Fall is upon us and it is back to school we go. Many students new to the college experience may or may not know what is available to them with respect to their hearing loss and equal access accommodations. Every state has different rules and regulations that govern their state colleges. And private colleges are regulated differently than state regulated colleges. This is your first opportunity to learn about how to request services that will allow you to have the same college experience as those around you. If a notetaker worked for you in High School with 30 students, will it work in a lecture hall built for 100? Make sure you work closely with your college advisor who can get you connected with your College Disability Services. College is the time to learn how to be proactive in your hearing loss truth.
How Are Accommodation Requests Handled?
Julia: College is scary right? Whether you are just out of high school or returning as an adult. Maybe you had an IEP or 504 Plan through High School to help with accommodations. Maybe your hearing loss is new and you are returning to obtain a degree.
I can share my experience as a captioner. Being very clear; every state and every college has different disability service departments and regulations for those departments are different in each state. I have only had a short experience with private colleges, a very positive experience I will say. Some of my contracts I work directly with the disability resource centers (DRC), which is one of many names and acronyms used by colleges. Some of my contracts I work with through a third party, a liaison for the college resource center supplying interpreting and CART services.
Most colleges have many different options with regards to hearing loss accommodations. In fact, I think it’s easier to get the correct accommodations in a college setting than it can be in an employment setting. I have captioned for students who use ASL for some classes but need captioning for others. Or they need both ASL and captions for each class. I worked with students who I captioned for but they also needed a notetaker. I have had a student who preferred a Typewell writer over a verbatim CART/Captioner (like me) and I’ve had a student who preferred a verbatim captioner over a Typewell writer. Some students get by just fine being in the front row or with a FM system or Loop in most of their classes, but need CART when English is a second language for the instructor.
Look at college as the sounding board for you to get to know your hearing loss truth. This is the time to use as many accommodations as possible. Learn how to work with that one instructor who is not happy to accommodate you (yes this still happens). Educate your peers on hearing loss. This is knowledge to take with you into the workforce. Whatever degree you seek, when you’re proactive with your hearing loss, you empower yourself and educate others.
Michele: University of Minnesota’s Disability Resource Center has its own Interpreting and Captioning Unit (ICU) that fills all University-related requests. I have requested CART for university lectures I’ve attended and it is arranged through the ICU.
I also participated in a Sensory Loss Symposium at the Weisman Art Museum, organized by a U of MN artist in residence and the university’s CATSS | Center for Applied & Translational Sensory Science. Accessibility for the talk back afterwards was arranged by the ICU. I’m not sure how many colleges have their own ICU, but all should, in my opinion.
Resources for More Information
For better understanding of Higher Education and the ADA, the ADA National Network has provided An ADA Knowledge Translation Center Research Brief. It was developed by the Department of Disability and Human Development of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the ADA Knowledge Translation Center. Estimates show that 19% of undergraduate students and 12% of graduate students have disabilities. Transitioning from high school to college can be a barrier for students with disabilities, as the responsibility to seek out services and accommodations shifts onto students themselves at the college/university level. It can be a challenge for students to connect with the appropriate campus resources, especially for those who are new to self advocacy. I found this podcast that discusses a lot of the issues in transitioning to the college experience:
In my peer support volunteer experience, I have encountered young people attending college who have no idea what accommodations are available to them. I always tell them about CART and send them my search results for information and resources in their area and for their college/university. I also encourage them to be persistent, as sometimes they are offered an accommodation that isn’t a good fit for them, and being a new experience, they may not know they can push for a more effective accommodation.
In my area there are no local CART providers, so the colleges and universities who use CART for the Hard of Hearing do it remotely. Remote CART is a great service in the right situation, but the students I’ve talked to complain that they can’t fully participate due to inadequate microphone set up for class discussion. You can’t participate and respond to information you have no access to, and that’s a problem that can only be solved by a broader availability of CART providers for onsite options in smaller cities and towns across the country.
Using Vocational Rehabilitation and Disability Resource Center Services
Chelle: If you are going to college, I recommend that you check in with your state vocational rehabilitation (VR) program to see if you qualify for services. Using the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and Voc Rehab is a great combination helping you to be more successful at school. Be sure your counselors are Hard of Hearing knowledgeable. This makes a huge difference. If they aren’t, ask for someone else.
Go into any appointment, both VR and the DRC, prepared with clear documentation from a doctor on your hearing loss, and any other disability. You don’t have to pick one disability, all needs should all be covered. It’s helpful if your doctor can write down specific accommodations as well.
While the DRC can help with certain accommodations and setups, VR services may be able to help you with other things (this varies in each state along with qualification):
- Technology such as assistive listening, automatic speech recognition programs, hearing aids and more.
Know Your Options
Sometimes the DRC will only ask you what you need. They may have their hands tied with giving recommendations. In this case, you need to be as knowledgeable as you can about accommodations. Watch our companion podcast (link below) to learn about more options for hearing loss in a classroom setting.
Sometimes, you might be denied at either VR or the DRC. Get the denial in writing and appeal it. Don’t give up and don’t get mad, you don’t want to alienate them. Use your polite, but firm, ‘mom’ voice. (Sometimes we advocate for others better than we do ourselves. We deserve equal access too.) Take the next step up. Ask for a supervisor and/or request another counselor.
When I took college classes in the 90’s, I was upfront about my hearing loss with each teacher. I went to the first class early and explained my hearing loss, what I could and couldn’t do. This helped tremendously. See if you can’t make an appointment with your teachers before classes start to get a feel for them. If you can, get in touch with other students who have a hearing loss to get the lay of the land too.
Feel free to contact us anytime through our website to ask us questions about accommodations or taking that next step. We are happy to help. You can also join us live at our Talk About It Tuesday, the first Tuesday of every month at 6:00 PM MST. This is an open discussion event, free with CART/live captioning. (Our next one is Sept 6th, register here.)
Watch our podcast for more information about college disability services.
If you like this post, check out our podcast on Parenting Kids with Hearing Loss for IEP ideas. Also take a look at Defining the Hard of Hearing. Occasionally our needs are mixed in with those of the Deaf community. Another good one to look at would be Self Advocacy.
If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, please consider donating so that we can reach more people with hearing loss to help them help themselves.