Effective Tools for Talking About Accommodations with Deaf Students

Published on August 12, 2021

a boy communicating with another person

As colleges, universities, and training programs get ready for the fall semester, it’s time to check in with deaf students about their accommodations.

This fall semester may bring a mix of teaching and learning approaches — fully virtual, in person with or without masks, or a hybrid approach. Over the last year, we have learned that as educational approaches and situations change, accommodation needs also change. What works in one situation, or for one student, does not work for all.

Keep an Open Dialogue with Your Deaf Student

A conversation with your deaf student will help you figure out what accommodations may be the best fit for each situation. This will ensure that deaf students can get off to the best start possible for what may be another challenging school year.

Remember to center deaf students in this process — after all, this is their educational experience and not yours. What you think works may not be what your student needs. On the other hand, you might need to make suggestions based on your expertise and experience — many deaf students have never used accommodations before college!

One of our help team specialists, Lauren Kinast, explains, “When I worked in disability services, I would suggest that deaf students try out speech-to-text services in the classroom, just to test it out, with no obligation to continue services. Many deaf students were surprised to learn that their access to information in the classroom was vastly improved, and chose to continue using speech-to-text services.”

Listen to Feedback and be Flexible!

Sometimes accommodation decisions require a trial-and-error approach as your student learns what works best for them. That’s perfectly okay! Create space for student feedback, stay flexible, and expect to modify accommodations as needed down the road.

NDC offers resources to enhance the interactive process, or the process of talking about accommodations with deaf students. This is an opportunity to learn about the deaf student, their experience using accommodations, and explore accommodation options for a variety of situations. This process is fundamental to building a relationship with students in a way that centers and honors their experiences.

Learn More about Your Deaf Students

The Deaf Student Interview Checklist and Sample Deaf Student Interview Questions are two tools to support you in your work with deaf students.

The Deaf Student Interview Checklist will help you collect key information about the student’s history, background, and educational experiences. Some of the areas that are highlighted are:

  • Education Background

  • Communication and Social Skills

  • Technology and Personal Devices

The Sample Deaf Student Interview Questions help guide discussions about communication preferences in a variety of settings. Some questions you will see include:

  • What type of accommodations or services did you use in high school or your most recent educational experience, and were they effective?

  • Have you used interpreters in the past? If so, what has been your experience?

  • Are you willing to use remote services? When would remote services be an appropriate option for you?

Both tools will provide you with a framework for the interactive process element of determining reasonable accommodations.

NDC is Here to Help

If you need to refresh your knowledge about the range of accommodation options for deaf students, visit our Accommodations 101 page and FAQs. You may also be interested in our comprehensive web pages about Interpreting and Speech-to-Text Services.

In addition, NDC offers free online professional development courses to increase knowledge about accommodations used in postsecondary settings. The Foundations of Effective Accommodations course is a great place to start.

This course will help strengthen an understanding of effective communication in postsecondary settings, and how to create equitable access and participation for deaf people you work with. All of our online classes are completely self-paced, allowing you to complete it according to your schedule.

As always, our help team is available to respond to your questions and concerns.

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