University of Edinburgh

Improve Access to Education for Pupils with Disabilities (SEED, October 2002): Focus on Visual Impairment and Hearing Impairment

Scottish Council on Deafness

Checklist for Education Authorities

Here are some suggested adaptations for improved accessibility to schools for deaf and hard of hearing pupils, staff, parents and visitors.

The entrance

  • Ringing doorbell - install a flashing light indicator or replace with a doorbell that lights up.
  • Entryphone - get one that lights up as well as giving an audible signal when the door is opened. Put clear written instructions next to the entryphone.


  • Put up clear signs using pictograms or symbols where appropriate. RNIB produced signage guidelines that are helpful for people with a range of disabilities. (check reference)

Reception area

  • The reception counter should not be close to the entrance because outside background noise can be a nuisance when the door opens.
  • Try to keep the counter away from the waiting area so that the sound of conversation is not a problem.

Reception counters

  • The reception counter should be well lit with a plain background and no window behind it, unless this can be screened.
  • Install an induction loop - either a counter loop or portable loop for hearing aid users. Reception staff should be trained to know what the loop is for, how it works and how to switch it on and off.
  • Put sign on all counters fitted with loops (signs are usually supplied with loops).
  • Reception staff (or school office staff) should be given dear awareness, deafblind awareness and communication skills training.
  • Staff should keep a pen and paper ready for writing things down.
  • Noise behind the reception counter should be cut down or put up a screen to separate office staff from reception colleagues.
  • Use non-reflective glass in screens between deaf and hard of hearing pupils, staff and visitors and staff so that they can lipread and/or see signs clearly.

Face-to-face contact

  • Find out where to get Sign Language Interpreters, Lipspeakers, Speech-to-text operators and other communication service providers.
  • Deaf and deafblind awareness training is essential for school staff.
  • Deaf and deafblind awareness training is also essential for non-teaching staff and hearing pupils.
  • Book communication services (eg; Sign Language Interpreters, Lipspeakers) for long or complex conversations with deaf parents, guardians and others.
  • Keep records of deaf pupils' communication needs.
  • Also keep records of deaf parents/guardians' communication needs.

Interviews, meetings, etc

  • Set up rooms so that school staff are not sitting with their backs to a window or distracting background.
  • Use curtains and carpets to help deaden sound.
  • Make sure the rooms are well lit and the light switches are controllable (eg; dimmer control switch).
  • Install a loop system or get a portable loop system.
  • For group meetings, a portable loop or radio microphone may be useful.

Appointment calling systems

  • Use a numbered display system and give people cards, or
  • use an LCD unit that shows people's names when they are called.
  • If staff in small schools or authority offices know deaf people, they can approach them personally.


  • Call buttons should light up to show lifts are working.
  • A visual display should show which floor the lift is on.
  • Emergency alarm buttons should light up.
  • Think about installing an emergency textphone as well as an emergency phone or intercom in the lift.
  • Have a visual indicator that shows the emergency button is working.


  • Education authorities and schools should get a textphone installed on their main switchboard and in different departments, so that textphone users can direct.
  • Volume amplifier telephones (with an inductive coupler) should also be made available for use by hard of hearing pupils and adults.
  • Install a visual telephone indicator.
  • Education authorities and schools should consider getting a videophone which makes it possible for deaf people to communicate in British Sign Language or even orally.
  • All teaching and non-teaching staff should be given training so that they know how to use the textphone and that they answer it promptly.
  • Recorded textphone messages should be replied to promptly.
  • Inform staff about TextDirect.
  • As many deaf people may use faxes instead of the telephone or textphone, their fax messages should be responded to promptly as if they were telephone calls.
  • Email is also becoming more commonly used.
  • Give telephone, fax, videophone numbers and email address equal prominence on schoolsÍ letter heading and in their publications.

Fire/emergency alarms

  • Every emergency alarm should have a visual signal.
  • Fit flashing beacon fire alarms in toilets, changing rooms and other areas where deaf pupils and adults might be alone.
  • Education authorities and schools should consider lending vibrating pager alarms to deaf visitors in their building.
  • Have an effective evacuation procedure to ensure that all areas are checked.


  • Invigilators should be given deaf awareness training so that they know how to give clear instructions verbally or written to deaf pupils.
  • Sign language interpreters and lipspeakers should be provided if deaf pupils require them.

Written information and the internet

  • Make sure written information is in plain English.
  • Graphics should be added where appropriate.
  • Education authorities should provide BSL versions (eg; on video, CD-ROM, DVD) for BSL users.
  • If you have a website, consider an access audit of your website to ensure all deaf and other disabled people can use it. Scottish Accessible Information Forum produced a Making websites accessible supplement - to get a copy contact SAIF, Royal Exchange House,100 Queen Street, Glasgow G1 3DN; telephone 0141 226 5261.

Assembly halls, laboratories, classrooms

  • Get expert advice on installing the best loop or listening device.
  • Get expert advice on how to reduce background noise.
  • Make sure the room is well lit.

How to contact deaf parents/guardians

  • Keep records of deaf parents/guardians' emergency contact details.
  • Make sure that the education authority or school has the appropriate telecommuncation equipment to call deaf parents/guardians (eg; textphone, fax, SMS, email or TextDirect).

Deaf Awareness

This training is aimed to enable hearing people to take a more active role in using effective communication skills when in contact with deaf and hard of hearing people.  Its main objectives are:

To enable participants to distinguish between deaf and hard of hearing people and their preferred communication styles.

To identify various types of deafness.

To be able to recognise their role in effective communication.

To fingerspell their own names and use basic sign language skills.

To be aware of the existence of textphone and TextDirect.

Deafblind Awareness

This training is aimed at people who may need to interact or work with people who have a dual sensory impairment. This course teaches basic communication skills and introduced resources available for deafblind people.

Using technology to aid communication and communication tactics

This is designed for staff who are in contact with deaf people by telephone. This course explores the communication difficulties faced by hard of hearing people when using normal telephone and how it is important to modify language when communicating with them. The course also gives an in-depth grounding in the use of communication with BSL users.

Work-based sign language

This is designed for anyone who comes into regular face-to-face contact with BSL users in work or business situations.