D/deaf and hearing impaired
Study Inclusion Plans (SIPs)
The Disability & Neurodiversity Team will usually have been in touch with the student before they start their course and will have agreed with them an individual Study Inclusion Plan (SIP). The Study Inclusion Plan describes any adjustments that need to be made or support the student will need to access the course. These might include preferred method of accessing written information, exam arrangements and library support.
The student is responsbile for reviewing and confirming their Study Inclusion Plan (SIP) each academic year in order to distribute it to their new module convenors via https://studentsonline.soas.ac.uk/. Students should also make a PDF for their SIP and email it to other teaching staff (eg Graduate Teaching Assistants or Programme Convenors) If the student changes modules or wants to share the SIP with with other teaching staff, it will be up to them to send it separately. The academic department office will also have a copy of the SIP. Whether or not the student has a SIP, please feel free to liaise with the Disability & Neurodiversity Team throughout the course regarding any questions or concerns you may have.
What is it?
Deafness can occur at birth or later in life. Individual causes and experiences of deafness, as well as ways that deaf people communicate, are very diverse. A relatively small number of people are severely or profoundly deaf and hear nothing at all (in the UK, this figure is 600,000 out of a total of 9 million people who are D/deaf or hard of hearing).
People who are D/deaf or hard of hearing may use a number of communication methods. These include:
These can be extremely useful but do not restore hearing. In lectures or seminars, radio microphones (worn by the lecturer) and loop systems (installed in the room) amplify sounds and direct them to student's hearing aids. However, all sounds, including background noises, are amplified so they are not ideal (digital hearing aids have improved this, but not entirely).
This is useful but is harder than many hearing people think. Although many deaf students use lip-reading to some extent, no-one can lip-read everything. There are many similar lip-shapes for different words and there are many factors that make it difficult to see someone’s lips clearly throughout the communication (accents, movement, moustaches/beards, shadows etc). Lip-reading for long periods can be very tiring. Speaking clearly and using signs or appropriate gestures (although not so much that this distracts) can be very helpful.
These are full languages in their own right with their own grammar, structure and rich vocabulary. There is no international sign language and different sign languages are used in different countries. Some people use sign-supported English (SSE), which is English vocabulary, structure etc accompanied by signs, rather than a language in its own right.
British Sign Language
In Britain, British Sign Language (BSL) is the most common sign language. People who categorise themselves as Deaf will very likely communicate in BSL. This is a language in its own right expressed with handshapes and movements, facial expression, and shoulder movement. For students who become deaf before using a spoken language, English will not be a first language and they will have had to try and master this through lip-reading and the written word. Besides the obvious differences in how communication takes place in English vs sign languages, there are often significant differences in grammar and the ways in which language is structured.
How can I support a D/deaf student with their course?
Meet with the student as soon as possible to find out about their needs and discuss any questions arising from the student’s SIP. This might include any difficulties with providing course information in the appropriate format, how to manage presentations, advance reading lists and directive reading. The guide below gives a general overview only and even two individuals with the same degree of hearing loss may vary considerably in terms of how they are best able to access teaching and course materials.
Suggested Strategies – General
- Direct your spoken communication to the student first and then ascertain whether they would prefer you to talk through the interpreter/assistant.
- To get a D/deaf person's attention gently wave your hand in their line of sight, tap them on the forearm or move into their field of vision. You can also gain attention by tapping on the desk or table. Try not to approach from behind, never touch on the back or head and do not shout.
- If you are in a conversation with a D/deaf person when the phone rings or someone they cannot see is speaking, indicate this visually or gesturally before you answer the phone as the person may not have heard and my feel cut off.
- In signing it is usual to establish the topic first, then to explain about it. It is important for you to make sure the person knows what you are going to talk about before you start explaining. Be visual (use gestures to point to the object or write down the heading) if you wish to change topic or to do something else.
- Be prepared to write down - it is often the simplest and most effective means of communication.
Suggested Strategies - Teaching
- Keep background noise to a minimum.
- Face the class while speaking, keeping your mouth uncovered.
- Don’t block your mouth e.g. with your hand or a pen.
- Stop speaking when your back is turned to the class.
- Don’t wander around the lecture room.
- Stand in good light – not in front of a window.
- Use gesture as an aid but not so much that it distracts.
- Speak in your normal rhythm but aim for clarity and brevity and speak a little slower.
- Speak in short, clear statements. Use unambiguous language and avoid jargon, abstract terms and complex structures.
- Explain new concepts and terms carefully. Check understanding before moving on. Explain in a different way if something is not understood.
- Indicate when you are changing topic. Summarise regularly.
- Repeat contributions/questions from other students.
- Write new vocabulary on the board.
- Provide subject word lists, glossaries of terms and acronyms.
- Reinforce spoken information with visual materials, written notes and concrete examples.
- Provide videos in advance for transcription or use subtitled videos.
- Provide lecture notes/slideshows in advance and/or in electronic form.
- Facilitate use of technology - welcome tape recorders, be prepared to wear a radio microphone.
- In discussions, show when other students are contributing or asking questions and repeat those questions to the whole group.
Suggested Strategies – Course materials
Provide whatever material you can in advance and, ideally, online (for example, reading lists, lecture summaries and lecture notes). This will enable students to prepare for lectures and coursework in advance or arrange for transcription if necessary (e.g. of video footage).
Suggested Strategies – Coursework
- Bear in mind the challenges of decoding essay questions, instructions, coursework etc in an additional language (where the student is a British Sign Language user) where the form and structure are so different.
- Aim for maximum clarity in setting questions, giving instructions etc by using clear, straightforward language.
- Marking of essays could, where appropriate, take these language issues into account, prioritising content over language accuracy.
Other adjustments and facilities available at SOAS
SOAS Library and study rooms
D15 and 482 are study rooms that can be booked at the issue desk in the library. These rooms have computers with specialist software loaded and internet access and are useful for students who prefer to work on their own.
D/deaf students may have access to extended loans and a contact person in the library. The contact person can help with photocopying, scanning and finding books.
Funding and Support
Most D/deaf students who are UK residents can apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) which can usually provide funding for some of necessary specialist equipment and support workers. You can find more information on this link - Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
Deaf students and students with hearing difficulties should borrow a pager from reception each day to alert them to fire alarms and other emergencies.
Induction loop systems
The large lecture theatres at SOAS - BGLT, KLT, DLT and all rooms in the PWW have induction loop systems. There are portable loop systems at reception points throughout the school and others which can be borrowed for lectures/seminars in other rooms. Some students may need a radio microphone or other device, if so, please discuss this with the Disability & Neurodiversity advisors.