Are Hearing Loss & Deafness Sometimes Like Apples & Oranges?

Providing accessibility accommodations that work for both the Deaf and Hearing Loss communities can be a challenge. This is clear to anyone with a hearing loss who requested captioning but was provided with a sign language interpreter instead. For most people with hearing difficulties, including me, a sign language interpreter provides no assistance.

But as I learned at an interesting 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, the reverse is also true. According to a Deaf panelist, captioning is not helpful for many members of the Deaf community, especially school aged children under the age of 15.

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Hearing Loss Advocacy: Captions Are Our Ramps

Last week’s post was an open letter to video conferencing companies like Zoom and Google, asking them to provide free auto captioning for people with hearing loss during this time of physical distancing. In most cases, auto captioning is available on these platforms, but it is hidden behind a paywall for premium paid accounts. There was so much support from readers, I started a petition on Change.org to capture the response.

The results have been tremendous. As of this writing, 8,000 people have signed the petition, and the number continues to grow. I have begun sharing the petition with the companies. If you have not signed already, will you help me to show more support by signing and sharing the petition? Together we can make change happen!

SIGN OUR PETITION ON CHANGE.ORG 

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The Key To Success With Hearing Loss — Whatever Works!

Regular readers of this blog know I am almost as passionate about yoga as I am about hearing loss advocacy. Yoga and meditation keep my body and mind strong and help me handle the daily frustrations of living with hearing loss. Often, the techniques I explore in my yoga and meditation practices can be directly applied to managing my hearing loss. My experience at a recent meditation seminar was no different.

The seminar entitled “Staying Sane in a Crazy World” featured Joseph Goldstein, a renowned meditation teacher, and Dan Harris, an ABC anchorman and author of the New York Times bestseller “10% Happier.” The talk was sponsored by New York Insight Meditation Center and it was packed! I had not expected a meditation lecture to be such a popular way to spend a cold winter’s evening during the holiday season, but I was pleased to see all the interest.

What I had expected was a lot of details on the specifics of meditation — the best way to sit, what to do with your hands, the perfect place to meditate, how to choose guided or silent, etc., but I was once again surprised. The main takeaway — do whatever works for you. It reminded me a lot of living with hearing loss.

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Hearing Loss: When You Feel Like Your Senses Fail You

One of my favorite parts of the annual HLAA Convention is the inspiring speakers. This year was no exception. Rebecca Alexander, a psychotherapist and author, was the keynote. She has Usher syndrome, which means that she is progressively going deaf and blind. Her vision problems presented in childhood, but when she began having trouble hearing in college, she received her diagnosis. Both senses would be taken from her over time. This is a crushing blow, particularly at age 19. The way she has dealt with such a huge loss is inspiring.

It is impossible to imagine the terror of losing two senses simultaneously, but I felt myself in her shoes as she shared her journey of acceptance and empowerment. I could relate to the stories she told about her struggles and the silly and brave things she did along the way. One story particularly resonated with me — the moment she realized she could no longer trust her senses.

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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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