B-inclusive – education for all


To properly understand a concept, we first turn to the dictionaries, to see how that word is defined in our language, objectively, and the multiple subjective meanings it holds in our society. So far, we haven’t found a dictionary that includes a citation for “Deaf culture,” but all dictionaries have listings for “culture,” so we’re including two of them.

According Cambridge Dictionaryculture definition in social aspect is „the way of life of a particular people, esp. as shown in their ordinary behaviour and habits, their attitudes toward each other, and their moral and religious beliefs“[1]

One possible definition of Deaf culture (and there must be many!) is a social, communal, and creative force of, by, and for Deaf people based on Sign Language (SL). It encompasses communication, social protocol, art, entertainment, recreation (e.g., sports, travel, and Deaf clubs), and worship. It’s also an attitude, and, as such, can be a weapon of prejudice—“You’re not one of us; you don’t belong.”

Despite the mighty efforts of generations of hearing, deaf people still prefer to communicate and mingle with their own kind. That is the psychosocial basis of Deaf culture. Deaf have staunchly resisted the unstinting attempts of oralists to eradicate the use of sign language and assimilate them into the hearing mainstream. The simple fact is that deaf people who attend the common residential schools for the deaf—no matter what mode of communication is forced on them in the classroom—tend to seek out other deaf people and communicate in sign language.

Note that “Deaf culture” is a positive term, indicative of pride and a communal identity, whereas terms like “hearing-impaired” and “deafness” do not connote any particular pride or sense of community. There are oralists (deaf as well as hearing) who deny that there is such a thing as Deaf culture. They prefer to see it as an artificial political construct formulated in recent times, more of a self-conscious, posturing attitude than a reality. This view denies the importance of SL to Deaf people.

Each ethnic and religious group has its own culture. In the case of UK mainstream Anglicans, the characteristics may not be sharply defined. Recent Hindu or Hmong emigrants, for example, will likely have a well-defined, all-encompassing culture—a distinct mode of dress, a distinct cuisine.

Deaf people who claim a culturally “Deaf” identity compare themselves to members of other ethnic communities. “We have a language; we have a culture,” they say. Opponents of this view don’t see deaf people as members of an ethnic minority but simply as handicapped persons, people with a hearing loss, people with a hearing disability, audiological patients.

Behaviour and habits:

Each culture determines which behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable. For example, deaf culture maintains certain rules of protocol that differ from what’s considered socially acceptable. In deaf culture, it’s considered “forward” for two persons to maintain a steady, locked gaze into each other’s eyes. This kind of behaviour tends to make uninitiated hearing people uncomfortable. Deaf culture maintains certain rules of protocol that differ from what’s considered socially acceptable. For example, in Hearing culture, a restaurant waiter must never touch a diner. In Deaf culture, it’s acceptable for a waiter to touch a diner’s shoulder to get her attention. Similarly, it's okay for Deaf persons to maintain a steady gaze while they’re signing to each other—something that might be impermissible by Hearing standards.

Another example: according to Deaf culture, a person who leaves a room where there are other Deaf people notifies them that s/he’s going into another room—even if it’s a short jaunt to the bathroom. Hearing people might consider this tacky, but there’s a practical reason—it forestalls frantic searching for the person who has just left the group. Since Deaf people can’t hear another person yell through the bathroom door, they notify their friends before removing themselves from eyeshot. It’s a practice that, all things considered, makes sense.

Deaf social protocol is based on Deaf people’s need to maintain good eye contact and visibility, and to make signing easier and more comfortable. Therefore, Deaf culture does have this in common with ethnic/religious cultures.

Folklore/literary major characteristic of a culture. Every culture has a distinct and colourful folkloric tradition. In many cases, folklore wasn’t written; it was retold. Traditional folklore was transmitted from generation to generation by parents, elder relatives, and local storytellers, who shared the history and myths of the tribe or community with the adults and children gathered together to listen and participate. These “texts” were memorized by the new generation who, in turn, transmitted them to their children.

Deaf people have a folklore. In mostly countries, this is based on sign language, and utilizes dramatic storytelling, sign language humour, sign play, poetry, anecdotes, legends, and myths.

The language used by an ethnic, religious, or geographical community reflects its values and world-view. Each ethnic culture possesses a native language. Subgroups have their own dialects.

Sign language is the native language of Deaf. However, most deaf people have hearing parents and siblings. The vast majority of Deaf people don’t come from Deaf families.

Historically, schools for the deaf have served as the hubs of the Deaf community. Although enrolment has been declining, due to the growing inclusion of deaf pupils/students in to mainstreaming schools, this still holds true. Deaf children have traditionally learned Sign language from other students, and  

gained their first exposure to the norms of Deaf culture—for example, everybody takes turns participating in sports; no one is left out.

