Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Disabled, Schmabled--Blogging Against Disablism
Over at Diary of a Goldfish, they're Blogging About Disablism. Simply put, Disablism is right up there with a long line of "isms," which boils down to a simple word: discrimination. I also call it a reality based on fear or discomfort.
As many of you know, the hubby and I are deaf and we're raising three deaf and hard of hearing kids. At first glance, we don't look any different from the hundreds of families in our neighborhood. We're just another family in the typical American tract home, driving three kids in two cars to three different activities on the same day.
Glance at us a second time, and you'll find hearing aids in each of our ears. Our youngest son sports red, white and blue earmolds. We've gone through quite a few color combinations throughout the years, including the blue and white swirls in honor of their school colors. Your eyes might catch us signing or tapping each other on the shoulder.
Invite us to a party and you find that we might be a bit quiet at times. Joining in on group conversations is nearly impossible for us. Our eyes simply can't play ping pong with conversations. As soon as we've lipread one conversation and turn to lipread a response from someone else, the conversation moves yet again. That's why we love people who are willing to understand the logistics of group conversation and slow down until we've made eye contact and take turns speaking. Unfortunately, it's a rare occasion when this happens. That's why we like our activities with a group of deaf and hard of hearing friends-- conversation flows and the communication barriers fall to the wayside. I get riled up when people tell me that we need to be "in the real world with hearing people." Believe me, we're in the real world everyday. I just like my world accessible.
We have a couple of people in our lives that have that "deer in the headlights" look whenever they're around us. They're quite uncomfortable making conversation and they offer a few sentences and then dart away. There's no real deep meaningful dialogue because they're so afraid of having to repeat themselves and the tension runs too high. Sometimes we joke about slipping a few anti-anxiety pills in their coffee.
Making a phone call to us can be a bit tricky but it is improving with technology all the time. We now have a regular number that people can call without us having to explain what a relay service is. In years past, we would have to give out an 800 number and our home phone number and people would often give up before attempting to call us. We still have kinks to work out with people who hang up when they get an operator instead of us directly.
The invention that I personally love right now is the videophone. I use a wireless phone to talk to people directly and I have an interpreter on a screen in front of me who signs everything that is being said. Most of the time, conversation flows pretty easily with this method.
Around the internet, I identify myself as "Deaf Mom." It's me, it's who I am, it's a part of me 24/7. Being deaf is so much a part of me that if you can't see beyond the lack of hearing stuff, then you've got a disability of your own.