Going back to school is an exciting time as it’s a chance to start anew. Of course with new classes, that means new teachers and going through the dreaded “this is how you use my microphone” spiel again. A back to school hearing loss checklist can help.
Self-advocacy in school can be a challenge. Based on my previous experiences, here is a back to school hearing loss checklist to help ease into the upcoming year and get off on the right foot.
First, get in contact with student or accessibility services and see what your school offers for resources. This is a good starting point. It will open up communication and help you start proactively planning for the year, and working with the school. Make sure you set up an appointment.
Next, research potential options outside of what your school provides. For example, earlier this year Google released the Live Transcribe app. You can connect a Roger Select to an Android phone. The sound goes to the hearing aids while simultaneously giving you pretty accurate captioning. Last year, I thought remote captioning was a new discovery when I found out about it (it’s not!), and my university was not even familiar with that.
Indeed, each school will have different resources and level of expertise. You are not limited to the options provided by the school, and you know your hearing loss best. In my experience, the options provided at schools tend to be outdated because they may not have the necessary resources to constantly keep looking for things to benefit their students with hearing loss. Instead, they’ll have general blanket solutions available. Hearing loss is unique because each person’s solution and preferences can be different. This makes it a more challenging process to find what works best for you. Some people want to sit at the front, while others want to sit at the side. Some people prefer real-time captioning, whereas others find it difficult to follow. Unfortunately, more of the responsibility falls on the individual to come up with solutions for the classroom.
Get ahold of your teachers or professors ahead of time. Before school starts, send an email to your teachers and set up a meeting. Prior to this meeting, try to think about solutions to as many areas or concerns that you may have for the year that may work with the resources provided. When you bring up these concerns, they will be looking towards you for the solution. It is a collaborative process.
Even if you don’t have the best or most perfect solution, be prepared in case the teacher does not have a solution either. At this meeting, explain what your needs are and show them how to use your equipment. The sooner you start this process, the more time you have to collaborate and come up with solutions without being under the stress of school. This also gives you a chance to show the teacher how to use the equipment without your peers watching you and the time pressure of the teacher to try to start the class.
Many high schools and universities require documentation or an individualized education plan that the school is required to follow. If your school requires this documentation, make sure you review and update it. Usually, student services will request this type of documentation, or it is created with the help of student services. This is what will hold your teachers and school accountable if you are not receiving the accessibility you requested or they’re denying what you need.
If you do you run across some difficulties later on the school year, such as a teacher refusing to wear a microphone, then you can point back to this document to make your case stronger and have some back up for enforcement. Reviewing it also refreshes your memory of what’s on there. The more years you have under your belt, the more experience and solutions you might have to make it more up to date.
Have an updated audiogram, or make sure that the audiogram you are currently using is not too old. This is especially important when going to a new school. Whether switching from junior high to high school, or going to university, they always want to see your audiogram. Having a more current audiogram will help with government aid or when you’re applying for scholarships. Most scholarships want an audiogram within 24 months even though we all know our hearing likely will not improve. You never know what opportunity or scholarship will pop up. It may take longer than you realize to schedule a hearing test.
Know your allies. As frustrating as it can be, sometimes teachers may not listen to us. Your allies can help you in this case. You don’t need to always be the one to advocate. Part of advocacy is demonstrating why we need accessibility and gaining others’ support. If you have shown the importance of accessibility, then others will support you. All it may take is a well-written email from a parent, a bit more notice from student services, vice-principal, or head of the department to put some pressure on them. These allies will hold them accountable if a teacher is not agreeing with you.
“If you have shown the importance of accessibility, then others will support you.”
Recognize that not all solutions will be perfect. This is something that took me a long time to realize. It means recognizing the difference between settling for sub-par accommodations and working with what you have. You’ll only have so much energy and time to devote to any particular situation. Unfortunately, not all battles can be won, nor are they all worth fighting.
In my first year at university, I was extremely passive and settled when I shouldn’t have. Then in my second year, I was overly ambitious in trying to get the perfect solution in my classes. This meant exerting tons of energy and time trying to find perfect solutions that did not exist. Sometimes it’s best to accept that perhaps a solution is not the best, you can’t make someone understand, and there are no better solutions at that moment.
I learned some tough lessons. You can’t change people, but you can change how much energy you devote to them. Sometimes there are no great solutions. Each year I have learned something different in my journey of self-advocacy. I hope that these tools and checklist give you an upper hand in yours.
There will be some things you regret doing, whether it is not speaking up that one time, or going in too much. Self-advocacy can be one of the most difficult but also most rewarding parts of school, especially when you can see its effects and impact. One time I was really tired of constantly reminding this one professor to put on closed captioning and was about to give up. Then after seeing me putting my hand down, my classmates all got his attention to put the closed captioning on. It was a very rewarding moment. Each person takes self-advocacy through a different pace, whether it is behind the scenes or out in the open but we all have the same goal of an accessible classroom.
What would you add to this checklist?