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Student Experiences with Accessible Technology and University Life
Meet Weijian Zhou, a recent UCLA grad who has shared his journey through higher education as a hearing impaired student. This is not just his journey but the story of many student experiences with accessible technology.
How we deal with the obstacles in our lives defines who we are. Getting my college education was my time to define who I am.
Everybody knows that going away to college can be a stressful time for all young people. Not only will many students be leaving home for the first time, but they also will be facing a completely different style of learning, with much larger classes and minimal contact with professors. And what about the extra obstacles for students that are differently-abled?
As a student with profound hearing loss, I am used to having to go the extra mile to make the most of my education. I have refused to let my condition define me, and spent most of my childhood learning to read lips so that I could understand teachers better. I promised myself that I’d never let my disability get in the way of my dreams. After years of hard work, I was accepted into UCLA.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that colleges are not set up to help provide differently-abled students with an education equal to their classmates. With my hearing problems I had trouble understanding some of my professors’ heavy accents and the large class sizes meant that I was unable to lip-read. To further the problem, many courses required students to use audio or video tools that were unsuitable for hearing-impaired students.
It was difficult to find many captioned videos for my courses, so I was unable to take advantage of integral course materials. The simple addition of perfectly synchronized captioning with good grammar and spelling would have allowed me to use the same materials as everyone else. Instead, I had to stay up late night after night teaching myself the concepts from expensive textbooks or outdated material that I found online. I didn’t care how long it would take; I would do anything I could to succeed.
Over three-quarters of hearing-impaired students drop out of school and miss their opportunity to fulfill their potential, but I wanted to be the exception. I had to go through school without the full use of materials that were made available to my classmates and have had to put in twice the work to overcome this obstacle.
Being differently-abled doesn’t mean that we cannot achieve our goals, it just means that we need a little help to get around our obstacles. We are some of the most determined people in the world and we are putting in much more effort compared to those around us. I have learned to embrace being different and now want to use my experiences to make sure that differently-abled people are given a more equal and fair education in the future.
I knew that the only way I could instigate change was to get involved, so I approached a company called cielo24 who specializes in providing quality captioning for education and training materials. By working with them, I have the opportunity to let the world know how important accessibility can be for differently-abled people.
I am happy to have endured these obstacles because they have made me who I am today. I am no different from anyone else. I too want to contribute to society and be part of it by inspiring and teaching others to make the world a more equal and fair place.
If differently-abled students are given an education equal to their classmates, they will be able to contribute equally to society. Student experiences with accessible technology occur throughout the world every day. The world cannot grow to its greatest potential without the full contribution of each person. I believe we have the potential to give differently-abled students a brighter future and thus help our world grow and prosper.
As for my future, there are no challenges; only opportunities. I am looking forward to attending a quality graduate program to further my education so that I can make an impact for the differently-abled. Thank you to everyone along the way.