Supporting Students (and Teachers) who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

by K. Sata Sathasivan, Ph.D., Co-founder and Chief Academic Officer, Squarecap, on May 31, 2020 4:36:15 PM

Teachers and students who are deaf or hard of hearing face unique challenges when participating in face-to-face courses. As a teacher with low to moderate hearing loss myself, I often have to request students to speak loud and clear in front of me when they ask questions during class. It is especially difficult to hear students when they are sitting in the back of the room and speaking with low voices.

For my students who are in a similar situation, my university offers support including preferential seating to allow lip-reading, sign-language interpreters, voice amplification, or recorded lectures that can be played back at a higher volume. While some of these practices are difficult to implement in large classrooms, it becomes even more complicated when classes are moved online. Additionally, the necessary requirement that most people wear face masks when returning to campus next fall to prevent COVID-19 infection will make it all the more difficult to speak clearly and will hinder people's ability to read lips.

Supporting Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing


Thankfully, the "Ask and Vote" feature in Squarecap has completely revolutionized the way in which my students and I interact. When developing Squarecap with my son, Sarathi Sathasivan, back in 2013, our main goal was to improve student attendance, engagement, and performance. One added benefit is that it automatically provides additional support options to students and teachers who do not hear well. I will happily continue to use this feature in the future when I am teaching a room full of students who are wearing masks, while I myself wear a mask, or teach completely online.

Ask and Vote allows students to submit questions anonymously without fear of intimidation from their peers. This feature allows all students, including those who are shy, deaf, hard of hearing, or new to the language, to feel comfortable asking questions when they don't understand. It is also very helpful to me as it allows me to read their questions during pauses in my instruction and answer them in real-time, without relying on a TA to interpret.

Ask and Vote


Students can also vote on the questions other students ask so that the same question is not repeated. In addition, I can reveal student names on my end if needed and can sort the questions from the oldest or newest and the number of votes it has. Ask and Vote has been very useful in large classes and is even more useful now that our classes have been switched to online only. With Squarecap, I can ask multiple choice, numerical and free-response questions, and students can answer my questions with their smartphones. In addition, Squarecap questions are designed to be read by text readers, and visually impaired students can also enlarge the font size on their smartphones or laptops to make the fonts appear larger to read, creating equitable access for every student that comes through the door.

Lastly, Squarecap encourages more students to participate in class by asking questions or seeking help to learn better. If you are interested to know more about the Squarecap classroom response system and how it benefits hearing or visually challenged students and teachers, please schedule a time for a brief demo at

More tips on working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Topics:Teaching TipsAsk&VotePollingCovid19ADA Compliance

About Squarecap

Squarecap is an easy to use engagement tool created by an award-winning professor to provide the in-class or online engagement support that modern teachers and students need. 

Our interactive features have been proven to support student success by automatically tracking daily attendance, increasing lecture comprehension through live questions and personalized feedback, and facilitating a live Ask & Vote for hesitant students to address gaps in content knowledge.  More →

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