Accommodation Solutions Online


Deafness is the complete loss of hearing.
Students who are completely or functionally deaf must depend primarily upon visual communication such as sign language, lip-reading, writing, or transcription. Some, but not all, deaf individuals are skilled at lip-reading. Many deaf individuals use sign language. There are different types of sign languages. American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language with its own syntax and grammatical structure. Some members of the deaf community who identify ASL as their primary native language may have difficulty with English grammar and literacy, similar to that of other students learning English as a second language. Signed English (PSE) combines aspects of ASL and English. Inability to hear does not necessarily affect the physical ability to produce sounds. However, persons with hearing loss, especially if they became deaf at a young age, may be nonverbal or have speech impairments.

Observing Deafness in the Classroom

Faculty might observe the following characteristics in students with deafness:

  • May have speech impediments or be nonverbal
  • May or may not have the ability to lip read
  • May or may not know American Sign Language
  • May struggle with written English grammar


Related Functional Characteristics

Articulation : Students with deafness may have articulation difficulty due to a lack of auditory feedback.

Deafness : The inability to take in auditory information impacts a student's ability to learn.

Fatigue (Cognitive) : Students who are deaf may experience cognitive fatigue due to additional language processing requirements necessary with sign language or transcription.

Intelligibility : Students with deafness may have deficits in speech intelligibility due to being unable to hear themselves or others speak. Both the age at which deafness occurs and whether the deafness is in one or both ears influence speech intelligibility.

Processing Deficit (Language) : Students who are deaf cannot quickly process written language. In addition, American Sign Language (ASL) is a conceptual language and does not follow the same syntactic rules as English.

Production (Verbal) : Students who are deaf may or may not speak and may use language that sounds stinted or unusual and often do not use verb tenses correctly.

Production (Written) : Students who communicate using ASL, which is a conceptual rather than precise translation of spoken English, may have difficulty with written production if their English vocabulary and knowledge of grammar is limited.

Service Animal Needs : Service animals alert students with deafness to certain sounds or the presence of others.

The Building Accepting Campus Communities (BACC) project was funded by the US Department of Education Office of Secondary Education grant #P333A080070-09. The University of Nebraska does not discriminate based on gender, age, disability, race, color, religion, marital status, veteran's status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.