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,