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18 – Speaking Up Isn’t Enough: Supporting d/Deaf Students


  • Vern Harner, Social Welfare, School of Social Work, UW Seattle
  • Astryd Q. Lyrix-Astyriel, School of Social Work, UW Seattle


This poster discusses strategies for creating affirming classrooms for d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing (HOH) students. Despite legal protections afforded by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), these students are systematically left out of higher education opportunities and, when they are present, their access needs routinely not met (De Clerck & Paul, 2016). The co-presenters are HOH and Deaf graduate students. We draw on our experiences within social science classrooms, in designing curriculum, and while engaging in practicum experiences. While classroom set-up and course objectives impact the relevance of strategies presented in this poster, these strategies can be easily adapted.

Prior to the first day of class, instructors are poised to signal to students that their needs will be met, their experiences valued, and their feedback promptly addressed. Three broad arenas exist as potential sites to improve access needs of d/Deaf and HOH students: prior to the academic year beginning, during the class session, and after the end of each quarter. By designing curriculum to be universally accessible to d/Deaf and HOH individuals and considering alternatives to class activities prior to the arrival of a d/Deaf or HOH student, instructors can nimbly make needed adjustments. Many of these adjustments include positive impacts for hearing students, as well. Proactively learning about aspects of Deaf culture ensures interactions with Deaf students build, rather than disrupt, rapport and learning.

Without meeting the needs of d/Deaf and HOH students, their ability to engage with course content, as well as their rapport with their instructor, is severely impacted. By ensuring our classrooms are designed with d/Deaf or HOH students in mind, instructors can provide seamless learning experiences for these students that prioritizes their engagement with course content (Blizzard & Foster, 2007; Moloi & Motaung, 2014).

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