Instructor Handbook - Interpreting and Accommodation Services

Instructors: If you have never experienced working with a Deaf Student or with an Interpreter or Real-time Captioner in your class before, please contact the Interpreting and Accommodation Services Director who will come to your office or classroom to explain the setup.

How to Request an Interpreter or Real-time Captioner for a class, a campus meeting, a conference, an off campus meeting, etc.

Download the Instructor Handbook (PDF).


The Ohlone College Interpreting and Accommodation Services Office provides various services for students, faculty and staff.  It is the goal of the office to work cooperatively with all members of the campus community.

The guidelines in this handbook are to assist you when working with an interpreter and other services of the Ohlone College Interpreting and Accommodation Services Office.

Contact information for the Interpreting and Accommodation Services Office.


Ohlone College has been serving the community since September 1967.  In 1972, the College reached out and welcomed deaf persons to participate in college activities as students and members of the college faculty.  This decision made Ohlone College a pioneer among the community colleges that now serve deaf students.

Ohlone College Sign Language Interpreters, Real-time Captioners, and Notetakers represent an important service here at the College.  The Interpreting and Accommodation Services employees provide services as needed to convey the instructors’ presentation of course material and to facilitate communication between the deaf student and his/her classmates.  Interpreters’ and Real-time Captioners’ skills are also utilized for conferences between deaf students and hearing instructors and to facilitate communication when students seek services on campus.

Working with Deaf & Hard of Hearing Students

Tips For Working with Deaf Students

  • Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students will usually require seating at the front of the classroom, near to and facing the instructor, to make optimum use of visual cues.

  • Please repeat questions from others in the classroom before answering because it is often difficult for the interpreter or real time captioner to hear the questions from the front of the room.

  • Expect the same from culturally Deaf Students as you would from Hard-of-Hearing or Hearing students.  They all need to be able to handle the same course load.

  • If you intend to show movies, slides, or video, be aware that media, as per Federal Law, must be captioned or subtitled.  If you have any concerns as to whether your media has captioning please contact DSPS office ASAP. (510) 659-6271

  • Due to slight “lag time” interpreters have when interpreting from English to ASL, give the Deaf Student(s) enough time to respond to questions asked in class, before continuing on your lectures.

  • Remember, when working with an interpreter or real time captioner, speak directly to the Deaf person.

  • Emphasize important information such as assignment or schedule changes by writing details on the board.

  • Use as many visual aids as much as possible.  Write page numbers, assignments, and other important information on the board.

  • Speak clearly and naturally.  Write and/or spell out difficult or new vocabulary.  This is helpful for the student as well as the interpreter or real time captioner.

  • Deaf students are just like any other students—they like to be included in class discussions and feel equal to their peers.

  • If requested, assist in finding another student in class to take notes; the deaf student may miss parts of the lecture if he/she is trying to watch the interpreter and write notes simultaneously.

  • The interpreter or real time captioner is there to interpret/caption EVERYTHING that is said in class.  Please do not ask the interpreter or real time captioner to censor any information.

Things to Remember When Working with an Interpreter or Real Time Captioner

  • The interpreter or real time captioner’s primary responsibility is to facilitate communication.  Instructors should refrain from asking the interpreter or real time captioner to function as a teacher’s aide, to participate in class activities, or to perform other tasks.  Doing so may interfere with the quality of communication provided, compromise the role of the interpreter or real time captioner, and prevent full communication access for students who are deaf.

  • Familiarity with the subject matter will enhance the quality of the interpreted message.  If possible meet with the interpreter or real time captioner before class to share outlines, texts, agenda, technical vocabulary, class syllabus, and any other pertinent information.

  • In class, the interpreter or real time captioner will position themselves in direct line with you, the student, and any visual aids.

  • Interpreters process information cognitively before interpreting.  The interpreted message therefore, will follow at a pace generally one or two sentences behind the communicator.   Speak naturally at a reasonable pace to help facilitate an effective interpretive process.

  • Ask students to raise their hand, be recognized, and then ask questions or give comments.  This will allow the interpreter or real time captioner to finish interpreting/captioning for the current speaker and gives the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing student equal opportunity to participate in class.  Also, encourage the students to wait until the teacher recognizes them before speaking or signing.  The interpreter or real time captioner can only convey one message at a time.

  • Avoid talking while student are focused on written class work.  Deaf students require time to process visual aids and materials before returning their attention to the interpreted message.

  • Use “I” and “you” when communicating with deaf students through an interpreter or real time captioner.  Look directly at the student with whom you are communicating, not the interpreter or real time captioner.  Use of third-party phrases such as, “Ask her” or “Tell him” can compromise the relationship between the instructor and student.

  • Plan some strategic breaks so that both student and interpreter or real time captioner can have a mental and physical break for the rigors of the situation.  Receiving information visually without breaks can be tiring and cause eye fatigue.  Additionally, simultaneous interpreting/captioning requires the processing of new information while the information that was just communicated by the speaker is being delivered.  For classes longer than one hour in which only one interpreter or real time captioner is available, a mid-class break is essential.

  • If you intend to show movies, slides, or video, be aware that media, as Federal Law, must be captioned or subtitled.  If you have any concerns as to whether your media has captioning please contact DSPS office ASAP. (510) 659-6271

  • If the deaf student is not present when class begins, the interpreter or real time captioner will wait for a few minutes for late arrival.  The interpreter or real time captioner may be needed at another assignment and may leave if no deaf student is present after 10-15 minutes.

  • Some deaf students may ask the interpreter to translate the questions on a test from English to American Sign Language, especially with multiple choice and short answer formats.  Arrangements for this kind of testing should be made by the student and instructor and communicated to the interpreter BEFORE the test.

