DeafBlind

Privilege


There is a link to a blog going around on Facebook called Hearing Privilege. It is about a year old, but still worth the read.

Probably the most salient point from it is:  Hearing privilege can be best explained quickly by saying it’s similar to the concept of white privilege. In a nutshell, white privilege is “a way of conceptualizing racial inequalities that focuses as much on the advantages that white people accrue from society as on the disadvantages that people of color experience.” (Wikipedia) It’s different than racism and prejudice; racism and prejudice are essentially when a dominant group actively seeks to oppress or suppress other racial groups for its own advantage. It is a privileged position; the possession of an advantage white persons enjoy over non-white persons.

It should be noted, though, that privilege comes in lots of shapes and sizes.  It is not something just the deaf experience.

It is pretty much an “I’m normal, you’re not” sort of thing.  The DeafBlind find themselves at a disadvantage with the deaf, the blind, and the fully hearing and fully sighted.  The blind experience sighted privilege.  Paraplegics experience able-bodied privilege, as do quadriplegics. People with intellectual disabilities, people with cerebral palsy who appear to have intellectual disabilities, and so on and so forth.

This is something to simply think about. If you are with a deaf person, do you answer for them without being asked to do so? It’s certainly easy enough to fall into that trap.

It is important to remember that everyone wants to be treated like a competent person.  Are we inclusive in our dealings with others?  You might be surprised.  Watch and see what you do.  Do you ever finish a sentence for someone?  Exclude someone from a conversation? Make a choice that is not yours to make?

 

Job hunting for the HoH


Since practicing law isn’t something I’m going to be doing much of for a while (except for pro-bono), and since I’ve lost my base of operations for my part-time legally blind/deaf clients, and since I can now think straight (or as straight as I ever did) and drive (wooo hoo) I thought I’d look for a PT job for the summer.  Something simple.  Easy.  Flexible.  Giving me time for physical therapy, child care, and rest – since I tend to get busy one day and then train wreck for at least a day afterwards.

You know, something simple, easy, requiring minimal hearing skills and no lifting or carrying.  Uh-huh.  I’ve been looking at PT Senior Citizen focused jobs and so far my best fit is a Friendly’s Restaurant Greeter.  There are jobs at the local Dunkin Donuts, but apparently there’s lifting involved, and actually hearing people make an order.  I’ve pondered the headset and my hearing aid.

I have written to DBCAN and told them I’m no longer in the area I used to serve.  Perhaps I can pick a couple of clients up out in this area.  Maybe.   Not like there’s a thick concentration of folks in this area since the “big city” is Leominster.

I’m also trying to volunteer at a battered women’s alliance, but so far I have not gotten a response.  Sort of miserable when you can’t give your services away.  Not the first time that’s happened, either.

I know that this summer I’ll have the little ones on Mondays and Wednesdays as well as alternate Fridays, so that will keep me off the streets and out of trouble.  Tuesdays, Thursdays, alternate Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are pretty much my own – most of the time – time for plans, for PT, for exercise, for finding a place to live – all those fun things.

In the meantime, the check is in the mail (as soon as the bank gets around to sending it) to get Deaf Justice up and running.  I have to make contacts with HEARD and figure out who to contact at some law schools – and then I need to talk to the fund raiser AFTER she gets out of rehab for that miserably broken leg.  I was just about at lift-off there before my life made a left turn and crashed into splinters at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

Life!  It’s what happens when we are making plans.

 

Investing in Others


A few years ago an acquaintance of mine asked me why she had no friends.  It’s not an easy question to answer.  We’re all different and we all want or have different types of friend relationships, but over the years I’ve come to recognize that this person really is very alone in the world.  And she’s not the only one.

I’ve spent a long time wondering why some of us are not just alone, but also very lonely.  Being alone is not necessarily a bad thing.  I find some of my most peaceful times alone and I’m quite honest when I say I prefer the company of most dogs to most people.  Dogs don’t have it in them to lie – I know how to read a dog’s body language and I know what to expect.  People, not so much.  People lie to themselves first and foremost, before going on to attempt to deceive the rest of the world.

I’m off and on a social media board where disabled singles largely whine about why no one dates them. When I finally do post it is to suggest they need to make themselves the kind of person who would attract the kind of person they’d like to have into their lives.  This is usually met with stony silence. Nope, not about them, about everyone else in the world who does not want to accept them as they are and sweep them up and romance them like a novel.  Really?  Someone forgot to tell me that when I grew up.

I know plenty of folks who are deaf, blind, deafblind, in wheelchairs, in walkers, and so on and so forth, who suffer from everything from severe  Ehlers-Danlos to various forms of cancer and suffer mild to severe debilitation who have friends and loved ones. So what gives?  Why do some of us spend a lifetime being unable to connect with others?

