I just returned from the Ohio College Personnel Association (OCPA) in Worthington, Ohio, and did a lot of thinking about the things I learned from those who work in the front line of service delivery to college students across Ohio.
First of all, I want to say how impressed I was with everyone – from the newly-minted master's degree professionals in entry level positions, to those who have dedicated themselves to a lifetime of service making the college experience accessible, rewarding and successful for all students in Ohio colleges. Everyone seemed focused on one goal – finding the best possible ways to create a rich academic and social experience for every student.
But one issue came up repeatedly, and I felt I had to address it here: budgets. As I've learned, higher education budgets depend upon enrollment numbers, and when those numbers sink, so do budget amounts. And budgets are especially critical for those who work in disability services and accommodations, because budgets can determine the type of accommodations students receive.
Accommodations for students with hearing impairments and auditory learning disorders can range from a note taker, who can be a volunteer or student worker, to the "Cadillac" of accommodations, communication access real-time translation and/or real-time transcription, also known as CART. Students love it; faculty members love it; administrators may love the idea, but not the cost.
Premier Visual Voice presented a program on CART and captioning at the convention, and also reached out to many attendees to determine if they knew what CART was and how it was used in their institutions. The feedback we received told us that in institutions where CART is used, students seem very happy with it. Where it is not being used, it seemed to boil down to one critical point: budgets that don't allow for the costs. After all, it is pretty hard to compete on a financial basis with an almost free service such as note taking.
The dedicated workers I met at OCPA want, above all, to have the best possible services for their students, including CART. We'd like to help make that happen, too, by working together as partners with our colleagues in higher education.