A deaf student in St. Clair College’s Personal Support Worker program in Chatham credits Student Services for going above and beyond to help her "hear’" in the classroom.
After losing her sister to cancer in June 2021, Candi-Lynn Chauvin, who is legally deaf, felt determined to harness the most difficult experience in her life and use it to give back to her community - so she chose to enroll in the PSW program at St. Clair College in Chatham at age 36.
“When my sister was moved into the Hospice in Chatham, the people there were absolutely remarkable with her, and I found myself wanting to be able to do what they did for me, for someone else,” Chauvin said. “It’s something I think would have made my sister extremely proud of me, and it’s something that just feels right. Feels like it’s where I belong.”
However, with the government masking mandates in effect for in-person classes at the time, this provided a significant problem for Chauvin because she communicates through lip-reading, not sign language. Quickly after enrolling at St. Clair, Chauvin contacted Jennifer Johns of the Student Services department in Chatham to develop an appropriate accommodation for her.
“The pandemic has resulted in additional challenges in ensuring that education is accessible for all students,” Johns said. “For many students who have accessibility needs, the impact has resulted in additional difficulties. This has resulted in the need to be creative and collaborative in coming up with solutions.”
Once St. Clair technologist Wayne Nevin was brought in to provide aid, a brainstorming period of a few months began to find exactly what devices and programs would best help Chauvin achieve her goals. The device had to be portable and have a hands-free option so it could be used in a clinical setting. After a few classes and some trial-and-error, Chauvin began confidently using a small android phone combined with a translator app to use in both the classroom and in the field.
“This has been a great opportunity to work with something a bit different than our usual technology,” Nevin said. “Nothing is ever without challenges and with technology, there are always some obstacles, but you adapt and try and find solutions. With the involvement of our open-minded student and faculty laying out some of the needs or requirements we were able to ensure that we were working to check the boxes required.”
Chauvin said the device has given her more confidence to be a deaf person surrounded by hearing people and gave her the feeling that she belonged at St. Clair College. Chauvin also praised Nevin for going above and beyond to help her hear not only in the classroom but in her everyday life as well.
“I’ve been proving myself to the hearing world for 36 years. I was sure I could handle an 8-month course. With Wayne’s help, the in-class translator, and the hand-held translator, I’ve done just that. He took on the challenge I would face, and he tried one thing after another,” Chauvin said. “Without that man … I wouldn’t be a straight-A 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. My entire experience as a student I owe 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 was an exciting journey to be able to help Chauvin overcome the challenges she faced.
“Our goal is to provide the best education for our students and Candi’s commitment to caring for our vulnerable seniors has inspired us to look at new avenues and technologies to facilitate her goals. We are very happy that technology, flexibility, and dedication came together to make this work for all.”
Now that Chauvin has begun to harness the full potential of her hands-free translator device, she believes it has placed her on a more level playing field with her classmates and ensures that the fear she had about college, even before the mask mandate, doesn’t hold her back anymore.
“It didn’t just change the way I function in school – it has become a part of how I can fit into the hearing world in such a way that doesn’t infringe on my deaf culture, but still allows me to function in the hearing world without so much energy, anxiety, and stress,” Chauvin said. “What was once created just for school will now forever be a part of my life. St. Clair College didn’t just teach me skills that I will carry into my future. It gave me a future in the hearing world that, as a deaf person, I never thought possible.”