I wrote this for Stir4All back in April 2016 and I thought I'd share my original writing (with some changes)
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 this, growing up I had no other adaptations, I held books and toys closer to my face and sat closer to the television.
During the summers as a child I was assigned an Intervenor from the Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) to facilitate involvement in the community. She and I would go to community events, libraries, science museums and the like. She worked with me one-on-one to relay what instructors, guides, and other people were saying, and showing me up-close what to do (build a paper airplane, and such). For one or two weeks during this time we went to CNIB’s summer camp where I got to hang out with other deafblind children.
I was mainstreamed in a public school with specialized classes for speech, hearing and English with other deaf and hard of hearing kids, but 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 I asked my parents to start High School at the Deaf Institute.
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 I decided to attend University to improve my chances of employment. After four years 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.
I realized I had 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.
With the advent of technology like the internet, and later, social media, my world exploded open. With 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. We’ve now been together for twenty-one years and have two children who are teenagers now.
Eventually my vision worsened to where I reluctantly had to accept using a white cane, my hearing also worsened too where I then opted for a Cochlear Implant.
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’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.
I don’t need special treatment aside from the standard accommodations of an occasional ASL interpreter or SSP (Support Service Provider – an American version of an Intervenor). I don’t need people’s patronizing attitudes, stares, doubts, discrimination, or misguided help.
I’m just a Deafblind woman going about living my life to the fullest and enjoying the ride.