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Teaching Philosophy

Volume 30, Issue 4, December 2007

Teaching To / By / About People with Disabilities

Charles E. Zimmerman, Jr.
Pages 421-442

There’s a Deaf Student in Your Philosophy Class—Now What?

Having a deaf student in class can pose a tremendous challenge for both the professor and the student, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. To help make it so, this article briefly covers the differences between American Sign Language and English and then identifies aspects of linguistic skills where the deaf student may encounter difficulty in dealing with Philosophy. Those discussed are inadequate vocabulary, problems in reading and writing, insufficient background or “life” information, and difficulty in dealing with abstractions. Since English will most likely be a second language for deaf students, there is also a brief discussion of similarities and differences between them and ESL students. An appendix to the article presents a collection of techniques that I developed to accommodate the needs of a profoundly deaf student who took an introductory Philosophy and an upper level Religion course with me. Among them are suggestions for lectures, class discussions, testing, written assignments, student-teacher conferences, and audio-visual materials. Finally, there are some useful on-line resources together with some tips for working with interpreters.

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