5 Min

Navigating Online Education: Tips for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Online education is on the rise! Read this article to find out how it benefits deaf and HoH students and what challenges it presents for them!

Molly Glass
Molly Glass
Navigating Online Education: Tips for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

The Rise of Remote Education

Online and remote learning are here to stay. During the Covid-19 pandemic, classrooms worldwide shifted to online learning for health and safety. Since then, according to Forbes, at least 26% of all postsecondary degrees are earned online. In addition, around 7.5 million students will complete at least one online course in their academic careers.

Challenges in Accessibility

Remote learning isn’t accessible to all students. Setting up accommodations that work for you will require forethought and planning. Online classes differ in their approaches: some have audio files, some require reading and discussion boards, while others use virtual access to lectures or a hybrid of all formats. 

The challenge for deaf and hard of hearing students is finding ways to gain equal access in your classes. Read on for where to start!

Strategies for Access

A bearded white man with dark hair and a gray shirt is holding a laptop computer and thinking.
A bearded white man with dark hair and a gray shirt is holding a laptop computer and thinking. 

Start Early

Setting up accommodations can take time, so the earlier you begin, the better. The ideal is at least a few weeks before the semester starts. When you are ready to register for courses, read the class descriptions. Note which ones rely on lectures or audio versus independent study and online discussion boards. List all the courses you plan to take, but don’t register yet!

Caption your calls for free

Download Nagish
Nagish app - Caption Your Phone Calls

Reach Out

Look up your school or college’s point-of-contact or disability student services office. They are responsible for assisting students who need accommodations to access all the courses, programs and activities the campus has to offer. You may be asked to provide proof of disability, such as a doctor’s note, audiogram, or IEP from your high school. 

Provide them with the list of courses you plan to enroll in If they can arrange accommodations within the current timeframe, proceed to register for the classes. Unsure about the accomodations to request? Here are some commonly sought supports:

  • Early pre-registration of classes
  • Transcripts of audio files
  • CART or auto-captioning enabled for videoconferencing 
  • Remote ASL interpreters for lectures
  • Captioning of video files
  • Access to class slides or notes
  • Extra time for test-taking 
  • Volunteer peer notetakers 

Inform Professors 

Once your accommodation requests are approved, email your instructors or professors to let them know you’ll be in their class and need support services. It is also a good practice to CC the disability services department and include any required documentation. Share the best way to contact you, such as texting, relay services such as Nagish, or email. 

If your courses involve live lectures, find out which platform is used for videoconferencing. Set up access for ASL interpreters and captions in advance. Nagish has an in-depth guide on how to set up accessibility features for different platforms such as Zoom, Teams, and more. You can also inform the parties involved about which features you will need to ensure seamless communication. 

Network with Peers

When classes begin, introduce yourself to your classmates and instructors. Many courses have an initial “getting to know you” discussion. 

Networking is invaluable in more ways than one. I have had a classmate help me clarify a lecture point or even volunteer to assist with note-taking. Getting to know peers and advocating for your communication needs upfront will make working on group projects more accessible.  

Take advantage of discussion boards or chat rooms for accessible conversations. It may be helpful to see which classmates are local for potential meetups. 

Upon graduation, send connection requests to other graduates on LinkedIn. You never know when that former classmate might help boost your career in the future. It is also an excellent platform for staying in touch and adding value to your industry through your contributions.

Consider Deaf-friendly Schools

Deaf-oriented colleges and universities are designed with accessibility from the beginning. Many states have institutes for the deaf and hard of hearing for younger students. Colleges like Rochester Institute of Technology and Gallaudet University are also options for the post-secondary ages.

Most classes at a deaf-friendly school or college are taught by an ASL-fluent teacher or professor, eliminating the need for interpreters. They are also more experienced with accommodation requests and tend to provide them more readily.  


Taking online courses as a deaf or hard of hearing student can be intimidating. There are some challenges ahead, but with planning and research, you can succeed in your studies online just like your peers. Start preparing yourself in advance, work with the disability office and your professors, and communicate often. By following our tips, you can leave with a memorable and enjoyable experience from your studies.

Molly Glass
Molly Glass

Molly, a Deaf mom of two CODAs, lives with her hearing partner of almost 14 years in the scenic Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. Profoundly Deaf since 18 months old, she enjoys writing about the lived Deaf experiences and advocacy. In her free time she reads, and is very slowly working on authoring her first book.

Share on:
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.