At the end of the first CS 267 (Applications of Parallel Computing) lecture, I was looking forward to the rest of the class.

Well, after three more lectures, I’m probably done attending them for the semester.

No, don’t worry, I’m still taking the class1, but I negotiated an unusual accommodation with Berkeley’s Disabled Students’ Program (DSP). All CS 267 lectures are recorded and available on YouTube to accommodate the large number of students who take it as Berkeley students and as non-Berkeley students. The course is also offered almost every year, so students can watch lectures and study the slides from previous iterations of the class.

So what did I suggest to DSP? I told them that it was probably best for me not to attend classes, but to watch the lectures on YouTube, so long as DSP could caption those videos.

Why did I do this? Because CS 267 has three factors that are essentially the death-knell for my sign language interpreting accommodations:

  • The material is highly technical.

  • The lecturer (Professor Jim Demmel) goes through the material quickly.

  • I am not familiar with the foundational topics of this course.

The last one was the real deal-breaker for me. Even in classes that completely stressed me out due to the pace of the lectures and lack of suitable accommodations (CS 288 anyone?), I still had the foundational math and machine learning background to help me get through the readings.

But for a class about lower-level computing details? I have to check Wikipedia and Stack Overflow for even the most basic topics, and I could not understand what was being discussed in lecture.

Thus, I will watch lectures on YouTube, with captions. Unfortunately, DSP said that they required at least a 72-hour turnaround time to get the captions ready2, and I’m also not sure who will make them. I think it would be hard for the typical captioner to caption this material. I suggested that using YouTube’s auto-captions could be a useful starting point to build a transcript, but I don’t know how feasible it is to do this.

I suppose I could fight and demand a shorter turnaround time, but honestly, YouTube’s auto-captions are remarkably helpful with these videos, since I can usually fill in for the caption’s mistakes. Also, the limiting factor in my progress in this course isn’t my understanding of the lecture material – it’s my C programming ability. Finally, I have other issues to worry about, and I’d rather not get into tense negotiations with DSP. For instance, I still regularly feel resentment at the EECS department for what I perceive as their failure to help me get acclimated into a research group. I am only now starting to do research where I am not the lead and can work with more experienced researchers, but it took so long to get this and I’m still wondering about how anyone manages to get research done. My research — and overall mood — has been a little better this semester, but not that much, compared to last semester. I don’t want the same feelings to be present for my opinion of DSP.

Hopefully this new accommodation system for CS 267 will go well.

  1. I have never dropped a class before. 

  2. I have not received the captions for any of the lectures so far.