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Communication support

What communication support can I get?

There are lots of different types of communication support available. Remember you don’t have to choose between these different types of support. You might need more than one of them at the same time, or you might find something else more helpful.

Communication support worker (CSW)

CSWs can support you in class or lectures by interpreting, notetaking or lipspeaking. They can also help your teachers and lecturers to change lessons so that they are easier to understand. For example, by producing clear, visual handouts and making sure that DVDs are subtitled.

CSWs can also help you with your work in class or at lectures.

Teacher of the Deaf (ToD)

ToDs are specialist teachers who are qualified in deaf education. All deaf students should have a ToD to support them.

ToDs help you make sure that the support you need from your school, college or university is in place. They can work with you and your teachers and lecturers to make sure your learning environment e.g. the classroom or lecture theatre, is right for you. This could mean making sure that the lighting is good and that tables are facing the front of the room.

Notetaker (written or electronic)

Following a sign language interpreter, lip-reading or following a PowerPoint presentation can make it difficult for you to take notes at the same time. Notetakers will sit in a class, lecture or meeting with you and take notes so you can concentrate on following what is being said.

These notes will usually be a ‘summary’ of what has been said. Some notetakers may have a background in the subject you are studying. This means it will be easier for them to write about any jargon or tricky words that are used.

Sign language interpreter

If you communicate through British Sign Language (BSL) or Sign Supported English (SSE) you can ask for a sign language interpreter who will interpret what is being said. They can also ‘voice over’ if you do not use speech, or if you feel more confident in communicating in sign language.


A lipspeaker will sit facing you and will copy the words of the teacher or lecturer using unspoken word with clear lip patterns. They will also use facial expressions and gestures to communicate the meaning of what is being said.

Speech-To-Text Reporters (STTR) or palantypists

These are also sometimes called stenographers. They type up everything (or nearly everything) that is being said in a classroom, lecture, seminar or meeting as a ‘live feed’ using a special keyboard. The live feed will often be displayed on a laptop, projector or iPad screen in front of you.

Some speech-to-text reporters now provide ‘remote’ support. A remote reporter is different because they are not in the same room as you. They usually listen in to what’s being said through Skype or a teleconference phone. They then type what’s being said on a special web page that you can open using an iPad or a laptop.

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National Deaf Children's Society

Registered Charity: England and Wales (1016532) and Scotland (SC040779)

Helpline: 0808 800 8880

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