What do I do when I have a deaf or hard of hearing student in my class?

October 13, 2015

Because diagnostic information is not listed on the notice of accommodations Student Accessibility Resources sends to instructors, faculty may not always know when a student in their class has a condition affecting hearing. Accommodations for a student who is hard of hearing or deaf might include:

  • Preferential seating
  • Sign Language interpreting
  • Need for Captioned videos or transcripts
  • Permission to audio record lecture
  • Oral tests must be in written format

There are distinct cultural differences between the “deaf culture” and the “hearing culture.” Individuals who identify themselves as “deaf” tend to not view their hearing loss as a “disability” and are usually proficient in American Sign Language. Usually these individuals have been deaf since an early age. Individuals who view themselves as “hard of hearing” tend to use hearing aids or have hear lost for specific sound frequencies, which impacts how they hear words. These individuals are not usually proficient in American Sign Language.

Some common myths about deaf and/or hard of hearing:

  • Can read lips. Not all individuals are able to read lips, however many people can gain context from body language.
  • Knows sign language. Not all individuals are proficient in American Sign Language. Occasionally, an oral interpreter (or transliterator) is used in a classroom for a student who does not know sign language, but may be able to read lips.
  • Is better at written language than oral language. Individuals who have used American Sign Language the majority of their life, tend to have very poor written language and reading skills. ASL is a foreign language and the word order is dramatically different than English.
  • The only accommodation need is related to hearing loss. Individuals can also be diagnosed with learning disabilities, emotional/mental health disorders, etc. similar to the general student body.

How do I accommodate a student who is deaf and/or hard of hearing if they are not identified by SAR?

The easiest way to accommodate a deaf or hard of hearing student is to create a universally designed classroom. One primary way to do this is to provide captioning or transcripts for all videos/audio materials. Faculty wo include universal design features in class design, such as providing captioning and/or transcripts, can help multiple students, including students with hearing loss, processing disorder, and disorders affecting attention.

How do I get assistance with captioning?

  • For assistance with finding captioned videos/materials: Library, 850-474-2048,
  • For assistance with classroom technology: ITS, 850-474-2075
  • For assistance with course development: CUTLA, 850-473-7435,
  • For assistance with closed captioning, video captioning resources, or best practices: ATC 850-474-3291
  • For assistance with a student currently in your course or further information please contact Student Accessibility Resources (SAR), 850-474-2387 or email sar@uwf.edu .

Other resources –


Thanks to Tina Likovetz, Student Accessibility Resources (SAR), for contributing this teaching tip.

10/13/15 ecr