Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: Things to Keep in Mind When Starting College

Here are some things deaf students in colleges and universities should keep in mind

Flickr user: umar nasir

For hard of hearing and deaf students in colleges and universities, there can be a variety of obstacles on the path to pursuing higher education. Institutions typically leave the students in charge of finding and figuring out the accommodations they need.  It’s unlike high school where much of this process was decided between teachers, administrators, and parents. There are laws in place to ensure hard of hearing and deaf students in colleges and universities get the assistance they need.


Students will likely have to advocate for themselves. Most colleges have some sort of office designated for working with students with disabilities. However, just because the office exists does not mean they will be contacting students upon their admission to the college. It’s best to plan ahead and reach out to them about the services they provide, which can range from campus to campus. The college may also require that deaf and hard of hearing students contact their professors about the accommodations they need.

Assistive Technology

It’s best if you get to college knowing what works for you and what does not. There are many different kinds of assistive technologies designed to aid deaf and hard of hearing folks. With the advanced technology we have, consider downloading an app on your mobile device or computer. There are a variety of apps out there to choose from. You can also go the old school route, and ask a fellow classmate to take notes for you. Doing this will allow you to focus on what is going on in the classroom. You won’t have to worry about missing anything important.

Professor Accommodations

Professors are required to make their classroom work for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, as long as the student lets the professor know what they need. If videos are shown, they need to have closed captioning available. Students also have the option to request preferred seating. It allows them to choose a spot that’s easiest for them to see the professor. Again, don’t hesitate to reach out to your professor early on in the semester to discuss what you need from them.

Dorm Accommodations

If you are planning on living in an on-campus residence hall, certain steps can be put in place to allow deaf and hard of hearing students be notified in the event of an emergency. Bed shakers, vibrating alarms, and flashing lights are potential options for colleges and students to utilize in these situations. If you have a roommate who is hearing, it is worthwhile to have a conversation with them about what to do in case of an emergency. Having these conversations early on will only work in your favor later on.

These are just some practicalities for deaf and hard of hearing students think about before starting college. By no means does this encompass the different needs of different students, but hopefully it is a good starting block. Check out our college match tool to see what schools you match with, and reach out to their offices for students with disabilities to see what services they might have for you.