Working with the D/deaf and hard of hearing: top 5 considerations for an accessibility coordinator


For Accessibility Coordinators, providing a level playing field for students in the classroom is the primary goal. Getting there can feel like a challenge, especially for those that are new to the job, have limited tools/resources, seemingly endless day-to-day duties, or unclear expectations. Here are the top 5 considerations we recommend to Accessibility Coordinators when they come to us seeking guidance on providing accessibility services for D/deaf or hard of hearing students.

5. Every Student is Unique

This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many administrators still think that a one-size-fits-all approach to accessibility is appropriate. The differences aren’t just in the unique nature of the students themselves, but also in the way they identify themselves in the context of their disability. For example, a person identifying as Deaf, capitalized, are often raised in a culture where they focus exclusively on ASL and purposefully avoid using spoken English language. If ASL is the primary mode of communication for any student, their preference should be respected and a certified ASL Interpreter should be provided.

When real-time transcription services are used, such as TypeWell or C-Print, the service should be customized to each student’s unique needs. For example, some students prefer all side chatter to be included in the transcript, and others prefer that the transcriber only include academically important content. The student should feel encouraged to advocate for these kinds of preferences so that the service provides them with the aid they need for success.

4. Language is Important

Beyond the differences between communicating with a deaf/hard of hearing student versus a Deaf student, it’s important to understand how to use respectful verbiage when communicating to a student in the context of their disability. Remember that while a student may have a disability, there should never be an implication that their disability makes them disabled, less than, or a burden. Understanding that fundamental rule when it comes to communicating with the student will allow the student to feel comfortable working with you.

3. Ensure Confidentiality

Ensure that student confidentiality is always protected. Have clear, documented conversations with all of the student’s instructors. Start by sending an email to the instructor at the beginning of the semester stating that a student, without the name included, has a need requiring use of a TypeWell Transcriber or ASL Interpreter. Explain what the accommodation is, how it works, and state that the transcriber/interpreter is not a student and therefore does not participate in class. Add tips on how to properly communicate with the student, such as directing the instructor to communicate directly with the student rather than asking the transcriber to ask the student a question. The instructor should also know to never out the student’s disability in front of the other students. Then provide the student with an accommodation letter to provide to their instructor on the first day of class.

If possible, also meet with the instructor in person or over the phone to be sure that they have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. Ask the instructor to acknowledge their agreement by asking them to sign the document.

2. Research Meaning-for-Meaning Versus Verbatim Notes

Meaning-for-meaning transcription can be the most important aspect to a student’s success. People do not speak in a way that is easily understood when written in verbatim form. This is because we use unspoken cues such as intonation and body language to add to the meaning of a sentence. If you’re an educator that uses sarcasm in a lecture, for example, that may not come across to a student if conveyed verbatim. False starts, filler words such as “um” or “uh”, and other simple language mistakes may not make a huge difference to a non hard of hearing student, but it can seriously harm the interpretation of your message to a student who is D/deaf or hard of hearing.

Providing a live meaning-for-meaning transcription service such as TypeWell or C-Print gives the student a concise, easy to read transcript without compromising important content. The transcript includes meaningful body language, emphasis, intonation, pauses, and more. An explanation is also provided in this video presentation.

1. Always Use Approved Teaching Methods & Tools

Ensure that all laws are being met in accordance with the student’s individual needs. This often means, in addition to an ASL Interpreter or real-time transcriber, proper closed captioning of all videos displayed in the classroom. In fact, many schools and universities have adopted a policy of only showing proper closed captioned videos, regardless of whether a person with a disability is present. All students benefit from closed captioning. Note: YouTube’s automatic closed captioning is not sufficient due to inaccuracies and should never be used.

Have a firm and clear conversation with all instructors to educate them on why closed captioned videos are important not only for the success of their students, but also to ensure that the school is following the law.

Intellitext’s TypeWell Services are a federally approved and accepted speech-to-text accommodation for students who are D/deaf or hard of hearing. It can also be used for ASD students, students with learning disabilities, brain injuries, or English as a second language (ESL) speakers. In the IDEA 2004 Revision, Congress specifically named TypeWell as a transcription service that meets the definition of interpreting services and should be considered an effective tool to meet the communication needs of students with disabilities.

Choose TypeWell for Your Transcription Services

Intellitext’s TypeWell services aim to make each of these 5 considerations easier. As discussed, TypeWell is also a federally approved and accepted tool for many other special circumstances.

We would love to provide you with a 2-hour free trial to show how TypeWell services have helped thousands of students across the country find success in their educational pursuits. To schedule your demo or to reach out with questions, we welcome you to write us here.