Accessibility Services in Post-Secondary – Part Two

Written by our guest contributor: Karina Cotran (pictured above) from

At the beginning of November, I touched upon accessibility services in post-secondary for those with hearing loss. When I was writing that article, I realized that there are actually a lot of services that can be provided. So, I decided to split the article in two.

In part one, I talked about sign language interpreting and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). Part one can be read here.

In this article, I’ll be writing about assistive listening devices, note taking and captioning, as well as my experiences (or lack thereof) with these services in post-secondary school.

Assistive Listening Devices

One of the most common assistive listening devices for hearing aid and cochlear implant users is the FM system – a wireless device that helps people hear better in noisy listening situations.

The FM system is split in two parts – one part that gets attached to the cochlear implant or hearing aid, and the second part, which is a microphone that is given to the teacher. Essentially, the wearer of the microphone will speak and their voice will get transmitted clearly into the hearing aid or cochlear implant connected to the FM system. It is designed so that no matter where the microphone wearer was (within a certain distance) the cochlear implant/hearing aid user will be able to hear them as if they were standing next to them.

Above Photo: An example of what the FM system looked like when I was in elementary school. My teacher is wearing a microphone and I’m hopefully wearing the attachment on my hearing aid (this was before I got a cochlear implant).

I used the FM system a lot in elementary school, but by high school, I stopped using it. I never used it in post-secondary. I personally did not have a good experience with the FM system for three reasons:

  1. It would focus on my teacher’s voice and tune out the other sounds around me.
  2. There was a lot of static interference that I found too distracting.
  3. I was a stubborn kid and didn’t want to wear it (I used to hide my FM system in random spots in the classroom and my poor itinerant teacher had to go hunt for it).


HOWEVER, each person that I talked to had a different experience with it. For example, Keegan Noxell, a Director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Young Adults Network, shares a more positive experience. He also has moderate sloping to severe hearing loss.

“My experiences were pretty good, I used it consistently throughout my younger years as it helped me keep up with my peers, considering I was the only student in my classes with a hearing loss following grade one.”

When Keegan went off to college, he purchased his own FM system that came with the set of hearing aids that he had at the time.

“I recommend anyone with hearing aids to try an FM system. The streamed audio is a big advantage in larger settings or lecture halls. Just be sure to pick a compact solution that allows itself to be worn, especially if the lecturer likes to move around. This helps when they turn their back to you – at least you’ve got a chance of deciphering what’s being said.”

Regardless, FM technology has evolved so much, that the people that use it today have no complaints about it! The sound is clear and there is no more static interference. No guarantee if you’re stubborn like me though haha.

Note Taking

Note taking services is one of the more common accessibility services provided in university and college. There is a designated student volunteer in each class (anonymous or otherwise) that will take down the notes for you. Afterwards, they would upload the notes into a database where the recipient of the accommodation can download them.

This was the only service I used throughout university, especially in my first two years when the class sizes were larger. The quality of the notes depended on the notetaker and sometimes the notetaker would forget to upload their notes! However, you had the option of requesting a new notetaker if the one chosen wasn’t up to par.

All in all, I recommend this service as an assist, but not as a service to completely depend on when it came to getting all of the information that was said in a lecture. 


Sometimes, lectures would involve watching videos. If those videos came without captioning, the likelihood of me zoning out increased – especially during those videos in my Anthropology class where the speakers would have thick accents.

In my first year, I was too shy to ask for captioning on the videos, but in my second year onward, I made a point of approaching each of my professors and letting them know about my hearing loss, and if possible, to try and provide captions for videos in class. If the video did not come with captions, some of my professors either provided a written summary of the video or provided a transcript for me to follow!

I don’t need to rely entirely on captions, but it helps me a lot because I can focus on absorbing what message the video is trying to put across rather than spending my time trying to decipher what is being said.

There are a lot of services that can be provided to students in post-secondary. It might take some time to figure out which services work for you and your hearing needs, but if there is one thing that I learned, it is to always clearly state your needs so you can get the best accommodation possible.