What accommodations should be considered when a deafblind student’s class is moved online?

It is important to remember that there are varying levels of combined hearing and vision loss for deafblind students. When determining appropriate accommodations for virtual meetings or classes, it is vital that the deafblind student is included in the discussion. The U.S. Department of Education has also issued guidance on ensuring continuation of services in alternative communication formats (K-12 and postsecondary).

If the student utilizes interpreting services, refer to, “What strategies are available for deafblind students using interpreters?” for information on remote interpreting for deafblind students.

If the student uses braille, it is possible to provide remote speech-to-text if the student has a refreshable braille display that plugs into their computer.

If the student uses screen reader software (e.g. JAWS, ZoomText, NVDA) at school, ensure the student has access to the software at home. There are some free software versions available.

If the student uses a hearing assistive device, be sure they are able to connect and use the audio options available.

If the student uses a portable magnifier or CCTV, allow the student to continue to use it at home. Some vendors will allow schools to rent equipment that can be sent directly to the student’s home.

Allow the student to adjust font size, text, and background colors if using text-based chats. If remote speech-to-text services are being provided, make sure the output is set to the student’s preferences.

Provide accessible reading materials in the student’s preferred format. For example, make sure PDFs or other attachments are accessible for screen readers. Consider sending the student plain text documents. Add alternative text or image descriptions to pictures.

Ensure the Learning Management System (LMS, e.g. Canvas, Blackboard, Google Classroom) are accessible to deafblind students. If not, identify which LMS discussion boards are accessible. Consider alternative approaches, such as group email with threads.

Consider low-tech options, such as scanning and emailing documents between the teacher and student, or read material out loud over the phone.

Additional resources:

The Helen Keller National Center’s statement on COVID-19 provides some resources. Find your regional representative for more support.

iCanConnect and the American Foundation for the Blind lists communication technology options and where to find them.

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Updated on July 29, 2022

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