I often find myself in the position of reminding people that I’m deaf. I use BSL, I wear hearing-aids with blue earmoulds, I often fail to respond to sounds that I can’t see. I’m deaf. Yet, they forget.
This morning, I went to the JobCentre. Got to front of the queue, held up my little pack, pointing clearly to the ‘regular appt’ section. She peers at it and mutters. I point again. She appears not to notice what I’m pointing at, assuming instead that I’m just pointing at my own pack randomly. She looks at me and asks if I’m here to see [my disability advisor]. Nooo. My face is a clear ‘no’, and my hand is saying ‘no’, so what does she do? She takes out my disability advisors’ card and asks again if I’m here to see him? No! I point again at ‘regular appt’ section and finally she gets it. ‘That’s fine’ she says (I think) and puts my pack in the queue box and smiles happily, waving me to my seat. Argh.
This little scene was fairly public. I basically declared – silently, perhaps – to anyone within 30 feet that I was deaf. Even so, a few minutes after I’d sat down, I heard a noise and looked towards it, just in time to see a man saying what seemed to be the second half of my name. I looked at him suspiciously, and waited for him to repeat it. He, in turn, looked around, and dumped the little pack back in the box before walking off. I quickly asked the woman next to me if the man had said my name. She confirmed that he had and I went off to follow him. Was accosted by security man, I pointed and said with my face and hands that I’m deaf. Actually, I was kind of annoyed, so it was more like “I’m DEAF!” The security man duly retrieved the other man, who I also informed in the same way; “I’m DEAF!” Man showed not a hint of abashment at shouting out a deaf woman’s name and just said he didn’t know.
Bear in mind, I’ve been attending the JobCentre regularly for several months, I’m rarely seen there without a BSL interpreter and it’s only for these basic signing-ons that I go alone. I’m pretty sure there’s a note on my screen for anyone who cares to look that I’m ‘hearing-impaired’. Even then, I still get called and had I not been as observant, I probably would have spent the next 20 mins waiting before I noticed something was amiss.
It may seem small fry to others, but it’s that feeling of constantly having to be on my toes and wits about me at all times – and regularly reminding people that I’m deaf and to look at me when they’re talking, a simple task that many unfortunately seem to find difficult – that makes me feel more comfortable in the deaf world. That’s just how it is.