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Accommodations: This is Good Enough For You

Requesting appropriate accommodations can be a challenge, especially if the entity has already decided what’s good enough for you. Educating others is fairly easy, usually, once the communication need is explained. Once in a while, however, they aren’t open minded.  When they won’t go beyond their current rudimentary concept of an accommodation, it is frustrating and heartbreaking. 

For National Speech-Language-Hearing Month in May, we chose resilience as a topic. What a timely topic. Chelle was reminded how ugly the process of resilience can feel. It’s mind consuming and exhausting, but in the end worth it. When we stand up for ourselves and our rights as a human with hearing loss, we help ourselves and we help others who come after us.

Green crinkled paper background.
White font: Accommodations are a bridge.
Picture of a white bridge with two white outlines of people shaking hands in the middle. The Hearing Loss LIVE! logo is underneath, @hearinglosslive.
White font: There is diversity in hearing loss. IT's not your job to decide what is "good enough" for us if you don't walk in our shoes.
Resilience, What it Means

Chelle: The last two weeks have NOT been fun. Last December, I signed up for an online course, asking if captions were available for all videos and they assured me they were. When getting an education, I do not want to be doing a lot of educating from my end so I asked about that before buying the class. The first class was great, the second class was video after video without captions. It was a woman’s faceless voice narrating.

My hearing loss is severe and it happens to be profound in the high frequencies. That means women’s voices are hardest for me to hear, let alone understand. This is especially true when I don’t have a face to use lipreading skills with. I contacted the necessary people and asked about captions, letting them know I couldn’t do this without them. Then I reminded them I asked about this before buying the class. 

Using ASR

Three different people told me I could use Chrome’s ASR (automatic speech recognition software) in place of true captions. I said I’d try that but warned them that ASR can go wrong quite often and gave them a few examples. After 3 short videos, I thought I’d lose my mind. 

  • ASR would get behind in translating, then speed up so fast I couldn’t read it.
  • ASR also constantly changes the words in a sentence while it’s ‘hearing’ and figuring out what’s being said via context. (Kind of like hearing loss.)
  • Some words can’t be heard well due to lack of enunciation, or when words are combined with intonation to imply meaning. Example: dropping down in voice at the end of the sentence to imply emphasis or combining words with a little laugh. (Kind of like our hearing loss once again!)

While ASR has proven to be a great help to those of us with hearing loss, when the information really matters, it’s not enough. I gave them examples of what I was running into with ASR and told them I wasn’t able to retain the information when my brain is trying to make sense of where the ASR is going.

That’s when someone suggested I go through the proper channels to get accommodations. No problem, happy to do so. In the form I checked captions and transcripts. The contracted class said, “Sorry there are no transcripts or captions. Use Chrome’s ASR.” No, that’s not adequate and I shared my issues again.

Read the Summary Instead

They came back with; try a different browser and “Use the summary of information you can download from the front page of the class portal. That gives you most of the information from the videos.” A little later, they let me know they reviewed the Chrome captions and they found it good enough. 

This has to be a hearing person saying this. I know plenty of people with hearing loss who will say the same thing I did, it’s not adequate. Don’t get me wrong, I like ASR and use it in more casual settings. Since this is a class, and an important one for me, I do not want to leave the information up to chance. Nor did I feel confident that a ‘summary’ of the videos would suffice. My class was being reduced to a summary for 3 lessons.

Fighting Superficial Knowledge of Hearing Loss
Green crinkled paper background.
White font: When it's not going to work, stand firm for your rights to participate like anyone else.
Yellow font: Educate to the best of your ability.
White font: Enlist support and feedback from your HoH friendly community. 
White cursive font: Keep the scaled balanced.
Yellow image of scales; left side has a black Hearing Loss LIVE! logo and the right side has a white Hearing Loss LIVE! logo.
White font: We know, it's anything but fun. In the end, it's worth it for yourself and anyone comes after you. @hearinglosslive

No, this will not work. I explained that I represent the HoH (Hard of Hearing) community, there’s 48 million of us in America. I’m taking this class to upgrade my knowledge so I can better serve my community. What kind of cheerleader am I when I won’t stand up for the very thing I need for effective communication?

In thinking about the whole ordeal, I realized we are very much fighting superficial knowledge. Does the general public feel that ‘captioned videos’ are using web browser ASR? Do they know this is not a substitute for the real deal? Do they really think this accommodation fills the gap and is good enough? I have broken, distorted hearing but that does not make me less than!

Ableism!

Julia: We talked about ableism in March and here it is! I can’t help but wonder how many students who purchased this program were made to feel less than or received a bad grade and/or did not earn the certificate that came with the class because not all the material was not accessible? Or asked for a refund and dropped the course and went elsewhere?

Higher education needs to hold their contractors accountable for providing full access to the programs they offer. There was absolutely no reason for this program to not caption their videos other than down right laziness. This program’s hope is you just give in. Accept what you’re given while they pocket the money.

When faced with these types of situations, our resilience can look a couple different ways. One, we can dig in and fight it all the way to the end, which may include legal counsel. Two, we can get our money back and find a program that is better suited for our needs.

Do the Right Thing
Green crinkled paper background.
White font: Maybe one thing won't work out exactly. Get creative and find an appropriate workaround. Do not leave the Hard of Hearing person feeling like have to accept less than everyone else.
Image: White arch with the Hearing Loss LIVE! logo in the middle. Underneath is a fat zero under the left starting point of the arch. there's 2 dots then a fat X, two more dots and fat checkmark. The arch goes from the zero to the checkmark.
@hearinglosslive

If you are an educator, don’t leave people out. If your course offers video classes and you don’t have time to caption them properly, offer an alternative to videos. Meet with them in a video meet. (Be sure to follow the 3 Golden Rules and have good lighting on your face in the video meeting.) Take time to email and make them feel welcome. Don’t just say it’s in the summary because at that point, you’re cheating them of the class material everyone else gets.  

We highly recommend captioning all videos. There’s different ways to go about this: Use Otter.ai for a basic transcript, that’s what Hearing Loss LIVE! uses. Rev also works. Upload the transcript to the video and take the time to correct the captions. ASR comes up with some off the wall things at times, like we’ve seen cuss words go in and more.  

Captions not only help people who are deaf and hard of hearing, they also help people with auditory processing disorder, English as a second language, ADHD, autism and more. You help a whole group of people when you have captions. Be inclusive.

Learn More!
  • Read our Personal Bill of Rights for the Hard of Hearing when you feel yourself wavering.
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): “The ADA is meant to ensure that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of civil life.” Title II applies to state/local programs. 
  • US Department of Education on Auxiliary Aids and Services for Post Secondary Students with Disabilities (website); higher education’s obligation.
  • Another resource from our friend Terri with the HLAA-Boulder Chapter. It also lists ways to get video content captioned.

2 replies on “Accommodations: This is Good Enough For You”

Your advocacy is a great example of what we hard-of-hearing and deaf people need to do, Never give up until we’re included.

I love this article! You have to get past the point of worrying about what someone might think if you ‘bother’ them to ask for the accommodations and if your accommodations might ‘bother’ the audience.

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