“Can I have your Advantage card?”
“Are you looking for anything special?”
I get asked these questions all the time. Maybe even by you.
When I don’t respond, the natural follow-up is, “What, are you deaf or something?” except this one isn’t spoken out loud. Instead, I’m either treated to funny looks or considered rude.
But the answer to that last question is, “Why, yes, actually!”
You can’t see my cochlear implant and hearing aid because my long curly hair covers them. You can’t tell I’m deaf by looking at me, because I don’t rely on sign language to communicate. In fact, I only know a little sign (which includes the universal one we all know and love).
I was born deaf and raised to speak and read lips. When I talk, you’ll probably detect an accent. When someone asks me, “Where are you from?” I know it’s because of my deaf accent. I love seeing reactions when I respond, “Buffalo, NY.” Yeah, it’s from all those chicken wings…
Generally, people assume that everyone else can hear. And then, when it comes to people who are deaf, that all of them sign. I’m living proof that neither is true.
Why do we make such assumptions about people or assume the worst? I wouldn’t assume that everyone is straight or a parent, and for that matter, assume that someone is a clone of Cruella de Vil when she doesn’t respond to a question.
What happened to innocent until proven guilty or being given the benefit of the doubt? Let’s adapt this kind of mindset. We’re all individuals, with our own quirks and differences. Each person we meet should be a blank slate, free of preconceived notions and judgments. Let’s strive to be less self-centered.
I’ll start. Hello, my name is Lisa Goldstein.