What support is available for d/Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students?

Freddie Parker on 4 May 2023
Two deaf people signing to each other

Nearly 20% of the population experiences some level of hearing loss. Let’s make their time in education smoother.

Disabled Students’ Allowance

If you’re d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing make sure you apply for DSA alongside your student loan. This will cover costs associated with your disability. Software costs such as a subscription to a live transcript app and even a new laptop can be included. Although with a laptop, you’ll have to pay the first £200. They may also give you an additional stipend with your student loan. We have an article with more information about disabled students' alllowance here.

Student support unit

For all their flaws, these units really do exist to make your life easier. Get in touch with them early and they will make sure your educators are on board with any accommodations you need. They can also help you navigate any exemptions or workarounds for assessment types. If your course requires you to do a Q&A after a presentation, the support unit can either help to exempt you or find a way that works for you.

Live transcript apps

The technology for transcribing closed captions has now made it across to apps specifically designed for deaf and HoH people. It’s still not perfect and can make some funny errors but it can make a world of difference. Google's Live Transcribe is a good free option.

University societies

As much as it can feel like you’re on your own in a world that ignores your needs, there will be a community for you. Many universities have BSL societies, which may be in part populated by hearing students wanting to learn. But there are also some universities that have d/Deaf societies in the student union.

What can hearing students do to help deaf classmates?

If you want to make a difference in the lives of d/Deaf and HoH students, there are some things you can do to make it a more accessible and less isolating time. Even just one of these things could make them feel that little bit more included. Be part of the reason they maintain their love for their field.

Write subtitles/transcripts

Both of these are actually quite easy to learn to do. In most cases, all you need to make subtitles are plain text files. Some content hosting platforms will have different processes for adding them, so worth checking. This can ease the burden on deaf students and reduce the impact of them missing any contact time.

Advocate for deaf classmates

Back them up when they speak to the uni about difficulties or even discrimination they’ve come across, especially if you witnessed. The process can often heavily rely on verbal conversations so if they need someone to speed up that process, offer to help out.

If it seems like a deaf or hard of hearing classmate is struggling, see what you can do. They might need a nudge to request the support they need, or even someone to do it for them. But regarding the latter, always check with the person, don’t go over their head!

Learn BSL (or your local sign language)

Many universities will offer BSL modules as electives or optional modules. The capital D used when speaking about certain d/Deaf communities usually refers to those who identify as culturally Deaf. This means that they have likely been raised in a mostly non-hearing household and sign language may be their first language.

With education largely delivered in English, for some people this can mean that they’re using their second language all day. If more people could use BSL, less of their day would need to be spent concentrating in another language.

Remember to include them

When making plans in a group, don’t leave deaf friends out on the assumption that not hearing means they won’t enjoy it. Our society largely only caters for the needs of those who can hear, so it can be very isolating for those who can’t or have reduced capacity to.

Make sure you turn the subtitles on for movie nights. Bring whiteboards or notepads and pens to other events. Clubbing isn’t off the cards either. Firstly, it’s worth remembering that not every hearing impairment is 100% and many can still hear to an extent. Secondly, with how loud clubs are, you can feel the rhythm in your chest and dance along anyway.

Prospective student? We want to hear from you! Join the Student Hut Forum and earn £s by taking surveys.


Freddie Parker
Freddie Parker on 4 May 2023