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Professor Berated Hard-of-Hearing Student Who Needed a Translator During Online Classes

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Last week, a video went viral on social media last week for all those wrong reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for many people, and this includes virtual education for many students around the world. One would hope people would become more understanding during the pandemic, but one TikTok showing how a hard-of-hearing student was treated by a professor shows that this has not always been the case.

In the video, a professor at Oxnard College criticized a hard-of-hearing student for not responding right away and also criticized that her for having a translator. The professor told the student they would have to discuss her participation later in front of the entire class. HuffPost has reported that the professor is now on administrative leave.

I am hard-of-hearing myself, and this video rattles me for a few reasons. The first being how hard it can be to be on Zoom calls for hours without a break. I was in the final semester of my undergraduate degree in May 2020, and I was so tired after my virtual classes. My professors also did not have captions on their calls, which made classes more taxing. When I look at the TikTok video itself, there do not seem to be captions on the Zoom class call either.

Another reason why this professor’s behavior disturbs me is that I am afraid people will judge me if I ask for too many accommodations. I was always at the top of my class in French throughout high school and took advanced French courses while at university. While I was a dedicated student, I always struggled with listening sections on my exams. I read lips, so just having a message said over audio can be difficult for me.

In high school, my French teacher completely understood some limitations of this disability, and when we had audio-only exercises in class, she would then go to the hallway with me after and read the transcript so I could look at her face. I was unable to get proper accommodations for the AP French exam — I only had extended time to write out answers to questions — but that was due to issues with the College Board.

When I went to university, we often had listening exercises in my French class. To my luck, during my entire first year, there was construction on my building. These exercises were not graded, but I still felt frustrated that I was unable to understand everything the professor was saying.

There was one positive part of this TikTok, and that was the student who jumped in to defend her hard-of-hearing peer. Dealing with ableism is difficult, but it is always nice to have allies to help us when we are dealing with situations we do not deserve.

In my French class at university, there were multiple students in my class who shared with me their notes from the exercises because they knew of the challenges I face with my disability. Going forward, I hope to see more stories of what professors are doing to accommodate students, and not the other way around.

Originally published: February 23, 2021
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