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Creating an accessible environment for our faculty, staff and students is a collaborative process that involves the entire College community. Suffolk County Community College is committed to providing our community the equal opportunity to participate in the College’s programs, activities and services.  Below, you will find some tips for communicating with people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. This is not an exhaustive list but includes important tips in moving towards access for all.

Tips for Communicating with People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 37.5 million (or 15%) of American adults report some trouble hearing. You may not realize the person you work with or your student has a hearing loss, as not everyone with a hearing loss discloses that information. Creating a culture that makes people with disabilities feel recognized and supported is inherent in the college’s mission, and this document is a first step towards educating the college community in best practices for working with the hearing impaired. Hearing impairment covers a range of hearing abilities, and not everyone who is hearing impaired wears hearing aids or knows sign language. Even when a person does use these, it is still important to know some of the factors that make it harder to understand speech, in order to practice good communication strategies as described below.

Factors that impact intelligibility of speech

  • Background noise: air conditioners, whispering/talking, background music, hum of computers or electronics, outside lawn equipment
  • Direction of the speech, for example turning around to face a board or screen
  • Distance from listener
  • Speed of speech
  • Shouting or whispering. Normal speaking levels are easiest to understand. When we shout, the words lose some intelligibility because the vowel sounds are emphasized. When we whisper, the opposite occurs.

Here are some things you can do to help accommodate hearing impaired colleagues:

When scheduling a meeting:

  1. Include a line in the email invitation asking the reader to contact you with any accommodation needs. If you get a request for an accommodation, reply immediately and assure the person you will work towards making sure they are comfortable in the setting.
  2. If an attendee identifies as having a hearing impairment, ask the individual if they would like to reserve a preferred seat.
  3. Start making arrangements immediately.
  4. Consider the space and the acoustics when choosing a meeting location. A quiet space is preferable with little to no background noise.
  5. If the meeting will be held in a large room (not around a small conference table) put in a request for microphones and roving microphones.
  6. Proper lighting is important in order to see speakers’ faces.

During a meeting:

  1. Make sure speakers/presenters use the microphones. Offering to speak loudly is not helpful.
  2. Provide copies of an agenda; this makes it easier to follow the meeting.
  3. When possible supply handouts that summarize important information.
  4. Always repeat questions that are asked from the floor.
  5. Encourage attendees to speak one at a time. Discourage background conversation.

Here are some things you can do to help accommodate hearing impaired students:

  1. If the student works with an interpreter, speak directly to the student, not the interpreter.
  2. Videos should be shown with closed captioning.
  3. Don’t speak while writing on the chalkboard/whiteboard or while turned away from the student.
  4. Remember if you’re asking students to look at written material in class (handouts, a textbook), the student will need time to look at the material and then look up at you. Give the student ample time to read the material before you resume talking.
  5. If you have student who requires a sign language interpreter, CART providers or a FM System in the classroom, you will receive an email from Disability Services with additional tips for your classroom.

For the hearing impaired, here are some things you can do to advocate for yourself:

  1. Be specific about your needs. Hearing loss affects people differently, so tell others how to best talk to you.
  2. If you are unable to hear a sentence the first time, repeating might not help. Ask the person to rephrase.
  3. Faculty can contact Human Resources for more information about workplace accommodations: 631-451-4207
  4. Students can contact the Office of Disability Services for more information about adaptive equipment, classroom accommodations, or documenting a disability.

Ammerman:, 631-451-4045

Grant:, 631-851-6355

East:, 631-548-2527


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

The University of Texas at Austin