Instructors often use visuals (diagrams, formulas, pictures, graphs, Powerpoint presentations) and handouts to convey class information.

As you use visuals, hearing students rely on your voice and the image simultaneously to learn.

Now consider that your Deaf/HH students cannot receive voice and images simultaneously. In fact most will be more dependent on the visual than on interpreting, captioning, or speechreading for learning.

Consider that when you're working with such students, you may be teaching learners for whom English is not be their primary language; instead, American Sign Language or a variant may be their primary language.

The challenge is to use visuals that are compatible with other forms of communication in the classroom, particularly interpreting, or captioning.


These strategies will help ensure Deaf/HH students are able to learn from the visuals, while also paying attention to the interpreter/captionist, or while speechreading.

  • Use visuals whenever possible for a concrete picture of the concepts you are teaching.

  • Distribute copies of visual materials to students ahead of time. This will allow students to write notes on the hard copy as you lecture. If interpreters, captionists and/or notetakers are present, provide copies for them as well.

  • Go beyond ‘standard’ visuals (e.g. drawings).

    • Use visuals that relate new concepts to old, using a concept map that builds during the course and is referred to often.

    • Place new material in context within the course, as you introduce new concepts.

  • Provide a course outline; this makes your lectures more predictable and accessible for students.

  • Refer to the section "SUPPORT SERVICES: Media & materials" for suggestions on creating visuals and handouts.

  • Refer to the section "TEACHING: Point of Reference" for a discussion on helping Deaf/HH students shift their attention between the visual, the interpreter/captionist, and you.

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