The only truly distinctive characteristics of Deaf culture are the language—Sign language—and Sign language-based schools for the deaf. A growing number of deaf people have not attended schools for the deaf, but are graduates of mainstreamed schools, or other setups. Some mainstreamed situations are excellent; others abysmally bad. A number of people who have a non-traditional (mainstreamed) background have nonetheless chosen to join the Deaf community as teens or adults. Although purists don’t consider those from mainstreamed backgrounds “strong-Deaf,” a number of respected Deaf Culture advocates have sent their deaf children to mainstreaming schools, not schools for the deaf, so the “rule,” if there is one, isn’t absolute.

While deaf students are legally free to enrol in the college of their choice, a large number of them choose to attend the particular educational establishments for best communication and feeling; it’s possible for a deaf student to go through an entire Education establishment career without learning how to sign or having any social interaction with other deaf people.

The popularity of Deaf sports, Deaf performing arts, chartered Deaf tours, and Deaf social institutions can all be traced to the importance of Sign language in our everyday lives. The basis of Deaf culture is Sign language. This is testimony to the importance of communication. Accessible communication is of paramount importance in our lives, and Sign language, a multi-national blend of native and foreign sign languages, has been developed and refined by generations of deaf people to serve that purpose.

Attitudes toward each other

Virtually all cultural groups have social, recreational, and sports institutions that are organized to some degree and serve to foster group and communal loyalty, and also serve as a way to have fun within the boundaries of the community.

Team sports, like volleyball and softball, play an important role in Deaf culture. Sports are a way of expressing belonging and kinship in a kinetic way, free from communication barriers. Deaf people enjoy participating in competitive sports with other Deaf people, and this predilection begins at schools for the deaf, where all the children participate; everyone takes turns.

Although Olympic sports are an important part of our culture, most Deaf athletes have preferred to participate in Deaf-only competitions (e.g., the Deaflympics), despite the modest perks involved, the higher expenses, and the relative lack of prestige in Hearing culture. Since easy communication is of paramount importance, most Deaf athletes opt for Deaf sports.

Deaf students in some mainstreamed settings may find themselves excluded from participation in intramural and varsity sports, due to the communication problems involved. This kind of exclusion doesn’t exist at schools for the deaf. Every child, no matter how clumsy, gets a chance to participate. That’s long been a defining characteristic of deaf culture. A few determined deaf athletes have participated in the “Hearing” Olympics.

Duckhee Lee – Teenage Asian tennis sensation


Korean Duckhee Lee is profoundly deaf and says he can’t hear the line judge’s calls during matches but that clearly doesn’t actually matter. He’s 15 years old and making waves on the junior tennis circuit. He competed at Junior Wimbledon last year, is the Asian Junior Champion and has already won his first senior title.  If you’re good enough; you’re old enough.

Marcus Titus


Marcus Titus, one of the nation’s top breaststrokers and a deaf athlete, created a Facebook page asking supporters to e-mail USA Swimming officials. He was joined by officials at U.S. Deaf Swimming and the USA Deaf Sports Federation, who wanted to ensure hearing impaired athletes are given a level playing field on which to compete against hearing athletes.

Titus is not swimming’s first elite deaf athlete. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Terence Parkin of South Africa won the silver medal in the 200 breaststroke. In footage of Parkin’s races at the Sydney games, it appears the FINA referee holds his hand out, giving the visual signal for “set.”

For Titus, this was a small win in a larger fight for equality for deaf swimmers who are still at a disadvantage, having to rely on referees remembering to use the hand signals. If he makes the U.S. squad, he will have to make similar pleas to FINA prior to the Olympics.

Carlo Orlandi – Olympic gold medal winning Italian boxer


Carlo Orlandi was a deaf Italian boxer who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics. He won the gold medal in the lightweight class after winning the final against Stephen Halaiko. Orlandi talked with his fists and his amazing career included 97 victories and 19 defeats. 

Ashley Fiolek – The youngest ever female American National Motocross Champion


Four time American Women’s National Motocross Champion, Ashely Fiolek, is one of America’s finest Motocross racers. In 2008 she won her first title and became the youngest champion EVER. Born profoundly deaf, she is said to have single-handedly advanced the reputation and performance of Women’s Motocross in America more than anyone else.

One important criterion of a culture is that it transmitted from parents to children. In other words, parents teach their children the byways, norms, and values of their culture: the language, rules, customs, folklore, religion, and moral values they cherish, as part of their everyday family life. As far as Deaf culture goes, this holds true for only a small minority of Deaf children—those with Deaf parents. Every other culture is transmitted from parents to children. Deaf culture is unique in that it has traditionally been transmitted from child to child at the schools for the deaf. Since the overwhelming majority of deaf children have hearing parents, they didn’t learn the language, values, and social customs of Deaf culture from their parents, but their peers.

Each ethnic/religious culture has a scriptural basis. That is, each community has a holy book that they believe was divinely transmitted, and which serves as a basis for their liturgy and communal history. There is no “Deaf religion.” There is no “Deaf God,” no “Deaf Gospel,” no special liturgy, and no set of beliefs unique to the Deaf community. Unlike the Mormons, there is no “Deaf Prophet” who is revered as having received the Word of God from heaven or an angel. Deaf people utilize the same scriptures and liturgies used by hearing people.

