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How to use a Communication Support Worker (CSW) in Education

According to the ACSW (Association of Communication Support Workers), “Communication Support Workers (CSWs) are professionals who support the communication of Deaf students in education at all ages, and Deaf people in many areas of work, using a variety of methods including British Sign Language.”

However, we would like to expand on this and explain the role of a CSW in educational environments.

A CSW who works in colleges, universities and sometimes schools, provides Deaf and hard of hearing students with communication in lectures, workshops, and seminars. That way they have the same access to further education as their hearing peers, and it helps them to communicate with their teachers and other students.

CSWs liaise with other professionals such as: Teachers of the Deaf, audiologists, teachers, lecturers, other CSWs and team leaders.

Who are suitable for CSW support?

  • Students that use British Sign Language or Sign Supported English

  • Those who need to communicate with Deaf BSL users in an educational setting

  • Deaf and Hard of hearing students requiring assistance in an academic environment

What is included in their role?

  • British Sign Language

  • Sign Supported English

  • Note taking

  • Lip Speaking

  • Clarifying the student has understood their signing or writing

  • Explaining and simplifying meaning of difficult terminology in sign or notes

  • To support in identifying areas of additional learning needs of Deaf students

  • To modify written materials where necessary and develop a bank of modified learning materials appropriate for the chosen course

  • To support all staff and students with communication and Deaf awareness

  • To support in the transfer of information and help uphold all policies and documentation in force for the Company and College

  • To function effectively as a member of the Team and liaise fully with Company/College staff

  • Show impartiality, respect and confidentiality in all situations

What their job does not include...

  • Completing the students work for them

  • Reprimanding the client for lateness or absence

  • Teaching or checking students work

  • Discussing student’s private or personal information, unless agreed by the student

  • Student Notes

  • Joining the student/client for Lunch or breaks.

How to become a Communication Support Worker

A CSW will hold a minimum Level 3 BSL and hold a CSW qualification through

  • a university course

  • a college course

  • working towards this role in a suitably supported or mentored environment

  • training with a professional body.

Many CSWs will specialise in a particular subject or hold extensive subject specific knowledge and provide Deaf Awareness training, advice and guidance for staff or the peer group.

How to work with a CSW

  • The CSWs are professionals and as such shall conduct themselves in a professional manner. A CSW has clear and defined boundaries and adheres to a recognised professional code of ethics and conduct; He/she should be impartial at all times and is not there to make any personal input, give opinion, act as a friend or take sides. He/she will dress appropriately (read Dress Code)* so that they are a blank canvas for their hands and face to be seen clearly by the Deaf person.

  • The CSW works with two languages: English and British Sign Language (BSL). It is their responsibility to ensure that the information given (source language) is processed and produced in a clear and understandable way (target language). Even though the Deaf student will be focusing on the CSW, the educator should look at and focus on the student as they are the person they are talking to.

  • The CSW training is comprehensive and rigorous. When qualified the CSW will have acquired a range of strategies with which to cope in many different situations. He/she is a resource to be used by both Student and Tutor and can provide information and possible solutions to problems which may occur. The CSW is able to modify language to enable a D/deaf student full access to the curriculum.

  • The CSW will support the Student to create a glossary of technical terms, support in portfolio building, provide Deaf awareness, modify materials and support the examination process.

  • The CSW should be used as the first point of contact when information is required relating to D/deaf issues. A good CSW will have researched the topic you will be teaching so that they are already familiar with vocabulary and technical terms you will be using.⁠

  • They will have met you prior to the start of lesson and explained the need for prior sight of lesson plans, DVD’s and teaching materials. The CSW will explain that they voiceover in the first person and offer you basic deaf awareness to aid further communication.

Read in this article more about how to work with a CSW. Click HERE.

Dress code

At Deaf Umbrella we recommend that Interpreters wear muted clothing that contrast with their skin tone:

👉🏻 Sign Language Interpreters with fair skin wear dark clothing. This may include black, navy blue, dark grey, or olive green. ⁠

👉🏾 Sign Language Interpreters with darker complexions wear shades of beige, pastel, or cream. ⁠

As sign language is used around the face and chest area, it's vital to wear solid colour tops. ⁠To know more about the main dress code and the big no-no's, read THIS article.

To book a CSW contact us:

☎ Phone: 0333 700 7474 ✆ Mobile: 07786 965998 ✉ Email:

Or click here to access the booking form.

All our interpreters are qualified and follow professional standard as outlined by NRCPD (Sign Language Interpreters and Lipspeakers). We also follow guidelines and advice from ASLI (Association of Sign Language Interpreters) and support their work to maintain the highest standards and professionalism in interpreting across all sectors.


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