Deaf/Hard of Hearing Accommodations

A girl is seated at a computer and having a conversation via video relay.
Through the use of a variety of accommodations, Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals participate fully in a variety of international exchange experiences.

No two Deaf or Hard of Hearing individuals are completely alike - the accommodations that prove useful for one may not work for others due to variations in hearing levels, identity, and communication preferences. When immersed in a new culture, it can be challenging for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals to experience new accents, languages, and listening environments.

Whether you’re a Deaf of Hard of Hearing individual looking into accommodations for international exchange or an international exchange professional looking to support a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual on a program, learn more about the most commonly used accommodations in international exchange here.

Sign Language Interpretation

In the U.S., the most common sign language interpretation is American Sign Language (ASL), which uses hands, arms, head, facial expression and body language to facilitate full communication. American Sign Language is a full and distinct language that is not the same as written or spoken English. It uses a different syntax, vocabulary and grammar structure.

Just as there is ASL in the U.S., there exist many distinct local and national sign languages in other countries that can be dramatically different depending on the language’s origins. International Deaf visitors to the U.S. with limited or no experience with ASL may sometimes choose to work with a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI). Certified Deaf Interpreters are Deaf or Hard of Hearing interpreters who use ASL as a native language and can serve as a communication bridge between a hearing ASL interpreter and a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual with limited ASL experience.

Signed Exact English (SEE) is another interpretation style that some Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals may prefer. It is different from ASL in that written or spoken English is interpreted in a word-for-word manner and does not incorporate the nuanced syntax and grammatical structures of ASL.

Sign language interpretation can be provided in person or remotely via video remote interpreting (VRI) or video relay system (VRS).

Speech-to-Text and Captioning Services

Several major speech-to-text/captioning services include Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART), Typewell, and C-Print. CART provides instant verbatim captioning, which is often especially useful in foreign language courses. Typewell and C-Print provide “meaning-for-meaning” captions, which relay the meaning of what is being said, but do not provide word-for-word interpretation.

Speech-to-text/captioning services can be provided on-site or remotely.

Assistive Listening Devices and Systems

Assistive listening systems are useful in reducing background noise and amplifying speakers or other important sounds directly to a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual. Assistive listening systems use a microphone to capture sounds and then transmit these directly to an individual. Types of systems include:

  • FM systems that use frequencies similar to ones used on commercial FM radios
  • Infrared systems that use infrared light to transmit auditory signals
  • Induction loop systems a magnetic field to transmit sounds

There are different options for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals to connect to FM, infrared and other assistive listening systems. These may include using:

  • Earphones for those who don’t wear hearing aids, or that are worn over an assistive listening device such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant processor
  • Patch cords (short wires with a plug at each end) that are plugged directly into a personal assistive listening device
  • Hearing aid or cochlear implant settings or external pieces that allow an individual to connect to a specific system (e.g., an FM boot, a Telecoil switch)

Oral Transliteration

In this case, a transliterator in positioned within close view of a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual and inaudibly repeats spoken content to make it as speechreadable to the individual as possible. An Oral Transliterator may also “voice over” or verbally convey what a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person is communicating.

Cued Language Transliteration

Cued speech is a visual communication system that combines mouth movements related to speech with visual cues (different handshapes and locations) to convey different syllables. Cued Language Transliterators do not “interpret” because cued speech is not a language. Rather, Cued Language Transliterators convert words into exact visual cues.