Give Students a Choice
One of the most frustrating things a disability service coordinator can say is:
"We only provide one type of speech-to-text service for our students who are deaf and hard-of-hearing."
The problem is not which speech-to-text platform you choose (e.g. CART, TypeWell, or C-Print); the problem is when you make the choice for someone else, without their input.
Here are some of the flawed assumptions behind this one-size-fits-all approach to text-based communication access:
- What works well for one deaf or hard-of-hearing person will work well for all deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
- Every student who receives speech-to-text services utilizes the transcripts in the same way.
- A student’s communication needs are always the same, from one class to the next, and from one year to the next.
"We only use __[fill in the blank]__" also demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the differences between systems like CART and TypeWell, and the valuable features that make each system unique. More flawed assumptions:
- The more (or fewer) words in a transcript, the better one’s access to communication.
- The more (or less) expensive the service, the higher (or lower) the quality.
- There’s only one way to evaluate the quality or utility of a transcript.
An attitude of "I know what's best for you" does not serve students with disabilities, nor is it sustainable within the financial constraints and legal obligations of an educational institution.
At the summer 2016 pepnet 2 Training Institute, held in Indianapolis in conjunction with the annual conference of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), I spotted a wonderful resource developed by Strada Communication: a 2-page handout designed to help disability service coordinators understand which types of classes and settings were best suited for TypeWell versus CART.
Click the image below for a web version of Strada's resource document:
And here is a similar resource provided by the non-profit advocacy organization, Hands & Voices:
These resources are useful for service coordinators who understand that one size does not fit all. To really empower students, though, coordinators can provide students with real life exposure to different accommodations. Once students try different services in their own classes, they can choose what works best for their individual learning style. It's not uncommon to use different services in different classes, depending on the subject content or discussion format.
The best way for students to understand different accommodations is to experience a variety of platforms in real life.
Most of the companies that provide remote speech-to-text services offer demonstrations at no charge, and most offer more than one choice: CART, TypeWell, and/or C-Print. Considering the ease with which students can test out different platforms remotely — for free! — it makes sense both ethically and financially to do away with the "I know best" attitude and put the choice in students’ hands.