Proper lighting, acoustics, and visual access are critical to successful inclusion of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. When you learn of your classroom assignment, consider conducting a brief “environmental audit.” Keep in mind that students themselves also share in the responsibility for addressing their needs for an environments conducive to their learning. Ask them for their opinions or suggestions. Encourage them to conduct an audit of the room and report physical access barriers. Environmental concerns that should be addressed include:
- Lighting. Proper lighting is critical in the classroom. Light that is too bright or too dim will adversely affect deaf and hard-of-hearing students’ ability to see you, the interpreter, the captioning, and media clearly. Make sure that the area where you will be lecturing is well lit, and reduce glare from a window is not making it difficult for students to see you or the interpreter.
- Noise. Extraneous noise, such as construction in progress, problems with heating or air conditioning, or activity in nearby rooms or hallways, can be a critical impediment in the classroom, particularly for the deaf and hard-of-hearing students who may depend on some residual hearing.
- Seating. Classroom seating should ensure that all students are able to see you clearly. Allow deaf and hard-of-hearing students to sit at/near the front of the room to have a clear view of you, the interpreter/captioning, and media, and ensure that you are visible to students who depend on speechreading. Flexible seating arranged in a in a semicircle or circle provides the best access to communication.
- Line of Sight. Poor line of sight, while an annoyance for all students, can be a critical impediment in the classroom for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Observe the placement of chairs, tables, and media equipment in your classroom. Then consider how their placement impacts line of sight and set up an arrangement that provides a clear line of sight for all students.
- Safety. Perhaps no issue is more important than the safety of your students. This is particularly important in a laboratory setting. Determine if there are safety issues to be aware of; for example, strobe lights for fire alarms are a common safety feature which can be installed for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.