Teaching Students Who Are Deaf

Students who are Deaf are not all alike. The communication used by Deaf students depends on the age of the student when the hearing loss occurred, the educational setting history (residential school or mainstream school), and/or the degree of hearing loss. Some Deaf students are adept at reading lips while others are not; some communicate orally while others use sign language, writing, or a combination of the two.

In the classroom, a Deaf student may rely on sign language interpreters or real-time captioners in order to access the audible portion of your lecture. Deaf students who have some useable hearing may use hearing aids or an assistive listening device such as a cordless lapel micro transmitter (worn by the instructor) that transmits your voice to a receiver (worn by the student) which allows the student to hear what you saying.

Incorporate the following into your instructional methodology when teaching Deaf students:

  • As of Fall 2008, the CSU system has adopted the Accessible Technology Initiative which mandates the following:
    • New courses and new course content, including instructional materials and instructional websites, will be designed and authored in a manner that incorporates accessibility.
    • Existing course content will be made accessible at the point of course redesign or when a student with a disability enrolls in the course.
  • For Deaf students, communication is based on visual acuity which demands full attention to the instructor and service provider (interpreters or a captioner). Loss of visual contact means loss of information. In order to have a clear visual path to you as well as the white board and overhead screen, Deaf students usually sit near the front of class.  From there, they can access the visual information (and clearly see the interpreters, if using that accommodation).
  • Speak directly to the student rather than to the service provider(s) working with the student.
  • If you encounter a student with a hearing aid, don't assume that the student can understand verbal communication. A Deaf student may use a hearing aid in order to amplify environmental sounds for personal safety reasons.  Instead, the Deaf student may use an alternative form of communication access such as interpreting, captioning, note takers, or other assistive listening devices. If the student does not respond to your verbal communication and is not accompanied by a service provider, write a note to the student asking her/his preferred communication method.
  • Students who are Hard of Hearing may have speech or language variations that could affect your understanding of their comments and questions. Do not hesitate to ask the student to repeat the question or comment. Conversely, the student may need to ask you to re-state or re-phrase your questions or comments, if relying on lip-reading. 
  • Expect the Deaf student to participate in the classroom as much or as little as any other student taking your course. 
  • During discussions, the service provider can capture only one voice at a time. In order for the Deaf student to benefit from all of the instructor-student comments, avoid simultaneous dialogue.
  • When writing or pointing to information on the board, overhead projector, etc, number or name your comments and then refer to them by that number or name each time you refer back to them so the Deaf student can match the interpreted or captioned content to that on the board/screen.  Avoid terms like ‘this one', ‘that one', ‘here', ‘there', etc.  Since the interpreter faces the student and can't see the board or screen positioned behind her/him, numbering or naming also enables the interpreter to clearly convey your comments.
  • When reading directly from a text, articulate the page number and paragraph information to allow the Deaf student to quickly locate your source material.  Also, indicate when you digress from the text to interject comments.
  • Deaf students are not able to watch the interpretation while writing their own notes.  Instead, they usually use a note taker.  Assist the Deaf student in recruiting a note taker from the other classmates.
  • When using media (DVDs, video tapes, etc), Deaf students are not able to watch the visual content on the screen while accessing the audio content from either the interpreter or captioner.  In order for the Deaf student to access the visual information as well as the audio information, ensure that your instructional media is equipped with either captions or English subtitles.  Also, ensure that you are able to access the captions or English subtitles on the equipment provided in your classroom.
  • Some Deaf students may have an accommodation for extended time on all tests. If so, the student will provide you with documentation from Accessibility Services' Accessible Testing Coordinator. 
  • The service providers employed by CSUEB are highly-skilled professionals and, as such, adhere to either the National Registry of Interpreters' Code of Professional Conduct (for sign language interpreters) or the National Court Reporters Association Guidelines for Professional Practice (for real-time captioners) which require the service provider to remain neutral and follow the intent of the speaker at all times.  Service providers do not participate in class or advise the Deaf student.
  • Service providers usually sit at the front of the class. Interpreters work in teams of two.  Captioners work alone, in classes lasting 2 hours or less, and in teams of two in classes longer than 2 hours.
  • Since sign language uses a syntax structure unlike that of English, the interpreter is usually a sentence or two behind the speaker.  For that reason, the Deaf student's response to your comment or question will be delayed.  In order to allow the Deaf student the opportunity to participate in class, wait until the interpretation has been completed before calling on students to solicit comments and questions.
  • Print This Page
  • Bookmark and Share