Allison and Chemistry: A Case Study on Accommodations in Group Work and Discussion

DO-IT Factsheet #215
http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/articles?215

Background

My name is Allison and I'm a chemistry major. I am hard of hearing and wear hearing aids in both ears.

Access Issue

I'm taking my first lab for an organic chemistry course. The lab involves a great deal of instruction and direction by the teaching assistant, as well as discussion and questions by students in the lab. The teaching assistant routinely walks around the room to observe student work, makes comments, and responds to questions from anywhere in the room. I am unable to hear most of the discussion, and I'm confused about some steps and procedures in lab sessions. There is also more background noise in the lab than in most lecture halls, and this reduces the effectiveness of my hearing aids. I am getting behind in each lab, and my lab reports are incomplete. In lecture classes so far, I am able to hear most of what the instructor says by adjusting my hearing aids and always sitting in the front row, but adjusting my hearing aids does not help in the lab.

Solution

I met with the deaf and hard of hearing specialist in the disabled student services office to explain my problem. She arranged to loan me an FM amplification system to use during labs. With this system, the speaker is provided with a microphone, and the sound is transmitted through a receiver directly to my hearing aid. This eliminates a lot of the background noise. I went to the next lab and explained how the system works to the teaching assistant. She wore the transmitter unit, and when a student in the lab asked a question, the TA would repeat the question so I could hear it. When the TA walked around, I could hear the comments. This system worked very well in the lab, and I plan to use the FM system in other labs or classes where there is discussion.

Conclusion

This case illustrates the following:

  1. Existing technology for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing can be quickly acquired to provide an accommodation.
  2. Technology can be used by the student in a variety of settings, and the student can keep it with her so it can be quickly put to use.