A Letter: Thoughts on Ableism

I wore one of these, before I switched from analog to digital
I wore one of these, before I switched from analog to digital

Dear Co-Worker Who Shall Remain Un-named:

I would dearly appreciate it if you stopped telling me to get my hearing aids fixed.  I just had them fixed 5 months ago.  They are in optimal condition, as the microphones were replaced and several parts repaired.  I assure you, I have worn hearing aids for 18 years.  I know how to take good care of them.  These things cost $2000 for goodness sake!

Truth is, I’m hearing-impaired.  My hearing is not perfect.  I may require you to repeat yourself for clarity.  I want to be certain that what I heard is what you said.  Take this as a compliment; I wish to communicate clearly with you.  I don’t make assumptions about you, as you do about me.  And no, saying it louder won’t make it any easier for me to hear you.  If you don’t enunciate clearly, I may not be able to read your lips clearly.  Yeah, that’s how I “hear”- I read your lips.  I do the same in everyday face-to-face comments, and even on YouTube videos.  It works for me.

Finally, don’t get mad at me when I don’t recognize your voice on the phone.  Considering that this phone is about 20 years old- analog!  The horror of analog!  The fidelity of the sound is not reliable.  And even on a digital phone, I cannot recognize my mom’s voice most of the time.  I don’t recognize my mother’s voice, the woman with whom I have spent a large part of my life with!  (Caller ID is a godsend!)  In light of this, don’t expect me to recognize your voice.  I can try, but I’ll stick to using the same respectful voice with everyone who calls.

I don’t think you realize how insensitive your comments are.    The assumption that I just need to crank up the volume on my hearing aids to hear like you hear is an insult.  Try telling a blind person to put glasses on or a physically disabled person to run like you run.  With each respective “disability” there are a set of modifications (behavioral, medical, mechanical, etc) that must be made for us to live in a world pre-dominantly populated by abled individuals.   Differently-abled individuals do not operate the same way you do- yet we are essentially the same as you are.  Don’t expect me to be like you, and don’t treat me differently.  I just wanted to be treated with the same respect you give to everyone else.



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