That’s the number of people with disabilities working in the US, compared to 68.2 percent without disabilities, according to United States Department of Labor’s September 2015 Disability Employment Statistics.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has laws that make discrimination on the basis of disability illegal, but my high school experience showed me the slippery ways people in power can bypass these laws.
In my first post-graduate job, a makeup salesperson at a major US department store, I received diversity training, which included many topics: language inclusivity; recognizing racial bias; respect of different religions. But what struck me was the topic of disability.
When I first entered the workforce, my parents encouraged me to hide my disability because I passed for able-bodied better than most people in my position. Any discrimination, they believed, would be brought by my openness, and they suspected it would be better for me to be quiet. Typically, I would have rejected this advice, telling my parents I would not be shackled by chains of ableism created by ignorant people, however, I was nervous about my post-collegiate future and felt adrift in the “real world” after almost 20 years of academia. I hated living at home and I wanted to earn money, but I was not sure if moving out and making a living would be possible if I was open about my hearing loss. Wanting to err on the side of caution, I nervously chose to go into hiding on my first day of work.
Continue reading “19 Percent”
I grew up the child of someone with hearing loss. I knew it in a peripheral way — my father wore hearing aids, but they were never seen — always hidden by sideburns grown long for that purpose. He never discussed his hearing loss and went out of his way to hide it. I remember social gatherings where he would disappear only to be found sitting at a table in the corner alone. I always wondered why, but now I know, because I have hearing loss too.
As a child, my hearing was fine, but when I first had trouble hearing in my mid-twenties at business school, I hid it, following my father’s example. I even refused to wear my first pair of hearing aids, afraid someone might see them. I felt embarrassed. I am not sure why. Was it a learned response from watching my father, or was it something larger — a stigma associated with hearing loss that I wanted to avoid? In any event, my mother’s reaction was not encouraging. “Do you really need to wear them?” she asked me.
Eventually, the answer became yes, I really did need to wear them, but I still avoided them as much as possible. I would sneak my hearing aids in on my way to work, wear them all day hidden behind my long hair, and whip them out as soon as possible at the end of the workday. I hated my hearing aids and only wore them when I absolutely needed to, and never socially or with my family. Continue reading “Coming Out of My Hearing Loss Closet”
The 8th to 12th September is Lipreading Awareness Week in the UK and so my post is in honour of the Lipreading tutors around the world. Thank you for all you do!
When I got my first analogue aid, I shoved it in a drawer because it amplified everything and the sounds of cutlery or a running tap scared the living daylights out of me. Nobody checked up on me and it was left up to me to ask to be referred to a different hospital where I’d discovered they were (at that time) trialling the use of digital hearing aids.
At the second hospital, I was given an ‘in the ear’ aid and told to ‘build up use gradually from an hour a day to all day’. The hearing aid was set far too loud and the audiologist refused to turn it down to make it bearable (let alone comfortable) and so, it too got shoved in a drawer never to see the light of day again.
I then enrolled on a lipreading class.
Continue reading “Thank You to All the Lipreading Tutors Out There”
It’s easy to pretend that I am just like everybody else until someone blurts out a subtle, but painful statement.
“But you look so normal!”
Those words were uttered to me in the library after another student lost her temper because I could not hear her whispers. My response to her irritation was to pull out my hearing aid, wave it in her face, and say, “I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?”
Continue reading “But You Look So Normal”