What every parent and professional should know:

A key point for consideration is communication opportunities. Deaf children of Deaf parents have access to both SL and national language. Deaf households are primarily bilingual and members of the Deaf community highly value literacy. Historically, the Deaf community and educators have engaged in an impassioned debate over the method of instruction and often National language and SL are presented as mutually exclusive terms. Often parents feel pressured to choose one language option. Deaf cultural perspective holds that communication access multiplies when several opportunities are available. Rather than believing that education should be presented in strictly oral language or strictly sign language, instructors can capitalize on the many avenues of communication. A bilingual environment may be unique to the needs of the child, a profoundly deaf child can be bilingual in SL and written National language and a child with some auditory access may also be bilingual in spoken and written National language and SL. Language access is not described in terms of the use of one language, independently of any other. Instead, families should seek out communication opportunities in SL and oral language and other ways of communicating that engage, educate and benefit their child.

It is important to provide a Deaf child with access to visual technolog y. These tools, such as video phones with access to video relay services (VRS), cell phones or pagers with data plans for emailing and texting, light flashers connected to doorbells and phones, and closed captioning on the television, create an environment that is compatible with a Deaf worldview, and making them a permanent facet of a Deaf child’s life provides him or her full access to the environment.

Cochlear implants (CI) have been on the forefront of Deaf cultural discussions for two decades. While implantation can be seen as a hot-button issue, it is important to make several distinctions. First, CIs are a product of a medical philosophical model that views deafness as an impairment to be cured. The child is measured in terms of hearing “loss” and reasonably expected gains and a great deal of physical and mental work is done to repair the deafened child. While this is seen to be in direct opposition to a Deaf cultural model, members of Deaf culture recognize and embrace the diversity of the Deaf community. Children with CIs are not permanently “cured,” and CIs, regardless of their ability to improve access to information through “hearing” do not change a deaf person into a hearing person.  SL and Deaf culture can and should continue to play an important role in the life of any child born deaf – including those using cochlear implant technology - as an opportunity for cultural enrichment and self-identify.

Some hearing parents fear that the Deaf community will “steal” their child, or that somehow the deaf child will be “lost” to Deaf culture. Family members that embrace deaf culture and become SL users don’t need to fear this. In fact, hearing family members who embrace the Deaf community can actually strengthen the bonds between themselves and their child. All members of the family can participate in Deaf culture, and from a Deaf cultural perspective, this is preferred. There are a great many options for family members to obtain access to ASL or sign language. Classes are available in most communities and there is a wealth of online resources available.

Deaf culture represents a shift away from medical models of deafness, which present images of deafness as a pathology, or as synonymous with disability or dysfunction. A medical model reinforces limitations rather than the abilities of deaf children. This approach tends to marginalize the Deaf. Those that are Deaf do not view Deafness as a lack of anything at all. You cannot lament the loss of music, of speech, of sound, if you have never heard it. Denying deaf children visual communication

access, however, forces them into a world of visual “silence” in which they are surrounded by visual cues and interchanges that lack the accompanying messages. It is crucial for parents and professionals to understand the difference between medical and cultural perspectives of deafness. The medical perspective emphasizes the “loss” of hearing, stresses the importance of speech and assistive technologies and focuses the child’s ability to be seen as normal. Despite the prevalent images of deafness, which stress the ears, with terms like “hearing loss” or “hearing impairment”, the cultural perspective provides a deaf child with a community, a language and a history that reflects their strengths and abilities. Denying cultural access is a rejection of people that have shared experiences and denial of a cultural identity that is rewarding and stimulating. The medical model conveys the impression to deaf children that there is something inherently wrong with them. The cultural model values the remarkable and extraordinary variations in all of human kind and the uniqueness of us all.

Sign language

Sign language is the most important element of the deaf culture. It is an essential and indispensable element, as it has materialized deaf human connection method of communication with another deaf person since the birth, with the world. A deaf man (or hearing) with deaf parents can confidently say, "Sign Language is my native language, Lithuanian language - the first language." Sign language is a visual language. This "independent" language, as "independent" are spoken English or Lithuanian. Sign language, the language in which gestures-signs serve as words. Hand and arm movements transmit sound colloquial elements. Eyes instead ears receive messages. Sign language has its own grammar and syntax. It consists of five parameters: the fingers and hand positions, movements, positioning and facial expressions. It also includes syntax (place, characters, action) and grammar. Each country has its own sign language, so it is not universal.

Sign language has its own alphabet - Dactyls or finger alphabet. It is used to show letters but not the words. Different fingers positions shown each letter of the alphabet using Dactyls. This is very comfortable when you want to show on your name or last name, proper names, without their gestures as well as words, gestures, we do not know.

