11/19/2018 0 Comments
To Identify as Disabled or Not
I have a hearing loss. To quote Lady Gaga “I was born this way” so I’ve had this hearing loss my entire life. As a kid I called myself impaired and disabled, those words always felt a little funny to me. Because I never really accepted these terms. I remember seeing a handicapped parking spot and wondering how I was similar and different from a person who needed this spot. I never felt impaired, I felt different. And society frowns on impairments and disabilities, which only helped broaden my confusion.
Then I learned ASL, and discovered the Deaf Community didn’t identify as disabled. No, we identify as part of a linguistic minority. And I felt at home. This felt right. I am different, not impaired. There’s nothing wrong with my ears. I switched from calling myself "hearing impaired" to "hard of hearing" and I started feeling whole with this term. This was me.
But then I “met” the disabled community on twitter. And they showed me that the word disabled is not a bad word. That the more people that embrace their disability and use the words proudly, the more we can cut the stigma.
This made sense to me. As a Hard of Hearing person I often straddle the hearing and deaf lines, blending in and not blending in. My voice sounds hearing so I truly have an invisible disability, even when I speak. Unless someone looks in my ears or I self-identify, I am not known to be anything different than abled.
But I’m not abled. I’m not hearing. I’m disabled. I’m Hard of Hearing. I know my culture prefers not to be identified as disabled, but we also recognize and accept our connections with other disability communities. We know each group views themselves through different lenses, their own lenses. Together we can help and support each other.
So while I don’t often think of myself as having a disability, I am disabled. There’s no shame in that. In fact, my ears are the reason why I am who I am today. I’m proud of them, I’m proud of who I am. In support of my peers across the board I will identify as disabled. Because there is nothing wrong with that term.
There are two main ways one can view hearing loss. On the surface they are as a disability or as a linguistic minority. The differences go much deeper than that but the bottom line is that one side is not happy to have a hearing loss and would prefer to be hearing, the other side is happy as is.
I’m part of that second group. I’m happy as is. But that came after years of not being happy, of not liking my “impairment.” I get both sides but I no longer have any desire to be fixed.
Others don’t always know this. And that’s fine. But I ran into a funny situation on my Instagram feed. I’ll show you the picture first, let’s see if you can figure it out:
Now, that’s a cover of my second book with Avon, where the cover artist did an amazing job adding a hearing aid to my male character. That character is Devon and he identifies as Deaf. He does wear hearing aids, because he has some usable hearing and feels he benefits from maximizing that. There are many people out there like him.
The quote, however, talks about a “healthy lifestyle.” Now, Devon has a thing for boxing, but I don’t think that’s what the poster means. I clicked on their account and found out, not to much surprise, that they are a hearing device company.
Ignoring the healthy bit for a moment, I find it odd that they chose my book cover, when just a day prior to their comment I posted a picture of myself getting fitted for a new hearing aid mold. Surely that would be a better match for a “healthy” lifestyle, wouldn’t it?
Back to the “healthy” bit. My health has nothing to do with my ears. In fact, regardless of how one views their hearing loss, their physical health is a separate entity all together. Hearing health? Sure, I’ll buy that for those that look at things in that light. But health in general? Nope.
This stems back to the beginning notion, how one views hearing loss. This company steps into my world, where I celebrate ASL and hearing loss and love my ears as they are, and proclaims that I am not healthy without my hearing aids. That I’m doing a good job by wearing them. Well, quite frankly, that makes me want to rip off my hearing aids and turn off my voice. And if I did, guess what? I’d still be healthy. (Or as healthy as my physical health is.)
This assumption from those that work with assistive listening devices always rubs me the wrong way. I love my audiologist, because I found a place that accepts me as I am. That respects that I want to maximize my ability to hear, but I’m not interested in correcting or going above and beyond. My right ear is deaf, it will always be deaf. It’s not a problem, it’s not a negative, it’s an is. In fact, because of that ear changing I have learned so much about myself, understood so much about hearing loss, that if anyone offered me a magic pill to fix it I’d refuse. Or I’d see if it works for getting back to my wedding weight and fixing my turned knee. But not my ears.
This isn’t the first time a hearing professional has stepped into my world with their audist views and smothered me with it. It won’t be the last. But to enter on a book cover…huh? I mean, have you read the book? Because my main characters are strong Deafies who don’t care to hear.
Company, you picked the wrong tree to bark on. And your comment makes no sense. My next hearing related post will be of this nature: look at the awesome color of my new hearing aid mold! Not: I can hear so much better now! Because that’s not how I roll. That’s not who I am.
The hearing world tried to make me ashamed of my hearing loss. They worked at “fixing” me. It took my own personal journey to understand I didn’t need to be fixed. So don’t bring that attitude into my world without an invitation. Don’t spread that attitude to my readers. Because my readers who have hearing loss, they are fine as they are. Whether they are deaf or hard of hearing. Whether they don’t care about hearing sounds or want to gain "normal" ranges. Whatever their personal views are of their ears are perfectly fine. It’s not up to me to make those decisions. All I’m going to do is tell them they are fine the way they are and support them if they feel differently. Because I’ve been there, I get it.
I also get that outsiders, even some of those in our world in a professional capacity, don’t understand. And it’s not because they can’t, it’s because they refuse to.
If this company is reading, I hope you’ve learned something. And I hope you will tread more carefully in the future. You might have tools that I could benefit from. I won’t be. I’ll find other options that matches my beliefs.
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