Meghana Ganapathiraju, a sophomore computer science and biology double major, started a research project this semester studying deaf literacy issues within the deaf and hard of hearing community on campus.
She is working alongside Gary Bishop, a professor in the computer science department, to create technological tools and resources for deaf students to use in classes and with schoolwork.
According to the National Association for the Deaf, public colleges and universities are currently required to provide qualified interpreters, real-time captioning, assistive listening devices and other auxiliary aids and services. This is to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing individuals receive effective communication and are able to participate equally and effectively in college programs.
But Ganapathiraju said there is still a break in communication with deaf students in the classroom.
While volunteering at a deaf school in India over the summer, she noticed there were not enough resources for deaf students in learning other languages and translating sign languages to other languages.
“A lot of the problems that they face is because of lack of communication, so I wanted to see how could technology help this," she said.
Ganapathiraju said she thought a technological tool would be the best way to fix this. She met with Bishop at the beginning of the semester to pitch the idea to him.
Bishop said he has worked on multiple projects with the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at UNC in the past, including Tar Heel Reader — a literacy website — and Tar Heel Gameplay — a game site for children with disabilities.
He said he was super impressed with Ganapathiraju and her ideas for this research study.