Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pushing Past Perceived Barriers



I'm learning a lot about communication in graduate school, but I'm learning more about myself. I can do more than I thought I could. I'd like to share some of the barriers I've perceived and how I'm handling them.

The first obstacle for me was that my class is discussion based and not lecture style. I thought I could cope with a teacher's lecture by requesting that he wear a small microphone that would send the sound directly to my hearing aids. But when my professor told me the class was a discussion format, I was at a loss as to what to do. Fortunately the size of my class is rather small with eleven of us sitting in four rows. I chose a seat in the second row. This allows me to hear some of my classmates' comments and questions, while keeping my central focus on what the professor says. I definitely do not hear all that my classmates say, but I am keeping up with the general discussion and contributing more often than I expected I would.

The second barrier I encountered was a required online class discussion using Voice Thread. The assignment was to watch a video, listen to our teacher's comments, and submit comments ourselves using webcams or microphones. I was scared by this assignment because the video was not captioned and I would not have captioning for my classmates' commentary. I contacted Voice Thread support by email and asked about captioning. To the company's credit, I received a response the next day; but unfortunately, captioning is not yet available for their service. Someday....

For now, I had to forge ahead with trepidation. The video turned out to be a compilation of several speakers' viewpoints on the scope of the communication field. Some I could hear and understand, but others I could not decipher. I responded with my own comments by webcam wherever I could. Fortunately, the instructor added several slides with discussion questions in writing. These slides were my lifeline. Also, one of my classmates provided a crystal clear audio and a couple others were fairly discernible, so I responded to them. I was satisfied with making the effort to participate in the discussion even if I could not respond as often or as fully as others did.

For tonight's class, we were required to listen to a podcast. That assignment also worried me. I set aside a block of time to listen, figuring if it was too hard, I could take it in chunks. Fortunately, the two speakers had voices I could hear and understand with only a few rewind/replays and episodes of holding my laptop up to my ear. A few times in their podcast, they referred to or read quotes in the article they were reviewing which I had printed out in front of me. Even better, they mentioned page numbers a couple of times. Those moments were like little "You are here" flags popping up and helping me stay on track with the discussion.

In summary, my first weeks of grad school have been tough, but I'm thankful to report that my workload has been hardest in the reading, writing, and research involved rather than in the listening and comprehension aspects. I'm glad I didn't let my fears hold me back.

6 comments:

Katerina said...

You go, girl! I'm a freshman in college this year; I can hear, but I can definitely agree with being a little freaked out by the workload! One of my classes is ASL 1, which is being a fun challenge so far. Your blog looks like a great insight into a Deaf/HOH lifestyle, and very inspirational. Thank you for sharing your story! :D

Xpressive Handz said...

Sarah, the college is required to accommodate YOUR needs. They have been given money from the government to do so. I would encourage you to contact your Deaf and Hard of Hearing services and request and advocate/attorney to come with you to address these issues with the college through a mediation process. They are required by law to do this. How many other students have gone through this same thing without getting adequate accessibility, but did nothing because no one has spoken up and followed through the process to get an effective response. The colleges are required by law to provide CART real time captioning remotely for you if need be. With CART, you will get a transcript at the end of the day of EVERYTHING said in class, be it student, professor, video. You should have access to the very same information every one else has/says You could be the person to bring awareness to the school, and pave the way for future students simply by requesting this and getting help from your state deaf and hard of hearing office. You don't need to publish this, I just wanted to write as soon as I saw this post. I went to disability student services and I asked about CART. They said I could have either CART or an interpreter, but not both. Because I like to be social, I chose interpreter, but I have a friend who chose CART and LOVES it. Don't delay a moment longer. With CART in place, you won't have to worry about anything you mentioned here or anything else.

Liz said...

Glad you are finding this better than you thought you would. Look forward to hearing more as you go along.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks, Katerina. Good luck with your studies too.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Xpressive Handz,
I hear you. Before classes started, I stopped in at the Student Services office and talked with the coordinator for disabilities services. She recommended this try it first approach and I think she was right. I am doing OK, but if I start sinking, accommodations can be requested. There are deaf students in the school who use interpreters and CART.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you, Liz. I apologize that I've been so busy with school that I am behind on reading your wonderful blog.