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Deaf or Hearing-Impaired

  • Common Characteristics
  • Challenges
  • Possible Accommodations
  • Note

    Common Characteristics
    Often the deaf student is shy and a loner because of communication problems with others. Vocabulary is usually small, and speech is often affected. Some deaf people cannot automatically control the tone and volume of their speech, so the speech may be initially difficult to understand. Understanding improves as one becomes more familiar with the deaf person's speech.

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    The major problem facing the deaf student is communication. Lip reading is a partial solution. At best, a deaf person can read only 30-40% of the sounds of spoken English by watching the speaker's lips. Many hearing impaired persons use American Sign Language or "manual" communication. In sigh language, thoughts are expressed through a combination of hand and arm movements, positions and gestures. Fingerspelling is usually used in sign language. Deaf students will also communicate in writing.

    Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD) are available that allow deaf people to use the telephone. These devices provide visual communication rather than amplifying or modifying auditory transmission. Amplifying Telephone Receivers are also available for the hard-of-hearing students.

    Deaf students, just like hearing students, vary to some degree in their communication skills. Factors such as personality, intelligence, degree of deafness, residual hearing, age of onset and family environment all affect the kind of communication the student uses. As a result of these and other variables, a deaf student may use a number of the communication modes discussed above.

    The main form of communication within the deaf community is sign language. In view of this, many deaf persons have not mastered the grammatical subtleties of their "second language" - English. For instance, in sign language the verb "to be" is never used. This does not mean that faculty members should overlook errors in written (or spoken) work. However, they should know that this difficulty with English is not related to intelligence but is similar to that experienced by students whose native language is not English.

    In the classroom, most deaf students will use an interpreter. The presence of an interpreter in the classroom enables the deaf student to understand what is being said. There is a time lag between the spoken word and the interpretation, which varies according to the situation. This is why a hearing impaired student's contribution to the lecture or discussion may be slightly delayed. Interpretation is easiest in lecture classes and more difficult in seminar or discussion classes. Because class formats are so varied, it is recommended that the faculty member, interpreter and student arrange a conference early in the course to discuss any special arrangements that may be needed. The interpreter and deaf student usually choose to sit in the front of the classroom. The interpreter is aware that sign language may be a distraction to the class and the professor and realizes that the initial curiosity of the class wanes and the professor adapts easily to the interpreter's presence. Interpreters who are certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf subscribe to a strict code of ethics that requires confidentiality of private communications and honesty in interpretation or translation.

    Deaf students usually have someone take notes for them because it is difficult to follow an interpreter or lip read the instructor and take notes at the same time. It is best if a classmate who takes good notes can be found. The Center for Disability Services has carbon-less copy paper, which can be used for this purpose. Most deaf students are able to take examinations and be evaluated in the same way as other students. The student who is hearing-impaired may require nothing more than some form of amplification to participate in class - a hearing aid, public address system or a professor/student transmitter/receiver unit.

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    Possible Accommodations

    1. The use of visual media may be helpful to deaf students since slides and videotaped materials supplement and reinforce what is being said.

    2. Captioned visual aids such as Captioned Films for the Deaf are extremely helpful.

    3. When new materials will be covered, which involve technical terminology not in common usage, if possible, supply a list in advance. Unfamiliar words are difficult to lip read or interpret, especially jargon words peculiar to most disciplines. Many times these are spelled out which slows translation.

    4. Avoid speaking with your back to the deaf person such as when writing on the chalkboard.

    5. When particularly important information is being covered, be sure to convey it very clearly. Notices of class cancellations, assignments, etc. can be put in writing or on a chalkboard to insure understanding.

    6. Establish a system for getting messages to the deaf student when necessary. Class cancellations can be particularly costly if an interpreter is not informed, in advance, of such changes.

    7. Do not give oral quizzes. Write questions on paper or a chalkboard.

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    When speaking to deaf or hearing-impaired students:

    1. Look at the person when you speak.

    2. Do not smoke, chew gum or otherwise block the area around your mouth with your hands or other objects.

    3. Speak naturally and clearly. Do not exaggerate lip movements or volume.

    4. Try to avoid standing in front of windows or other sources of light. The glare from behind you makes it difficult to read lips and other facial expressions.

    5. Use facial expressions, gestures and other body language, which is helpful in conveying your message.

    6. If you are talking through the assistance of an interpreter, direct your conversation to the deaf individual. This is more courteous and allows the deaf person the option of viewing both you and the interpreter to more fully follow the flow of conversation.

    7. When other people speak who may be out of the deaf or hard of hearing person's range of vision, repeat the question or comment, and indicate who is speaking (by motioning) so the individual can follow the discussion.

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  • Contact CDS Updated 03/11/02