I had my first experience with CART (basically, closed-captioning for real life) the other day, for a Communities of Practice Workshop I'm participating in that has a weekly phone meeting.

And holy crap. I understood a phone meeting and wasn't completely stressed out and anxious the entire time, or mostly disengaged due to mental exhaustion, or falling over afterwards, and actually participated and didn't need to catch up afterwards... WHOA. I mean, it's not like I couldn't have coped without it, but it was like having lead weights taken off and going "wait, this isn't actually as hard as I am used to it being?"

I could get used to this. I just... I know it's there to be requested in academic institutions, but I think I'd still have problems asking for it in smaller school settings (Purdue is huge and has a disability resource center, but Olin is 300 students large and doesn't) or work settings (because it would "cause trouble," maybe) and I'm pretty sure that small startups (for instance) wouldn't be able to do this and... in general, I'm still a little touchy about having "other people" assume the "burden" of communicating with me. But. Worrying about too many things I don't have to, I think. Should enjoy what I've got now.

In case it helps others, here's the text of the email I sent to request CART services for the first time.

Hello there,

I had a question about what support might be available for my situation -- my name is Mel Chua, and I'm a PhD student in the Engineering Education department under Robin Adams (cc'd). I'm here on a Purdue Doctoral Fellowship doing my work on engineering learning that takes place in open source communities. I'm also deaf -- I've had a severe hearing loss diagnosed when I was a child 20 years ago, and grew up mainstreamed, lipreading and speaking with no problem, so my (small-seminar, within-my-department) classes at Purdue so far have been fine without assistance.

There is a 6-week distance seminar (http://cpsquare.org/edu/foundations/) offered on Communities of Practice, which is one of the core frameworks my research is based on. It's not an official Purdue course, but multiple other PhD students in my department have taken it in the past (it's considered the canonical Communities of Practice workshop and entry point, taught by the leaders in the space), and multiple professors have encouraged me to sign up as it would form a foundation for my academic work here. Most of the course is online (again, not a problem for me) but there is a weekly phone discussion -- so 6 phone calls, one per week -- that I would be unable to participate in without assistance, since I rely on lipreading.

Would it be possible to get CART services for the 6 phone calls (assuming the workshop instructors consent to the arrangement)? The workshop starts next Monday the 24th, so I'm trying to figure out things this week if possible. I know CART for classes is probably arranged only at the start of term, so I would be willing to put in legwork to find an auxillary provider if that's needed/helpful.

I'd be happy to come by to discuss if you'd like -- just let me know where and when, and I'll swing by your offices. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and hopefully we'll be able to work something out!

Key elements (my opinion -- others with more experience may have better insights):

  • Leave it open so you're more likely to find out about other options "...question about what support might be available for my situation..."
  • Demonstrate that you've already been invested-in and are likely to
    provide a high return on accessibility investments: "I'm here on a Purdue Doctoral Fellowship..."
  • Why are you asking for it now, in mid-semester? ([I've mainstreamed all my life and have small-format classes this semester, so] "...classes at Purdue so far have been fine without assistance.")
  • Emphasize that this is related to your official role, and that it would be expected of a hearing student too: "...core frameworks my research is based on... multiple other PhD students in my department have taken it in the past..."
  • Show indications of supervisory support: CCing my advisor, "multiple professor have encouraged me to sign up..."

Many thanks to my friends Mirabai Knight (of StenoKnight CART services) and Steve Jacobs (of RIT, a former ASL interpreter) for patiently walking with me in this direction for the past few years. I've been in this "no, does not want!" accessibility rut for... something like 15 years (I successfully argued with my parents/teachers/admins against hearing aids, etc. when I was 10) and it's a little scary to get out of it.