Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

deafObviously, the major challenge facing the deaf student is communication. Deaf/hard of hearing students may utilize a variety of communication methods. Faculty are encouraged to develop some familiarity with these various methods in order to better interact with deaf/hard of hearing students.

Speech reading (lip reading) is one method of communication. At best, a deaf person can read only 30 to 40 percent of the sounds of spoken English by watching the speaker’s lips.  Facial expression and gestures add somewhat to the level of comprehension. If you have a student who lip reads, you should

  • Make sure that the student has a clear view of your face when you are talking.
  • Speak more slowly, but do not exaggerate your speech.
  • Be prepared to repeat your communication using different words that might be easier to recognize.

Manual communication (sign language or finger spelling) is another method of communication. In sign language, thoughts are expressed through a combination of hand and arm movements, positions, gestures, and facial expressions. Sign language has its own unique grammatical structure and syntax and is not, in most cases, a word-for-word translation of English. Finger spelling is usually used in sign language, but can be used alone. Finger spelling consists of various finger and hand positions for each of the letters of the alphabet. 

Deaf persons whose primary language is sign language may not have mastered the extensive vocabulary and grammatical subtleties of English – their “second language.” As a result, you may find non-standard English usage in their written expression and reading comprehension. It is appropriate when grading the written work of deaf students to focus more on content rather than grammatical usage and syntax. For this same reason, it may be necessary to clarify, rephrase or reformat written test questions.

Many deaf students can, and do, speak. Because deaf people cannot automatically control the tone and volume of their speech, the speech may be initially difficult to understand until one becomes more familiar with the deaf person’s speech.

Deaf students will also communicate in writing when other methods cannot be used effectively. You should not hesitate to write notes when necessary to communicate with a deaf student.

Deaf students may use the telephone through a TDD, a device which allows text communication over standard telephone lines. TDD’s are available for faculty to borrow from Student Disability Services. A deaf student may also use the Georgia Relay Servicewhich relays telephone calls between a person who uses a TDD and any other telephone. The Relay Service operators are trained to communicate accurately and quickly while maintaining strictest confidentiality.

When you use the Relay Service, remember these points:

  • You should talk as though you are talking to the person on the other end, not to the operator.
  • Speak slowly -- the operator must type everything you say.
  • When you are ready for the other person to respond, say "Go Ahead."
  • The operator will read back to you what the other person types after they have finished typing.
  • You must wait until the other person says "Go Ahead" before you can speak again.

Sign Language Interpreters 
For students whose primary method of communication is sign language, a sign language interpreter will attend class to facilitate communication between the student, the instructor and the rest of the class. The interpreter should be located close to the teacher and facing the deaf student so that the student can see the interpreter and the speaker at the same time. When you and the student are talking directly to each other, the interpreter will stand beside you and face the student. You should talk directly to the student, not to the interpreter. The interpreter will sign what you say orally, and repeat orally to you what the student signs. Interpreters work under a strict code of ethics and are not permitted to share information about the deaf student. Any questions should be directed to the student or to the Student Disability Services office.


It is extremely difficult to write notes and watch an interpreter or lip read simultaneously. To insure that the student has access to accurate and complete notes, it is recommended that the student have two notetakers. Following is an announcement to assist you in identifying note takers in the class. The Student Disability Services office will provide notetaking paper to facilitate the notetaking process. It is also helpful if you can provide a copy of lecture notes and overheads to the deaf student.

Closed Captioning

When the syllabus includes the use of videotapes, it is necessary to provide closed captioning or a transcript of the text. The University has closed caption decoders available to borrow for class. Videotapes can be close captioned by a professional service, provided the tapes can be available two months in advance. The Student Disability Services office will transcribe the text of videotapes if a printed text is not available from the source.

Student Disability Services does not expect you to change course guidelines or standards.  The purpose of accommodations is to ensure equal educational opportunity. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call Student Disability Services. 


“I have been asked to identify two volunteer notetakers in this class. The notetakers will be provided with notetaking paper to facilitate the process. This special paper provides a copy for the notetaker to keep and a copy to share. Your notes will not reflect on your grade in this course, but I may review the notes for accuracy before sharing them with others. Please see me immediately after class if you are willing to serve as a notetaker this semester.”