I was born profoundly deaf and legally blind (my eye doctor suspects Retinopathy of Prematurity). I eventually got glasses that corrected my vision to 20/200, and a pair of hearing aids. Other than these, I had no other adaptations while growing up. I held books and toys closer to my face and sat closer to the television. I could carry on conversations with one person sitting or standing close to me, usually one of my parents.
I grew up with a naïve view of the world as I only could understand things within my 5 foot “bubble” of what I could see or hear, or what was relayed to me. This is the reality of a deafblind person. Because of this bubble, I get left out of a lot of things; family chatting and laughing “what’s going on?” – “I’ll tell you later” “it’s not important”, “never mind”. So, solitude, my dog, and my library books were my best friends.
I was mainstreamed in a public school with specialized classes for speech, hearing and English with other deaf and hard of hearing kids. I spent the majority of the day in the regular classroom with a powerful hearing aid and a microphone for the teacher.
After a good deal of bullying from the other students because I was “different” I begged my parents to start High School at the Deaf Institute because “they’re deaf like me”. Eventually I was bullied there as well. I did not know sign language at the time and hung out with the teachers because they can talk with me, and was labeled a brownnoser among other things. My folks’ solution was to call the principal and make him do something about it, which just led to more bullying towards me. Eventually I just learned to walk away without any reactions and the bullying died down after that.
After graduation, I tried hunting for work, I thought the only drawback I had was not being able to drive, but I could do anything else. I quickly learned the reality of discrimination after numerous rejections because of my dual-disabilities.
After two years of rejection letters I decided to attend University to improve my chances of employment. Four years later and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I still struggled to get past judgmental headhunters to find employment. I had a few sporadic jobs throughout my adult life.
With the advent of the internet, and later, social media, my world exploded open. No longer was I trapped in my little bubble. In online chat rooms, I could keep up with conversations and was not prejudged for my disabilities. I met my future husband in one of these chat rooms. After revealing I was deafblind in a private chat, he taught himself sign language to ease communications when we meet in person. We’ve now been together for twenty-one years and have two children who are teenagers now.
I tried returning to job hunting again after the kids began school. Soon, the same frustrations returned I had enough and decided if I couldn’t find one, even with help from the Department of Rehabilitation Services, I’ll make my own job. I created my own website where I wanted to educate the public about Deafness, Blindness and Deafblindness.
Blogging on my site eventually lead to guest blog opportunities on other sites, which eventually lead me to start freelance writing. While writing about American Sign Language (ASL), I came across an ASL tutoring site and I applied to be an online tutor there and got the job. So, I have several work-from-home jobs all on my own schedule and I love it.
Being an adult and a parent, I go out in public frequently, to shopping malls, play areas, doctor’s offices, school, and so on. Occasionally I come across people expressing an ignorant view of my deafblindness, “Where’s your caretaker?”, “Who helps with the kids?”, “It must be so hard being you”, “I could never be deaf or blind”. I just learn to ignore these people, (or even get snarky with them).
Throughout my life I’ve had people try to discourage me from doing or trying things – “You can’t…”, “You won’t be able to….”, “You’re crazy to try”.
My response was usually – “Why can’t I?”, “Why not?”, “Watch me!”
I read a quote that I came to love:
One finds limits by pushing them ~ Herbert Simon
If we all tested and pushed our limits, we actually find out what we really can and can’t do. Then we’ll be able to say “Alright so I can’t do that but dammit I tried”. Or, what if we discover that we really could do it?
I’m Deafblind and that’s okay. It may take me longer to do things, or do them in a different way, but I’m still a person, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, an ASL tutor, a blogger, and a freelance writer. I take care of the house, kids, cooking, bills and anything else a wife and mother does.