I signed up for the Moderna vaccine and yes, it was a double whammy with the worst side-effects. Thankfully, that’s over with, but the actual visit is another story. When I signed up for my COVID-19 vaccinations, the closest site I could get was located an hour and half away from me. Didn’t really seem to be much of an inconvenience for me but I decided to reach out to a hearing friend of mine, T.S., to accompany me, should there be any issues to be safe!
I can honestly say my experience would be worlds away if I were to have gone alone. But with that being said, I decided to share my experience and include T.S.’ perspective on what he witnessed during both my vaccinations.
T.S.: Getting your COVID vaccine is nerve-wracking enough, right? I can only imagine what was going on inside Jaime’s head after seeing the long lines of people and volunteers, and not one clear mask was being used. I knew she could not hear everything that was being said around her, but there were people complaining about having to wear masks or standing in line. Excuse me, but we had to drive an hour and half one way for Jaime to get her vaccine as soon as possible!
First thing when we arrived, there was a volunteer with a list of names who had confirmed their appointments online. I started to look for any signage for accommodations (i.e., interpreters, clear masks, etc.), and lo and behold, there were none. I pulled out my phone so I could type in myself what I wanted to say. I use this app called BigWrite, which is basically like Notes but the text is bigger. That seemed to be somewhat of an inconvenience for the volunteer, so I just relied on T.S. to be my ears and voice for me, which is something I absolutely despise to do, but was grateful for in this situation.
T.S.: Even medical professionals should know better, or so I thought! When we arrived inside, there were nurses to help you get checked in and point you to the next nurse available for your vaccine. First thing Jaime did when she saw the nurse was to inform her that she is deaf and what I saw next was mind-boggling. Immediately, the nurse starts to yell through her mask, as if somehow speaking louder would fix her ability to hear her. I was just amazed that they did not even think to write on a piece of paper or to pull down the mask so she could read her lips (I know masks are on for good reason). I felt embarrassed for Jaime because the yelling made the whole room just stare at us, which I assume that she has gotten used to.
I was not embarrassed, just more frustrated at the lack of empathy or the thought process of professionals and the lack of accommodations, should I have gone alone. I do understand that not every single professional will have all the knowledge on what to do in every situation working with PWDs, but at least have some mindfulness in the situation.
T.S.: Even though I grew up with a deaf cousin who speaks via American Sign Language (ASL), this whole experience really just reignited my desire to polish up on my ASL language. But my thinking is that these are medical professionals, this should not have to be the case. Doctors and nurses, I would hope, should try to understand what being deaf means and how to respectfully interact with the deaf/HOH community. Some common sense goes a long way. Walk a mile in Jaime’s shoes, and just maybe you will gain a whole new perspective.
All in all, getting my COVID-19 vaccination proved to be somewhat of an adventure for both of us. The whole time I kept thinking, what would this be like if I went alone? I also kept thinking about T.S. – what is he thinking of this? I do consider myself to be perceptive, I always am intrigued by different perspectives on any situation that has happened. After you have read this, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and to figuratively “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Maybe you will learn something new.