Accessibility and Inclusion for Deaf Learners - Face Coverings

For deaf pupils the use of face coverings in education settings presents significant challenges. This guide provides key strategies and reasonable adjustments to ensure their access and inclusion.

As all children and young people (CYP) are different, the needs and circumstances of the deaf pupils you work with will also vary. Your allocated Qualified Teacher of the Deaf (QToD) will also be able to advise and support regarding the individual needs of the deaf pupils you work with.

Face coverings

Opaque face coverings muffle speech, hide facial expressions and make lip-reading impossible.

Consider using clear face coverings but be aware that they may not suit all deaf pupils. They also pose some communication challenges for example, they can distort speech and may fog-up.

Remember there are exemptions from wearing face coverings. The DfE guidance ‘Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance’, February 2021 states that face coverings can be removed when speaking to or providing help to “someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.” (page 12)

Remember the Basics

The best place for deaf pupils to sit is usually near to the front of the class where they have a good view of the teacher and can turn to see their peers.

Remember to face deaf pupils when you are speaking with them. Avoid talking when facing the whiteboard.

Keep background noise to a minimum. If doors or windows are open for ventilation make sure deaf pupils aren’t sitting near to unwanted noise.

Repeat then rephrase if what you have said has not been understood.

Remember to repeat what the other pupils have said.

Radio Aids

If the pupil has a radio aid, please use it. Radio aids carry the speaker’s voice directly to hearing aids and/or speech processors. This improves access to the speaker’s voice and reduces the effects of face masks, distance and background noise.

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) says that; “The NHS advises that everyone should wash their hands with soap and water frequently. Regular hand-washing will help to reduce the risk of surfaces of any device being contaminated. Where there is a specific concern, we understand that radio aids can be wiped in the same way as mobile phones. However, professionals must take care to ensure that any cleaning is done in a way which ensures the device does not get wet. Any moisture entering the device could result in damage.”

See the separate information sheet on radio aid cleaning and hygiene.


Having captions can help a deaf pupil, and other pupils, understand what it being said.

For some pupils transcription apps (such as Live Transcribe) can support with following what is being said.

Teach Visually

Use visuals such as pictures, objects, videos and animations to support what is being said.

Use colour to highlight key vocabulary and information.

Illustrated vocabulary banks and step by step guides will also support access.

Try to avoid visual clutter such as unnecessary and unrelated images and graphics.

Plan for Processing

Deaf pupils are likely to become tired easily as they are concentrating extremely hard to follow spoken and written language, and lip-read.

Avoid giving extended explanations or complex instructions without breaks. Plan for regular listening and learning breaks

Try not to digress; avoid unexpected changes in topic.

Share content before a lesson such as copies of presentations.

One Thing at a Time

Many deaf pupils will be relying on being able to look and listen at the same time in order to follow what is happening. Don’t ask them to divide their attention for example, asking them to complete a task while you are still talking. Provide copies of the notes.

Social Inclusion

It’s important to consider all parts of school life. Share deaf awareness strategies with other pupils and the wider school community to make sure everyone knows how to communicate effectively.

Break times and lunchtime can be noisy making it very difficult to hear. This is made worse when face coverings are worn. Consider the following:

  • having a quiet area where deaf pupils can meet with their friends
  • discussing games and activities that might be played before break times

Be a role model by using deaf awareness strategies as well as different ways to say when it’s been hard to hear or something isn’t clear.

Plan – Do – Review
In Partnership

Partnership between families, schools and specialist services is key to ensuring the successful inclusion of deaf pupils and enabling them to achieve their potential. Building in time to plan and review together will help to identify what might need to change, what’s going well and celebrate successes.