Hearing-impaired get help to study for psychometric exam

New sign language course aims to help hearing-impaired gain a place at one of the country’s institutes of higher learning.

A study course for the psychometric pre-university exam in sign language, aimed at enabling students who are hard of hearing or deaf to gain a place at one of the country’s institutes of higher learning, will be launched this coming January, it was announced Monday.
With full subsidies from the National Insurance Institute (NII), the course – the first of its kind – will be run countrywide by Student, the Center for Psychometric Studies, an associate organization of the Tel Aviv Union of Students.
The classes will be specially tailored to the hard of hearing and the deaf, with transcription and teachers who speak sign language.
However, even though the sign language psychometric course will give deaf students the tools they need for the compulsory exam, the organization says this is only half the battle. Its overall goal is to make universities modify the exam so it is sensitive to the special needs of people with hearing impairments.
“Most people do not understand the special difficulties that psychometric tests pose to people who are hard of hearing,” explained Amit Benjamin, director of Student.
“On one level, a written examination should not be too difficult for someone with a hearing impairment; however, it is the actual exam that is a serious obstacle.”
According to the organization, even though many hearing-impaired students are highly intelligent, they end up failing the exam or scoring poorly because it tests the nuances of the Hebrew language and other concepts that those who speak sign language would not know about.
“For the deaf, their native language is sign language,” Benjamin said. “[In sign language] there is no concept of synonyms or verbs, and these are all elements that are a substantial part of the psychometric exam.”
Benjamin said the course was not only about learning in sign language how to pass the psychometric, but would also focus on tackling the difficulties faced by the hearing-impaired.
“It will help them to overcome the problems they experience in understanding the language of the exam,” he said, adding that “this is an important step forward in enabling the hearing-impaired to access higher education, but the real solution is that the National Institute for Testing and Evaluation must ease up on the psychometric test for people with hearing disabilities.”
According to Benjamin, “it is absurd that during the bagrut [high school matriculation exam], people with hearing impairments are given extra time and interpreters, but in the psychometric, [which] requires verbal skills and is built on the basis of language, there is one group of people that is excluded, and they are only given a little bit of additional time to complete the test.”
Many people with hearing impairments end up being locked out of higher education and subsequently cannot find work even in higher-paying fields that do not require verbal skills, such as computers. Instead people who are hard of hearing are forced to take low-paying jobs or claim state benefits.
The organization said that the NII had been very quick to support the course “because they realized that it would be beneficial for everyone in the long term.”
The Union of Students said it would now fight even harder to make sure the university entrance exam took the barriers faced by hard-of-hearing students into consideration.