The Invisible Disability

Yesterday, I spoke of the “how and the when of my disability, and I was pleasantly surprised – no, shocked! – that a number of people said nice things about it. Thank you all.

Today, I want to say a few words about deafness in general. I referred to the “League Status” that some people award disability – “I’d rather be that than this, but definitely not THAT“.

Frankly, I’d rather have 20/20 vision, perfect hearing, the legs of a gazelle and the intellect of Stephen Hawking, but I’ve got none of them. I can see, with the aid of glasses to read; can still stagger around on my ageing legs (though my deafness has affected my balance quite a lot), and can still do most things independently {yes, EVEN that Humph . . }.

The RNID (Royal National Institute for the Deaf) tells us that “1 in 7” in the UK has some form of hearing impairment. That is no small minority. I am a member of the RNID, though not a huge fan of the slightly conservative approach they take to disability in general. I do, however, recognise that they produce high quality and comprehensive information. If you want some interesting background to the whole issue of hearing impairment, you could a lot worse than looking at their website.

Deafness, as a disability, has a further disadvantage. It isn’t obvious. When I walk into a room, that alone clearly signals that I am not mobility impaired. Although there is still a long way to go, increasingly ramps are being installed, kerbs lowered and steps removed.  A wheelchair makes an obvious statement.

Neither do I have a cuddly Labrador, or a white stick, so my vision isn’t questioned. There is an enormous amount still to be done for the visually impaired – the streets are increasingly cluttered with street furniture, “A” boards, signs in general, and cafes aping our continental cousins. It must be murder walking down the street, weaving around the obstacles and asking people to leave the feckin dog alone because s/he is working! – but there is “recognition” of a disability.

Deafness isn’t obvious until I speak or until you speak to me, and often not even then. I have no speech impediment, as i grew up hearing. I might be louder than many, and you might not like what I have to say, but my voice is no indicator.  Close family and friends tell me that I smile often when I shouldn’t – a sign that I’ve not heard, but am not asking for repetition. I am also guilty – apparently – of giving bland answers at times, in the hope that it will suffice. Why am I doing that?

Simple. The last two and a half years have taught me that hearing impairment is WRONGLY associated with being a “bit thick”, not paying attention, not being interested or not understanding. Rather than challenge, which I know I should do, I move on. My ability to decypher requires great effort and concentration, and I reserve that for what I consider important. It’s wrong, but it happens.

Next time, I will tell you about Induction Loops, and at a later date, about the failure of the DDA legislation. x

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lescromps on September 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Yea, now you;r getting into your stride mate,just let it come out,good one.


  2. “yes, EVEN that Humph . . ” < Get your coat ; )


  3. Hi Paul,

    You are an education to the ‘invisibility’ of deafness. Keep blogging man, you will make us all understand and that will be a good thing.

    Great post!



  4. Posted by harpymarx on September 27, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Really great post. I will be v. interested in your post re DDA. 🙂


  5. “A bit thick,” eh? I was born deaf (or so I was told; either that or I was born hard of hearing but it quickly and progressively worsened to deafness) during a time when the doctors were saying, “NO sign language, teach her how to speak, she NEEDS to learn how to get along in the hearing world,” blah BLAH. It’s never been easy but I am a pro at pretending I can understand people. You quickly learn how to adapt because you quickly realize this world won’t adapt to YOU so what do you learn to do? Read lips. Sit in front of the classroom so you can lip read your teachers. (Nevermind that they turn around and write on the chalkboard and walk around the classroom whilst talking! Am I supposed to follow them around, eyes on their lips the entire time? I THINK NOT.) Family gatherings and conversations were the worst; I still believe, to this day, my family would’ve benefited greatly from learning sign language. My dad learned finger spelling, my mother did not; my sister and I spent a lot of time together so she really became attuned to my needs (but LORD that is a DIFFERENT story).

    Whew. That’s just the beginning, Splott. Thanks for sharing this with us, and for letting me share my bit, also. 🙂


    • I think you should blog yourself, my friend. Please consider it – feel free to add any comments to mine, MOST welcomed. there is also several weblogs on general disability matters that would welcome your input. Please think about it !! 🙂


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