Usually people who do not know anything about sign language, spontaneously ask several questions. For example, if sign language is universal, is it? Do the whole world deaf speak one and the same sign language? Of course, the answer to this question is - "No!“ Almost every country has its own sign language. In addition, sign languages have quite complicated links with each other, for example: American Sign Language is closer to French rather than to British Sign Language, although both America and the UK speak English. Namely here is the answer to another popular question: "How many sign language is associated with the spoken?" It can be said that almost unrelated. Sign language - it's not the "transfer" of sound language by gestures. Sign language - it is a separate language. On the other hand, when the languages – spoken and sign - contact with each other, there are always some kind of cross-influence. But, basically, for example the Lithuanian sign language is common to Russian sign language and very strongly differ from spoken Lithuanian and Russian languages, and grammatically it’s wholly dissimilar. But sign languages, especially in Europe, are very common. For example, Russian and Dutch sign languages is much more similar to each other than the spoken Russian and Dutch. 





British sign language: “SPRING”. See from 0.14 s.

American sign language: The sign for "spring" is based on the sign for "GROW."  This is a noun verb pair.  If you use a single motion it means "grow."  If you use a double motion it means "spring" (or "garden" or "a plant"). 



Spring in Lithuanian Sign language.


English alphabet in American sign language


English alphabet in British sign language

Lithuanian alphabet in Lithuanian sign language

History of Sign language

Deaf people have used sign languages throughout history. One of the earliest written records of a sign language is from the fifth century before Crystus, in Plato's Cratylus, where Socrates says: "If we hadn't a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn't we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body, just as dumb people do at present?"[4]

Until the 19th century, most of what we know about historical sign languages is limited to the manual alphabets (fingerspelling systems) that were invented to facilitate transfer of words from an oral language to a sign language, rather than documentation the language itself.

Chirogram from Chirologia, 1644.

The earliest known printed pictures of consonants of the modern two-handed alphabet appeared in 1698 with Digiti Lingua, a pamphlet by an anonymous author who was himself unable to speak. He suggested that the manual alphabet could also be used by mutes, for silence and secrecy, or purely for entertainment. Nine of its letters can be traced to earlier alphabets, and 17 letters of the modern two-handed alphabet can be found among the two sets of 26 handshapes depicted.

By 1720, the British manual alphabet had found more or less its present form. Descendants of this alphabet have been used by deaf communities (or at least in classrooms) in former British colonies India, Australia, New Zealand, Uganda and South Africa, as well as the republics and provinces of the former Yugoslavia, Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean, Indonesia, Norway, Germany and the USA.

Frenchman Charles-Michel de l'Épée published his manual alphabet in the 18th century, which has survived basically unchanged in France and North America until the present time. In 1755, Abbé de l'Épée founded the first school for deaf children in Paris; Laurent Clerc was arguably its most famous graduate. Clerc went to the United States with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to found the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817. Gallaudet's son, Edward Miner Gallaudet founded a school for the deaf in 1857 in Washington, D.C., which in 1864 became the National Deaf-Mute College. Now called Gallaudet University, it is still the only liberal arts university for deaf people in the world.

International Sign, formerly known as Gestuno, is used mainly at international Deaf events such as the Deaflympics and meetings of the World Federation of the Deaf. While recent studies claim that International Sign is a kind of a pidgin, they conclude that it is more complex than a typical pidgin and indeed is more like a full sign language.

Sign language Linguistics

Sign language linguistics is one of the younger areas of linguistic research, having been a field in its own right only since the 1960s, when the first research investigating sign languages from a linguistic perspective was published. Since sign language was historically considered not to be language at all, but merely a gesture-based aid for basic communication, early research was focused on demonstrating the linguistic status of sign languages—that they are indeed languages in their own right, equivalent to spoken languages. The earliest research used traditional linguistic tools to investigate the phonological structure of sign language (specifically American Sign Language [ASL]), and to demonstrate that sign languages had duality of patterning, but the field soon expanded in all directions.[2]

The phonetics of sign language has been approached from the perspectives of transcription, relative ease of articulation, and contextual processes, such as co-articulation and reduction.

Sign language morphology is based on two processes.

One of them - reduplication (all or part of the repetition of the gesture). In many sign languages nouns who is coming from verbs are created by reducing or repeating the movement, for example, sit verb means "sit", but instead sit-sit means chair.

Another process is an internal modification. That is, a single gesture component can vary, and the other - no. Some verbs, for example, may indicate acting person or object, indicating the direction of motion. In other cases, verbs can display information about the amount by changing the form of hand.

These processes can be combined. Adjectives (here predicate subclass) American Sign Language (amslene, ASL) can hold up to 12 different aspects of the forms created by changing the speed of the gesture motion, motion style together with the number of repetitions.

But sign language is more than just a hand. Non-manual elements such as mime, head, shoulder movements - is an integral part of the grammar of sign language and imposes sentence types, and a separate part of the sentence. Sign language learning is not easier than the spoken languages, but sign language is very rich, expressive and interesting, so it makes sense to put effort and time for studying them.

