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.