"For all the right reasons, my wife suggested that I visit a local deaf club. After all, I am deaf, aren't I"
I'm deaf, not daft. One glance and you've made up your mind that if I'm not daft, then I must be rude. Well, you spoke to me didn't you and you didn't get that standard sort of reply? If I didn't answer correctly, maybe it's because I didn't answer at all. Well, maybe you just didn't give me a chance. Maybe I couldn't see your lips, maybe you were chewing something at the same time as you were talking. Still, it must have been my fault.
Who Said What
So, now you think I have a bad attitude, so I'll tell you something. You have no idea what it's like to be me. You're still part of the wide community, you have friends, conversation is easy, even when you're not looking at them. You can even talk to them, when they are in a different room. Are you starting to get the picture? I try so hard to be part of your community and I watch you while you talk, when you're facing me that is, and I try to pick the bones out of what you are saying. My mind is working at top speed and I'm trying to decide whether what you have said is a question or a statement and was it crumble or grumble? You see, they look the same! And all of this in a fraction of a minute. And when I am just about to respond, I see that all eyes have changed direction and I realize that I have missed my chance. Someone else has beaten me to it and I have yet to locate who this person is. Maybe next time I will do all of the talking, because that will be a lot easier than trying to join in your conversation.
Specialists have told me that as I can't hear my own voice, it's now not the same as it used to be and that's not something I can do anything about. Still, it can't be that bad that you would choose to ignore me.
"That's John over there. He's my husband and he's deaf. Why don't you go and introduce yourself to him."
I am looking at you while my wife is saying this and already I know you don't want to talk to me. You see, I see your forced smile and the way your shoulders drop. Even the way you walk that short distance towards me, tells me that I am presenting you with a problem. And you come across and you start shouting at me and you stretch your words and now I don't stand a cat in Hell's chance of letting you know the kind of person I am. Ah, you need to go to the toilet, or get another drink. When you have completed whatever you go to do, I know you're not going to come back to talk to me, I know you'll head in another direction, get caught up in another conversation and cast me an apologetic glance. You know, the one where you open your mouth to expose tightly closed teeth and you lift your hands outward to motion 'sorry about this but what could I do' And all the time, I see 'thanks be to God' speeding through your brain.
So you think that guy needs help. Yes, I can agree to that. People have to give a little extra, so that my life can come somewhere near to what it used to be. For my wife and children, it's day in and day out. How I feel for them, as I see them trying to explain what they mean so, sometimes, I pretend to know exactly what they are saying and I respond and the answer just doesn't fit, does it? I often wonder whether they would be willing to give that same time, if it was someone other than me.
The Deaf Community.
For all the right reasons, my wife suggested that I visit a local deaf club. After all, I am deaf, aren't I
Well, yes but no.
I entered into a culture that was totally foreign to me. They spoke with their hands and I don't. I couldn't communicate with them. And then I understood how it is for you. I know now that relationships with other people can be made or broken by how they communicate with each other. I am part of the cast in a silent movie and I must accept that. Maybe with time, I will be able to pick up on what you are saying. Maybe with time, you will give me that chance.
Denise Watson has over twenty years of experience in the world of disability, as an interpreter and lip-speaker for the deaf, as a disability adviser and as manager of two residential homes. She now writes about disabilities and disability aids for The Disabled Shop Blog (www.thedisabledshop.com/Blog/).
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