Classroom Accessibility Guide

Classroom Accessibility for Students who are Deaf[1] and Hard of Hearing

Download a PDF version of the Classroom Accessibility Guide here. Please note this PDF document is not formatted for screen reader accessibility.
For a screen reader accessible version of this material, please review the material on these webpages.

The Barrier-Free Education Initiatives Project was developed by CHS and is funded by the Ministry of Education. The purpose of the project was to assist the education sector in creating an accessible and barrier-free learning environment for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing in publicly-funded schools in Ontario. This initiative was designed to improve access to education for Deaf or hard of hearing students, enhance educational outcomes, and student success.

CHS developed a framework for accessibility based on Five Building Blocks which were developed as a result of:

  • Best practices accumulated over 75 years of experience by CHS developing and promoting accessibility standards;
  • Information from organizations such as the Canadian Association of the Deaf, Ontario Association of the Deaf, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, Ontario Hospital Association, Canadian Hotel Association, Scarborough Hospital, Ministry of Community and Social Services, Canadian Audiology and Speech Language Pathology Initiative on Classroom Acoustics;
  • Requirements in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Building Code, the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Standards Association;
  • Lessons learned from academic literature.

Accessibility for students who are Deaf and hard of hearing is concerned with breaking down barriers to language. With the assistance of technology, some of these students use spoken language to access the curriculum. Others, who access language visually, use signed language to access the curriculum. The information in this paper considers ways to make language accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing children – those who use spoken language and those who use signed language.

Before considering ways in which the classroom can be made accessible to students who are Deaf and hard of hearing, there is a description of a continuum on which these students fall. Regardless of whether these students use a spoken language or a signed language, they can fall anywhere on this continuum. What makes the difference is how much language has been learned in the early years and how much direct access to the curriculum students have once they enter school.

[1] Upper case D is used in Deaf to indicate a group of children who share cultural experiences with the adult Deaf cultural and linguistic minority. This is a community that uses visual language and comprises both those who acquire language in their homes and those who do not. A quick internet search will provide a plethora of resources on Deaf culture and identity.