Disability & Wellbeing Service Working with students who are d/Deaf or hearing impaired

Barriers faced by d/Deaf students

There are many barriers to effective communication at university. This can include being able to access verbal information in lectures and tutorials.

There are also social and emotional barriers. A deaf student may feel isolated or different. Other people may feel uncertain about how to communicate with a deaf person.

Listed below is a selection of videos and resources that explore some of the barriers. They'll help you to understand what a deaf person may experience.

Communication tips for hearing people

Use these tips to communicate successfully with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing:

  • use plain language and don't waffle. Avoid jargon and unfamiliar abbreviations
  • even if someone is wearing a hearing aid it doesn't mean they can hear you; ask if they need to lipread
  • if you're using communication support, talk to the person you are communicating with and not the interpreter
  • it's important to make sure you have face-to-face or eye-to-eye contact with the person you're talking to
  • make sure you have the listener's attention before you start speaking
  • speak clearly but not too slowly. And don't exaggerate your lip movements
  • use natural facial expressions and gestures
  • if you're talking to a deaf person and a hearing person, don't just focus on the hearing person
  • don't shout. It's uncomfortable for a hearing aid user and it looks aggressive
  • if someone doesn't understand what you've said, don't keep repeating it. Try saying it in a different way instead
  • find a suitable place to talk, with good lighting and away from noise and distractions
  • check that the person you're talking to can follow you
  • be patient and take the time to communicate properly

Types of support available

At Strathclyde d/Deaf students are supported by Assistive Technology, Personal Human Support and Teaching and Exam Adjustments.

Some students make use of technology to boost their hearing. This can be achieved with the use of a Loop System or Radio Aid.

Live Remote Captioning (LRC) can also be used to capture verbal information by converting it into text in real time.

Loop Systems are installed in central pool teaching rooms. The Loop Systems are maintained by Teaching Space Support, ISD.

The student turns their hearing aid to ‘t’ setting to pick up the loop frequency and it's essential that the lecturer wears a microphone.

Some students use radio aids which are like personal/portable loop systems. The student wears receiver which can be fitted to hearing aid, worn as a neck loop, or sit inside the ear canal if user does not wear hearing aid(s). The Lecturer/speaker must wear transmitter provided by the student and repeat questions/comments from others in the room.

The service provides deaf and hearing impaired students full access to lectures by converting live speech into displayed text in real time with minimal delay.

Some students use personal human support instead of or in addition to technology. This may include:

  • note-taking (this can be manual or electronic note taking or via Live Remote Captioning)
  • sign language interpreter
  • recording and transcription

Recommendations are agreed upon with the student. The adjustments are recommended to support the student's specific needs. And to complement the support and equipment they may be using. Examples include: being lip visible and captioning audio-visual materials. Recommended Adjustments are uploaded to Pegasus for the academic department to put in place. Many adjustments are examples of good practice. It makes teaching accessible for all students.

Teaching strategies

Access to information

A deaf student cannot make notes and lipread at the same time. If a handout is not available and there is no notetaker, ask another student to photocopy their notes. Then pass them to your deaf student.

Make sure your deaf student has book lists well in advance of the beginning of the course. They may rely more on textbooks than lectures.

It's important that your lecture follows a logical structure. And includes regular opportunities for students to review the material.

During the lecture, make it clear if a subject is about to change, or a new concept is being introduced. You can do this by writing the topic on the board or holding up an appropriate book or article.

Visual aids

Overhead projectors (OHPs) are useful. They allow the lecturer to face students while working. But some models are noisy and cause problems for students with hearing aids.

Write important information on the board or OHP. For example, assignments, deadlines, and room changes.

Try to provide a new vocabulary list in advance, or write words on the board or OHP as they come up.

Viewing slides in a darkened room is a particular problem for deaf students. Try to direct a light source on the speaker or interpreter and turn up the lights when commentary is given.

If you give out a handout during your lecture, make it clear whether it's to be read immediately. If it does, your deaf student will need time to read it before you continue speaking. If not, make clear that it can be taken away and read in the student's own time.

Ensure all audiovisual materials have subtitles. Learning Space Support can assist you with this.

Group work

Group discussions can be difficult for a deaf student to follow. But there are strategies you can use to help them to participate fully:
  • if a deaf student uses a radio microphone system or loop system, all contributors to the discussion will need to speak into the microphone
  • make sure other students are aware of your deaf student's communication needs
  • aim to have no more than six to 10 participants in a group
  • a deaf student may prefer to sit next to the chair of the group as comments will be directed that way
  • arrange the group in a circle or horseshoe and ensure that nobody is silhouetted against the light
  • it's particularly important for students to take turns in speaking and in chairing discussions; allow your deaf student time to look in the speaker's direction before they start to speak
  • try to summarise contributions from other students, so that your deaf student can follow the discussion

Practical sessions

During a practical demonstration, ensure the deaf student can see what you are saying and what you're doing.

When you're in practical sessions, don't stand behind a deaf student when they're working. Your student will not know if you're speaking to them. They will have to turn away from their activity to find out.

A deaf student cannot lipread you and continue with their work or observations at the same time.


Considerate timetabling can be very helpful for deaf students. Where possible, consider students’ needs:
  • people who provide communication services usually charge a minimum fee regardless of how short a session they are booked for. Try to plan sessions to make the most efficient use of their services
  • lipreading is very tiring. Try not to fill an entire day with lectures
  • communication services must be booked well in advance. If timetables are changed at short notice, suitable support may not be available for your student

Choosing a suitable room

Try to avoid rooms with bright or distracting décor. This can make it hard for deaf students to concentrate on a speaker.

Choose a room with good lighting.

Make sure the room is quiet. Hard-of-hearing students are more affected by background noise than their hearing peers.

Use a room that has carpets, soft furnishings, and ceiling tiles. These help to absorb sound.

Check which rooms are fitted with a loop system for hearing aid users using Resource booker.

Field trips or placements

You may need to make special provisions for deaf students on field trips or placements. A deaf student who copes well in a lecture may not be able to manage without additional support in the open air or in a noisy workplace. Be flexible and discuss possible options with the student well in advance.