‘That Long and Winding Road…’ by Mervyn James

thisthatotherway

That Long and winding Road…

Has nothing to do with this article, I just like the tune…. 9 out of 10 people I meet have no idea I am profoundly deaf,  I could easily make them aware by using sign language, but people tend to put a label on you as a random member of some subculture based on not hearing anything if you do that, and I’d rather be seen as an individual who just happens to have a profound hearing loss.

People in my position and indeed, millions of others with various degrees of hearing loss, suffer huge issues of poor support and access where it counts, e.g. 999 areas and GP’s etc, even opticians and dentists don’t support you to have those all-important tests we all need.

Have you tried lip-reading your optician in the dark with one eye closed up half the time and with a test card written in Croatian? You take the point. Or the Dentist with their masks one, they don’t call me Gummy as a term of affection, they just keep taking them out till they get the right one.

Not even disability support areas and the Local Authorities provide what you need, either because the charity hasn’t the funds to pay for it, or the LA is unsure if you making an enquiry puts the onus on them to assist you, of course cuts affect everybody but we are always back of queue by default, because of the difficulty in defining the type of support you need, and, the actual availability of it.

By comparison, if you are a deaf person who relies entirely on sign language then you are 25 times more likely to get supported than I am, because my lip-reading is getting worse, and the access to text support is almost non-extant in Wales. Alternatively insist you are an illegal Migrant who speaks only an obscure dialect of Bantu and is a relative of Winston Churchill, then they queue up to help apparently.

I’ve lost count of asking areas for text support and then being offered sign language instead, it’s a bit like a Welsh speaker being offered a Spanish interpreter. As people with profound loss, we are easily identified as shoppers who only use supermarkets and always offer high denomination notes or coins in payment regardless of cost. That is because if we guess wrong how much the price is, we are up against it in communication terms. My biggest bugbear are shops that won’t just take your money for goods, but launch into lengthy discourse regarding BOGOF offers or what cards do I use or want, if you say you don’t have a  loyalty card they start thrusting papers at you to get one, I said you want my loyalty try to communicate properly.

I’m then in trouble because I cannot follow properly and there is some queue behind me, getting annoyed, and asking which planet I just arrived from. I usually say Neptune or Blaenau Ffestiniog and that seems to satisfy their curiosity…

My speech is OK, I’ve got a PhD in mumbling… although speech is an issue, because then people assume talking equals hearing and get angry when you cannot reply properly after.

No two people are the same, bit of a bugger but…. Sadly our Hard of hearing people suffer a great deal of denial, this is down to the fear of looking stupid to other people, ergo YOU.   Manufacturers of hearing aids hone in on that and we all see the adverts for ‘Hidden Hearing’ etc, which to my mind panders to that view. Why hide your hearing loss and then STILL look stupid if you miss something?  I’d be banning hidden hearing ads, I understand making them less obtrusive and even miniature, it’s an advance, but what you cannot see, you do not understand that’s the issue, and Hard of Hearing still insist they can hear everything so ask for it really.

This week is officially ‘Deaf Week’ but you won’t see me taking part in it, you will probably see a lot of deaf people signing who are an hyper-active but minor cultural promotion area, and of course charities promoting their wares, having assistive dog shows, and fund raising too.

Be aware lip-reading isn’t an exact science either, unless following less than 30% of anything spoken will do for you, or you have advanced A level in ESP studies. Mine goes from 24% to zero mostly. Then the ‘Nod’ kicks in, and everyone assumes you are either the worlds’ most attentive listener (and polite with it), or vying for pole position in the Village idiot category.

Lip-reading isn’t possible if you have your back to us, you are eating at the same time, or a poor speaker anyway. Goldfish impressions tend to look better on the fish to be honest. Don’t go with the Mime approach unless your name is Marcel Marceau…

On the roads, please spare a thought too, that person in front of you may be deaf we don’t have a label on our backs with ‘I’m Deaf please pass carefully.’ on it. So don’t just push us aside, or run your prams and buggies into us because we haven’t moved out of the way quickly enough. If you try, I’m liable to trip you up as you pass and blame the dog. Or if you have a wheelchair, I will almost certainly let your tyres down.

Statistics suggest one day it will be you too…  then remember what goes around comes back at you! What we need most is your patience, and a little extra time to ensure we know what is being said, thank you. I’m not ignoring you, (at least not today, I may well do tomorrow), but I really cannot hear you…

By Mervyn James….

 

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