Sensory disabilities

Sensory disabilities, or sensory impairments, affect one or more of a person’s senses: touch, hearing, sight, taste, smell, or spatial awareness.

Hearing impairment

Hearing impairment refers to hearing loss or the inability to hear. Hearing impairment is typically described according to its degree: mild, moderate, severe or profound.

The term 'Deaf' (often with a capital D) is used to describe people with profound hearing loss and who usually use Auslan (Australian Sign Language) as their first language. Note: students who use Auslan as a first language may have difficulty with the grammatical and syntactical structure of English and have a limited vocabulary.

Students with a hearing impairment may experience difficulty with certain sound frequencies and/or have difficulties when there is significant background noise.

Hearing impairment can include:

  • Deafness from birth
  • Permanent hearing loss as a result of illness or accident
  • Loss of hearing over time
  • Conditions such as tinnitus (a high-pitched ringing noise in the ear)
  • Cochlea implants or hearing devices

Fact sheets


Additional support

Speech impairment

A speech impairment refers to an impaired ability to produce speech sounds and may range from mild to severe.

A student with a speech impairment may experience some anxiety when asked to speak in class. When teaching a student with a speech impairment speak to the student as you normally would but make sure to allow enough time for the student to express themselves in response. Try to avoid finishing their thoughts or sentences for them and do not raise your voice. If you cannot understand a student, encourage them to re-phrase what they are saying or ask them to write it down.


  • Speech impairments may manifest as stutters or lisps or may be more severe.
  • Students with speech impairments may have problems with articulation, vocalization, annunciation, or be completely voiceless.

Fact Sheets

Additional Support

Vision impairment

Vision Australia provides the following definitions for blindness and vision impairment: An individual is considered legally blind when they cannot see at six metres what someone with normal vision can see at 60 metres. A person is legally blind if their field of vision is less than 20 degrees in diameter. A person with normal vision can see 180 degrees.

The term 'Vision Impairment' simply means an individual has some degree of sight loss. The impact of a student's vision impairment on learning will vary significantly according to the nature and extent of sight loss.

Vision impairment can include:

  • Being born without vision
  • Gradual loss of vision due to disease, infection or accident
  • Eye conditions such as cataracts, keratoconus (cornea disease), cortical visual impairment (temporary or permanent visual impairment), diabetic retinopathy etc
  • Photosensitivity
  • Limited peripheral vision
  • Diplopia (double vision)

Fact Sheets


  • Assistive Technology Guide (information about equipment and technology that assist people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision)
  • Adaptive Technology (list of links to downloadable adaptive technology software resources)

Additional Support