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It Is Not OK To Ignore a Teacher’s Disability

It Is Not OK To Ignore a Teacher’s Disability

A person with a hearing aide stands across from a woman, who is sitting with her arms and legs crossed while scowling at the person with the hearing aide.

Welcome to the very first of our Anonymous Teacher Files – a space where teachers can share their stories.

Our teacher friend today reached out after reading my International Women’s Day article last week.

This teacher is being discriminated against in their job.

They reached out to me, asking for me to be their voice, to amplify this issue. And I am honoured to do so.

We, as a profession, have had a recent push towards inclusion, particularly inclusion of students with disabilities. So why are the teachers getting left behind?

Here is their story:

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and thought about whether I should mention it…. so here I am!

Emily…. I am angry, frustrated and deflated by many things at present, some in my control some not. But one I have come across for the first time is what I suppose you could call discrimination.

I am hearing impaired – quite significantly, more than most realise.

However, I am ok with this and have lived with it for a long time, it’s my normal. Saying this it doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its challenges and an ever evolving capacity to adapt, but again I’m ok with this…. until recently.

My school have taken on this new initiative of co teaching. Something I think a lot of us do anyway and I’m not opposed to it. There are a number of ways to apply this however it has been made explicitly clear to me by my Head of Department that as a co-teaching class we are to be together as one big class in one big room.

And this is where it falls down….

I hear by seeing. I hear by getting to know my students and their sound. I manage the safety of my room by knowing I can see to hear.

Well I used to be able to.

I have had quite a direct conversation with my HOD over this but, excuse the pun, it seemed to go on deaf ears and was met with ignorance. To the point at one stage I was offered a microphone to teach with… useful-I can hear me!!!

Anyway the conversation didn’t go anywhere and eventually she came back the next day and said speak to HR. She herself did nothing to advocate for me, just stated that we have to co-teach if we want to work here.

I can do and have been doing my job for a while and managed to overcome all the barriers that have presented…. but I just can’t overcome a very large room. I can’t overcome corners I can’t see round. I can’t overcome not being given the option to get to know my class personally (in the professional sense) to know their sound, as I’m now a class of 40+. I can’t over come masks and not seeing even though our Government stated you are to remove it for a person who is hard of hearing and you should get a shield if this bothers you (my HOD doesn’t remove it).

In the large classrooms I have to use, I can’t hear from one end to the next, I can’t see fully to hear.

I teach well, I am good at my job…. but not like this.

I currently just stand in these classes like a teacher aide trying to catch some of what is being said and writing on the white board if I hear it… it’s embarrassing.

So what do I do….

Here’s the problem: I do not feel safe saying something and bringing it to a voice.

It’s meant to be an inclusive environment for all, that includes staff with disabilities, and is part of the Government’s directive for an inclusive workplace for all…. but I don’t feel safe.

If I was in a wheel chair and you have me a class up a flight of stairs and we had no lift …. would you move the room, or say leave your chair at the bottom and get yourself up the stairs?

You can’t see my disability so it isn’t there…. shall I wear a badge?

I’m not sharing this for answers I’m sharing this to see if you could help be my voice?

And you are right in your International Women’s Day article – I want to just be ok.


I have to tell you, my heart broke reading this. How it is 2022 and teachers are in this position?

Are you a teacher with a disability? What has your experience been?


Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash


Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys sharing the real and human teacher life, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine.

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  • Grant Puglia May 11, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    I read your story and it could have been mine. I too have a severe hearing disability and have been a performing arts teacher for 32 years. In recent years my hearing has further deteriorated to the stage where I cannot hear the children or even myself talking or singing. Masks have made it near impossible to hear anything. I do a lot of guessing and are always asking children to tell me what somebody else said. It is very stressful and I am totally exhausted at the end of the day from the effort of trying to hear. The only advice I have been able to get is a suggestion that I add microphones or change the hearing aid settings. microphones are just not practical. My biggest problem is that hearing aids are just not designed for a performing arts classroom where there is lots of amplified music. I wear two and no matter how I change the settings the sound is totally uncomfortable. I am at my wits end and am wondering how I can go on.

    • Emily May 12, 2022 at 5:56 am

      Oh gosh I am so sorry to hear this!

      How have you reached out for help with your school/department/union? Do you have any other support avenues you can explore?

      I wonder if there is any way you could alter your classroom lesson experiences? I’m certainly no expert, but would something like altering the bass level be beneficial for you? Or the location of the speakers?

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