Hearing in a Deaf World
Hearing in a Deaf World
In my personal experience, another of the differences between having hearing parents and having deaf parents was the need for me to advocate on behalf of my parents over the years – mostly for my mom. My mom had to endure many challenges throughout her life and experienced a good deal of discrimination and downright nastiness from people over the years. I was there with her for some of these incidents.
I recall my mother relating the story of an awful experience when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was not born yet, but my brother was an infant being pushed through Alexander’s Department Store in his carriage when the news broke. My mother couldn’t hear the announcement being made over the PA system in the store, but others could. As she walked the aisles, people gave her dirty looks until she tried to pay for the items she wanted to buy. The cashier yelled at her “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? DON’T YOU CARE?” or words to that effect. My mother tried to explain that she was deaf, but the angry woman just yelled at her repeatedly and turned her back to my mother. Mom left the store immediately – upset and still not knowing why she was yelled at. She later found out that the President was assassinated of course, but not before damage was done. Whenever she related this story, she always seemed so wounded by it - “Why couldn’t she just write down what happened to JFK? How could I know? I needed to know!” I could only sympathize with her but I often wished I could find that woman and tell her what a vile human being she was.
Another time, in S. Klein’s department store in Green Acres Mall, my mom and I were in a fitting room – I was trying on some intimate items at a young age- which was horrifying enough for me - but it only got worse from there. I heard the voice of a clearly angry woman chattering about the amount of time we were spending in the fitting room as she flung the curtain open - exposing me to the world. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she then chastised my mom for taking so much time and saying that we shouldn’t be in that store anyway – talking over my mom, who was trying to explain that she was deaf and asked her to write down what she was saying. I intervened and asked the horrible woman why we shouldn’t be in the store and she simply and loudly said “Just get out. I need this room for paying customers!” Continuing to say “Get out” each time I tried to explain that we were going to buy something, talking over me now. My mom appeared obviously wounded as I explained what this horrid woman was yelling about. “I can pay!” she said, then signing “Stupid woman!” I agreed and told my mom to not let it bother her and that we should spend money somewhere else anyway. We left – both of us upset and exhausted from this dreadful encounter.
These are only 2 of many examples of what my parents and I’m sure so many other deaf people have had to endure over the years. I think that in today’s world, there is more empathy for those who are “different,” but I know we have a long way to go.
Hearing in a Deaf World. The Series.
More to follow.