Working with a Deaf student

Do you have a student who is Deaf or hard of hearing? These strategies may help you work together more effectively.

Sign Language Interpreters have been assigned to your class to facilitate communication between you, hearing students and deaf students. This is a reasonable accommodation for the deaf student(s). You are not expected to change your teaching style or give special treatment to the deaf student. The following information is provided to familiarize you with having a deaf/hard of hearing student and interpreters in the classroom.

How do I work with an interpreter?

Deaf students need extra time to respond to questions asked in class, due to the “lag time” of interpreters translating from English to ASL. Please give the deaf student enough time to respond to questions asked in class, before continuing on your lecture.

The interpreter’s sole responsibility is to facilitate communication. Instructors should refrain from asking the interpreters to function as a teacher’s aide, to participate in class activities, or to perform other tasks. Doing so may interfere with the quality of communication provided, compromise the role of the interpreter and prevent full communication access for students who are deaf.

Deaf and hard of hearing students will usually require seating at the front of the classroom, near to and facing the instructor, to make optimum use of visual cues. Interpreters tend to work in pairs and generally will switch every 20 to 30 minutes.

Interpreters maintain complete confidentiality related to students. Interpreters are required to follow and abide by a code of ethics. For more information on the interpreter code of ethics please go to

The interpreter is there is to interpret EVERYTHING that is said in class. Please do not ask the interpreter to censor any information.

What strategies can I use for communication?

Look directly at the student with whom you are communicating, not the interpreter. Use of third-party phrases such as, “Ask her” or “Tell him” can compromise the relationship between the instructor and student.

Make full use of the chalk/white boards, films, diagrams and printed material. Visual aids are a tremendous help!

Write key vocabulary on the board or overhead projector. This is helpful for the student as well as the interpreter.

Provide interpreters with copies of all handouts. If possible please make available copy of textbook(s) for the interpreters.

Be aware that the student may need a notetaker for your class. When you are “listening” with your eyes it is difficult to take good notes simultaneously. The student may request shared notes from a student volunteer enrolled in the same class.

Use of captioned films and videotapes are strongly recommended to allow the student direct visual access to information. Viewing slides or visual aids 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.

The interpreters working in your classroom do not have any personal information regarding the student or their progress in their classes. If you have any questions related to accommodations, please contact DSPS.