Carly Armour, Student Disability Services
Profoundly deaf in both ears since birth, Carly Armour understands what it’s like to be a college student with a disability, and she wants to do whatever she can to make their college experience enjoyable and successful.
As an advisor in Student Disability Services (SDS), she helps arrange accommodations and services for students with disabilities so that these students have equal access to University academic programs and can participate fully in all aspects of University life.
Armour came to The University of Iowa in September 2008 after earning her Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia in 2007. Since coming to the Iowa City area, she has found several service and volunteer opportunities and loves being outdoors—even in winter.
What do you do here at the University? What are your job responsibilities?
In addition to arranging a wide range of accommodations for students with disabilities, I specifically coordinate services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students for their classes, such as sign language interpreters, Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), and captioning of video presentations. I am also in charge of loaning out personal FM systems that transmit the instructor's voice directly to the student at a constant level, allowing the instructor's voice to be heard above the level of any background noises, regardless of the teacher's distance from the student.
Throughout the semester, SDS educates faculty and staff on disability issues. We also spend time meeting with prospective students and anyone from their support systems, and answering phone/e-mail inquiries. During the summer, advisors give presentations at orientation sessions. I work closely with the Pomerantz Career Center on internship and career opportunities for those with disabilities, and keep my SDS team notified of those opportunities so we may inform and encourage students to take advantage of them.
What do you like about working with students who have disabilities?
It puts me in a position to empower students as they learn and gain independent living skills, which they can forever carry with them. I am able to pass on the gifts that were instilled in me by the disability service advisors at the University of Georgia to the students here at Iowa.
You received a cochlear implant—how has it improved your hearing?
I grew up “oral,” meaning I read lips and depended on listening with my eyes and hearing aids. I did not learn American Sign Language until 2000. During the summer of 2005, my hearing dropped to a great extent and suddenly. My hearing aids were no longer of assistance, and I was struggling at work and with my peers. I found out I was qualified for a cochlear implant, so I received one via surgery in December 2005.
The implant has helped me greatly in the hearing world. Before I had the implant, I could not understand or make out anything when listening to the other end on the phone. It sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher: “wah wah wah.” The same applied to situations when I was not able to read someone’s lips. Now I am able to talk to several loved ones and have long conversations with others on the phone.
The device does not make me a “hearing” person: I am not able to be a receptionist and answer phones, nor do I answer phones in my office right now, mainly because my brain does not automatically recognize a stranger’s voice. My brain has come to recognize the familiar voices of those who are around me—family, peers, co-workers. My brain will forever be going through the rehabilitation process and in learning mode. I catch myself often not reading friends and family’s lips and understanding what they are saying without looking at them, which is really nice. I currently do not have any hearing aides on my right ear and hope to get a cochlear implant for that ear someday soon.
Are there particular strengths/limitations that come from the implant?
The cochlear implant has helped me with hearing music. I have adored music since my mother exposed it to me as a toddler. I love to dance, listen to music, and sing along. I understand the lyrics only if I read the lyrics as I listen to the songs. I then memorize it and am able to “hear” the words since my brain has come to recognize it via memory. My cochlear implant has enabled me to hear even more musical instruments in songs than before.
While the cochlear implant has helped me tremendously, it is much easier and enjoyable for me to be around loved ones who also are fluent in American Sign Language. Regardless, I love being able to have a bridge between and communicate with both worlds—hearing and deaf.
What accommodations allow you to work better?
With a web cam or videophone, I am able to make calls via www.i711.com/vrs or a similar video relay service using an interpreter on the screen. Receivers are able to hear my voice and carry on conversations with me without even knowing there is an interpreter between us. It’s really neat and extremely helpful. Other accommodations include having sign language interpreters for large meetings and training sessions on campus.
What are some of the future plans in your job?
I’d like to team with other colleagues on campus to increase disability awareness and make the campus as universally designed as possible. Within a year, I’d like to work with my SDS colleagues to set up a local Delta Alpha International Honor Society chapter, whose purpose is to recognize the academic accomplishments of college and university students with disabilities, facilitate development of leadership and advocacy skills, and provide opportunities for members to serve as mentors and role models.
I would also like to possibly get a public video phone installed in the Iowa Memorial Union in the near future so deaf/hard-of-hearing students can use a video relay service to call any of their peers across the nation.
You’re a transplant to Iowa from Georgia. What were some of your first impressions?
by George McCrory