, gestures and body language to convey spoken English to students whose preferred communication is oral English. This process supports students who rely on speechreading in settings where it is difficult to follow the communication exchange through speech alone.

To arrange for sign language or oral interpreters, and to further understand how to effectively use their services in the classroom, contact the Office for Persons with Disabilities (ext. 55140).

e) Audio and Video Recording

Recording is available in most York classrooms through the Instructional Technology Centre. Faculty can set this up through the classroom equipment order (CEO) online system, usually by a departmental secretary with budget authority. There are chargeback costs for equipment, audio or video recording media, and optionally for a staff operator. Recording outside of York classrooms in a noise suppressed audio booth or mini video studio can be facilitated through the CNS Faculty Support Centre. Simple recording projects can be done in a self-serve manner where the only cost is for the recording medium. Booking early is recommended and it is important to allow time to be trained on the equipment. Multimedia staff in the CNS Faculty Support Centre can play a consulting role to explore various audio/video recording and delivery options available at York.

To explore audio/video recording and delivery options, contact the CNS Faculty Support Centre (1050 TEL, ext. 40233,,

f) Adaptive Hardware and Software

At York, there are two adaptive technology computer labs for students with disabilities; at Glendon there is one. These labs offer a variety of adaptive technology software, such as text-to-speech (e.g., Kurzweil with scanners), speech-to-text (e.g., Dragon Naturally Speaking), screen enlargers (e.g., ZoomText), brainstorming tools (e.g., Inspiration), and voice output (e.g., JAWS). In addition, software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and Internet Explorer are also available.

The locations of the Keele Campus adaptive technology labs are as follows:

  • Adaptive Equipment Facilities, Accessibility Services, located in Room 134 Scott Library (ext. 88877)

  • Vanier Adaptive Technology Lab, located at 028 Vanier College (ext. 55338)

At Glendon, the adaptive technology lab is located in Glendon Hall, right beside the Counselling Centre which is room E 103. You can only access the lab through the Counselling Centre (416-487-6709, ext. 66709).

g) Specialized Furniture and Equipment

York is committed to working towards ensuring that its facilities are as accessible as possible to persons with disabilities (see the University Policy on Physical Accessibility of University Facilities. If you notice that a student requires adaptive furniture, please encourage the student to contact counsellors at the Office for Persons with Disabilities (N108 Ross, ext. 55140,, who will make the appropriate referral.


Updated on October 26th, 2012.