Being a DeafBlind person in college

As a DeafBlind student myself, I recognize that sometimes students need a little help to make collegiate learning accessible to them.

Whatcom Community College’s Access and Disability Services provides this kind of help to students in the form of TypeWell transcription services. TypeWell provides transcriptions in an easy-to-read format that eliminates awkward pauses, stutters and confusing sentence structure. 

Kerri Holferty, who works for Whatcom’s Access and Disability Services, says tools like TypeWell can have a big impact on student learning.

“I remember this hard-of-hearing student who came into my office, and she had tried college a number of times, and wasn’t successful because she didn’t even realize how much she wasn’t hearing. I remember her coming into the office after her first class with TypeWell, in tears. She was so happy.”

Christy Joy, communications manager for Intellitext, the company that provides TypeWell transcription services, explained the advantages to using human transcription services like TypeWell, as opposed to AI software.

“The human transcribers have the ability to use context clues to provide the student with better access to what’s going on in the classroom,” Joy said, “This includes using bracketed transcriber notes to help orient the student to what the class is doing. This might include things like [Teacher reading Slide 4] or [Students passing papers to the right].” 

Joy shared one of her personal experiences transcribing with TypeWell in a psychology class where the class was split into groups and they were supposed to pick a psychological disorder to research and present. “The class erupted into chaos,” Joy said. That would generally leave a deaf or hard-of-hearing student confused. But Joy was in the classroom to help the student orient. “My note to the student read [Students arguing over which group gets schizophrenia],” she said.

While not all students require Access and Disability Services, the services they provide are essential for learning. 

“All we want our students to do is to be able to learn. And in order for them to be able to do that, we need to make sure the information they are trying to access is in a format they can access,” Holferty said.

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