Accommodations 101

Deaf people are not all the same. Learn more about the varied experiences of deaf people in this video. Read full video description

Determining Appropriate Accommodations

There is no one-size-fits-all accommodation to meet the diverse needs of deaf students. Start with a conversation with each deaf student to ensure effective communication. Ask how the student communicates everyday (e.g., at home, work, or school) and discuss different kinds of communication that may occur on campus, such as in the financial aid office, tutoring sessions or meetings.


Consider the Student's Experience

Deaf students’ experiences in requesting accommodations will vary. Some deaf students have experience with different types of accommodations and know what they need; others may not be familiar with the variety of options available to them.

Accommodations that worked in high school may not be effective in higher education environment or may not be available at a new institution. Evaluate the student’s current needs in addition to their prior experience.

Professionals in the DSS office should include the deaf student in conversations about accommodations. In this video, Felicia Williams explains her philosophy and experience working with accommodations. Read the full video description.

The decision-making process should include the deaf person throughout and end with constant follow up to ensure the chosen accommodations continue to meet the deaf person’s needs. Their choice of specific accommodations (e.g., interpreting, CART or live captioning, and notetaking) across a range of situations should be considered and honored.

Types of Accommodations

Interpreters facilitate communication between a deaf and hearing person.  This can be done in a number of modalities identified by the deaf person including:

  • ASL interpretation

  • Transliteration

  • Tactile interpretation

  • Oral transliteration

  • Cued Speech Transliteration

Visit the interpreting topic page to learn more.

Speech-to-text services (STTS) is an umbrella term used to describe an accommodation where spoken communication, as well as other auditory information, is translated into text in real-time. A service provider types what is heard, and the text appears on a screen for the consumer to read.  There are three main types of STTS:

  • Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)

  • C-Print®

  • TypeWell

Visit the Speech-to-Text Services page for more information.

Relying on amplification devices or residual hearing alone may not be enough to access communication, especially in difficult listening situations (e.g., significant background noise, a room that is not designed for ideal acoustics, group discussions, or listening at a distance). Assistive listening systems can offer further support in these situations.
Visit the Assistive Listening Systems page to learn more.

Note taking is an accommodation that captures important pieces of information in a systematic way. While most commonly used in the classroom, it can be used in any situation requiring learning, including job sites and internships. Deaf students benefit from receiving notes from a trained note taker as they already split their attention between other simultaneous accommodations (e.g. speech-to-text services, interpreting and captioned media), the instructor, group discussions and/or other information presented.

For more information, review Note Taking: An Introduction.

Note takers can also take our free online Note Taker Training course.

Captioning media is the process of making pre-recorded videos accessible. Captions represent all of the audio content including spoken dialogue, sound effects, and speaker identification. Video captions benefit everyone including deaf students, emerging readers, visual learners, non-native English speakers, and many others.

Visit the Captioned Media page for more information.

Test accommodations should allow deaf students to demonstrate content knowledge by reducing barriers due to testing design, wording and format.  While accommodations are individualized, some commonly used accommodations include:

  • Assistive listening devices

  • Captioned media

  • Extended time

  • Glossaries or dictionaries

  • Individual administration

  • Frequent breaks

  • Sign language interpreters

  • Scribes to record signed or dictated responses

Visit the Testing Accommodations page for more information.

Deaf students enrolling in colleges across the country are on the rise and securing access services can be difficult for institutions. Remote interpreting and speech-to-text services are viable options for institutions experiencing shortages of qualified providers, specific interpreting or captioning needs for a course, or last-minute requests for urgent situations. Remote services can be a beneficial supplement or a mainstay way of providing access for students in a variety of situations. Institutions must have the knowledge necessary to evaluate requests, resources to arrange services, and the infrastructure to maintain quality and effective services.

Below are some starter resources for Remote Services:

Assistive technology includes a broad range of hardware and software tools to transmit information to an individual in the manner most accessible to them. Such technologies for deaf individuals can include hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM systems, loop systems, accessible telephones/videophones, visual alert systems, and much more.

