Building Block Three: Language Access

For a quick visual reference guide to this content,
check out the Classroom Accessibility Guide Infographic

Primary access to the curriculum is through language. By ensuring that students have access to their first language in the classroom, whether that language is signed or spoken, schools can meet the needs and abilities of all students and provide appropriate access to education.

For hard of hearing students who are proficient in spoken language, access generally requires amplification and/or English/French text provided at the literacy level of the individual student.

For signing students, direct instruction and access to the curriculum would require teachers and other professionals to know ASL and LSQ. Indirect instruction would require well-trained, fluent, and proficient ASL-English/LSQ-French interpreters.

Late first language learners and children who enter school without first language mastery require targeted resources to help them learn language at school. If they do not know a language, both the information in spoken language and signed language will elude them. 

Increasing Access to Education through Access to Language

Providing access to language would include:

  • group amplification systems (soundfield systems) for students who use spoken language:
    • wireless transmitter
    • body-worn and handheld microphones
    • lapel, and boom microphones
    • batteries and charger
  • U-shaped seating arrangements with good sight lines for
    • speech-reading
    • seeing the signed language being used
    • seeing presenters
    • seeing interpreter
    • group interactions
  • computer room with students having access to the teacher/instruction
    • not facing the wall
  • sound dampening materials on chairs
  • interactive white boards:
    • can patch assistive technology
    • provide captions and ASL/LSQ
    • enhance visual supports
  • access to print (at the students literacy level) using visual supports
    • captioning
    • real-time captioning
    • electronic note takers
  • direct instruction in ASL/LSQ
  • AVLIC certified ASL-English or LSQ-French interpreters work in the following areas:
    • child language acquisition
    • late first language learners
    • child development
  • connections with the Provincial Schools Branch of the Ministry of Education
    • professionals who can provide a range of services including:
      • ASL assessment teams
      • specialists in late first language acquisition
      • psychologists fluent in ASL
  • a Language Accessibility Policy at the school board level
    • direct access to the language of instruction
    • full access to the language of the classroom, meetings, assemblies, all media formats

Language Strategies and Supports for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students


In so far as parents are involved in the decision-making process for the education of hearing students, so too should parents of Deaf and hard of hearing students be involved in the decision-making process for the education of their children. In the latter case, parents may need very specialized information from qualified professionals before making "fully informed" education decisions.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students who use English/French

Need the following to access the curriculum and sustain a barrier-free education:

  • Trained professionals to work with intricate audiological matters.
  • Teachers and other professionals who understand and can compensate for the consequences of hearing loss (from mild to profound) on literacy development.
  • Teachers who recognize and can manage the complexity of balancing the ‘culture’ of hearing students with their music, chatter, and general tolerance for a certain level of noise, with the sense of distraction these sounds create for oral Deaf and hard of hearing students.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students who use ASL/LSQ

Need the following to access the curriculum and sustain a barrier-free education:

  • Teachers who can provide direct access (see Glossary) to the curriculum
    • using ASL/LSQ as the language of instruction.
    • or using Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada certified interpreters (AVLIC - see Glossary).
  • Educators with knowledge of how to develop literacy skills in students who use a signed language.
    • Some hearing five-year-olds who have access to English/French since birth can have difficulty developing literacy skills.
    • For ASL/LSQ students who have not had access to spoken language, developing literacy skills will be a much more complex task.
    • Educators must compensate for lack of spoken language phonological awareness (which is considered one of the most essential ingredients for literacy development).
  • ASL/LSQ classes for hearing teachers, students, and parents.


Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students who use English, French, ASL and/or LSQ

  • Have learned language naturally in their homes.
  • Have had access to a critical mass (see Glossary) of language and culture models.
  • Have acquired age-appropriate first language mastery.
  • Have developed a sense of belonging and knowledge of the world.
  • Have generally had typical pre-school experience with literacy development.

Need the following to access the curriculum and sustain a barrier-free education:

  • Teachers who use and monitor technological equipment.
  • Teachers who can recognize and compensate for visual fatigue.
  • Skilled captioning/note taking services.
  • Professionals who understand the significance of language development on literacy.
  • Teachers who can attend to speechreading skill development.
  • Speech-language pathologists who have additional training to work with Deaf and hard of hearing students.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students who use ASL/LSQ and Late First Language Learners

Need the following to access the curriculum and sustain a barrier-free education:

  • Access to Deaf culture at school.
  • Access to ASL/LSQ at school.
  • Professionals, such as psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists, who are either
    • fluent in ASL/LSQ,
    • or from the Provincial Schools Branch,
    • or accompanied by AVLIC certified interpreters.
  • ASL/LSQ classes for hearing teachers, students, and parents.

Late First Language Learners (see Glossary)

Establishing a language acquisition environment for late first language learners will be quite an arduous task for any public school. The
environment would best be modelled after what we know about the language acquisition of children acquiring their first language naturally in their homes. A first language acquisition environment would include:

  • a critical mass of ASL/LSQ adults and students.
  • access to professionals with a deep understanding of how children acquire a first language:
    • who know first language milestones.
    • who can provide child-directed language (see Glossary) which includes millions of pieces of grammar over a 5 year period.

This language would:

  • be couched in narratives and discourse.
    • be about a multitude of different topics.
    • use a variety of language genre.
    • be filled with opportunities for play with ASL/LSQ adults who would provide constant language stimulation.
    • would present vocabulary in rich contextualized environments.
  • professionals who understand the implications of late first language acquisition on overall development and academic achievement.
  • ASL/LSQ classes for parents of these students.