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My experience with CART at university

CART at university

In September this year, I became a college student. I started with a sense of dread. I knew what I needed to do, and how to do it, but I still worried about how my hearing loss would affect my experience.

It was finally time for me to make my own decisions! And be a real adult. My first few weeks at college really tested my ability to handle my problems like an adult.

I began attending my classes with the help of a program, through Disability Services, and wrote an article about a few months ago about CART. (Communication Access Realtime Translation). When I used it for the first time, I thought it was really helpful.

Read more: Trying out real time captioning in the classroom 

I had not used any form of classroom accommodations since middle school, as I felt I did just fine without. I thought it would be different in college: harder classes, more work, and a different environment.

Well, I was right and wrong. The work is definitely hard… much harder than I’ve ever had to work in school. But not because of my hearing loss.

My experience with CART

I used CART (which, in hindsight can be super helpful if that kind of assistance works for you!) for a couple classes, but before I realized, it was seriously getting on my nerves.

CART is a service that provides hearing impaired students with a “translator” who transcribes everything being said.

The way it worked for me was my assigned translator would attend each of my classes every day and transcribe the entire lecture. I was always able to sit in the front, and I was provided with a copy of the transcription of the lecture by the end of the day.

It sounds wonderful on paper. But I couldn’t stand it. I felt like I was being babysat all the time.

And I never used it. It became a distraction, a glowing blue screen next to me all the time. I understood the professors perfectly fine.

Finding what is best for me

At first, I thought it was just me being my usual self; stubborn and critical. Of course, I wouldn’t like it at first, I spent the last few years without any form of classroom accommodations. But subconsciously I knew that this was just not helpful, and I was basically repeating history.

So, I decided I would go to the university disability office and tell them about my concerns and how I would stop using the service. I went to talk to the people there, telling them I felt strongly that I did not need the service anymore and that I knew it would not be helpful in the long run.

They were noticeably concerned, and understandably so, since I am a new college student. Classes would get harder as the semester went on, they said, and if I stopped using the service I may struggle later. 

But I know myself.

I didn’t get this far and do so well by making poor decisions and not listening to myself. So I contested, asserting my point that I didn’t just think I wouldn’t need the services anymore. I knew. 

The disability office told me that I would be continuing to use the service, and that I could make a decision about whether or not I wanted to continue using it next semester. That didn’t go over well with me. I could have backed down and accepted it, thinking that they were probably right. But I didn’t. I was extraordinarily upset at the fact that I was currently unable to make that decision for myself, as if I didn’t just live the past 14 years of my life with hearing aids.

Long story short: I don’t use CART anymore. And I won’t use classroom accommodations anymore because they just don’t help me. I do perfectly fine in my classes, and no trouble  hearing the professors or teachers assistants. 

My advice: Do what works for you

Do I take back what I said about CART? No. I recommend any hard of hearing college student try it out if it’s offered at your campus.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should give up any accommodations/technology you use. If it helps you do what you need to do, keep going! 

Read more: This is how to get FREE hearing technology from your University 

But for other young adults with hearing loss out there, don’t let anyone infantilize you. It’s definitely important to make the distinction between when someone is giving you genuine advice, and when they are not listening to your concerns because they think you don’t know what you want.

And this doesn’t only apply to the classroom. It can be about anything related to your hearing loss. If you feel strongly that you do not want something in your life, you can make that decision for yourself.

“And this doesn’t only apply to the classroom- it can be about anything related to your hearing loss. If you feel strongly that you do not want something in your life- you can make that decision for yourself.”

Of course, I can’t tell you if it’s the right or wrong decision. And I also don’t mean to make decisions with reckless abandon, ignoring any advice. But just because you have a disability, it doesn’t mean you should be treated younger than you are. It doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions on your own.

There is a vast range of options for deaf and hard of hearing students in college. Whether it is a Roger Pen,  FM system, CART, or notetaker, there are different ways to help with classroom listening. Or if none of those work for you that is okay too.

Read more: Why the Here To Hear Tour is so important to teens with hearing loss 

What has worked best for you in the classroom? Let us know in the comments.

Author Details
I’m Daysia, and I’m 17 years old. I have profound bilateral hearing loss and I wear Phonak Bolero Q50-P hearing aids in both ears. I am pursuing a career in rehabilitative engineering.