Deaf Culture

It often comes as a surprise to hearing people that there is a group of deaf individuals who refer to themselves as the Deaf Community.  This community functions, in many ways, like other minority groups.  But unlike other minority groups, which are defined by racial or ethnic boundaries, the American Deaf community is a linguistic minority group. Their language is American Sign Language (ASL).

The Deaf Community has common labels for identifying who they are.  These labels have strong connotations, which assist other members of the Deaf Community in understanding where that particular member stands within the community.  Offered here are the definitions of certain terms used by the Deaf Community, but with a twist, the words are defined from a “deaf-world’s perspective.”  They do not define themselves based on the degree of hearing loss, like the majority of the hearing community does.  Instead they focus on the individuals themselves and what communication method they prefer to use and other behavioral and cultural values and norms.  For this reason, it may be different from the standard definitions that people are accustomed to understanding.

Definitions Within Deaf Culture

Within the Deaf Community, the word deaf (with a lower case ‘d’) refers to the audiological level or degree of hearing loss.  It also is used as a generic term, as in the phrase “deaf and hard-of-hearing people”, to refer to all people with a hearing loss regardless of which language they use to communicate and/or their cultural identity.
This term (with a capital ‘D’) specifically represents members of a collective Deaf Community who share a common language (ASL) and common values, norms and behaviors.  They often celebrate and cherish their deafness because it affords them the unique privilege of sharing a common history and language.  They do not see themselves as people who have lost something (i.e. hearing) but as people with a beautiful language that equals any other language.
This term is often used to refer to people with a hearing loss who don’t fit into the standard “Deaf” category.  These people may or may not use ASL, but they generally feel more comfortable within the hearing community.  There are several ways that the Deaf Community determines whether they feel a person is Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, but the important thing is how individuals feel about their own identity.
Hearing Impaired
This term is often used by the media and the general hearing society to refer to people with a hearing loss.  But within the Deaf Community, this term is likened to an insult because it fails to appreciate the cultural and linguistic privileges shared.
It can be very traumatic for individuals who spent the majority of their lives as hearing to either suddenly or progressively lose their hearing.  These individuals face unique challenges in finding new ways to communicate effectively with their family, friends and colleagues.  Some may eventually become involved with the Deaf Community.

Deaf Awareness Quiz

  1. What is American Sign Language (ASL)? Choose two answers.

    1. a code similar to Braille
    2. a shortened form of English
    3. a language incorporating a lot of mime
    4. a language capable of expressing any abstract idea
    5. a language using picture-like images to express ideas and concepts
    6. a language utilizing space and movements to convey meaning
  2. Historically, American Sign Language is related to:

    1. British Sign Language
    2. Swedish Sign Language
    3. French Sign Language
    4. German Sign Language
  3. While watching another person sign, it is appropriate to focus on the signer’s:

    1. hands
    2. chest area
    3. face
  4. To get the attention of a Deaf person who is looking the other way, you should:

    1. yell as loud as you can
    2. tap him/her on the shoulder
    3. wave in his/her face
    4. go around and stand in front of the person
  5. If your path is blocked by two signers conversing with each other, you should:

    1. wait until they stop talking before you pass through
    2. bend down in order to avoid passing through their signing space
    3. go ahead and walk through
    4. find another path


  1. d,f
  2. c
  3. c
  4. b
  5. c

Working with DSP&S Students

Disabled Students Programs & Services (DSP&S)

Ohlone College has a large population of students eligible for services through the DSP&S Office. The students in this program include not only physically disabled students but also students with learning disabilities. We would like all faculty members to be aware of the kinds of accommodations, which may or may not be necessary to provide equal access to the information presented in your classes. This handbook is designed to not only describe the accommodations that you may encounter, it will also provide an explanation of your responsibilities and offer resource information to answer any questions you may have.

Educational Accommodations

The DSP&S students are assessed by the DSP&S Counseling Staff to determine the accommodations necessary for the student to succeed in their courses. The approved accommodations will not duplicate services or instruction, which are otherwise available to all students; will be directly related to the educational limitations of the verified disabilities of the students to be served; will be directly related to the students participation in the educational process in this college; will promote the maximum independence and integration of the student; and will support participation of students with disabilities in educational activities consistent with the mission of the community colleges. The college is not required to provide accommodations, which are fundamental alterations of academic requirements.

Some of the more common accommodations you may encounter are:

Notetaking Services

If a notetaker is necessary for your class, you will receive a notification, which will explain a few simple steps for you to follow.

Test Taking Accommodations

Test taking accommodations may include extended time, distraction reduced setting, and/or use of calculators, dictionary, or spell checking devices. Alternative days or times for an exam may be necessary to accommodate both the student and the DSP&S testing schedule. The integrity of the test taking process is of the utmost importance to the DSP&S staff. All tests are proctored. The delivery process of the exam is carefully monitored between the DSP&S office and the instructor. If a student in your class requires alternative testing, you will receive a notification, which will explain a few simple steps for you to follow.

Other accommodations may include:

  • Tape recording class lecture
  • Submitting course materials for large print or Braille
  • Preferential seating
  • Adaptive furniture
  • Assistive technology
  • Assistive listening devices (i.e. FM Loop with microphone)
  • Real-Time Captioning

Who to contact if you have more questions?

Questions regarding Interpreting, Real-Time Captioning, working with Deaf students or staff, alternative testing, and/or notetaking, contact:

Kelly Wilmeth
Director, Interpreting and Accommodation Services
(510) 659-6271

Questions about adding captioning to movies or obtaining alternative media, contact:

Wendy Lin
Alternate Media/Assistive Technology Specialist
(510) 659-7373

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