Our guest blogger is SWCer Cristal Alferez. Cristal is a Mechatronics Engineer who works for a Manufacturing Company in San Diego CA. She is Mexican, speaks Spanish fluently and currently is mastering English pronunciation. Cristal loves to read. It is one of her many passions. She likes many genres, but what she enjoys the most are romantic novels. She also likes traveling by train in the Pacific coast and eating tacos. In this post, she describes her experience getting communication access real-time translation (CART). You can contact Cristal at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Experience with CART By Cristal Alferez
I always thought I was pretty normal, until I started elementary school. Although I don’t remember very well, my sister told me that at some point in the fifth grade I refused to go school. I couldn’t hear the teacher, since I sat in the back part of the classroom. I’m not too sure why, but I never gave that event much importance. Maybe I didn’t think about it much. During middle school and high school, the teachers sat us in alphabetical order. My last name starts with an A, so I always sat in the very front.
It wasn’t until college that I really began feeling secluded. My classmates would often tell me that I was unable to hear my name during roll call, or when someone called me behind my back. They would all remind me with a grin on their faces. Although it kinda bothered me that they would be “making fun of me” I just ignored it and carried on with my day. It was here that I realized I was becoming more antisocial, compared to when I was in high school. Because of my hearing loss, I couldn’t understand some soft spoken people. I couldn’t follow a conversation of more than two people. I would sometimes forget to turn in the homework – not because I didn’t remember but because it was assigned verbally and not written on the board.
Sometimes, if I couldn’t hear what the teachers were saying I would daydreamed. Anytime I wasn’t able to understand what someone in a group of people were saying, I daydreamed. I also remember crying before having to present my thesis. I stressed out over the fact that it would be very difficult for me to hear the questions being asked. Luckily, I was able to hear the questions just fine, and I ended up passing my thesis.
It was at that point that I felt ready to confront the problem, but unfortunately I was not able to afford fixing it, yet. It’s been five years since I left school, and I thought it would be easy from then on. But it’s quite the contrary. In school you can ignore one of your peers, and they might think you are rude; you can forget the homework, and end up with a bad grade. In real life things are different. You just can’t ignore your boss.
I decided to go back to school again, but with that, all of my fears about school came back. I questioned whether it was a good investment, if I was only going to be able to hear about fifty percent of what was being told. So, I decided that it was the perfect time to get hearing aids. I have worn hearing aids for five months now– two different brands. I’m getting used to them. Previously, I remember thinking that hearing aids would fix absolutely everything, but I was wrong. Hearing aids help a great deal, but they don’t correct my hearing to a “normal” level.
When I went to my class and found out that my hearing wasn’t as good as expected, I decided to look for more help. Somebody out there must have the same problem as I do. I found the help I needed. I got in contact with the beautiful people of the SayWhatClub, and I discovered many people who were like me, who understand the struggle I go everyday. They helped me find ways to cope better with my hearing loss. Somebody told me to look for assistive listening devices or FM systems. Others suggested a Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) system for the classroom. I had no idea these things existed.
One day I went to the disabled student center of my community college. I actually had very little confidence going in. I was surprised when they lent me an FM system that consisted of a microphone that the teacher wore, and a receiver for me, which I could use with earphones or with my hearing aids. When I saw how positive the response was, I asked if they would allow me to use CART. They gave me a thumbs up. I couldn’t believe it was that easy, and I cried of happiness that day. How many times had I missed information in class? I couldn’t believe that I would not have any problem hearing now.
But I also had mixed emotions.
In the beginning, I felt a little bit weird, because everybody would know that I can’t hear. After, I saw the results and how much it helped me, I no longer felt embarrassed.
So, here is how it worked. The disabled student center contacted this company of captioners who would send somebody to type everything that was said in class. Just like subtitles at the movies! Isn’t that amazing? I sit wherever I want and have my laptop, iPad or the tablet provided by the captioner.
I need to have good internet connection, so I go to my email inbox and open a new email with a link to get access to a meeting room, and check the picture. It is possible to make changes to the font size and color of the screen. When the class is over, the captioner sends me a detailed report of everything that was said in class in less than 24 hours. This is much better than taking notes in class! I love to read it after class, so I can study it. During class I try to understand as much as I can, and I read from the tablet every time that any of my peers speak. I totally feel more involved in class, and I’m happy to know that now I really understand what’s going on in class.
Obviously there are still some issues with the CART. For example we couldn’t set it up entirely a couple of times due to slow internet. Another time, I tried an app which let me see the same screen as my captioner, but there was a five second delay, or so. Even with normal Internet, there’s a little delay since my captioner would hear, and type.
I don’t feel left out of class anymore. As I can follow better what’s going on in class, I can participate more, and feel more involved. I’m really looking forward to attaining my masters degree, and also helping other people just like me, who do not know about all the ways we can get the extra help for coping with hearing loss. I wish every kid in school could know about CART. If your school doesn’t offer CART for now, let other people know about it. Think about this, maybe in the future someone else can benefit from CART just like I am right now.