Both entities and individuals who may utilize such technology can benefit from understanding the advantages and limitations of different assistive technologies. This is especially true when entities are seeking to purchase technology that is compatible to a wide range of users. Below are starter resources for learning more about various devices, software, and services related to assistive technology:

Explore This Topic

Deaf interpreters (DIs) are deaf individuals who provide interpreting services, translation, translanguaging, and transliteration services in signed languages, including American Sign Language (ASL), other signed languages, and various forms of visual and tactile communication for deaf individuals. DIs are often used in medical, legal, and educational settings. DIs also provide access for deafblind people, translate from one signed language to another, and work as a language model for people learning sign language. DIs are also a good fit for stage or platform interpreting, as they are highly effective at relaying information during televised news broadcasts.

Best Practices in Access: Deaf Interpreters


Nida explains her experience requesting dual accommodations for law school. The challenges she faced are not uncommon for deaf students who need more than one accommodation. Read full video description.


Equitable Course Requirements

Ensure course requirements are not inherently discriminatory or exclude deaf students from the opportunity to complete the class. Requirements should detail desired outcomes (functional) rather than how tasks should be accomplished (organic).

Here is a sample course objective with organic requirements:

Aurally identify the salient characteristics of a musical performance. This will include both small-scale observations, such as instrumentation and timbre, and large-scale ones, such as style and form.

When the term “aurally” is removed — “Students will identify the salient characteristics of a musical performance” — the course objective no longer dictates how the student must accomplish this objective and opens the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills in other ways.

Aural identification of music may also be a struggle for hearing students. Students who may be visual or kinesthetic learners could benefit from a broader definition of identifying musical elements.

Other Access Strategies

Other strategies for participation in music courses include:

  • Read and mark sheet music or scores to identify specific styles, form, texture, melody, dynamics, etc.

  • Instrument identification by name through drawing, photo images, and video recordings.

  • Researching literature and historical contexts about a genre, artist, composer, or song.

  • Lyrical analysis.

  • Composing or performing music utilizing a learned style.

Planning for Accessible Events

When planning for accessible events, institutions should:

  • Determine funding policy and procedures for accommodation requests prior to receiving any requests. Equitable Access Guide: Section 5: Beyond the Classroom: Non-Academic Programs has information on centralized and decentralized funding structures.

  • Designate an office or staff members responsible for coordinating event accommodations.

  • Have disability inclusion statements and language in event advertisements which explain how to request accommodations and provide contact information.

  • Have working assistive listening devices available at events with information available at the venue about how to access these devices. Some of these devices should be hearing aid compatible.

  • Provide both speech-to-text and interpreting services for large public events without the need for formal requests. This will provide greater access by considering the audience’s wide range of communication needs.

    This proactive approach will also minimize last-minute requests, as providers are less likely to be available on short notice.

    For live-streamed public events, a single video of an event with captions and a picture-in-picture interpreter is a common practice.

  • Have all media used during an event or program captioned, since captions benefit everyone.

Additional Resources


Patty Simpson discusses her experience with an internship during college. Read full video description

Effective Accommodations for Internships and Fieldwork

Effective accommodations will depend on the deaf student’s communication preferences and experience with accommodations.

When planning for access, start by asking the deaf student about their needs. Discuss the training environment, job functions, types of interactions, activities, benefits and services offered to other people at the hosting entity.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers additional resources, guidance and personalized consultations for workplace settings.

More and more deaf students are pursuing study abroad opportunities which often raises many questions for disability service offices on what steps to take. Study abroad experiences provide opportunities for students to learn essential social and professional skills to be marketable in today’s workforce. Many factors can influence study abroad accommodations and there isn’t a uniform set of guidelines followed by all institutions in regards to coordinating services for deaf students participating in study abroad experiences. Institutions and deaf students can work together using the tools found below to address important questions including emergency planning, service providers, travel logistics, and more.

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