Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Accessibility Guide
Considerations to keep in mind when interacting with people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing:
- Keep in mind that all deaf/hard-of-hearing people do not communicate in the same way (e.g., speaking, lip-reading, American Sign Language, cued language, writing/typing, etc.)
- Be patient if you are asked to repeat something that has already been said.
- Unless you are specifically asked to, do not dramatically slow down your speech or raise your voice.
- Try to avoid turning your head away or covering your mouth while speaking.
- In group settings, try to avoid talking over one another.
- You may need to use alternative methods (rather than calling out their name) to get a deaf/hard-of-hearing person’s attention, such as respectfully waving your hand in their line of sight, gently tapping them on the shoulder, flickering the lights, etc. Best practice is to ask that person what their preference is.
Service Provider considerations
- Always directly address the deaf/hard-of-hearing person instead of their service provider (ASL interpreter, cued language transliterator, etc.)
- Speak at a natural pace. If you are a naturally fast talker, try not to talk so fast that the service provider can’t keep up.
- Service providers are bound by confidentiality, so try not to alter your behavior or conversation if a service provider is present.
Assistive Technology Considerations
- Some students may use an FM or DM system. In this case, you will be asked to wear a small device around your neck or clipped to your shirt that feeds audio directly into the user’s headphones, hearing aids, or cochlear implants. Your voice will not be amplified to anyone but the FM/DM user.
- If multiple people are speaking throughout class or an event, be sure to pass the FM or DM microphone around to whomever is currently speaking.
- Try not to draw extra attention to the student or their assistive technology accommodation.
- All videos shown in class or assigned outside of class need to have closed captioning available. Please note: automated captions are by-and-large insufficient for accessibility purposes due to frequent errors.
- A transcript must be available for any audio recordings played in class or assigned outside of class.
- Try to avoid speaking to a class with your back turned to them.
- Appropriate seating is important; the student should be close enough to clearly see the instructor’s face.
- Try to avoid standing directly in front of a bright light (a window, projector screen, etc.) so that your face can be seen clearly and the viewer doesn’t have to strain their eyes.
- Important verbal announcements should also be made available in writing.
- Repeat back all student questions before answering them.
- When referencing or describing visual elements, try to be specific (e.g., avoid using terms like “this” and “that”) and try to incorporate brief pauses after referencing specific visual elements. This way, the student can access all of the information as they shift their attention between the visual element and their point of access to the spoken commentary (lip-reading, a service provider, etc.).
- Students with disabilities should be allowed the same anonymity as other students in the classroom. When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask them as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
- Rather than a fully auditory approach, incorporate visuals while teaching, holding meetings, and in other encounters. Write out important points on the board throughout a lecture, and/or provide a handout beforehand with those important points.