Interesting Reads: Ephphatha By Dr. Thomas Caulfield

I enjoy reading inspiring stories about people with hearing loss, especially tales like the one in Ephphatha, a new book by Dr. Thomas Caulfield. The book shares the courageous journey of his son Christopher, born profoundly deaf, and his struggles to combat and overcome this disability through much of his young life. There were many ups and downs, but through hard work, cochlear implant (CI) technology, perseverance and tremendous familial support, Christopher matures into an intelligent, kind, and purposeful man. It is uplifting to go on this adventure with him.

Today, Christopher Caulfield is a tremendous advocate for the disability community, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Regular readers of this blog might remember him as one of the Cornell Tech students working on captioning glasses that I discuss in a prior post. This summer, Christopher will be joining Microsoft as a Program Manager within the Cloud and Artificial Intelligence group. Over time, he hopes to get involved in Microsoft’s accessibility initiatives for people with hearing loss.

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Will You Be At The HLAA Convention This Year?

Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) 2019 Convention is only three weeks away. Will you be there? This year the convention is in Rochester, NY, home to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) which boasts “an internationally recognized education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.” Partially because of RIT, Rochester is a hub of activity for the deaf community and incredibly welcoming for people with hearing loss. It even has a local yoga studio that offers ASL-interpreted yoga classes every Saturday morning. And the airport is looped!

This will be my fifth convention. Each year I am thrilled to meet, mingle with and expand my hearing loss community. Usually I come away with at least one new hearing loss friend and a handful of tricks and tips I can use to make the world more accessible. All sessions are looped and have CART (communication access real-time translation), so you won’t miss a word. I’ve never attended a conference that is so accessible for people with hearing loss.

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The Language of Disability: What’s In a Name?

In Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Juliet famously asks, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She wonders how the name someone has can define them, rather than the characteristics of the person himself. This seems logical enough, a name is just shorthand for describing an actual object or state of being, but when it comes to disability, a name can take on significant meaning.

I recently attended a panel discussion hosted by the Museum, Arts and Culture Access Consortium (MAC), a group whose mission is to promote access and inclusion at cultural institutions in the NY metro area. I have been to a handful of their workshops and always learn something. This session focused on language and disability, and the importance of getting the words right in order to reduce stigma and promote conversation about disability. A very complex issue.

I share my take-aways from the meeting below. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Do You Need Your Hearing Aids to Drive?

This article I wrote for Hearing Tracker is about driving with hearing loss. What do you think? Do you need your hearing aids to drive? 

In several states, we will need to upgrade our driver’s licenses to a federal Real ID by October 2020. Since my license was up for renewal, I decided to get a jumpstart on this and made an appointment at my local DMV. I was dreading the visit — hours of boredom standing in lines, the worry that I would not hear my name when it was called, and of course the photo — but I did not expect any thought-provoking questions. Filling out the forms in advance, one of the questions got me thinking. It asked, “Do you need a hearing aid to drive a motor vehicle?”

There was also a question about corrective lenses/glasses, but that was easy. While I can make it to the bathroom and back in the middle of the night without putting on my glasses, I would never attempt to run an errand to the store, let alone get behind the wheel of a car without them. I certainly need my lenses/glasses to drive.

But what about the hearing aid question. Did I need my hearing aids to drive? They certainly are helpful to hear honks, sirens, and cars passing and I do always wear them when I drive, but I don’t think they are required. Most of the driving cues are visual — things like brake lights, turn signals, and traffic signs. With the radio blasting, I doubt people with typical hearing gather many clues from the sounds around them while driving either. My hearing aids are a nice to have, not a must have when behind the wheel. I confidently checked “No,” but promised myself to wear them anyway. They certainly couldn’t hurt.

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To read more about safe driving with hearing loss, click here to continue reading on Hearing Tracker.

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Two Recent Movies Demonstrate the Power of Our Differences

I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories, things like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Seveneves. These wild adventures get both my adrenaline pumping and my imagination flowing. So when two new movies in this genre hit the scene recently, I was eager to watch them. Both were entertaining and scary, as I expected, but they also made me think about the importance and power of our individual differences, even our disabilities, to the future of us all.

If you are a fan of the genre, check them out and see if you agree.

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