Ultimately, what I see as the difference is investing in others. It means being willing to let go of all those things we want (me, Me, ME!) and paying attention to others, their needs, their wants, and desires and doing so willingly and with no expectation of any return on that investment.  What do they want, they need?  What will make them smile?  When I take the emphasis off of me and put it on someone else then my world view shifts and their perception of me is different than if I am simply self-absorbed all the time.

I invest in myself as well, through learning American Sign Language, going to meetings, meeting people, listening to their stories, empathizing and caring what happens to them.  By investing in others, by caring about their welfare, I also invest in myself and the world around me.   I admit, I’d like my local family to invest in me by learning to sign, but I’m also realistic enough to know that’s not going to happen.

So the answer is – if your (generic you) world is about your house, cars, toys, savings, retirement, and income – if it is all about you – what you want, need, or desire – then you are alone for a reason.  If you can’t put yourself in the place of another, if you can’t run to the rescue of another, if you cannot imagine not putting yourself first and foremost, then it is a problem of lack of empathy and lack of heart.  Without that ability one can never invest honestly in another and never find a return on that investment (although that’s not why I invest in others, it is simply what happens).

Interestingly enough, in the deaf community, when I am signing with others, the fact that the language is 3D and full body means that I am getting what I consider a total communication I never get from hearing folks.  I’ve heard it said that the hearing are deaf from the neck down and more and more I tend to agree with that.  I have much more of an idea of what to expect from a signer than someone who is not a signer.  Not that all deaf, HoH, or signers are wonderful people – we all have our issues like everyone else, but I’d like to think that we do more investing in each other than is the norm in other communities.

Restaurants with blaring music


Someone please explain to me the trend in restaurants that play music so loud that I am swamped by the sound. I have no hearing on one side and significant hearing loss on the other side.  I complained and took my hearing aid out.  Even when it is “turned down” I feel as if I need closed captioning to understand waitstaff.  I can only imagine that in a few years the servers are going to be going, “Eh? What was that you said?  Could you repeat that please?”  Or maybe we’ll all be using American Sign Language by then.  Because we’ll all be DEAF!

What happened to soft music?  Even a juke box is less annoying than piping in satellite radio stations at full blast.  Do you have any idea how annoying FUN’s “Some Nights” is at 100db?  And I like that song, just not screaming through overhead speakers like bombers taking straffing runs.  Or Heart’s “What About Love crashing through the air like a bomb exploding rather than a song. The only one there who wasn’t bothered was the totally deaf/blind person.  I’m surprised she didn’t feel the throbbing of the speakers.

I wish there were a jamming device I could use on the incredible sound.  I really do.  I am going to load a DB meter on the iPhone and start becoming the Sound Harpy!

Okay, you’re deaf, we get it …


Actually, if you “got it” there would not be millions of late deafened adults out there trying to get friends and family to understand what is going on without being considered a crank, a faker, or just delusional.

Most late deafened adults are not totally deaf.  We hear environmental noises – like lawnmowers and jet airplanes and car engine motors.  Unfortunately, human voices are not in that hertz range.  What is a hertz range?  I hope Bitco David stops by to expound, but non-sound engineer little me will make a stab at this.

Sound comes in different frequencies.   The important sounds to humans is often called “the hearing banana” or “the speech banana” because the range curves like a banana. I’d show you mine, but I’ve misplaced it again.  I can’t find a good commons photo, so here’s a link to a chart.

Once people start losing down into the 40 hertz level, the ability to understand human speech is adversely impacted.  Shouting doesn’t help since the issue is the tenor of the voice, plus shouting distorts sound.  Lowering of the voice can help. at least, to a point.  For instance, I understand men better than women.  The higher the voice the harder it is for me to understand.  Those piping high voices of little kids are often beyond the range I can hear – except for my grandson, whose voice is somehow turned into James Earl Jones playing Darth Vader by my hearing aid.

More than that, certain speech sounds are higher or lower than other speech sounds.  So a mild hearing loss may take:  f, th, s v, m, n, ng, and l out of the range of understanding. It will also make j, i, b, and p as well as z, u, d, a and k dicey to hear.  But that still leaves us with g, o, r, sh, and h as well as a crying baby.   This might explain why, when we don’t know you’re speaking to us you’re nothing but background noise.  

Just out of curiosity, how many words can you make up using  the letters g, o, r, sh, and h?

Speaking for the HoH, there are things you can do to make life easier for all of us – that “us” includes YOU.

1.  Make sure we know you are going to talk with us.  Use my name.  Wave your hand at me.  Get my attention.  Only when I am looking at you should you start speaking – and speak directly to me – not the walls, floors or ceiling.

2. Speak clearly and distinctly.  Don’t over-enunciate or speak   s  l o  w  l  y   because that makes your lip movement distorted. And speaking of lips – I can’t read them if you cover them with a mustache.

