Identifying and Addressing Barriers in the Physical Classroom Environment
Light that is too bright or too dim can affect Deaf and hard-of-hearing students' ability to see the teacher, and other elements in the classroom clearly. This can impair their concentration and limit their accessibility to learning.
Assessment of lighting in the classroom for educators:
- Can the lighting in the room be adjusted?
- Is the teacher's spot in the classroom well lit?
- Is there a window where glare may make it difficult for students to see the teacher or the interpreter? If yes, are there curtains that can be drawn to eliminate glare?
The presence of background noise especially for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who depend on their residual hearing, can become a barrier to learning in the classroom.
Assessment of acoustics in the classroom:
- Is there construction work nearby that is creating extraneous noise?
- Do the equipment in the room such as the air-conditioning, heating or overhead projectors create noise problems?
- Do the regular activities in nearby classrooms and hallways produce noise that can disrupt the learning of deaf and hard-of-hearing students?
- Every teacher has different ways of speaking. Is the voice of a specific teacher intelligible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing students?
- Seating Arrangements
The way the desks and chairs are arranged in the classroom impacts learning and communication in the classroom to a large extent. Seating that is organized in a semi-circle or circle compared to traditional rows of desks, is ideal for maximum access to communication.
Assessment of seating arrangements:
1. Can Deaf and hard-of-hearing students see the teacher clearly?
2. Are the Deaf and hard-of-hearing students seated near at or at the front of the classroom?
3. Can all the students see each other clearly?
- Position and Movement of the Teacher
The teacher needs to be aware of the visibility of his/her position in the classroom and whether he/he moves around the classroom while teaching. This becomes a roadblock to clear and visual access to the teacher and other visual elements in the room.
Assessment of position and movement of the teacher:
- Does the teacher speak while writing on the whiteboard or looking down at the computer at the same time? Can the students lip-read easily?
- Does the teacher tend to pace up and down the class whilst speaking?
- Do the computers and presence of other equipment block the students' from seeing the teacher?
- Is the teacher visible at all times to students who may depend on speechreading?
- Safety Features
Ensuring that the classroom is a safe place for D/deaf and hard-of-hearing students as well as those with other disabilities should be a priority.
Assessment of safety features in the classroom:
- Are flashing emergency alarms installed in case of a fire or break-in?
- Are pathways or the space in the classroom free from obstructions?