As in other languages, the sign languages have certain expressions that are difficult translate to the words, and vice versa: some words cannot be translated into sign language.

Relationships with spoken languages

The first mistake is to think that sign language is common to the spoken language. Instead, sign languages, like all natural languages, are developed by the people who use them, in this case, deaf people, who may have little or no knowledge of any spoken language. Sometimes sign language borrow some elements from spoken language. But all languages borrow some elements from each other. In many sign languages are fingerspellings who allow to borrow word from the spoken language. This is most commonly used for proper names of people and places; it is also used in some languages for concepts for which no sign is available at that moment, particularly if the people involved are to some extent bilingual in the spoken language.

As was nemtioned above, for example, British Sign Language and American Sign Language (ASL) are quite different and mutually unintelligible, even though the hearing people of Britain and America share the same spoken language. The grammars of sign languages do not usually resemble that of spoken languages used in the same geographical area; in fact, in terms of syntax, ASL shares more with spoken Japanese than it does with English.


Language families exist in sign language as in spoken language. For example, Austrian sign language or Dutch sign language is easier to understand or read for those who talk in German sign language than those who talk the Italian sign language. And the English sign language, by contrast, is different from all other European sign languages and is comparable only with Australian sign language.

Sign language families: Orange/pink: French (pink: ASL. light pink: mix with ASL). Blue: BANZL. Azure: Swedish. Purple: Japanese. Green: German. Brown: Arab. Yellow: Indian. Chartreuse: Kenyan. Ochre: Uru/Paraguayan. Dark grey: Isolates. Light grey: unclassified or unknown.[3]

The sign language can be written. Some methods exist for written sign language. One ofost popular: The Hamburg Notation System (HamNoSys), developed in the early 1990s, is a detailed phonetic system, not designed for any one sign language, and intended as a transcription system for researchers rather than as a practical script.

Deaf students and students with hearing impairments in education

There are very few students with hearing disabilities in mainstreaming education. The main reasons for such a situation are:

•          impaired communication with others, for whom the basic form of communication is spoken language, and ensuing difficulties with participation in lectures, classes and other university activities,

•          poorer taking language skills; for some students with hearing disabilities national language is the second language, sign language being the primary one.

Among persons with hearing disabilities we can distinguish two major groups – (I) the deaf, whose loss of hearing makes it impossible for them to understand spoken language even if hearing aids were employed, and (II) persons with varying degrees of hearing impairment.

Persons with hearing impairment often try to rely on their remaining hearing. Depending on the degree of hearing loss, such persons can -but do not have to - use hearing aids. They usually know national language much better than deaf persons, though this may not always be the case.

Neither of the two groups is distinguished from other people by external characteristics. Usually people first realize they are dealing with a hearing dysfunctional person only when a spoken communication fails (e.g. failure to react to speech or other sounds, minimal or partial speaking ability, over-reliance on gestures). Moreover, persons with hearing disabilities often observe the interlocutor's face in a specific way. While a hearing aid may obviously help to identify a person with a hearing impairment, the device may quite often by difficult to see (e.g. hidden behind hair).

Persons with a complete hearing loss treat their deafness as an element of socio-cultural identification, not as deficiency. They do not therefore consider themselves either disabled or disadvantaged.

Persons with hearing disabilities and Internet

For people with hearing impairments and for the deaf it is necessary that the audio information is conveyed in an equivalent visual form. Site information could be translated into sign language. It is also very helpful to have voice (audio) transcriptions and flashing error text messages accelerating troubles solving, if any.

Acquiring Language

For severely and profoundly deaf people, acquiring language is clearly a different process from the ways in which hearing people develop language.  Language is acquired through plentiful exposure to meaningful linguistic interaction in early childhood. Severe deafness drastically reduces both the quantity and the quality of linguistic input available and accessible to the deaf person.  Consequently, for a deaf student, oral language development is rarely natural and automatic, but is instead a laborious process with numerous obstacles and pitfalls.

For many students this situation is exacerbated by a poor education system, where students may miss a great deal of information.  This can hamper understanding of oral language grammar and result in a limited vocabulary and more restricted literacy skills than hearing peers. 

Spoken national language as a Second Language

For many pre-lingual deaf students, those born deaf, spoken language is their second language; Sign Language being their first. However, unlike other students who do not have one more oral language as their first language, pre-lingual deaf students are physically unable to learn oral language the way a German or French native speaker learns English. They cannot be immersed in the language around them for they cannot hear it. In addition, since Sign Language is entirely visual, deaf students do not have a written or spoken language on which to base their second language learning.

Linguistic Difficulties

It is not surprising, then, that deafness often leads to linguistic problems. Difficulties manifest themselves most obviously in written work, where mistakes may be found with sentence structure, verb tenses, word omissions etc.  When one considers a lifetime of not hearing articles, determiners, word endings and prepositions the mistakes become more understandable.  To exacerbate the problem, carrier language, all those words which tie language together (it, them, and, with etc.), is often “hidden” in fluent speech and therefore impossible to lip-read.  The lack of audition and auditory memory severs the means by which to rehearse what is put down on the page.  As it was mentioned above Sign Language has a grammar and syntax which is quite different to that of spoken language which can also confuse the student.


