Maria is the training director for Wideaware who provide disability equality training online and face-to-face. She is a qualified access adviser and has worked in the UK, US and Italy as a trainer, project manager and employment placement worker for people with learning disabilities.
Maria is severely deaf, wears hearing aids and lipreads.
A few nights ago I decided to stay up to watch Hear and Now. This is an award-winning documentary about an American Deaf couple who, after a lifetime of living with deafness decide to get a Cochlea Implant (CI) at the age of 65. Their daughter Irene produced and filmed their story.
Diagnosed with deafness as children, Paul and Jill went to the same ‘special’ school. This was in 1945, when the oral method of teaching deaf children to communicate was still largely unknown.
Upon returning from Deaf School and trying to integrate into mainstream school, both Paul and Jill encountered difficulties as many people were afraid of approaching them. So much so that Jill even resorted to not telling people she was deaf, pretending that she could hear.
Initially, Paul felt very much part of society and the same as everyone else. He realised he was ‘different’ when he discovered he was not able to use the phone. Once, as a young man, he wanted to court a girl and when he was given her phone number he realised he could not do anything with it.
In the mid-70s, inspired by a futuristic prototype of a video telephone, Paul set off to engineer something similar. This was a type of text phone where people could type messages to others via a keyboard, thus inventing the TTY , or as we call it in the UK, the Minicom. I was gobsmacked: this was the man whose invention changed my life?
The most emotional part of the documentary was when Paul and Jill decide to have a cochlear implant and both go through a gruelling and very painful 4-hour surgery. I can’t tell you what happens afterwards without spoiling it for those who want to watch the documentary.
The film left a deep impression on me as I found I had so much in common with the two protagonists: pretending not to be deaf, realising I was really ‘different’ only when I could not use the phone, and each day confronting myself with the expectations of both the hearing and the Deaf worlds.
It made me realise that it’s crucial to educate both hearing people and Deaf people that advances in hearing aid and implant technology can be helpful but will never replace regular hearing. As hearing aid or implant users we might be able to hear sounds but if these are unknown they create huge stress. We might hear words we can’t understand, experience a loop system that won’t work, etc. And the biggest barrier is put up when people don’t know how to talk to us and shy away from making an effort in including us.
If we look at some of the principles of good communication we’ll see things like:
use of concise language
facing people as we speak
an open and welcoming attitude
These benefit not only Deaf people but everyone.
I wished I had seen this documentary 30 years ago, and perhaps so many issues I had with my deafness might have been better understood and accepted. I hope that many will get to see this moving documentary: a fantastic contribution towards better collaboration and understanding between hearing people, Deaf people and all of us in between.
Reading Maria’s article in Disability Now made me realize how beautiful a disability can be. Do some people already know what I mean? I’m sure some do, but I’ll elaborate.
Perhaps it is the coping we learn to do, or the suffering/refinement – I don’t really like that way of saying it. But I am acquainted with many people who have so-called disabilities, that have learned a beautiful way of living. These people have used their minds to develop a graceful way of communicating with people. Each person’s disability is a minor thing the way I see it – the beauty is in the way many people with disabilities have the empathy and kindness to deal with others in a straightforward, yet respectful way. Like Maria, many have the beauty, for lack of a better word, to not “make the best” of their situation, but to bloom – to be individuals truly worth admiring.
We have found your contact by web search
We are an organization based in Sri Lanka engaged in agri and aqua projects and few other products lines .locally
We are planning to set up a few projects in Uk as a model project as follows.
We wish to know whether you can assist as one of the ways for one of the following projects that create opportunities for disadvantaged persons
4. coordinating officer for one of the following projects
1. power innovative resort and a recreational center as a social enterprise and as a model project in In your area For Europe. Agri based health care large resort including cultural shows supported by power to generate by absorbtion of inner earth heat /wind power or sea water pressure using any fuel ,gas
2. grafting center, labotory ,indoor farm for tropical vegetables,fruits, possible tropical flowers a research lab , under scientifically controlled conditions and to grow them in indoor farm for exports to Eu and eastern Europe and for the use of resort for survival of
3. Screen printing on fabricks, wooden items and toys for reexport to Eu and eastern Europe.-
4. export coordinating unit- The products involved are tea,coffee,handloom and batic products, coconut products ,costume jewelleries and rough stones of sri lankan origin, herbal products ,garments, and tropical products etc.
The project will create employment opportunities and free of charge leisure opportunities in the resort, agro project and office and power project including for unemployed disabled persons –
We await for your response pls
Enowa Ocean Gardens (pvt)Ltd,
110/31A mahamega place,