What is deafness/ hearing impairment?
Approximately 7 percent of Americans experience some loss of hearing
which affects their ability to hear both speech and environmental
sounds. An individual may be born deaf, become deaf later in life or
experience hearing loss as a temporary disability due to a medical
condition or injury.
Do all deaf or hard of hearing individuals have the same hearing loss?
There are varying degrees of deafness and hearing loss, with a small
number of individuals hearing nothing at all and many others retaining
How do deaf people communicate?
Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals communicate with one another and
with hearing people through visual means instead of or in addition to
speech, such as writing, and sign languages such as Signed English,
American Sign Language (ASL) and finger spelling. Some deaf or
hard-of-hearing people may understand lip-reading, but it takes a lot
of practice to become accustomed to particular accents and lip-reading
is dependent on having a clear view of someone's face.
What is the role of SDS in providing accommodations?
SDS works with hard-of-hearing and deaf students on a case-by-case
basis to ensure they receive all reasonable accommodations necessary.
Each student will have their own abilities, strategies and skills and
because of this, they are encouraged to remain in close contact with
our office. In cases where the student desires to work with
interpreters and note-takers, SDS arranges these services.
What should I take into consideration when teaching a deaf student, or someone who is hard-of-hearing?
Each student is different and there is a wide variety of
accommodations that may need to be arranged, including sign language
interpreting and note-taking services.
How do sign language interpreters work in class with a deaf student?
Many deaf and hard-of-hearing students will utilize sign language
interpreting services in the classroom. Sign language interpreters are
professionals who can work as free-lancers or be employed by an agency.
Because interpreting is mentally and physically demanding, interpreters
often prefer to work in pairs, with one actively interpreting while the
Depending on the course content, the interpreters may request materials
from you in advance so they may prepare for upcoming classes. For
example, in a class where there is a large amount of new terminology
and vocabulary and readings, like a literature class, it would be
beneficial to provide as much of this information to the interpreters
Should I speak to the interpreter or directly to the student?
When speaking, address the student rather than the interpreter and
keep in mind that the student will need to be able to see the
interpreter and the interpreter will need to be able to hear what you
are saying. Additionally, a student who utilizes an interpreter will
not be able to take notes while they are looking at the interpreter.
Therefore, they will either utilize the services of a note-taker or
photocopy the notes of another student in the class.
Is there technology available to assist deaf and hard of hearing students?
Some students may sit at the front of the class in order to hear the
lecture, while others may use an amplification system or
radio-microphone that is directly connected to a hearing aid.
Transcription services are also available to deaf and hard-of-hearing
students but would most likely be utilized by a student who has
recently or temporarily lost their hearing and is therefore not fluent
in sign language.
Some schools that have more extensive programs for deaf students
offer real time speech to text transcription services by utilizing
voice recognition software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking. Depending
on the needs of a student, a specially trained captionist will use a
voice recognition program to create a real time transcription of the
class, much the way a court stenographer transcribes courtroom
proceedings. However, instead of typing, the captionist dictates into a
special "mask microphone" that muffles the voice to minimize any
distraction to the class.
What should I do if a deaf student in my class does not have an interpreter?
First off, we must consider if the student actually needs an
interpreter or not. It could be incorrect to assume that just because a
student has hearing loss that s/he needs an interpreter. This is
something that SDS can determine by meeting with the student. If you
believe a student in your class would benefit from having an
interpreter, refer them to SDS.
If this is a student who usually comes to class with an interpreter,
but does not have one, contact SDS to find out if there is a problem
with the interpreting assignment for that student. Typically, SDS will
contact a student in advance if there is a problem with interpreting
services and work to correct the situation. SDS makes all interpreting
arrangements for deaf and hard of hearing students.
Should I make arrangements for an interpreter if I have to meet with a deaf student privately during office hours?
The student should know if s/he will require an interpreter for such
a meeting and thus be in contact with SDS to request interpreting
services. It is not the instructor's responsibility to make this
request, but a reminder to the student wouldn't hurt.
Is there anything special I need to do for deaf students if I am showing a movie in class?
If you intend to show movies in your class, it would be a good idea to
get copies that have closed captioning. This way, if you do have any
deaf students in your class, you can simply turn on cc and the student
will be able to read the transcription from the screen.
If the film you are showing does not have cc, an interpreter might
be able to interpret if given information about the film in advance.
Interpreting a film on the fly is very difficult.
Do I need to do anything special if I am showing a PowerPoint presentation or using overhead slides?
Most instructors will dim the lights in the classroom when they are
showing a slides or a PowerPoint presentation so students can better
see the screen. However, a dark room can make it difficult for deaf
students to see their interpreters. Try to keep some light on around
the interpreter or use a small lamp to illuminate where the interpreter
is sitting. This will ensure that the deaf student can properly see
what the interpreter is signing, while not compromising the ability of
other students to see the presentation.
It is also helpful for interpreters if they have copies of the
material that you will be showing in advance so they can prepare and be
able to more effectively interpret for their students. It is very
challenging for interpreters to work on the fly with no preparation
The office of Student Disability Services is available to answer any
questions you may have about deafness and hearing impairments, how to
work with dead and hard of hearing students, or any other issues that