I recently came across this video that spoke volumes to me. Unfortunately, it was a story posted on Instagram (meaning, it disappears after 24 hours). Basically, it was about the fact that deafness is a spectrum, and ALL deaf/HOH experiences are valid.
The gist of it is that whether you have a deaf accent or are nonverbal, whether you communicate by sign language or speaking, whether you wear cochlear implants or not, if one tells you that they are deaf, you need to believe them.
A reminder when you read this, I do not speak for the whole deaf community, I only speak for myself. The timing of this video also coincided with Disability Pride Month (July). I will be frank, there was once upon a time when I was unintentionally ignorant of my own disability. As you may have read at USAToday.com, Disability Pride Month is a chance to honor each person’s uniqueness as a “natural and beautiful part of human diversity.”
I am not sure if I was just subconsciously ignoring the fact that I am deaf growing up or if I was just rolling with the punches along with the hearing community. Even though my friends and family do not “see” my disability, I’ve always thought that wasn’t right but instead, just swept it under the rug since I did not want to make a big deal out of it. I have been tempted to scream “BUT I AM DEAF AND YOU NEED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT.” It was always an uncomfortable internal battle, but it was my own doing.
I’ve always thought that my journey was unique. But I’ve learned that every single person’s upbringing is unique, and no one is above all else. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Throughout my journey, I’ve gone through many different phases – denial of my disability, being angry at the world, internalizing my emotions about it. As I’ve grown, I’ve become more accepting of my deaf identity.
When it comes to accessibility, there is no perfect solution. The perfect approach is to be proactive and interactive when it comes to considering all options for the maximum extent of accessibility. Looking back, I do wish I had been more assertive of my deaf identity at a younger age. We all live and learn, but looking back, a lesson I’d love to share with my younger self is that you absolutely should not be afraid to speak up, whether it’s using your actual voice or your hands. People will start to notice.