Students who are deaf or hard of hearing are unique, both personally and academically. An inability to hear, does not equate to an inability to think, study, participate, or succeed. A student who communicates through an interpreter and does not use their voice can participate in class discussion or answer questions. A student who speech reads may ask you to repeat information because a particular phrase looks like another phrase on the lips and needs clarification.
Sight, more than hearing, is an important factor in communicating with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The student who relies on speech reading needs to be able to see the speaker’s face in order to maintain comprehension. The student who relies on a sign language interpreter needs to be able to see the interpreter as well as the speaker. Therefore, when vision is blocked, communication is blocked.
Most students who are deaf or hard of hearing prefer to sit as close to the front of the classroom as possible in order to clearly see the instructor’s face. Additionally, those students with residual hearing also prefer close proximity to the front of the class in order to hear your voice as well as see your mouth movements.
Lighting is another aspect to consider when conducting class. If you turn out the lights in order to show overheads it may be difficult for a student be able to see your face clearly, or to be able to see an interpreter during these times. The student will inform you if the lighting is not adequate for them. Please consider this when preparing preparing presentations or exercises involving darkness.
PowerPoints, Notes, Transparencies, and Handouts
Allow time for the student who is deaf or hard of hearing to read over any overheads or handouts presented in class before discussing the material. It is virtually impossible for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing to look at a transparency or handout while simultaneously “watching” the lecture. One way to accomplish this objective is to begin the distribution of materials with the student who is deaf or hard of hearing. This moment of silence will allow the student the chance to review the material before receiving additional information from you.
Because students who are deaf or hard of hearing rely heavily on visual cues for communication in the classroom, it can be difficult for them to take notes. Any time a student looks down at their paper, they miss that part of the lecture. It is important that these students locate a volunteer in the class to provide copies of notes. They may ask for your assistance in doing so. The ODS provides special paper that allows duplicate notes to be made without additional burden.
Communication via Phone
With today’s technology, it is possible for individuals who are profoundly deaf to have telephone conversations. If you are accustomed to keeping in contact with your students by phone, you will be able to do so with a student who is deaf or hard of hearing.
Many people who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate on the phone through a Relay Service. Relay Texas is a service which provides telephone access for people with speech or hearing loss. Relay Texas acts as an interpreter between a person with a hearing loss and the person calling. The student will inform you if he/she uses a Texas Relay and how to contact them.
For many students who are deaf, English is not their first language; therefore, language acquisition may be affected. For some, it is their second language, (sign being first). Other students may not perceive word endings and subtle differences in pronunciation. For this reason, you may notice a deficit in grammar and spelling. Feel free to refer these students to the Writing Lab or the ODS for further accommodation assistance.
Quick Guide to Working with Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- Each individual who is deaf or hard of hearing is unique.
- Lack of, or inability, to hear does not equate to lack of intelligence.
- English is a difficult language to read on the lips.
- Not all persons who are deaf use sign language.
- Not all persons who are deaf read lips.
- Sign language is not “English on the hands,” it has its own unique grammar and syntax.
- Even persons who are mildly hard of hearing rely on speech reading to some extent.
- Speak at your normal rate and volume, but use clear enunciation.
- Some students who are deaf or hard of hearing benefit from hearing aids, others do not.
- Visual cues, overheads, and outlines can greatly add to comprehension.
- A student who is deaf or hard of hearing can participate fully in class.
- Students who are deaf or hard of hearing are just like every other student, in that they can study and do well in your class, or not.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding interpreting services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing at Texas State University, please contact the ODS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator.