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Hard of Hearing Student – Instructor Responsibilities (case study)

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.