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Students with Hearing Impairments

Hearing impairment is a broad term that refers to varying degrees of hearing loss from partial to total deafness. Individuals with hearing impairments may use a variety of communication methods, including lipreading, amplification, American Sign Language (ASL) and Computer Assisted Real Time Captioning (CART),

Some students may use interpreters in class. While the presence of an interpreter may initially feel distracting, classes typically adapt to the interpreter's presence fairly quickly.  Some students who have residual hearing may use a personal FM transmitter/receiver unit (a simple device worn by the instructor). Other students use real time speech to text services, such Computer Assisted Real Time Captioning (CART). With CART, a captionist will transcribe the lecture and transmits it to the student's laptop in real time.

Common Types of Accommodations for Students with Hearing Impairments

  • Seating close to the instructor.
  • Captioned videos and movies. For guidance, see Course Materials section.
  • Use of an Interpreter. (Note: When an interpreter is used, speak to the student, not to the interpreter.  Speak naturally without exaggerating lip movement or volume. Be sure that the interpreter is clearly visible. (Be careful of darker rooms or window glare.)
  • During class discussions, ensure that no more than one person speaks at a time.
  • Repeat questions and comments made by other students.
  • Include visual media in presenting course information.
  • Avoid giving information while handing out papers or writing on the board.
  • When reading directly from a text, provide an advance copy. Pause slightly when interjecting information not in the text.
  • When working with the chalkboard or an overhead projection, pause briefly so that the student may look first at the board  and then at the interpreter, to see what is being said.
  • Students with hearing impairments may benefit from taking oral tests with an interpreter.
  • Students may need extended time testing.
  • For courses that include field trips or internships, please feel free to consult with the student and with the Student Disability Service to discuss any needs. We can help you identify and coordinate accommodations.
  • Please consult with the student and the Student Disability Service in advance to arrange a plan for how a student will gain assistance in the event of a fire drill or event that requires the fast evacuation of a class or a lab.

Adapted from the University of Connecticut Center for Students with Disabilities

Student Disclosure

If a student identifies to you as having a disability and expresses a need for accommodations, please ask whether the student has also registered with the Student Disability Service so that we can draft formal accommodations letters. We recommend that you schedule an individual meeting with the student so that the two of you can identify accommodations that will enable the student to access the course material without altering fundamental course requirements. We have found that even when multiple students have the same disability, each student often benefits from different strategies for accessing the material.

Privacy Note

Swarthmore College respects the privacy of its students.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act governs all student record information.

Additional Resources

Postsecondary Education Programs Network (Pepnet), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Special Education Programs.

See information on Captioning Media in the Course Materials box.


Swarthmore College respects the privacy of its students.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs all student record information.