WROCC at WOU Web-Based Training Materials

One Student's Story...or is it?

I can't believe the difference this has made in my life. You can't imagine what a relief it is to me to drive home after a day of classes and be headache-free. For the first time, I feel I can be successful in my coursework...or even a career.
These are the comments of "Mary," a student attending Western Oregon University.
Understand, my family often became frustrated in trying to communicate with me. I always thought that if the people who loved me most had problems talking to me, why would a teacher or employer make the effort for me. But this changes everything. If I had had this equipment when I first went to college, I might already have my degree now and the whole course of my life would have been different. I have to admit that even though I am thrilled with the difference this has made for me, once in a while I feel sparks of anger that no one told me about ALDs before now.
Mary's discovery began when she went into the Disability Services Office at Western and requested a tape recorder. Being hard of hearing, understanding class lectures was a struggle even though she had hearing aids and used speech reading. Mary had never thought of herself as disabled, and had always managed on her own without help. Recently, though, she was beginning to recognize it took a lot of energy for her to keep up in class. After doing poorly on a test that she thought she was well prepared for, she decided she needed help. Even though it would mean taking more time from her family, she knew she would not succeed in her classes if she did not do something. Reviewing the lectures seemed to be her only option, thus the request for the tape recorder.

Martha Smith, disability services coordinator, had served students experiencing difficulties similar to Mary's in the past. She spent a few minutes talking with Mary about her problems in class to determine the kinds of accommodations that might be useful to her. She found out that Mary had already talked with her professors and let them know about her hearing loss, that she sat near the front of the room to hear them better and to speech read, and that she was a long-time user of hearing aids. She also found out that Mary was not familiar with assistive listening devices, but was willing to try. She related the following:

I brought out the FM transmitter and receiver. I pinned the mic to my lapel, and gave the receiver and headphones to Mary. With my back to her, I asked if she could hear me. When she didn't respond immediately, I turned to see Mary looking flabbergasted. She exclaimed that it had been years since she was able to hear someone without seeing their face to speechread. It was a very emotional moment for her.
After discussing her particular class settings and needs, they decided on a coupler and mic system that would work for her. Martha gave Mary and her professors instruction on using the devices, and provided them with a tip sheet for trouble shooting.

Mary's story is not unique. Many people could benefit from assistive listening devices, especially in group settings such as classes, religious meetings, work meetings, and even family gatherings. One does not have to wear hearing aids to benefit, either.

If you are a student at a public institution for higher education and you have a hearing loss, you may be eligible for assistance. In college settings, that assistance may include assistive listening devices, notetakers, oral interpreters, and/or real time transcription, depending on your hearing needs, the listening requirements in the class (e.g., group discussion or lecture), and the amount of specialized terminology in the course.

Identify yourself to the disability services coordinator on your campus. If you have trouble identifying this office, contact the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator and ask what office provides accommodations for students with disabilities. You will be required to show some documentation of your hearing loss. In advocating for yourself, you should be able to describe to the service provider what situations you hear well in, what situations present the most problems, coping skills you have developed for various listening situations, and your preferences for accommodations. The more you can describe what helps you and why, the more likely you will be to receive that accommodation.

Many, many hard-of-hearing students go through school on their own without requesting accommodations. You school service provider may have never served a hard-of-hearing individual before. If your service provider is not familar with ALDs, and is struggling with how to provide accommodations for you, have them contact an office of the nationwide network that provides technical assistance to programs serving hard of hearing and deaf individualsBPEPNet (Postsecondary Education Programs Network). PEPNet can be found at http://www.pepnet.org. The office serving the northwest region (including Oregon) is the Northwest Outreach Center, located at Western Oregon University. Visit our website at http://www.wou.edu/nwoc for information and materials about assistive listening equipment and internet resources related to hearing loss, or call 503-838-8642.


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