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What I wish I had known about university accessibility as a student with hearing loss

student with hearing loss
The transition from high school to university is one of the most exciting yet terrifying experiences. I remember lying awake with jittering nerves uncertain about venturing into the unknown. The last 12 years of academia built up to this, yet I wasn’t prepared.

There are many things I wish I had known about university accessibility that would have made the transition smoother and faster as a student with hearing loss.

So you can benefit from the best years of your life sooner, learn from my experience. Here’s what I wish I had known about university accessibility:

1) Resources

Even if you didn’t use any resources or accommodations in high school, consider schools that offer them. Since I didn’t use any technology in high school other than a microphone, I didn’t think I would need anything else. College is a completely different setting than high school, however. It’s important to look at schools that offer many different types of accommodations. This ensures options as well as coverage. More importantly, this means that the school is educated on disability issues and will be supportive if any issues arise.

2) Syllabi

Before you even pick your classes, try to look at the syllabi online. What exactly will you be learning? What is the breakdown of the course? How is the assessment done? Answering these questions will determine whether you’ll be graded on participation and the course format (debate, lecture, etc). Sometimes old syllabi posted online can provide an idea of how the course will be run and whether it’s a style that best suits you.

3) Contact Professors in Advance

It’s best to contact your professors and disability services in advance for a seamless start to the semester. Introduce yourself to your professors. Let them know that you will be in their class, that you have a hearing loss, and whether you’ll be using any accommodation or assistive technology. I did this with my professors to let them know that I would be giving them a microphone called the Roger Mic at the start of each lecture. Initially, I only contacted them to let them know that I was hard of hearing. However, I learned that with the increased workload at university, it was best to initiate problem-solving for participation graded or simulation content before school starts.

Recently I have mentioned concerns and outlined my needs in a follow-up email to try and start the problem-solving process. In my second year, when I went in for office hours, I found it difficult to keep up with my school work while working to find a mutually satisfactory solution.

Read more: 5 ways deaf students can advocate for themselves in college

4) Office Hours

Office hours are a student’s best friend. Your professors will be allies if you have difficulties with the disabilities office. They’ll be the first line of defense. They best understand the material and how they want to run the class. Therefore, it might be easier for you to come up with class-specific solutions with your professor that disability services may not come up with. It depends on the school, of course, but in my experience, I have found that disability services don’t have as much time to deal with my concerns. They have many other students and the process is time-consuming. Ideally, I would only deal with disability services if there was a problem or a technology accessibility issue that my professor couldn’t help with. My most successful solutions are the ones that my professors and I have come up with.

“My most successful solutions are the ones that my professors and I have come up with.”

5) University Accessibility Learning Curve

These are things I am continuing to learn as I continue my university education. We are all learning from my experience. Since each hearing loss and individual is different, there isn’t one solution that works for everyone, especially in a university setting where there are many different programs and settings. University accessibility requires a collaborative effort between the student and professors. It may be difficult at times to continue to try, but I’ve found the effort to be worth it.

What tips do you have for making university a seamless transition?

Author Details
Maddy is 19 and currently in her third year at university studying International Relations. She wears Sky V90 hearing aids in both ears, and has been wearing hearing aids since she was three. In her spare time you can catch her painting, playing volleyball and watching YouTube. Some of her goals is to continue to work for better accessibility at her university and to break down the stigmas surrounding hearing loss.