Originally published in The Limping Chicken blog, Ed Stevens writes about his experience using Ai-Live during his studies.

I have always been interested in the natural environment and wildlife. The beauty of the tree’s presence in the lower sun, the sight of a solo red deer in the dense morning fog, the mountainous landscape in which we live amongst. It has been something I wished to protect, since I was little.

After spending ten years working in the electrical construction industry I decided to change career paths, to work on something that I believed in. It wasn’t until the recession of 2008, which left me out of work for some time that reality sank in – I needed to take control of my life.

My life was not going anywhere due to the amount of discrimination I had to face within the construction industry. I tried everything that was accessible to me, but at the end of the line, the misunderstanding, or being more direct, the lack of compassion, was something like a nemesis.

I took the encouragement to investigate a new career, travelling as far as Scotland in the search of a footing into the Arboriculture industry, which was no easy feat. One thing on my mind was there was no harm in trying.

I decided to study FdSc Arboriculture at Moulton College, Northampton.

One of the biggest issues that I was facing was communication. It is not something that I like to discuss, as my condition, Auditory Agnoisa is difficult to explain as it is.

Communication in a large lecture theatre was something that I did not feel confident about. It would have never worked as I always need to see the speaker’s face. Such large theatres were what I thought as the norm of any university education – which is why I did not search for such education at an earlier stage.

I had received an understanding welcome from the Higher Education support, Caroline, on the day that I was due to discuss the options at the college. Everything was spoken about, and I had the opportunity to request a Speech-to-Text Reporter.

I was aware that such a possibility was out there, having previously had this support on my electrical courses at the City of Bristol College. Caroline later went one step further to finding a more suitable system; remote captioning with a company called Bee Communications.

A demonstration of the system was arranged by Caroline. I was immediately impressed with the speed, and the flexibility of the system. I was excited and felt that this was the beginning of a dream come true.

I had the Bee Communications captioning system put in place after frustrating issues regarding my disability student allowance (DSA). This was arranged with help from the Additional Student Support and Inclusion Services Team (ASSIST), who facilitate the support for disabled students at Moulton College and the University of Northampton.

By late January 2014 the system was up and running. Using the college WiFi system, I connect to an appointed ‘captioner’ who in turn translates what is being said in the class into text, via the Bee Communications website.

The captioner is a person who is listening to the conversations via Skype, just like making a telephone call. They can be anywhere in the world. I found that this was much better, easier and quicker than the use of any other system.

There was continuous improvements on the system, one of the most noticeable was that Bee Communications was brought by a larger company, Ai-Media, in a slow take over.

Ai-Media provide television subtitles, as well as providing their services to Australian schools and universities. Ai-Media’s captioning service is known as Ai-Live. The system provides live captions during lectures, as the name states.

My experience of Ai-Media has been amazing. I never thought that I could have the same opportunities as the rest of the society, as there were far too many barriers in my path. Over time this became something I learnt to accept.

I am now trying to make up for this lost time as I now understand that I do not have to be a victim of my disability. I do not have to hold back on things. I am the same as everyone else; the world is my oyster.

I am hoping to continue into a BSc course, now that I am able to do so. Anything is now possible with Ai-Live, for which I am grateful for. This is just the beginning.

Read the original article in The Limping Chicken blog.

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