The various channels for communicating with persons with hearing disabilities include speech, writing and gestures, or sign language. However, such communication is usually impeded for both parties to the communication process. Efficient communication with the deaf, and with persons with hearing impairments, therefore requires both understanding and being understood.

Lip reading

The basic, and quite often only, channel of communication for a person with a hearing disability is their sight. Lip (speech) reading is one of the available solutions allowing a spoken message to be understood. A person with a hearing disability is able to understand the whole spoken message only when seeing the face of the speaker throughout the whole time of speaking. Any disruption of visual contact with the speaker's face will lead to a breakdown in communication. Lip reading can, for instance, be disrupted by heavy facial hair of the speaker, a hand or other objects covering the mouth or excessive distance. It should be remembered that not all students with hearing disabilities are able to lip-read. Where this is the case, use should be made of other channels of communication, such as sign language or writing.

Sign language

There are various types of visual-spatial languages: sign languages, manually-coded languages (signed modes of spoken languages), fingerspelling, pidgin sign languages, and even mini-languages called home signs or kitchen signs. It should be noted, however, that not all deaf persons and persons with hearing impairments use sign language. In fact, persons with hearing impairments who know spoken language use sign language rather rarely. It is therefore of great importance that each student with a hearing disability be approached individually, so that their preferred mode of communication can be relied on.

Understanding the speech of deaf persons

While most deaf persons have been taught spoken mother’s language, the effects may vary significantly (for most deaf persons the first language is the sign language). Some deaf people speak mother’s language properly, but the spoken message may often become distorted by deficient articulation. It should be recalled that deaf persons cannot hear themselves and do not therefore receive the auditory feedback necessary for proper pronunciation. In such situations teachers should allow enough time and patience for the students with hearing inabilities to produce understandable utterances. Asking for repetition is one of the more obvious ways of eliciting a comprehensible utterance. Sometimes a student's answer may be completely inadequate to the question asked. Such situations will require immediate clarification.

Reading Difficulties

Research shows that the reading age of deaf students leaving school is below the national average.  Clearly, deaf people reaching higher education are functioning at a relatively advanced level of English.  However, reading remains a very laborious task for deaf students, as their vocabulary is usually considerably restricted in comparison with their hearing peers.  A deaf student will not have heard many of the words that fill the classrooms and lecture rooms around them. Unfamiliar words, or words which have not been specifically introduced to the student, cannot be lip-read.  Consequently, deaf students often have to research not only the technical jargon relating to the subject, but also carrier language which is commonplace for hearing peers.  An exceptional amount of time is thus spent on reading around and preparing assignments, often with the support of an individual Language Tutor.

Lack of Background Information

In addition, for a deaf student, the pathway to general knowledge has been significantly blocked.  Hearing students learn so much information through “osmosis”; they absorb general knowledge through reading newspapers, listening to the T.V or radio, chatting in the Students Union, eavesdropping on the bus and having discussions with other students in the refectory or pub.  This incidental information often helps to form the opinions and develop the skills necessary for higher education. Yet, deaf students are often denied access to this whole wealth of general knowledge and life experience.


The knock-on effect of all of the above, is often reflected in a deaf student’s written work, which one may judge to be lacking in depth, containing immature and sometimes uninformed opinions and exhibiting problems with sequencing and overall structure. 

This may well mask the student’s true intelligence and creative ability.

Extra information

Deafness does not affect intelligence!!!,

Deaf persons or persons with hearing impairments may often feel embarrassed to admit that they have problems with following a lecture or class. Therefore, the teacher should ascertain whether the chosen channel of communication with a student with a hearing disability is the most appropriate one in a given situation. Both, deaf students and students with hearing impairments can participate in foreign language classes. It should be realised, however, that in such cases the foreign language knowledge will often be based primarily on reading and writing skills. Hearing disabilities will often hinder the mastering of listening and speaking skills. Nevertheless, individual linguistic abilities vary, and consequently some persons with hearing disabilities will be able to master a foreign language to a satisfactory degree.

How to serve students with hearing disabilities

The face of the communicating person should always be within the sight of students with hearing disabilities. This will enable deaf persons and persons with hearing impairments to lip-read. Sounds should not be articulated in an exaggerated manner as this may lead to a distortion of the message. The pace of the speech should be slightly slower as compared with natural speech. When communicating with deaf persons, eye contact must be maintained. Looking away may cause the person to follow the movement of the eyes of the speaker and thus may interrupt communication,

Speaking louder than usual when talking to deaf persons does not have any effect on their understanding of the message, A source of light (the sun, windows) should not be located behind the speaker's back as it may dazzle the students with hearing disabilities, making it impossible for them to lip-read effectively, The attention of a person with a hearing disability should be drawn by way of a light touch on the shoulder or arm. Under no circumstances should a persons’ head, hands, legs or any part of the chest be touched. If the distance prevents the use of touch, the teacher may wave their hand energetically or ask a person standing closer to help draw the student's attention.

