St. Clair Student Services Leverages Technology to Help Deaf Students “Hear” in the Classroom

A deaf student in the personal support program at St. Clair College in Chatham credits student services with going out of their way to help her “hear” in class.

After losing her sister to cancer in June 2021, Candi-Lynn Chauvin, who is legally deaf, felt determined to harness the most difficult experience of her life and use it to give back to her community – she therefore chose to enroll in the PSW program at St. Clair College in Chatham at the age of 36.

“When my sister was transferred to Hospice Chatham, the people there were absolutely amazing with her, and I found myself wanting to be able to do what they did for me, for someone else. “, said Chauvin. “I think it’s something that would have made my sister extremely proud of me, and it’s something that feels right to me. I feel like that’s where I belong.

However, with government masking mandates in effect for in-person classes at the time, this presented a significant problem for Chauvin as she communicated through lip-reading and not sign language. Shortly after enrolling at St. Clair, Chauvin contacted Jennifer Johns of the Student Services Department at Chatham to offer suitable accommodation.

“The pandemic has brought additional challenges to ensure education is accessible to all students,” Johns said. “For many students with accessibility needs, the impact has resulted in additional challenges. This led to the need to be creative and collaborative in finding solutions.

Once St. Clair technologist Wayne Nevin was brought in to provide assistance, a months-long brainstorming period began to figure out exactly which devices and programs would best help Chauvin achieve his goals. The device had to be portable and have a hands-free option so that it could be used in a clinical setting. After a few lessons and some trial and error, Chauvin started confidently using a small Android phone combined with a translation app for use in the classroom and in the field.

“It was a great opportunity to work with something a little different from our usual technology,” Nevin said. “Nothing is ever without challenges and with technology there are always obstacles, but you adapt and try to find solutions. Thanks to the participation of our open-minded students and professors, who have defined certain needs or requirements, we were able to make sure we were working to tick the required boxes.”

Chauvin said the device gave her more confidence to be a deaf person around hearing people and made her feel like she belonged at St. Clair College. Chauvin also praised Nevin for going out of his way to help him hear not just in class, but in his daily life as well.

“I have been proving myself to the hearing world for 36 years. I was sure I could handle an 8 month course. With the help of Wayne, the classroom translator and the portable translator, I succeeded. He rose to the challenge that I would face and he tried one thing after another,” Chauvin said. “Without this man…I wouldn’t be a straight student with a hands-free translator. Every time we came across something that would be better, Wayne found a way to make that idea a reality. I owe all of my experience as a student to his patience and willingness to experiment with technology and ideas. »

Nancy Davis is the coordinator of the Personal Service Worker program at St. Clair’s Chatham campus and said it has been an exciting journey to be able to help Chauvin overcome the challenges she has faced.

“Our goal is to provide the best education for our students and Candi’s commitment to caring for our vulnerable seniors has prompted us to explore new avenues and technologies to facilitate his goals. We are very happy that technology, flexibility and dedication have come together to make this work for everyone.

Now that Chauvin has begun to harness the full potential of her hands-free translation device, she believes it has put her on an equal footing with her classmates and guarantees that the fear she had about the university, even before the mandate of the mask, does not retain it any more.

“It hasn’t just changed the way I function in school – it’s become part of how I can fit into the hearing world in a way that doesn’t intrude on my Deaf culture. , but still allows me to function in the auditory world without as much energy, anxiety and stress,” Chauvin said. “What was created just for school will now be a part of my life forever. St. Clair College didn’t just teach me skills that I will carry on into my future. It gave me a future in the hearing world that, as a deaf person, I never thought possible.