3. If there is background noise and you have control over it – turn it off.  If not, turn it down.  If you can do neither, get up close and personal so I can read your lips while you speak clearly and distinctly.

4. If you know I cannot hear you well use pen and paper or text me. I’ve had text conversations while at the same table with another person.  Often a Deaf or HoH person will have their own pen and paper for such moments.

5.  Never, ever, say “Never mind.” That’s a dismissal. It’s rude and hurtful. If the communication was important enough to get my attention and speak to me, it is important enough to complete.  Even if you have to write it down.  Even if it is no longer funny or timely to you. Let me be a part of any communication you begin.

6. Never make assumptions about what I can hear from what I have heard before.  Background noise can mask sounds one moment – yet  are crystal clear the next.  My daughter thinks because I can hear something once I can always hear it – and she’s known me for 35 years.  I can hear only what I can hear at the time I hear it – your HoH or deaf relatives are just the same as I am.

7. I do not deliberately misunderstand and present you with a non-sequitur for an answer.  I thought I heard you and I thought I answered reliably.  If I don’t understand, please say it again.  Refer to #5 if unclear on this point.

8. Remember that this could be you someday.  By the time we are 75 years old MOST adults have hearing loss.

9. A HoH or Deaf person is not “broken.”  I do not need to be “fixed.” I could be very happy with my limited hearing and ASL if everyone spoke ASL. That being said, I do not object to wearing a hearing aid in an attempt to fit in with hearing society.  My lack of full hearing does not make me lesser than a fully hearing person. I am just as vital and vibrant and alive as you are – and people I know who are DeafBlind are also vital and vibrant people.

ILY sign

I love you

10.  If you know at least some ASL offer it.  If the HoH person or deaf person does not know ASL, at least you tried.  If nothing else, tell me “I love you.”  Here, let me show you.

I know at times I go over and over and over the same ground on hearing issues.  The reason I do is that so many people either don’t get it or, for some reason, don’t want to get it.

As HH the Dali Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.

The joy and the sorrow of fewer tomorrows


Today I had the great honor of meeting a fellow I’ll call “Todd” and his Seeing Eye Dog,

Attribution; Janordberg/Photobucket- My idea of a “Seeing Eye Dog” 🙂 

“Jeffrey.” Todd and I had a nice conversation about many things including cabbages and kings. He flattered me with an observation I look very young – which was received with the intent given when a totally blind man makes that observation. So with a grin I offered to pay him for his compliments. We when found out we’re of an age so that settled that.

Jeffrey, bless his little doggie heart, is getting up in years and is now on special feed to care for a rather critical internal organ. Talk turns to retirement and loss. Some dogs who have served seem to know it is time to move on to a new home and rather than enter retirement years where they will have time to romp and play, they simply expire overnight. Very traumatic for the bonded blind person who’s world is wrapped up in his dog.

I’ve offered to take Todd and Jeffrey on a nice walk around Horn Pond when the weather gets a bit warmer. It should be fun.

About the end of the ride I commented that somewhere in that car a hearing aid was whining – and since there were five in use among three people it was anyone’s guess. Ahh, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Humor…

A breaking point


I now have a glimmer of why there is road rage.  I also got a better feeling for why an ASL interpreter of mine took on an abusive woman over me.

Today I was looking for a parking spot in a very busy parking lot so I could take a deaf-blind consumer food shopping. I wasn’t paying attention to other cars in particular except to note they were there – when suddenly a woman in a car facing mine rolled down her window, stuck her head out, and started screaming at me. I was totally baffled as her face screwed up with rage and she started giving me the Massachusetts “good morning and how are you today” sign – the middle finger of doom. For good measure she swerved around a car while hitting the gas and rocketing down the row like a fighter pilot. The last I “heard” was something about my taking her parking space.

I had no freaking idea what she was talking about – nor what parking space was coming open – and it took me another few minutes to find an open parking spot several rows away. I just patiently watched for an open space – works every time.

During those few minutes I came to a minor boiling point of my own. What if she’d hit my car? What about my passenger? What kind of society do we have where someone goes violently bonkers over a parking spot? Welcome to Massachusetts. This is behavior I’ve come to expect since moving here in 1996.

In the store I ran across this woman several times. What I wanted to do was walk up and confront her.I wanted to ask her if she knew there are people as angry and blaming as she is who are armed. What would she have done if someone had rolled down a window and shot her? Or gotten out of the car and attacked her? Instead, I gave her the patented look developed by mothers who have had enough from their kids. I call it “The Look.” Every time she saw me she jerked her head away and scuttled off like vermin avoiding the light. How stupid are people to think that after acting like idiots they won’t see the person in the store?

Most of the time I ignore people like her as a waste of human skin. Instead, I seethed for a time. Seething does no good, though, so this is a case of waiting for karma to kick in. In that light, enjoy a little of Jaron and the Long Road – Pray for You – at least it gives a bit of comic relief. 🙂