by Michele Linder
My husband and I moved to Germany a few years ago, and I was looking for a light-flasher for the doorbell of our flat. I researched online and found the address for the GMU, the Deaf Association in Munich, hoping to stop in for a recommendation from them on what I could get in order to hear (see) my doorbell.
On a day when I was out and about in Munich, I made my way to the GMU office. I’ll spare you the long story of the hour or so I was there simply trying to get someone to steer me in the direction of equipment that would fit my needs. What I will tell you, I was made to feel less valid because I didn’t know and use sign language.
After much back and forth, I finally lost patience, and said “I lipread, I use my voice, and I can’t hear my doorbell. You don’t speak, you use sign language, and you can’t hear your doorbell. What kind of equipment is available in your country in order for you to hear your doorbell?!!”
Sometimes in life we get hung up on the differences between us and can’t see our way to step over into what unites us in order to help one another.
Anyone who is Deaf, deaf, deafened, partially deaf, partially hearing, hearing impaired, hard of hearing, has hearing loss, or whatever else you choose to label yourself, or not, cannot take in sound in the traditional way, and that includes speech, so we compensate. We choose to hear in different ways, and that’s okay.
Someone who is hearing uses their ears. I hear through lipreading and captioning. Those who are a part of the Deaf Community hear mainly by using sign language. Others might use Cued Speech. Still others might use a combination of any or all of these modes of communication. We do it how we do it.
What I’m saying is, many of us consider hearing as communicating, and sometimes it is simply about the information, not the way in which we receive the information, so “Chill out!”
No, not everyone I’ve encountered in the Deaf Community has a need to differentiate themselves from others with hearing loss, but I’ve had similar encounters in the U.S. and I see a lot of division online.
That said, I do realize how hard the Deaf Community has had to work to establish their place in the world–I respect that effort and know I have benefitted from it–and most likely that necessitated their defining and distinguishing themselves repeatedly.
However, those of us with hearing loss, who are not part of the Deaf Community, have also had to work hard to establish a place of our own and to be included. I would expect one group desiring inclusion and accommodation to be a bit more sensitive to a similar group who desires the same thing.
It may seem a bit pollyannaish, but wouldn’t it be nice if energy used to distinguish differences–when it isn’t necessary–was used instead to recognize similarities and to practice inclusion? Just a thought…
Really. All I wanted was doorbell flasher.