Here are some tips for dance schools to ensure that your school is welcoming and inclusive of Deaf students.
The Deaf community is highly diverse. Most Deaf people use Auslan sign language. Some Deaf children have hearing aids and cochlear implants, and some also speak but do not assume all Deaf children can hear or lip read well.
Remember, Deaf people do not have physical or movement limitations – they just can’t hear.
Make your dance school a place that welcomes children of all abilities. Create a learning environment in which deaf children can enjoy dance and build their self-esteem.
If a Deaf child enrols in your dance school, meet with them and their parents (or carers) before the first class. At this meeting you can work out what approaches to teaching and instruction will work best for them. Remember, Deaf kids deserve to be there, deserve to participate and contribute and to dance and have fun. Their Deafness is just a part of them.
Wood floors, good speakers, a sub-woofer and mirrors all are great for Deaf students. Deaf people can feel the music through the wood floors. Mirrors also give extra visual information for Deaf children as it lets them see the front and the back of the teacher’s body at the same time.(When the dance teacher has their back to the class, the students can see the teacher’s face in the mirror)
Have a whiteboard or pen and paper handy for writing notes for Deaf students.
Be aware of asking your students to close their eyes, as this can make a Deaf child feel vulnerable. You need to give clear instructions so deaf children know what will happen when their eyes are closed. This can involve explaining how long their eyes will be closed and also giving them cues using touch: For example, you can give a simple instruction such as “close your eyes for 3mins, breathe, then I will tap your shoulder”.
If you need to get a Deaf person’s attention you can stomp on the floor, wave, tap their shoulder, or switch lights on and off.
Remember every child has a right to be involved in all aspects of life, especially dance. Make the word fit for all kids by including Deaf kids in dance.