Small-Group Clinics as Follow-Up to Workshop on PwDs and Access to Education

Following the 17th September 2019 workshop with Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), we ran two design clinics on October 1st and 2nd at Sunway Clio Hotel. The first group included blind participants whereas the second group included the deaf. Both clinics put the participants through their paces by combining futurology methods with fast prototyping approaches. Further, the participants were asked to consider the social impact (and consequence) of their proposed prototypes.

The October 1 clinic centred on training teachers in the implementation of creative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education. A subsidiary of this project is a proposal for developing a master creative lesson plan. Much of the clinic time was spent considering the present probable and plausible (and some possible) scenarios relating to current policy implementations and existing policy possibilities.

The participants found that the lack of diversity in the teaching body and insufficient teacher preparation had led to the systematic exclusion of sensory-disabled students from STEM subjects at the school level, despite policies that suggest otherwise. They were interested in the realization of universal design in science education that could allow for a more inclusive approach to the teaching of STEM at all levels. The group of that there has not been much work done on STEM education and the disabled in the Malaysian context.

The clinic on October 2 focuses on education for the deaf. A key issue is a national policy of using of Kod Tangan Bahasa Malaysia (KTBM) instead of Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM) in schools. BIM is a unique language developed by the Malaysian deaf community and is well-suited to their communication needs whereas KTBM is a code (not a language) that signifies Bahasa Malaysia. While KTBM was intended to help deaf students learn Bahasa Malaysia grammar, the deaf community finds it laborious to use, unintuitive, and less effective at communicating meaning than BIM—making KTBM an obstacle to teaching and learning.

Much of the clinic time was spent on helping hearing participants understand the differences between BIM and KTBM and the experience of their deaf counterparts in using the language and the code. The group continued to explore a process for transitioning to BIM, the needs of deaf students who have additional sensory or learning disabilities, and the integration of hearing and deaf students (including exposing hearing students to BIM from primary school).

The participants of both clinics have since taken their respective prototype proposals online as they continue to collaborate, where they will not merely be working with each other, but are reaching out to other stakeholders and experts with similar interests. Besides the original participants who continued from the September 17th workshop, we have additional participants, from both academia and Ministries, who were intentionally brought in to lend perspectives that would contribute to a deepened consideration and refinement of the proposals.

Watch this space for future reveals.