Communication/Good Practice Guidelines

General Guidelines

Many of the approaches that will benefit deaf students will be helpful to all students and should be adopted within an inclusive teaching framework. Try to avoid making assumptions about what the student can and cannot do; including students in discussions about their learning needs and seeking feedback will help them to feel valued and facilitate improvements in communication, teaching and learning.

Direct Communication:

  • Approach the student directly rather than through a friend or interpreter. 
  • Attract the student’s attention before speaking (moving into their line of vision or waving. We might tap someone on the shoulder to attract their attention, but be mindful that not everybody will be comfortable with this).
  • Face the student and speak normally. Be careful not to distort the shape of your mouth by exaggerating sounds or shouting. Avoid covering your mouth, chewing or eating when speaking.
  • Do not assume the student will be able to lip-read. This is a skill that has to be learned and not all words can be differentiated through lip-reading.
  • Be patient and allow extra time to communicate and check comprehension. 
  • Repeat what you have said if necessary. It is very frustrating for deaf people when others give up on communication because they have been asked to repeat information.
  • Use visual aids to support communication, for example by writing down information or typing onto a computer or mobile phone screen.
  • Be mindful that for many deaf people English is not their first language. Use plain language and short sentences to communicate clearly.


  • It is particularly difficult to be attentive to the individual needs of all learners within a large group setting. There are good teaching practices that will benefit all learners within an inclusive teaching environment that will also be supportive of the needs of deaf students.
  • Make use of visual material, i.e. handouts, key vocabulary, diagrams, written instructions, virtual learning environments such as Blackboard. Where possible, share this with students in advance of the class. This will enable deaf students to gain familiarity with the vocabulary and make it easier for them to follow the lecture.
  • Make it clear when you are moving onto a new subject.
  • Display new terminology on the board. 
  • Consider whether the student is positioned to be able to see the teacher, board and other students in the room. However, also maintain discretion and respect the wishes of students to choose to sit where they are comfortable.
  • Ensure there is good lighting and avoid standing in front of windows or lamps or having your back to the class.
  • Remember that a student cannot do two visual tasks at the same time e.g. writing and lip reading.
  • Deaf students may have difficulty following a DVD in class and should be allowed to borrow this resource or be provided with transcription/subtitles. Please alert the disability service to any core teaching resources that do not have subtitles/transcriptions.
  • Repeat or rephrase information that comes from others in the room as this is not always audible to the whole class.

Seminars/Group work:

  • Try to choose a location with minimum background noise.
  • During group work it is helpful to arrange the seating so that people are sitting in a circle and speak one at a time. 
  • During plenary sessions, it is helpful to repeat or paraphrase the contributions from students to clarify and summarise key learning points.

Working with Support Staff:

  • Some deaf students will work with an interpreter or notetaker who may sit with the student or elsewhere in the room, depending on the preferences of the student.
  • Speak to students directly, not to support staff.
  • It is helpful to send a copy of presentations to the student to share with support staff in advance of the class, particularly where there is a lot of subject-specific terminology that notetakers and interpreters may not be familiar with.
  • Support staff should not be asked to take part in discussions or offer their opinion.
  • As it takes longer to interpret/note take than to listen, students will need longer to respond to questions.
  • Be aware that interpreters and notetakers may require clarification or repetition, particularly where contributions come from other students.  Try to display names and terminology to help support staff provide the correct spelling. 

Individual Adjustments:

Please refer to the student's Recommended Adjustments Page (RAP) where applicable. This should detail the individual adjustments the student has discussed with their Disability Adviser. Examples of individual adjustments include:

  • Exams and Tests: Provide any verbal instructions in writing.
  • Course materials: All audio files (e.g. podcasts) must be accompanied by a full written transcript.
  • Teaching Delivery: Advance notice should be given of any non-timetabled meetings or activities to allow BSL Interpreter to be booked.
  • Physical Environment: Teaching rooms and lecture theatres must be fitted with a working induction loop or Phonak Radio system. Availability and status of loop facilities can be checked on the GCU Information Services Lab & Teaching Room Status website:
  • Placements: Consider alternative methods for initial recording of client/patient notes such as using a Dictaphone.