Skip to main content

Communication Planning Guide for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Federal and State Guidance

A series of laws pertain to special education and, specifically, students who are deaf/hard of hearing and have been referenced in the development of The Communication Planning Guide for Student Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. These include the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, the Ohio Operating Standards require IEP teams to consider the unique communication needs of all students with a hearing loss who are receiving special education services, related services, or support.

Section 1: Language and Communication Modality

“Consider the communication needs of the child, and in the case of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, consider the child’s language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the child’s language and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode” (Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities, 3301-51-07 (L)(1)(b)(iv).

Section 2: Auxiliary Aids and Services

“The public school must honor the individual’s choice unless the school can prove that an alternative auxiliary aid or service provides communication that is as effective as that provided to students without disabilities and affords an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the service, program, or activity” (DOJ-DOE FAQ, p. 9).

“When determining what types of auxiliary aids and services are necessary, the school must analyze the student’s needs and how to meet those needs while giving primary consideration to the specific request of the student or family” (DOJ-DOE FAQ, p. 19).

Section 3: Expanded Support Services

Consider opportunities for direct* communication with peers and professional personnel and opportunities for instruction in the child’s/student’s language and communication mode. Communication: CFR § 300.324(a)(2)(iv). *Direct language/communication/instruction occurs person-to-person, not through an additional source (e.g., educational interpreter, captioner).

Deaf/hard of hearing mentors/peers can have a positive impact for everyone – child, parent, and professional. Document who on the team will be responsible for arranging adult role model connections and opportunities for the student. Considerations: Placement Determination 300.116.

The teachers, interpreters, and other specialists providing services and auxiliary aids outlined in the Communication Plan must have demonstrated proficiency in, and be able to accommodate for, the child’s/ student’s primary communication mode or language and communicate effectively. Qualified personnel: Operating Standards, 3301-51-09(H)(1-3) [ADA Title II 28 C.F. R. 35.160(a) (1)].

Section 4: Continuous Communication Access

Academic instruction, school services, and extracurricular activities in which the child/student participates have been identified and will be presented with effective and fully accessible communication. Consideration of the entire school day, daily transition times, and what the student needs for communication that is as effective as what peers receive in all activities will allow more complete and meaningful educational benefits for the student. Communication: CFR § 300.324(a)(2)(iv), Non-academic settings: CFR § 300.101 FAPE [ADA Title II 28 C.F. R. 35.104 (1)] [ADA Title II 28 C.F. R. 35.160(a) (1)].

Section 5: Least Restrictive an Environment and Placement Considerations

The basic regulatory requirement is that students are only removed from general education classrooms if they cannot be educated satisfactorily in general education classes with the use of supplementary aids and services. Placement Determination: CFR § 300.115 300.116, LRE: CFR § 300.114.

Any setting, including a regular classroom, that prevents a child who is deaf from receiving an appropriate education that meets his or her needs, including communication needs, is not the LRE for that child. Placement decisions must be based on the child’s IEP. Thus, the consideration of LRE as a part of the placement decision must always be in the context of LRE in which appropriate services can be provided. Any setting which does not meet the communication and related needs of a child who is deaf, and therefore, does not allow for the provision of FAPE, cannot be considered the LRE for that child. The provision of FAPE is paramount, and the individual placement determination about LRE is to be considered within the context of FAPE. USDE OCR-000012

IDEA lists five special factors that the IEP team must consider in the development, review, and revision of each child’s IEP that address the need for individualized consideration of these factors in IEP development and revision. The special factors are: behavior, limited English proficiency, blindness or visual impairment, communication needs/deafness, and assistive technology.


National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE). (2018). Optimizing Outcomes for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Educational Service Guidelines, 3rd ed.

Ohio Department of Education. (2019). Each Child, Our Future: Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education.

Ohio Department of Education. (2014). Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities.

U.S. Department of Education. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (2015).

U.S. Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). (2004).

U.S. Department of Education & U.S. Department of Justice. (2014). Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. (1992). Deaf Students Education Services.

U.S. Department of Justice (2014). ADA Requirements: Effective Communication.