Working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in Higher Learning ► Equal Dreams

A guide for Disability Service Offices and Teaching Staff

It really does take a village to ensure full access in school. That’s why we believe that educators, school staff, access workers, and the Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Deaf/HoH) student themself must collaborate to create an equitable learning environment. This guideline explains how to best provide access to your Deaf/HoH students in Higher Learning, tips for engaging access services, and other considerations to keep in mind.

Understanding the access options out there

The best access option(s) for each Deaf/HoH student depends on various factors, like the nature of the course and the student’s own communication preference. Some students may want to try out different access options first; for example, by having both sign language and speech-to-text interpreting (STTI) during their first few classes of a new module. This can allow them to better evaluate what’s most effective for their learning.

Check out our resource on Deaf Access Services in Higher Learning to better understand the access options available.

Collaborating with your Deaf/HoH students from start to end to create an environment for equitable access

Important notes about working with sign language and speech-to-text interpreters

  • Sign language and speech-to-text interpreters must follow a Code of Ethics, and are expected to respect confidentiality. 
  • The interpreter’s role is to give the student access to all aural information, as faithfully to the original source as possible, and facilitate communication. 
  • Please do not ask interpreters to leave out any parts of the spoken information, even if it’s non-academic content. As long as it can be heard (e.g. jokes or casual comments), interpreters will convey it as the Deaf/HoH have the right to be part of the same student experience. 
  • Interpreters are not tutors, caregivers, or social workers. They do not inject personal opinions, or give additional academic advice, even if they have subject matter knowledge. 
  • Interpreters don’t attend class on behalf of the Deaf/HoH student. There will be no live transcript or sign language interpretation done in the Deaf/HoH student’s absence.
  • Please do not request interpreters to participate in class, or assist in administrative matters. They need to be alert at all times for any aural information that needs to be conveyed to the Deaf/HoH student. They’re also on standby during the class’ break time.
  • In long, intensive classes with two interpreters taking turns, do note that the interpreter that’s not active is still on standby to support the main interpreter. This interpreter should not be seen as taking a break and available to help out in administrative matters.
  • While the interpreter is interpreting, avoid involving them in conversations, as their main focus is to process aural information and provide equal access. If you’ve any questions about the service, you may check in with them before or after class, or contact the Equal Dreams coordinator directly.


For feedback, comments and contribution to this resource,
please email us at

Back to top