By: Sara Lundquist
A while back I noticed the Deaf Expo was coming to the Twin Cities. This excited me greatly. A friend of mine (hard of hearing) had attended the Deaf Expo in her state and she said it was an awesome experience and something she wished could be a regular event. With knowing this information I immediately tried to get the weekend off of work. We can stay with my parents when in the cities and the day just happened to be my dad’s birthday so this was going to be brilliant. I texted my friend that is deaf and asked her if she wanted to go with me. She was a yes this was going to be a new experience and one of learning and support. I had this vision in my head I was going to be met with understanding and acceptance. I had this feeling that it was going be like the couple days I got to spend with my hard of hearing tribe. Not that we will all know each other, of course, but one of likeness.
The weekend has now come and gone and I was left with a very empty and let down feeling. I expected this event to have a lot of signing. It was a Deaf event with a capital D. The reason I wanted to attend was it was advertised as Deaf, hard of hearing, family of deaf and hard of hearing, community member wanting to know more about the deaf and hard of hearing population. I am still trying to process why this event was marketed this way.
I have been told before being hard of hearing you are stuck between two worlds. You aren’t fully hearing but you also are not in the Deaf community. I can sign minimally, and understand sign when done at a slower rate. So I was excited to see and learn and immerse myself. What I encountered was something quite different. We walked into the event and it was silent. I knew then I was in for trouble communicating. There was no talking, no lip readers. 100% sign at this event. We walked into the exhibit hall and it reminded me of a college fair, job fair, county fair, you get the idea. There were booths that held the vendors but very little information physically on these booths. I found this odd. I thought if I can’t converse with the vendors who were all sign I will grab their literature and read it on my own. Nope had to talk to the vendors. So again I was out. I was again stuck in that in between. I thought of all places different communication means would be set up. I expected a sound system or at least a screen with CART (real time captioning). There was nothing. There was a stage and everything was in sign. Again I realize this is a Deaf event but what community member is going to come and learn more about this community if they can’t understand what is going on. Someone to voice, or to read the captions would have been very helpful.
We took our time and walked around the booths which took about 15 minutes maybe. We talked to one vendor. My friend signed and voiced for me. I was able to understand most of the conversation through the sign so that was a high part of the day for me. I felt we were getting the evil stink eye because we were talking. We found a place to sit and we just talked to each other. Saw a couple people we knew and they agreed it wasn’t the best event. Made me glad it wasn’t just me thinking this.
This whole event made me realize we are really stuck in limbo as being hard of hearing. We need to ask for accommodations to function in a hearing world. Going to a Deaf event I guess we need accommodations there also. This really made me wonder why this was marketed and advertised to hard of hearing, hearing, community whoever wanted to come. The couple booths I was excited to see I couldn’t converse with the vendor, they had nothing to pick up so I just kept walking. My assessment was they wanted numbers of people not if those people could get something out of the day.
I later saw pictures on social media of the day and it looked like a marvelous day with tons of smiling people. I wish I would have been one of them smiling.
The day wasn’t lost. I got to spend a day with my friend and my family in the cities. We laughed and talked and made a day of it. Just wish we weren’t in limbo between the two worlds.