Deaf persons and persons with hearing impairments find one-to-one types of communication relatively easy to deal with. However, in larger groups they often fail to keep up with the following of other speakers. In such cases, a discussion should be summarized and the commission’s members should talk by one, or better the persons should talk only with one commission’s member.

Entering organizing for persons with hearing disabilities

Education establishment’s registration process should foresee, invite and allow a sign language interpreter to participate in the discussion, or the tables or seats should be arranged in a circle. The deaf student should have the possibility to participate in the discussions or tests with his/her own sign language interpreter.

On the other hand, to avoid students dishonesty, the establishment should foresee possibility to provide own sign language interpreter upon advance request.

Studies process organizing for deaf students or students with hearing impairments (adaptive equipment, sign language interpreters, lectures notes)

Common Traits

Deaf Students in Education may exhibit some or all of the following traits:

1.Difficulty in reading for meaning; including lecture notes, assignments and reference texts.

a.Restricted vocabulary shown by:

i.Acceptance of particular words as having fixed meanings relating only to previous experiences

ii.Understanding and use of a far more limited range of words than one would expect

iii.Difficulty and/or delay in absorbing and using 'new' technical terminology or the application of everyday words in specific technical contexts.

1. Misinterpretation of information which is presented, particularly where there is possible ambiguity in terminology or phraseology.

2. Incorrect verb endings and spelling mistakes in written work.

3.Errors in syntax - e.g. incorrect word order, words missed out, or included unnecessarily and other abnormalities in the use of English.

4. Inappropriate or immature styles of writing in assignments.

5. Difficulty in producing discussion in depth, or discursive elements of an assignment, particularly where they depend upon abstract thinking rather than practical observation.

Difficulties with reading mean that deaf students frequently need:

1. More than average time to read, understand and assimilate information.

2. More recourse to dictionaries, references and tutors to check their understanding, than the average student.

3. Longer to plan, formulate, produce and check written work.  Awareness of their own limitations often adds feelings of inadequacy and low confidence in the presentation of work.

These effects are completely independent of the intellectual ability or potential of a deaf student.

What can help?

1. Handouts which are written in a clear, precise style.

2. Assignments which give clear information and state exactly what tasks are to be achieved.

3. Examination questions or assessment briefs which leave no room for ambiguity and which avoid the inclusion of words that are not strictly necessary.

4. Recognition by tutors that peculiar errors in a deaf student's written work are likely to be a direct result of his/her disability, not merely the result of carelessness.  We recommend accrediting correct content, but not penalising peculiarities unduly. ( M.Miller: 1996)

Marking Deaf Students’ Work

The following should be seen as a means of awarding marks which reflect the student’s understanding of the subject rather than the level of their linguistic skills.  Deaf students should be able to benefit from appropriate comments from tutors. The aim is to level the playing field rather than exhibit leniency:

1. If possible, mark the work using two different coloured pens: one for comments about the material and the use of ideas, the other for comments     about spelling, grammar, organisation of material, linguistic expression etc.

2. Wherever possible, the mark recorded for the piece of work should be the mark awarded on the basis of the material, argument and analysis etc.

3. Do make constructive comments about both the factual content and the use of language.  Explain what is required or what is wrong.

4. If you choose to mark the content only and to ignore spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax etc, let the student know that you are doing so.

5. If possible, discuss the piece of work with the student.  If you can do so...

6. Check the student’s level of understanding of the technicalities of language and presentation; sometimees there is conscious knowledge but an inability to use it; sometimes there is no conscious basic knowledge.  Discuss the level of correction that the student will be able to use and what reference books the student might find useful.

7. Mark errors in the margin against the line where they occur.  The aim is to let the student find the errors and correct them.

a. Use a system of symbols which is convenient, such as spfor spelling, ss for sentence structure, pn for punctuation, gr for grammar and lt for layout (or presentation).

8.If the student has no conscious knowledge of language and presentation - you will need to talk through the errors in the course work and explain why the corrections are necessary.

Adaptive equipment for students with hearing disabilities

Persons with moderate and substantial hearing loss are usually able to receive and understand sound messages through hearing aids or other peripheral devices coupled with them. Devices based on FM radio technology transmit sound waves from the lecturer's microphone to receivers connected with the students' hearing aids. This technology substantially improves understanding of speech as listened to from longer distances.

