Monday, March 5, 2012

Hazards of Deafness

Most of the time, deafness is an invisible handicap. I usually like it that way -- I don't like being judged or pigeonholed. Would you? A lifetime of watching people's reactions when they find out I'm deaf has made me a little sensitive. You'd think that after more than three decades, I'd be over it. But while I'm at peace with my deafness, there are still times when one little thing will throw me off track.

But there are times when I almost wish I had a sign on my back that identifies me as deaf, especially when the alternative is to come across as a self-absorbed snob or clueless. I'd rather that people know the reason for my "odd behavior." And perhaps think about their reaction next time. Not every disability is immediately identifiable.

Case in point: Standing in a store aisle and inadvertently blocking someone behind me. If I have my back to them, they can stand behind me, asking me to move -- for who knows how long. (Think along the lines of "What's the matter with you, can't you hear?" Really.)

Politeness often turns to impatience; I can't tell you how many times I've moved and caught a glimpse of someone out of the corner of my eye and realized I was accidentally blocking their way. It's not fun. People are usually annoyed or at the edge of their patience, and they rarely realize why I don't move at the first "excuse me." I can count on one hand the times people have actually reached out and tapped me on the shoulder to get me to move.

When I finally notice them, they usually just give me a funny look or roll their eyes and move on; once in a while I'll get someone who is rather put out with me. Regardless of their reaction, I feel awkward, sigh, and move on. There's really no good comeback that will make people think. We live in a world for hearing, able-bodied people, and most of them have never really thought about what their life would be like with a disability.

In the big scheme of things, this is a minor thing. Sure, the little things do add up over time, but I've learned to get over it and keep moving forward. It's the only way to go.

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