Dispute between transcribers and CWU leaves deaf, hard of hearing students without key support - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Dispute between transcribers and CWU leaves deaf, hard of hearing students without key support

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Ellensburg, WA -  Transcribers who serve deaf and hard of hearing students at Central Washington University have walked off the job.    

They left over a dispute for the best way to provide services.

Five of seven transcribers quit eight days ago, giving disability support services 24-hours notice.

Now the university is scrambling to provide students with the support they need in their classes.

Cortney Peters normally has a transcriber typing out the words her teacher says, but for now, she will have to make do with someone signing since Disability Support Services doesn't have enough transcribers to serve the seven deaf and hard of hearing students at the university.

"I came here because they give the best service possible," says Peters, "They go above and beyond the what the law does to give us the service we need."

Peters has progressive hearing loss and one day will be completely deaf.  All she has left is half her hearing in her left ear.

"We saw several over runs in services for hard of hearing students," says Keith Champagne, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, "We asked what's going on here."

Champagne says Whatcom Community College has the same ‘Typewell' program in place with the same number of students, and in the spring quarter of last year, CWU's program cost twenty thousand dollars more.

Student Affairs wants to switch to a different ‘Typewell' schedule, where transcribers don't team up.  They believe this will be more effective and keep costs down since transcribers are well paid and the hours can add up quickly.

"Forty dollars when you are working three hours a day is not a lot of money.  Industry standard to team assignments when you are working more than an hour in length," says Glenna Bain, who used to coordinate the program at DSS before she resigned in mid-January over the best way to schedule transcribers.

Bain says the hours are different at a community college because students don't live on campus, citing how transcribers at CWU provide support to students outside the classroom for activities.  She also claims Whatcom Community College did not include costs for an interpreter, or the program's coordinator.

Student Affairs reports that in the 19-days after Bain resigned, transcribers either called in sick, or to say they could not show up to work on 14-different occasions, often times with little, or no notice.

Five transcribers then sent notice to Disability Support Services Director Robert Harden on February 12th that they planned to resign the following day.

"What ended up happening is I was experiencing a lot of soreness in the bone," says Amanda Triggs.

Triggs says she got tendonitis in her wrists shortly after Bain left and a new schedule went into effect.

Eventually, she decided to resign rather than put up with the situation.

But the university claims it's the schedule Bain put together before leaving and another transcriber injured his hand in a non-work related accident that sent the schedule off kilter.

The university is also looking at a new program down the road that may phase out the need for the transcribers that are currently on staff.

But Student Affairs is actually hoping to renegotiate and bring the transcribers back to work as soon as possible.