Communication skills and needs vary for each deaf student depending on factors such as
- how well they lip-read
- what useful hearing they have
- their level of skill in British Sign Language (BSL)
- the non-verbal cues that are available in any given situation.
A deaf student may need to book an interpreter or note taker in order to communicate with you outside formal learning situations. You may need to book a room that has an induction loop rather than use your own office, although if a portable system is available then meetings can be held in a variety of places. You might not be able to meet in a communal space because it may be too noisy.
A useful way to communicate with deaf students is by e-mail, and text messages can be used to make arrangements. Find out if a minicom (text) telephone is available for you to use, or you may need to use the RNID Typetalk service.
Be sensitive to the issues brought to you by deaf students and the difficulties they may experience with communication and use of English. If their learning support arrangements are not working they may wish to discuss this with you and it may be sensible for you to recommend that they also talk to a disability officer. Deaf students may derive considerable benefit from working with a specialist tutor, who may be able to support their development of study skills.
Be patient and friendly and take time to communicate. If a deaf student cannot understand you
- repeat what you have said
- rephrase what you have said
- give clues to what you mean
- write things down if necessary.
- Face the deaf student and speak normally but clearly
- Learn how to communicate effectively with deaf people who are lip-reading or using a sign language interpreter
- Facilitate communication between a deaf student and other students
- Keep background noise to a minimum
- Remember, it is not possible for a deaf student to lip-read at the same time as reading other material (e.g. OHPs), watching (e.g. videos or demonstrations) or doing practical tasks
- Make sure appropriate communication technologies are available and used (e.g. listening devices and loop systems)
- Structure your teaching sessions well, write key words on the board, recap at intervals, use examples when explaining abstract concepts, and provide handouts and instructions in advance
- Be prepared to allow additional time for a deaf student to understand and assimilate what you have said and to make contributions to discussions
- Deaf people need to keep up high levels of concentraion in order to follow communication, so allow time for occasional relaxation or 'eye breaks'.
- Students who lip-read
- Students who use hearing aids
- Students who use a sign language interpreter
- Deaf students and written English