Before I start, some background information on me. I was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss at age five, and my hearing just kept going downhill until I was 15 and was declared legally Deaf. Throughout this period of time I wore several different models of hearing aids, and was implanted with a cochlear implant after being told my hearing was basically nonexistent. Education-wise, I was enrolled in a public “mainstream” elementary, middle, and high school (much to the administration’s distaste). After the initial diagnosis of hearing loss, I went through speech therapy until second grade so that I wouldn’t “lose” my hearing accent. I am currently 21 and a senior at a celebrated university, so clearly everything worked out pretty well for me.
Of course, this journey didn’t come without some fun little speed bumps. So, here is a list of privileges that hearing or able-bodied people may not have realized they had.
- My parents did not have to fight my public school administrators to keep me enrolled.
Post-diagnosis, the administrative staff at my elementary school decided they didn’t want to deal with all the drama of having a hard-of-hearing student and told my parents that I would be better suited at an enclosed environment with mentally disabled children. Mind you, all that they needed to do was give me preferential seating, closed captions, and check-ins every now and then to make sure I was being taught right.
2. Other parents never tried keeping their children from having play dates with me for fear that their children would “catch” my deafness.
Yes, this really happened.
3. My hearing never got in the way of me making friends.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that old adage, “never mind, it wasn’t important”. If you say this, you’re basically telling me that I’m not worth having a conversation with.
4. I’ve always had access to music and the radio.
Having two hearing aids my entire life, ear buds weren’t much of an option. Thankfully, over the ear headphones haven’t been entirely phased out.
5. I’ve never been treated as a side show because of my hearing.
“Can you read my lips?” “What am I saying?” While I do enjoy this skill I’ve developed, I’m tired of being asked to prove it for the entertainment of others.
6. When going to the movies, I don’t have to worry about being able to understand what’s going on.
Very rarely will theaters have some sort of closed captioning device, and when they do, it’s always a pain in the ass to use. Literally, a pain. This past summer, I tried out a pair of captioning glasses, and while it was a definite improvement, I had to look in the mirror later to make sure I didn’t have a bruise on my nose.
7. I’ve never had to rely on another student for notes.
This one’s a fun one. It’s impossible for me to take notes, as it requires me to look away from what the professor is saying, therefore I have to hold out hope that another student will consider the benefits of being a note taker to be good enough to volunteer. Even after that, the system is extremely unreliable, as the notes eventually peter out to nothing after four weeks.
8. I’ve never been apologized to for my existence.
Stop telling me you’re sorry when I tell you I’m deaf. Honestly, the next time someone asks me this, I’m going to ask them to explain to me why they’re sorry, because quite frankly, I’m not.
9. I’ve never had to remind a professor to turn the closed captions on for a video.
It’s even better when they don’t know how to, and it ends up taking ten minutes until they finally give up and tell me they’ll send me the link so I can watch it on my own time.
10. I’ve never been concerned about being rejected because of my ability.
Or lack thereof. This applies to job interviews, potential partners, etc. See the GIF below for a reaction I’ve gotten from someone at a party upon me telling them that I couldn’t hear them because I’m deaf.
Honestly, I could go on. Amidst all of these microaggressions I’ve dealt with, my biggest frustration has to have been the lack of allyship I’ve been able to benefit from. Unless someone considers me to be a friend, they generally have no interest in the struggles of disabled people, other than a passive feeling of pity. I’ve been in classes where part of the curriculum focused on intersectionality, with zero focus on disability. So please, unless you’re willing to speak up and be an ally for those who are disabled, regardless of what form it comes in, stop calling yourself an intersectional activist.
chat with you next time,
4 thoughts on ““Never mind, It Doesn’t Matter””
Thank you so much for your post. You’re right when you say that “unless you’re willing to speak up and be an ally for those who are disabled, regardless of what form it comes in, stop calling yourself an intersectional activist.” I try to be mindful of the meaning of what it means to be an intersectional activist. Lately, on my social media posts, I try to add little descriptors of each photo so different bodied individuals can feel included in what I am posting and showing to the world. I have also become more aware of the lack of captioning on YouTube videos and other forms of media, which is quite disheartening and troubling. Regardless, for any presentation, I have come to realize my own privilege in not needing captions and have become more mindful to include videos with captions for those who do not have the same privilege as I do. But, there are times I do slip up and forget to check my privilege. What are some suggestions for people to become better allies for differently bodied individuals?
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This post is great! Being an intersectional feminist includes fighting for and being allies for those individuals who are disabled in different ways. I think back to my child hood, one where I was exposed to very little disabled individuals and how I was never really taught how to be an ally and how not to be a dick. Think about how beneficial it would be if we all were taught simply to be there for others if they need it and to not be a dick.
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I think it’s important to implement what you mentioned early… I agree with you and everyone that has commented that you can’t just label yourself as an intersectional feminist if you don’t consider those with disabilities!!
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Overall I think the topic of the article is important. The personal experiences in this article also really enhance it give it a lot more dimension. It really upsets me that people with physical disabilities have to go through these struggles. The article demonstrates the privilege able bodied people have in society. It also shows that people need to be more aware of how they treat those with disabilities to help them feel more included in society and prevent blind discrimination of these individuals.