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Faculty & Staff

As content experts, faculty input is critical in designing accessible instruction and learning for Deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind students. The Coronavirus pandemic is transforming many aspects in our society, including the pivot to online education. The principle of “no one left behind” underscores our need to work together more than ever, to ensure equitable access and inclusion is achieved in these unprecedented times. Should any questions arise, the accessibility service coordinator in your institution is your first line resource for information and strategies specific to a student in your classroom.

Chris has registered for your computer science class, appears regularly but takes no active role and when you ask him a question, he seems unclear of the appropriate response. The class is highly interactive, you like to roam around the classroom using the many visual displays you have. The students come from many backgrounds, several of whom have English as a second language.

It is only by the third week that you discover that Chris is hard of hearing and the format of your class hampers his ability to understand everything that is happening.

Ask yourself these questions to assess your lecture method:

  1. If Chris is qualified to enter your course, do you need to re-arrange your lecture style?
  2. As he cannot clearly understand the other students’, should you rewrite their comments on the board?
  3. Since Chris is an adult, is it his right to not identify his disability and to expect you to accommodate his needs?
  4. If he does not identify his needs, is it your right to ignore his needs on the basis he is doing nothing about them?

Some of your responsibilities are:

  • Speak directly to the student, even if their eye gaze does not appear to be directed at you.
  • Communicate with the accessibility office, should any concerns or questions arise. It is important that you inform both Chris that support services are available and that you believe he is unable to be successful as the situation stands.
  • Work as a team member with the student. Have the same academic and performance  expectations as you have of other students.
  • In a previous situation, such as secondary school, he may have been able to cope, given that classes are often structured around identified needs. The classes may have been small, slower paced, supported by resource teachers and geared to an oral style.

Thus, even though this functional limitation may seem to complicate the issue, your role is primarily one of an educator who is concerned with academic success. Chris needs to realize his limitations within the post-secondary system and to actively pursue the appropriate supports.

In 2018, four years after the Accessibility 2024 plan was revealed, B.C. proposed the British Columbia Accessibility Act, also known as Bill M 219. This Bill is to establish accessibility standards for legislation in the province. Some aspects to be addressed include: Information and communication, the built environment, employment and education. The legislation is also rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which addresses attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder full and equal participation.

By intentionally designing instruction and learning environments with equity in mind, to support the diverse student population, including Deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind students, we can implement proactive measures that are responsive to all, while also focusing on individualized supports that ensure equity.

Equal participation and access to various classroom environments can include communication and access barriers to students who are Deaf, hard of hearing or DeafBlind. Many of the barriers relate to the accessibility of environments, access to and availability of services providers such as interpretation or transcribing as well as exam accommodations that mirror their access to classroom education.

With the switch to online learning, students who may have managed with minimal accessibility supports with assistive listening devices, preferential seating or interpreting services are now in need of communication access supports. Those who used these services previously are also finding the barriers amplified and challenging in this new world of online learning with synchronous and asynchronous access variable platforms.

You can explore teaching tools that enhance access for students in their classrooms; and staff who interact with students. For faculty professional development ACE-BC offers a variety of workshops for faculty including:

  • Access rights and responsibilities
  • Accommodation planning
  • Classroom strategies to support access for Deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind students

Check out a universal design approach to teaching that benefits all students.

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