Deaf Studies

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What are Deaf Studies?

Deaf Studies is the study of the culture, sign language, history, and human rights of those who are deaf and hearing impaired.

Deaf Studies courses focus on the sociological, historical, and linguistic aspects of the deaf and hearing-impaired and prepare individuals who are part of the deaf and hearing-impaired community or who wish to work within the community providing added skills in public and private agencies that meet the needs of the deaf clients and patients.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Deaf Studies courses in the following subject areas:

  • Deaf Studies – Gain insights into the culture, contributions, and contemporary issues related to Deaf people in Ireland and worldwide.
  • Certificate in Deaf Awareness – Gain an understanding of the range of communication tactics used in communicating with deaf people.
  • Deaf Education – Qualify as a teacher of the deaf and gain professional development in the area of Deaf education.

Studying Deaf Studies in college

Many Deaf Studies courses take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover all theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials, and taught modules. Theoretical courses introduce you to aspects of language acquisition, linguistics, sociolinguistics, social policy, and social studies. Each theoretical course involves two hours of lecture time per week plus an expectation of self-study. Assessments will take place continuously with written examinations and practical assignments combined to achieve a qualification. The range and diversity of assessment formats account for varying student learning styles.

You could also, consider work experience or a practical placement. Experience that demonstrates your skills and knowledge in a particular area in which you’d like to interpret is also useful, for instance, community work attendance at business meetings and conferences or legal practice. Work Experience will not only allow you to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, but it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Deaf Studies you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of the Deaf community.

Graduates frequently work in Deaf organizations, for example as a resource officer or combined with another skill set, such as teaching, ISL interpreting, child care, social work, public service bodies, the Civil Service, or the media.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various facilities or companies. The hours are usually full-time, Monday to Friday. You should expect to work some evenings, although weekend or shift work is uncommon.

As a freelance interpreter, your working hours will be flexible. Business, routine medical and court-related assignments tend to take place during office hours but evening and weekend work is not uncommon, especially for police interviews and emergency medical care.

You’ll likely need to find work through networking and registration with professional directories or language agencies. It can take time to become established and build a regular client base. You may be required to be away from home overnight or to be abroad for long periods.

Business or smart casual dress is usually required, except for telephone interpreting, which is normally done from home.

Related jobs include:

  • Sign Language Interpreter
  • Teacher
  • Teacher’s aide
  • Counselor
  • Transportation aide
  • Tutors
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Psychologist
  • Employment Counsellor
  • Social Worker
  • Child Care Worker
  • Audiologist

Further study

After completing a course in Deaf Studies you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as linguistics, communications, anthropology, multiculturalism, gender studies, or the law.


Are there any skills that would be beneficial for a Deaf Studies course?

Excellent command of English and the other language(s) you’ll use is extremely important.

A good memory and the ability to learn fast will be very beneficial, as will the skills to interact well with people and work as part of a team.

It is very important to have an understanding of the use of discretion and maintaining confidentiality on the matters you will interpret.

You should be flexible and able to deal calmly with unexpected and difficult situations. You should be reliable and have dedication and commitment to projects as people will be relying on your skills.

What are the responsibilities of a Deaf Interpreter?

· Adapt the speakers’ words quickly, including jargon and acronyms

· Build up specialist vocabulary banks

· Write notes to aid memory

· Use microphones and headsets

· Prepare paperwork – reviewing agendas before meetings, or lectures and speeches when received in advance

· Conduct research to make sure you’re fully informed on topics before assignments

· Organise workload and liaise with internal departments, agencies, and employers

· Work to a professional code of ethics covering confidentiality and impartiality.

Where can I study Deaf Studies?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

There are no rights and wrongs about the words used to describe a person’s hearing loss. However, generally accepted definitions are as follows:

· Deafened – people who were born with hearing and have lost most or a

Mariza Halliday

Literature and Publishing Courses
Intellectual Disability Nursing


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