Testing accommodation for youth who are deaf or hard of hearing in higher education or workplace

Post-Secondary Education institutions, employers, government agencies, and others depend on tests to measure achievement and competency. Tests come in form of quizzes, true/false, short answer, essay tests, standardized multiple choice tests and the SAT. Tests are often to determine if a youth has met the necessary skills to graduate or be accepted to college or university. Employers rely on tests to determine an individual’s qualifications for hiring and licensing bodies often issue or deny professional licenses and certifications based on test results.

Taking a test is challenging for anyone, but youth who are deaf or hard of hearing may face additional challenges. Research suggests a large number of complex factors play a role on how a youth who is deaf or hard of hearing could perform on a given test.

Major factors include:

  • Level of communication access:
    • The availability of access to curriculum, teachers, classroom discussion, and social interactions with youth peers plays a role in building a strong language base for a youth who is deaf or hard of hearing. The level of access depends on the suitability and quality of the accommodation provided.
  • Language style and structure of tests
    • The language of tests uses phrasing, idioms, grammar, and sentence structure that are different from everyday English or French. They may be difficult to understand for some students who are deaf or hard of hearing who do not have full day-to-day access to English or French
  • Test content
    • Test content may require knowledge of hearing culture by including questions about sound, communication, and the media not accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Social isolation
    • Social isolation and limited communication with family or in classroom setting may affect the social skills of a youth who is deaf or hard of hearing or his/her comfort in social situations.


  • Develop formal guidelines and methods for fairly and accurately measuring the abilities and progress of all students, including students who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Identify and discuss with youth on mapping appropriate communication accommodation for tests
  • Use a team approach to assess a student’s abilities and potential. Include community members who are deaf or hard of hearing who understand issues affecting deaf and hard of hearing persons
  • Make sure that curriculum, instruction, and test content are aligned
  • Avoid language in tests that is unnecessarily complex
  • Once an appropriate test accommodation is determined, provide a qualified real-time captionist for youth who are oral deaf, sign language interpreter if that is for a youth who uses sign language and proper assistive listening devices for youth who are hard of hearing
  • Teach test-taking strategies and techniques so that youth who are deaf or hard of hearing are better prepared
  • Assign evaluations of deaf or hard of hearing youth to trainers/Human Resources familiar with deafness
  • Offer professional development to trainers, employers and co-workers on deaf awareness and access issues experienced by youth who are deaf or hard of hearing.