Ask a College Advisor: What Accommodations Do Colleges Offer for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students?

Learn about accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing students from one of our education professionals.
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Question: What accommodations do colleges offer for deaf and hard of hearing students?

Answer: You've started looking at colleges, and now you're wondering how they're going to accommodate you as a deaf or hard of hearing student. Figuring out how to access disability services may be daunting, but asking what accommodations are available is the best place to start.

Planning for college as a deaf or hard of hearing student includes knowing what accommodations are available and what accommodations will best suit your needs.

When many people think of accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing persons, an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter often comes to mind. However, you may not know or use ASL. The good news is there are lots of other options available, including those listed below.

  • CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation)

    CART captioning is the instantaneous transcription of spoken words into text. It is also referred to as real-time captioning. CART captions are produced verbatim on a word-for-word basis. The captioner captions everything said in the classroom, as well as any environmental sounds and cues. This service allows students to follow along and participate in real time.

  • Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

    An ALD increases a student's ability to hear in numerous situations, such as large, crowded, or noisy rooms. The speaker wears a microphone that transmits directly to the listener's ear through headphones or other listening devices, such as hearing aids. Some classrooms and auditoriums contain permanent assistive listening systems.

  • Notetakers

    Notetakers are student volunteers paid a stipend to take notes. These notes are made available to students with note-taking accommodations

  • C-Print and Typewell

    C-Print and Typewell services provide meaning-for-meaning interpretations of what is said in a classroom. A typist listens to what a professor says and produces text that matches the professor's meaning.

  • Captioned Media/Closed Captioning

    Captioned media displays spoken words from television clips, webcasts, film clips, or short videos as text. It includes speaker identifications, sound effects, and music descriptions.

  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices

    Augmentative and alternative communication devices help students who cannot use verbal speech to communicate. These devices are helpful for one-on-one discussions and when an ASL interpreter is not present to verbalize for the student.

  • Test Modifications

    Test modifications vary with each student's needs. Some common examples include extended time for completing exams, individual rooms to avoid noisy distractions, and the use of devices for voicing answers and questions.

  • Preferred Seating

    Preferred seating can be arranged so that deaf or hard of hearing students can have a dedicated seat at the front of the class. This accommodation allows the student to be closer to the speaker so they may hear better, read lips, and/or pick up visual cues that the instructor may make.

When considering the above accommodations, you should know that not every college offers all of them. Contact the schools you're interested in and find out what specific accommodations they provide. Oftentimes, this information is available on the school's website, but that is not always the case. Some schools offer accommodations on a case-by-case basis and prefer to discuss each student's needs individually.

It's also important to note that accommodations are not one-size-fits-all. While ASL interpreting works for many deaf students, you may prefer a combination of accommodations, such as CART and note-taking services alongside an ALD for larger classroom settings.

Because accommodation needs vary, it's a good idea to register with your school's disability office as soon as possible. If there is an option to identify as a student with a disability on your registration paperwork, check that box. If there is an opportunity to have a representative from the disability office contact you to discuss your disability and what accommodations might be available, take it.

Keep in mind that some schools — especially large universities — have separate offices for handling student accommodations on campus and accommodating the public for general events. If you are attending a public event on your school's campus, don't assume that your accommodation will automatically be available. When it's an event for the public held on campus, there should be a designated ADA person to contact to request services and accommodations.

Learn more about how accessibility removes barriers for success at college and work.


Choosing a college can be a lengthy process, and it may feel even more complicated if you have concerns about accommodations. Reach out to your college's disability department early and often. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and advocate for yourself if you believe you're not receiving the right accommodations.

The staff and the faculty are there to help you learn and succeed, and they want and need to know what will benefit your learning journey. There is a lot of interest in making college more accessible to underrepresented groups. Oftentimes, the first step is simply making sure a school meets your learning needs.

DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.

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