By Chelle George
My last email requesting CART for the writing workshop certainly grabbed attention. I addressed it to both the manager of the writing center and the student disability center. I went to bed wondering how it all might turn out, wondering if I’d not be able to attend the workshop and if that happened I couldn’t quit. That would mean getting more serious like contacting a lawyer and that is NOT something I want to do.
The first thing in the morning before getting out of bed, I grabbed my phone off the dresser and checked my email. At about a quarter to midnight, the manager replied to email…twice. The first email she states she replied to my email and I never wrote back. Hmmm, I had this thread flagged in my in box since the beginning. I don’t see how I could have missed something like that. Then she asks me to choose other options because she doesn’t think they have CART. I reply….
“To be honest, I exhausted all efforts I know of in the last workshop I attended. I tried an FM system, I tried outlines and I talked to both presenters before hand letting them know I read lips. However, they can’t face me all the time because they are writing on the board or looking at another part of the room while listening to an attendee. I felt like I got maybe 20%, 30% at best, of what was said in there. Most of the time I sat there feeling lost, not understanding why were breaking up into groups and what our task was. Comments from the others were an important part of the workshop and I couldn’t follow them either because I couldn’t locate the speaker in time to use my lip reading ability and they weren’t a part of the FM system. Even more honesty, I came home in tears that third, final night because I couldn’t do it even with all my know how.
I work well one on one and even sometimes with 3 people if the conversation moves slow enough. I can read lips while using what little sound I have left and I can identify who is speaking fast enough to catch what’s said. When more people are introduced, I can’t keep up.
CART is the only accommodation I can think of and the only way I can participate. Other suggestions I have are to fix the acoustics in the room with sound absorbing panels, rugs, covered ventilation system, the wall to meet the ceiling. Incredibly, I get by well enough with a hearing loop system. Here’s some information on that, http://www.hearingloop.org, but I don’t think that will something that can be done in a timely manner. I’m not fluent in sign language. I can’t think of anything else at the moment.”
I get a reply back shortly after stating they cannot remodel their classroom and she will see about getting CART. She went on to say no one was denying me accommodations and she had it all set up for me before but I never replied to her messages. Or to her phone calls.
I know full well no messages came through to me. I was watching my mail and my spam folder carefully. There were no phone messages either because if someone leaves a message, I have my boyfriend help me hear it. Besides, call me? Every time I leave my phone number somewhere I say, “text only.” I don’t know if she’s lying about the emails, covering her tracks or really did try. There’s no way to prove it except to ask her if she send me the copies so I know how I might have missed it which is what I do. Could she forward the missed emails to me but of course she cleared out her sent folder months ago and she can’t show them to me. She then wants to know what workshop I’m attending and the time so she put the request in. I’m getting CART and that should make me feel good but I’m bothered by her attitude.
About half an hour later I got an email from the student disability center with three contacts from there. They told me to come into the center and they would get me CART scheduled with the workshop. Thank you! At least someone is willing to support me and I feel better. Instead of complaining about the managers attitude, I take the high road and write a nice note back telling them the writing center is working me and CART should be scheduled soon.
A few hours later I go downtown to pay for the workshop. I walk into the center and the lady at the front desk recognizes me right away. She was one of the presenters at the last (and my first) workshop I attended. She asked, “Chelle George, right?” I haven’t been to the writing center in a year and a half, does she remember me? Did I make some sort of impression on her? Or is my name flying around in their office right now? All of the above? I tell her hi and yes, that’s me.
“Well, I’m sorry to say we weren’t able to get your audio equipment.”
Disbelief leaves me stunned for a few seconds. A choice curse word runs through my head, not directed at her but the whole situation.
“You weren’t able to get…my audio equipment?” Audio!? Haven’t they learned I can’t hear? This is as bad telling a blind person to go ahead read the menu as best they can.
She shakes her head and her eyes dart around. I’m not going to make a big scene.
“Okay. I’m going to contact the disability center.”
She makes to get up, perhaps to get the manager but I’m already walking out. What kind of game is this? Why is this such a problem? I go to the library next door because I wanted to get a book anyway but first I sit down to email the disability center. I wander around the fiction area looking for my books and before I leave I sit down to check my email again. (I LOVE my smartphone.) The center wrote back saying they didn’t understand what was wrong as the CART was booked. They also said if I planned on attending a lot of workshops there I need to come in and file with them for budget purposes. I write back saying maybe there was a misunderstanding and I will stop back in on my way out. Then I let them know a few years ago I filed with their center thinking I might attend classes but wound up not registering for classes. They might still have me in their system.
I wasn’t looking forward to going back into the writing center. One, there is always my own self doubt about my hearing. Did I hear the lady at the front desk wrong? I don’t see how I could have because I was squatting at her desk as she sat in her chair to make sure we were eye level and she knew to face me. She wasn’t hard to understand that way. Number two, I don’t have my hearing aids right now with one out of order which makes me doubt myself a little more than usual (which makes CART all the more important for this workshop). Three, the situation is getting ridiculous. I take a few deep breaths and walk in.
The same lady is sitting at the desk. I calmly tell her CART is scheduled according the disability center so I’d like to pay for the class. The manager appears from around the corner and I at long last meet her face to face. She’s nervous too, we’re all nervous. She’s smiling and making nice so I will too. She asks for me to wait 5 minutes while she finishes up her meeting and she will talk to me. I write my check out and wait a few more minutes. The manager is all smiles. “We have the…” she makes typing motions with her fingers so I supply, “the stenographer?”
“Yes. That’s all scheduled so you can attend now.” She goes on to say she found out last night there was problems with their email and that’s why I never saw anything. I smile and nod. I let her know I was in touch with disability center and I may end up going in though I’m not sure how many workshops I’ll attend but there might be a few here and there I’m interested in. She makes careful notes taking my email again. She will confirm everything with me later she says as she writes. I squat down again to be sure to see her face. I want no misunderstandings. She wants my phone number.
“I don’t hear well on the phone. It takes away all lip reading ability. That’s why I always say email or texting is the best way to get a hold of me.”
She nods her head. Maybe it all sunk in finally. I think sometimes it’s a curse that I do so well one on one or in small groups. It makes me look like a liar.
At last, I have CART after a little push and shove. I’m glad I pursued it and I hope some misconceptions are cleared up. It will never be this hard for someone to request CART there again. I feel the flush of victory. I wasn’t looking for a scuffle and I’m not going to shove it in anyone’s face. I will be pleasant and thankful for the CART and that it’s done. In the end that’s all that matters, I can attend the workshop with full participation now.