Community College of Rhode Island

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Sensory Disabilities

Hearing Disabilities

How hearing loss may affect student participation:

With appropriate auditory aids, deaf and hard of hearing students can be as effective and capable as their hearing peers.

In cases where a student is using an interpreter, there may be a 1-2 second (translating) delay in receiving the message; as a result, student responses may appear delayed.

If students were pre-lingually deaf or hearing impaired, the syntax of spoken or written language may be different from that of peers. There may be little or no effect or the effect may be significant. Deaf students often consider ASL (American Sign Language) their native language.

Students may appear to use the visual channel heavily; students may do little or no writing during a lecture which is received visually.

A student who is deaf or hard of hearing may have reduced auditory feedback when speaking so that speech may be different from that of peers. There is great individual variation: there may be little or no effect or speech may be clearly impacted.

Helpful strategies for instructing students who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing:

  • Assume that the student has adequate social skills and can be as effective and confident as his/her peers.
  • Whenever possible, allow the student to see your face and gestures during the lecture. Anything said while facing away from the student may be lost.
  • Try to avoid lecturing in front of bright windows as they tend to be a distraction to visual communication.
  • Use of visual aids during the lecture is very important. (provide a few seconds for the class to look over visual material before you begin to lecture)
  • Include hearing impaired students in classroom discussion by repeating questions from other students, particularly if you are using a FM system.
  • Avoid placing obstructions in front of your mouth (e.g., hands, notes) when speaking with a student who is hearing impaired or deaf.
  • Never hesitate to ask students to repeat themselves if you are having difficulty understanding their speech. In some instances, you may even request that they write their comments down to facilitate a clear understanding.
  • During group conversations or seminar classes, all participants should raise hands and be called on to speak. In this way, the student with the hearing loss can identify the speaker in order to focus their speech reading and listening.
  • Speak directly to the student in a normal voice, look at the student when you speak, and enunciate clearly. Do not speak loudly or over-enunciate.
  • When using an interpreter, it is helpful to speak at a normal rate (about 120 words per minute); very rapid speech can be difficult to interpret.
  • When using an interpreter, speak directly to the class or student. The student will watch the interpreter while you speak. If the student asks a question (directly or through the interpreter), it is helpful to respond directly to the student or class, as though the interpreter were not present. If the student signs a response, the interpreter can “voice the translation to the class or instructor”
  • Deaf students should always be provided with copies of lecture notes. They cannot attend to the lecture and look down to scribe notes without missing the visual interpretation of the lecture. Note are essential to the success of Deaf students in your class.

Important : Check in with the deaf or hard of hearing student to be sure they have important details for assignments clear in their notes. These are often details which go unnoticed by note-takers.

If you are unsure of the students' needs, feel free to ask them about their particular needs for participation. This should be a private discussion.


Visual Disabilities

How Visual Disabilities may affect student participation:

  • With the use of adaptive technology and supports, students with visual disabilities can be as capable and efficient as their peers who rely on sight.
  • There may be a time delay in obtaining electronic textbooks.
  • The student may take more time to read in-class handouts and may need adaptive equipment.
  • The student may attend class accompanied by a service animal.
  • The student may not be able to make use of PowerPoint slides or white boards, thus requiring an accommodation.
  • The student should be able to do written in-class exercises if the material provided is in accessible format.
  • The student may need to view the work closely in order to read handouts. Large print may be required.
  • The student may rely on audio versions of all print material or handouts; or the student may need to access assistive technology.

Helpful strategies for instructing students with Visual Disabilities:

  • Assume that the student has adequate social skills and rapport building techniques that will enable the student to be as effective, confident and competent as his or her peers.
  • Try to limit external and internal noise by closing doors and/or windows.
  • Oral reading is encouraged over silent reading.
  • While using PowerPoint, overheads, or a writing board, verbally describe what is being presented and provide students with a hard copy. Also, consider using colored markers on a clean chalkboard for increased contrast.
  • Try to include the student in class discussions. A suggestion is for students to raise hands and be recognized by name.
  • When calling on the student with visual impairment, always use the student's name.
  • Seating toward the front of the classroom is recommended.
  • Try to avoid lecturing in front of bright windows as it tends to be distracting.
  • Provide reading lists as soon as possible.
  • In office situations it may be appropriate to describe the position of chairs/doorways to help orient the student.

From students with vision impairment, Spring 2012:

"The most helpful thing a CCRI faculty member did for me was to provide electronic materials right away so that I could prepare for class."

“The most helpful thing a teacher did for me was make sure I had all of my materials in large print ahead of time and met with me individually and explained in detail what she went over in class.”

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Last Updated: 5/29/13