Top Tips for Making Remote Learning Accessible for Deaf Pupils

Top Tips for Making Remote Learning Accessible for Deaf Pupils

This guide has top tips to help ensure remote learning is accessible for deaf pupils. Many of these strategies are good practice for teaching all children but they can be the key to deaf pupils being able to access and achieve their potential.

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 be able to advise and support regarding the individual needs of the deaf CYP you work with.

One key thing to remember is that hearing aids and cochlear implants don’t restore normal hearing. In addition, the sound quality of speech and the video quality of lip-patterns deteriorate significantly when broadcast through an online platform and deaf learners may have additional difficulty accessing information through spoken language alone. This is why these strategies are so important for the inclusion and access of deaf pupils.

Lights, Camera, Audio

• Good quality audio is vital. Using a headset with a microphone may improve the sound quality and clarity of your voice.
• Be noise aware. Background noise levels around you need to be low to make it easier for children to hear and understand.
• Support lip-reading. Make sure your face is visible and check the lighting. Your face needs to be well lit from the front. If the light is behind, it puts your face in shadow making it harder to lip-read.
• Have a neutral background. This helps to avoid distractions and ‘visual clutter’ making it harder to look, listen and lip-read.
• Find out how to pin or spotlight your camera so your face can be seen. This can be particularly important when sharing your screen or presenting visual information such as PowerPoints.
• When pre-recording lessons check how accessible they are before sharing - is the sound audio quality good and can your face be seen?
• When showing content such as video clips check how they sound and look on the platform you are using. Is the audio clear and easy to follow? If not, how else can it be shared or supported?

Live Streamed Sessions

• For lessons with other pupils check their microphones are muted to make listening easier.
• For group work or question and answer sessions having a pupil’s video on before they speak, and saying their name, will make it easier for a deaf pupil to follow.
• Repeat or rephrase other pupils’ contributions so that deaf pupils don’t miss what has been said.
• If you plan to ask a deaf pupil a question say their name first to clue them in.
• Talk with the pupil and their family beforehand to agree the approach for checking that all the technology is working well. For example, some pupils may feel happy to be asked directly at the start of the lesson, some pupils may not be at the stage to do this independently, while other may prefer a more discreet approach (such as the chat function).

Captioning & Subtitles

• Having captions can help a deaf pupil, and other pupils too, understand what it being said. How much pupils benefit from captioning may depend on their reading fluency and so other access strategies are still important.
• Find out how to add captions to live-streamed and pre-recorded lessons. For most platforms this is straightforward.
• Check the captioning can be easily followed and is accurate.
• Show pupils how to turn on the captioning at their end and remind them how to do this at the start of a live lesson.
• Following captions can be very tiring and pupils will need regular breaks.

Teach Visually

• In online lessons deaf pupils may rely more on the text and visuals on display than they would in a traditional ‘face to face’ lesson.
• Consider using visual stimuli such as pictures, objects, videos and animations to support what is being said.
• Try to avoid visual clutter such as unnecessary images and graphics.
• Use colour to illustrate key vocabulary and information.
• Vocabulary banks, illustrated step by step guides and easy read versions will make accessing on a screen easier.

Plan for Processing

• Due to the impact of their deafness, pupils are likely to become tired easily as they are concentrating extremely hard to follow spoken and written language, and lip-read. Consider the length and pace of what is being delivered. Plan for regular listening and learning breaks, chunk content that includes different activities.
• Try not to digress and avoid unexpected changes in topic as this makes following what is being said extremely difficult. Introduce new content first.
• For some CYP their auditory memory may still be developing making it more challenging to hold on to and process information. Include opportunities for repetition as well as giving longer pauses for them to formulate their responses.
• Consider how much text a pupil will need to read. For some deaf learners reading a lot of text will be challenging and they may miss key content.
• Also share content before a lesson for example; copies of presentations, details of upcoming topics and vocabulary lists and glossaries.

One Thing
at a Time

• 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.

Group Work and Social Inclusion

• Share key access strategies with the whole class to make sure everyone knows how to communicate effectively.

• Be a role model for the students by using deaf awareness strategies for example, different ways to say when it’s been hard to hear or something isn’t clear.

Plan – Do – Review in Partnership

• Remote learning is a team effort. Partnership between families, schools and specialist services being key to sharing knowledge, skills and ideas to ensure the successful inclusion of deaf pupils. Building in time to plan and review together, and learning from children and their families about their remote learning experience, will help to identify what might need to change, what’s going well and celebrate successes.