Am I TOO sensitive? Am I f. . . !

Recent events have made me realise, even more, how intolerant a society we are at times.

It has also raised my personal estimation of the long-term disabled to a stratospheric level.

Allow me to elaborate.

Regular readers (both of you!) will – by now – know that I am severely hearing impaired. Whilst having no hearing in my left ear since birth (mine was always a Mono world), I managed to reach the Grand Old Age of 52 before a virus caused the right one to fail. I use a hearing aid, to amplify sound to a level where I can make some sense of it, but – in truth – it isn’t volume alone that is the problem, it is clarity too. No hearing aid can improve that, sadly.

The hearing aid can help, but it also has a negative side. First, it causes “sweatiness” and an increased risk of additional infections. Imagine walking around all day, every day, with your finger in your ear. Not comfortable, is it. Then there is the problem of traffic. I live and work in a large, bustling City – Cardiff. Love it. Wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now. Almost a “local” – after 26 years.

The difficulty is that traffic makes a lot of unpleasant noise; engines revving, squealing brakes, horns and hooters, irate motorists, etc. – anyway, it is not what I want to hear, so I frequently remove my hearing aid when in town. Popping it in to talk in shops or in cafes takes seconds, and I keep it in its neat little case in my top pocket. I have to use my eyes more, because the same traffic I don’t want to hear can also run me over!, but – to date – I have coped.

Yesterday, whilst awaiting a bus to County Hall in Cardiff, I was verbally abused – by a tourist, I think (he had a Tourist map of Cardiff in his hands) – and this reminded me of the other, too many sadly, occasions that I have suffered similar. The incident, in itself was not major; but it is part of a culmination of a society that is increasingly intolerant and aggressive to the disabled.

As I said, I was awaiting a bus; sitting in a bus stop outside the Hilton Hotel, watching the Irish Rugby Squad board their coach. Said “Tourist” (no idea if he was Irish!) approached, and – I presume – asked directions (he had that look and was pointing at his map).

I responded thus (as I had removed my hearing aid, as mentioned earlier); “Sorry, I can’t hear you but . . ” – I didn’t get any further than that, because he – literally – went ape-shit on me. He started ranting, no idea about what because I was still fumbling for my hearing aid, and then he stormed off. From his body language, his facial expressions and from his colouration (going puce), he clearly thought I was being unhelpful. If he had waited a second longer, my sentence was going to end, “. . .  if you hang on a second, I’ll put my hearing aid in and will be glad to help you bwtti“.

OK. No one was physically hurt. No blood was spilled. The little old lady next to me was a tad upset at it, but she was ok. If I wasn’t getting on and not as quick as I used to be, I should have decked him one, but that would definitely terrified the old dear, so probably best I didn’t.

I should also add a few personal points. I am a smidgen under 6 foot tall; about 17+ stone, and after 40+ years in the world of work, including spells working with both sex and violent offenders, with people with addictions and with sufferers of Mental Health problems, not easily upset. I am also a very active Trade Unionist, so I am well used to abuse!

I don’t cry easily. With the exception of tears of joy when my beautiful, much-loved daughters were born, the last time I can remember really crying was 18th September, 1970 – when I read the front page of the London Evening News that Jimi Hendrix had died (OK, I was 16 at the time!!). I didn’t cry yesterday either . . .  but i felt like it nearly.

Daily, I see the expression on some people’s faces when I ask (tiresome, I know) to repeat something – sometimes even twice.

All to often, I am expected to be amused as some idiot, on being told that I am deaf, makes some tasteless joke about it.

Frequently, I am confronted with meetings (even after being told of my condition) that don’t have an induction loop, or don’t know how to operate it, or find that it hasn’t been serviced in years and that it doesn’t work. “Oh, do you mind?”, they say.  What? Do I mind that I’ll not now hear sod all, and that you probably don’t give a toss? Have a wild guess!

A couple of years ago I attended a meeting in City Hall, along with many others, when Sir Richard Tilt was addressing an audience of CAB workers, Advice agencies, Local Authority staff and specialists who worked with Social Fund appeals. Tilt was the Commissioner of the Independent Social Fund Review at the time.

His staff had gone to some lengths to ensure that the meeting location was equipped with the correct loop and that it worked. The “top table” all had microphones and their was a roving mic’ for speakers from the floor. Brilliant. Only Sir Richard decided to become a “man of the people”, rose from his seat and stood in front of the table to address us. Couldn’t hear a bloody thing.

Not being the shy, retiring type, I interjected that those of us with a hearing impairment required him to use the microphone. He waved me aside and said, I’ll come to that later !! Sir Richard? or just plain “dick” ?

On other occasions, I have met with unfriendly technology or uncaring staff. I have previously blogged about the lack of working loops in cinemas, in theatres or, if they do work, the fact that a deposit is required for use. These are all relatively minor when compared with what some disabled people face each day, but if these are wearing me down, think what it is doing to them.

I have huge respect now, for those born or disabled young; for those with much more severe conditions than mine. I would like to hope that readers of this might just take a bit of that respect away with them and use it next time you meet someone who needs a bit of patience and understanding. Please.

As ever, thank you for listening and be grateful that you can 🙂

This “Rant” is dedicated to the wonderful Kaliya Franklin (@BendyGirl on twitter) who continues to inspire me daily with her tweets, and to Natasha Hirst (@TashHirst) who inspired me to blog this contribution. She is a hugely talented photographer, political activist and all round good egg, who just happens to be deaf too. xx – to both of you – xx

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John Hargrave on March 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I too live in the deaf world although I use two hearing aids that help. Mine was due to working in noisy factories for many years. After an accident, over 15 years ago, I now use a wheelchair as well. Unfortunately, I cannot get around on my own, I can hear traffic but I cannot make out where it is coming from, as I also injured my neck, I can’t move my neck very quickly, so I need someone to walk with me, usually my good wife.
    I do not get any major abuse but I can always give as good as I get. I am a calm sort of person but I do stand up for my rights. I love being a disability campaigner and have just been on a couple of demos. The council wanted to close our centre down but I have managed save it for our service users who have given me huge support. Being deaf and a wheelchair user gives me an extra ‘edge’ I think.

    Reply

  2. Aww, thank you! And so sorry to ‘hear’ (poor pun totally intended) of this latest incident. I wish we taught sign language to children in schools, seeing the way they pick up makaton from Mr Tumbles (cbeebies) shows just how easily & well they’d accept it if we carried it on formally through school and that trait of acceptance would surely stick with many more through life.
    Love & hugs, BG Xx

    Reply

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