Open Mind

Posted by jennifer gibson on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 Under: April 2016

Most people know that I'm not afraid to speak my mind. I have no problems going up to someone and telling them that what they did was morally wrong. If they're behaving in an unprofessional or unethical manner, particularly towards someone with a hearing loss or general disability, I will put my foot down and tell them. Why? Because it's not right to ignore our needs or dismiss our problems. It's a part of our life and while we do our best to educate others on our daily struggles or lack of resources, there is still a big gap in providing the necessary tools to help us succeed at work, home, or sports.

As a child, I had trouble expressing my concerns about the way we were treated. When I was growing up and dealing with people who tried to control my life in the worst way possible, I didn't say anything. I couldn't. Aside from the fact that I was incredibly shy, I really struggled communicating with people due to my hearing loss.

For years, people had a tendency to underestimate me or rarely gave me the chance to prove myself. I hated going to school, I was a target everyday and had to deal with that shame and pain all alone. The negative attitudes and experiences grew to a level when I couldn't tolerate it anymore and that's when I knew I had to step up to the plate and do something about it. By the time I was in high school, I walked out of that protective shell and blazed a path of strength and determination. I discovered that I was the one that had to make some changes, especially in the perception of people with hearing loss. I needed to be that voice, and a rather loud one.

It was a dramatic change for me. I shone with confidence and dove into a lot of activities, including several clubs at school, sports and being insanely busy. I refused to let my disability define me. Even though I was still missing a lot, particularly social cues, I didn't care - I wanted to live life.

Fast forward to today where there is a lot more awareness about disabilities and providing better accommodation for people like us. It's a remarkable change. However, the stigma remains. There are still a lot of businesses, organizations, and sports, that turn a blind eye to people with disabilities. I've had a lot of instructors tell me that they are not trained to deal with people with disabilities and that it's not covered in the teaching manuals. Yet, when they are given advice or suggestions about alternative teaching styles for a more inclusive training environment, they often choose to ignore it. I find this attitude rather perplexing. While I understand that it may seem like a scary concept to adopt new techniques and learning how to apply it, there's no reason to push away gifted athletes or students who deserve the right to be there like everyone else. And that's truly heartbreaking.

It's about taking the time to listen to the needs of people who are hard of hearing like me. We know what works best for us. Don't be afraid to ask us what can be done to help us thrive and succeed in life. There's lots of alternative solutions as long as you're willing to accept it. I know I do. Even though it's hard for me to accept the fact that I may not be able to keep up with the rest of the group and a potent reminder that I'm not the same as everyone else, I need to embrace it.

Just like Kurt on Glee, I need to be free to express who I am and not be afraid to show it. If you can't accept who I am as a someone with a hearing loss, then you are not the right person for me. I deserve to be treated fairly and equally. It's not okay to stand there with your hand over your mouth while talking to me. It's not okay to make jokes at my expense. It's not okay to ignore me or say "Never mind, it wasn't important." It's not okay to say "I'll speak louder" instead of facing me and talking clearly or writing it down. It's not okay to walk away from me and say "Don't worry about it." That kind of attitude as well as those words belittle me which hurts. That pain is as sharp as a knife.

I've already been through a lot in life, there is no need to bring back those horrible memories of being bullied or ostracized as a kid. I have a right to stand up for myself and many others who struggle with a disability on a daily basis. We're human and do the best we can, we deserve to shine too. All we ask is that you keep an open mind and accept us for who we are.

In : April 2016 

Tags: "it's not okay" "open mind" kurt  glee  acceptance  shame 
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