Hearing impairment and Digital Accessibility

Hearing impairments vary from mild to severe or profound. Each person will be different. It is good practice to have early conversations with the individual to ascertain their needs. Do not assume that:

  • A D/deaf or hearing-impaired person has no hearing or perceives no sound (though this will be true for some)
  • A hearing aid or cochlear implant will ‘cure’ the hearing impairment and mean that the person no longer has challenges with hearing.

On this page, you can:

Please also see how to make them accessible and inclusive more generally.

Support

If you have a hearing impairment, there are a few ways you could get support:

Staff

If you would like peer support, you could join a Staff Network, e.g. the Disabled Staff Forum.

Students

Digital accessibility tips


General tips for supporting D/deaf students during online teaching:

There are a variety of ways hearing impaired students may be supported, depending on their needs:

  • Disability Services may need to provide British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters or electronic notetakers for the student. These people will need access to both in-person and online teaching. BSL interpreters will always need to be visible to the student.
  • Teaching may need to be recorded so that they can be captioned.
  • In-person teaching may need to be in rooms supported by induction loops.
  • Lecturers may need to be clearly visible so that non-verbal cues (such as lip reading, body language and facial expressions) can be read.
  • Pre-recorded videos need to have accurate captions and audio recordings should be accompanied by a transcript.

Consider that issues like poor bandwidth or internet connection may impact hearing impaired students in a different way to other students. For example, intermittent or poor sound quality may make the lecture impossible to follow or poor or pixelated video may impact the ability to lip read, see facial expressions, or see the hand movements of a BSL interpreter.

Timetabling

Early timetables are essential for setting up support. Delays with timetables and not having information about whether teaching will be online or in-person will have the following impacts:

  • Delays to support. British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters or electronic note-takers are specialist roles and it can take time to source someone with the right skills and availability for the course.

Online lectures/presentations considerations

Planning

  • Asynchronous material: What asynchronous material are you providing to make sure the course/information is accessible if people are not able to access the live content?
  • Platform: What platform are you using? You may find, for example, that Teams works better than Blackboard collaborate if there will be a BSL interpreter as the person can pin their interpreters’ video, alongside the lecturer/presenter. Teams also has an automatic electronic captioning function, enabling the audience to see live captions.  
  • Embedded video: If you are showing a video within your session, can this be captioned ahead of time?
  • Duration: How long will the session be? Will it be helpful to plan breaks? Breaks can help in the following ways:
    • Long lectures may require a change-over of BSL interpreter or electronic notetaker mid-way.
    • Poor sound quality can be extremely fatiguing for any listener, due to the level of concentration required. This can be exacerbated for hearing impaired people.

Setting up

  • Test your microphone.
  • Lighting: For example, is your face clearly visible, or is there a bright light behind you that puts you in shadow?
  • Background noise: Where possible, consider background noises. Are there steps you could take to dampen background noise, such as closing windows or closing curtains, or using a directional microphone (if available).
  • Headsets: If using a headset, consider the position of the microphone arm. Try to place the microphone below the mouth. This keeps the mouth visible and can reduce any punchy sounds from breathing directly into the microphone.