Communicating With Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students in the Classroom

Deaf/Hard of Hearing (HOH) students depend primarily on visual clues to receive the spoken word. Many will use sign language interpreters and real-time captioning (RTC) in the classroom and others will rely solely on speechreading. This Disability Services (DS) Info Sheet was developed to aid the instructor in providing a classroom environment conducive to learning for Deaf/HOH students.

Arranging the Classroom

  • Permit the interpreter to sit or stand on one side of you, so the student can maintain eye contact with both you and the interpreter.
  • Permit the student to sit where he/she can see the interpreter or real-time captioning monitor.
  • In the event the interpreter or the real-time captionist is late or doesn’t show up, let the student know you will be starting the lecture on time. A back-up plan may be needed to ensure the student has access to all lecture information. Some suggested ways of providing information to the student is to audio-record the lecture and provide a transcript to student, ensure the student’s notetaker is in class and is providing notes to the student or provide student with a copy of the powerpoint or a copy of the lecture outline. If Tegrity is available, record the lecture and it can be captioned for the student. (In most cases, a notetaker has already been coordinated and will be providing notes to the student.)
  • If the student does not attend, the interpreter will stay up to 15 minutes before leaving.
  • Avoid standing in front of windows or other light sources that create glare, making it difficult to read your lips and facial expressions.
  • Avoid pacing around the room; it is difficult for the student to see your face.

Using Visual Aids

  • Pause while demonstrating, so the student can watch what you are doing without missing your explanation.
  • Do not lecture while facing the whiteboard/chalkboard or overhead screen.
  • Make sure your face and the interpreter are illuminated if lecturing in a darkened room, i.e. during a video or power point presentation.
  • All DVD’s or videos (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo, etc) must be captioned. Contact Disability Services for assistance with captioning needs.
  • If real-time captionists are used, they will not provide in-class captioning for videos.
  • When pointing out information on the board or overhead and during labs, give the student time to find it before beginning your explanation.
  • Write important information (like an assignment or change in schedule) on the whiteboard or chalkboard.
  • If audio materials are being used in class, all information from the audio must be transcribed and the transcription should be given to the student at the time the audio is used.

Managing Class Discussion

  • When another student speaks and is not in the Deaf/HOH student's direct line of vision, repeat the comment or question and point or motion to show who is speaking.
  • If a student uses an interpreter to voice for her/him, questions will be answered by the student in sign language and voiced by the interpreter.
  • Respond directly to the student, not to the interpreter.
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