It would be perfect if educational establishment found a possibility to install FM radio technology-based transmitters using separate radio band frequencies ranging from 72 to 76 MHz.. Additionally, the establishment should provide a number of portable transmitter-receiver sets. In the case of the portable devices, the lecturer would have to speak to the microphone connected to the transmitter, while in the case of the fixed devices the system is activated automatically whenever the general sound-reinforcement system is turned on. A student using a portable FM radio-based set should ask the lecturer to plug the microphone into the device's transmitter. This should be seen by teachers as standard procedure allowing the students with hearing disabilities to participate fully in lectures and classes.

Persons with hearing disabilities who study or work at the education establishment can hire portable FM radio-based sets at the OPD.

Sign language interpreters

If a deaf student or a student with hearing impairment needs sign language interpreting services to be able to participate fully in classes or lectures, such services can be provided by the School/University/Educator/state (according each state standarts). A sign language interpreter accompanies a student with a hearing disability to classes, interpreting both for the student and the teacher.

Academic teachers might find the following suggestions useful when cooperating with sign language interpreters:

(a) In the presence of a sign language interpreter, the teacher should address the student with a hearing disability directly. Forms of address such as "Tell him" or "Ask her" should not be used.

Forms of assistance

(b)Normal speed of speech and tone of voice ought to be used. It should be remembered however that it takes more time before translated information is taken in by the student.

(c)In conference and lecture rooms, the interpreter and the student with a hearing disability often sit far apart, the interpreter usually located near the lecturer.

(d)If audio-visual aids are to be used during a lecture or presentation, the interpreter should be informed in advance.

(e)If a lecture takes longer than an hour, the interpreter should be allowed to take a short break so that he / she can work effectively later on.

(f)Where a lecturer is writing information on the board, the interpreter should be seated in a convenient location to be able to see the board. When explaining the information written on the board, the lecturer should use specific language such as "In the last line" or "In the top left-hand corner" rather than general language such as "Here" or "There".

It is important that pupil/student have the same sign interpreter in same subject. We should remember, that Sign Language is not direct transcription of spoken language. Each interpreter may translate word a little bit different. There are a lot of examples of teacher and pupils misunderstanding only due the changed interpreter: Teacher explained one lesson and it was seemed that pupils understood perfectly the subject. On the next lesson pupils answered questions from the previous lesson incorrectly. It looked like the pupils did not learn about the subject. Where was the problem? The answer was simple – the shift of interpreter. One lesson was one, and the next lesson came another, and the signs of the same subject were different, the translation of the text was different. Without this understanding, dissatisfaction would come to the teacher, he/she would begin to believe that failing to adequately explain, or could form a stereotype that deaf people do not have the memory or they are unable to learn and so on. So lesson success is highly dependent on the quality and proper translation from sign language into spoken language and vice versa. Not every interpreter can translate all subjects equal qualitatively: one could better understanding of information technology, the other - physics, chemistry, for others more acceptable spoken language and literature lessons. As confessed to the translator, they often think of how to translate that sentence would be as accurate as possible, information undistorted and correct understanding and avoid conflict situations. The contribution of translators to the school is huge.

Lecture notes for students with hearing disabilities

Some students with hearing disabilities are not able to take notes during lectures. The OPD should offer the following help in obtaining lecture notes:

(a) free-of-charge photocopying of lecture notes made by other students,

(b) the finding of volunteers who would be willing to either make notes for students with hearing disabilities or to share their own lecture notes.

Students with hearing disabilities will also appreciate any course materials prepared by the teachers for their classes or lectures.

On-Course Support

Typically, a profoundly deaf student should have a Sign Language\spoken language Interpreter within the classroom, who will interpret everything which goes on within the lecture session.  The information will be conveyed as accurately as possible, although you should be aware of limitations dependent upon the speed of delivery, vocabulary, technical jargon, etc. 

The deaf student may also have a Note-taker present in the classroom.  This person will take down notes on behalf of the student who will be lip-reading or watching the interpreter.

Finally, because of the problems deaf students encounter in accessing spoken language, each student is supported by a Language Tutor, who assists the student, outside of the classroom, with the understanding and production of written text. 

The Role of a Language Tutor

Language Tutors work with the student, not for the student.  A breakdown of their role includes:

•To help students prepare for assignments – i.e. checking comprehension of the task and the understanding of written materials; assisting with planning/organisation of projects, the structure of essays etc.

•To advise students about the presentation of written, signed or spoken work.

•To modify the language of course material to facilitate access to texts.

•To modify the language of examinations and assignment briefs where appropriate.

You should liaise with the Language Tutor regarding examinations and course assessments.

Examples of good practice include:-

• Long essay type examination questions replaced by short answer questions - these may be accompanied by a viva in National Sign Language (interpreter present).

• Audio\oral examinations (on Language courses) replaced by written examinations.

• Written dissertations replaced by more practical\visual projects.

• Oral presentations replaced by signed presentations (interpreter present).

• Some elements of the assessment signed to video camera and translated by an interpreter rather than written. 

List of Literature







[1] http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/culture

[2] „Sign Language Linguistics“ Carl Börstell, Wendy Sandler, Mark Aronoff

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sign_language#/media/File:Sign_language_families.png