Accommodations

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There are many things I can do as a hard of hearing person, such as drive a car, listen to a lecture, watch a movie, etc.  All things hearing people can do.  Despite all of that, the reality is that there are a lot of things I cannot hear, so sometimes I need a little help. When I was in school, this help came in the form of accommodations.  What I was entitled to by law was outlined in my IEP (Read more about IEPs here).

For me, accommodations included the following:

  1. Sitting in the front of the classroom.
  2. Extra time on tests (if needed).
  3. Note takers (if needed).
  4. Microphone to pick up a teacher’s voice across a classroom.
  5. Closed captions (if needed).
  6. Speech therapy (1st-6th grade)

In addition to those, I also had an adviser who made sure my teachers were aware of my disability and that I was keeping up with the rest of my classmates.  This adviser would sometimes help with school work and, later, college applications.  When I was younger, I also had speech therapists who would pull me out of class to help me with my speech development.  They would usually talk to me while playing some kind of game that involved cards or a board.  Once a year, even in high school, I would be given some kind of assessment. I never knew exactly what it was for, but the test involved the tester saying a word and me picking a picture that best illustrated the meaning of the word.  I’m pretty sure they were testing my vocabulary, but no one ever verified this for me.  Then again, I never asked.  I don’t even know who was interested in the results of this particular assessment.

As I got older, I found I didn’t need as many accommodations.  I gradually stopped doing speech therapy, and note taking was something I used in moderation, if at all. I used note takers once or twice in high school, but I found it too time consuming tracking down the note taker and getting notes from them.  That, and I always felt bad having someone else take my notes for me.  The extra time on tests was something my advisers felt I needed on big state tests like the ACT and CSAPs (Colorado Student Assessment Program).  I ultimately discovered I didn’t need extra time on tests, so that was dropped.  Closed captions were only used in middle school for a short time as they proved to be unreliable. As for the microphone, I used it my junior year and maybe part of my senior year (I can’t remember), and it was pretty cool because it made it seem like the teacher was right behind me.  However, it was provided by the school, and it was expensive, so I only got to use it for a short time.  My classes were pretty small in college (no larger than 35 students), so I didn’t use the microphone much in college.

Speaking of college, my accommodations changed a little at that point.  Part of it had to do with going to a new place with new advisers and new situations.  At first, the disability services office tried to dump a bunch of accommodations on me, which included a special attachment for my dorm phone (never used, so I gave it back.  This was in 2005 when cell phones hadn’t quite taken off as much as they have now).  It also included the microphone (which I also gave back when I saw how small my classes were) and letters to give my professors (which I stopped using my sophomore year because it was too much of a hassle and it was embarrassing).

My favorite accommodation was being allowed to pick my classes first before the rest of my class.  To some, this may be seen as unfair, especially if they didn’t get into a class they really wanted because they had to pick last.  Yet, for people like me, getting first pick allows us to get classes with good professors, and it allows us to have a chance to be on par with the rest of the students.

About half way through college, I was told that due to the fact that I wasn’t using any of the accommodations I was entitled to, I was no longer eligible for disability services.  I was told this after I had already been kicked out, which annoyed me greatly. I really wish they had discussed it with me before making such a huge decision.  While it would appear that I didn’t need accommodations anymore, getting rid of everything without informing me was unfair.  I didn’t want to get into it with them though, and frankly, it was nice to be able to be on the same level with my classmates without obvious gadgets and assistance.  The main downside, and the biggest frustration, was not being able to pick my classes early anymore.  This resulted in not getting one or two classes that I really needed and wanted to take.  Despite that, I got through college with a 3.9 overall GPA and honors.

Sometimes accommodations are wonderful and truly helpful, but sometimes I think the advisers and experts overcompensate for us and end up making us feel embarrassed, smothered, and babied.  Yes, there are things we clearly cannot do, but there is a lot more that we can do.  Disability does not mean inability.

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Unsettled

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I am 27, and I don’t feel settled.

Some of you are probably thinking that I am still young and have my whole life ahead of me, so why should I be so concerned about not being settled? It seems like a lot of people my age are settled. They have great jobs and a decent place to live.  They seem happy and stable.  Me? I live with my mom, more than half of my stuff (including almost all of my books) is packed away in storage, and I still work as a contractor.

Yes, I am getting married soon, which is amazing and wonderful.  Still, I can’t help looking around me and having an overwhelming sense of jealousy.  I want what I don’t have.  I want that sense of stability. I want to be SETTLED! I have wanted so long to be settled. To stop moving my stuff from place to place.  To feel like I am home, not just waiting for the next thing.

I seem to always be waiting. Waiting to be married. Waiting to get that amazing job. Waiting for the opportunity to do something amazing with my life.  I am never satisfied with the here and now. I am always looking forward and wandering what else is out there. Thinking, this can’t be it.  I am not satisfied. I want MORE!

It doesn’t help that my extremely academic family seems to think I should go to graduate school and get an advanced degree. They have mostly backed off of this topic, but I can feel it sometimes.  It’s like they are disappointed that I haven’t done something worthwhile and amazing like my brother did with AmeriCorps. I am not my brother, okay! I am me, and I am still trying to figure myself out.  I know God has plans for me, but I don’t know what they are yet.

I am not really the most patient person, so waiting for the next thing is really hard.  Being content with waiting drives me insane.  I want to be able to be happy with the here and now. I want to stop worrying so much about an uncertain future.  Once this wedding business is over, I am really hoping I can work on getting my life back in high gear. I feel like I have stalled.

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Inspiration for the Disabled

This woman is amazing! So inspiring and so honest.

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I am Not a Threat

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Being hard of hearing has always been a difficult thing for me.  We live in a world where differences are seen as weird and scary, where people point and stare and laugh because you wear glasses or wear your hair a certain way or limp when you walk or struggle with pronouncing words properly.  The world wants us all to fit into this strange, specific ideal of perfection.  Woe be to you if you fall short of that in some way.

Where did this ideal come from?  Why do we feel that everyone should look, speak, dress, walk, and talk like everyone else?  And more to the point, why are people afraid of differences?  How is my hearing loss somehow a threat to others?  I don’t understand it, and I probably never will.

As much as we try to deny it, I think we are all, on some level, intimidated or afraid of people who are different from us.  Perhaps we don’t know how to relate to them and we start second guessing ourselves in the way we approach them.  We are so afraid of offending them or embarrassing ourselves, that it becomes somehow easier to poke fun or stare than to seek to understand.  I can tell you that people like me prefer some kind of effort than none at all.  We are largely ignored or excluded enough as it is, so being included, even if in a slightly awkward way, makes us feel pretty amazing.

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Sign Language Club

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I am probably dating myself right now, but I graduated from high school almost ten years ago (2005!).  I went to a very large high school with about 4,000 students, so it was nearly impossible not to find some kind of crowd to hang out with.  A big high school also meant TONS of clubs.  I don’t know exactly how many clubs (well known or otherwise) my high school really had, but we had at least 80, including (but not limited to) Plant Club, PRISM (a LBGTQ club), and Anime Club.  Despite the size of my high school, we did NOT have a sign language class.  However, we did have Latin and German.

When I asked someone why we didn’t have a sign language class (especially since a rival high school did), I was told that it was too expensive and time consuming to find, hire, and retain a full-time sign language teacher.  Naturally, I was pretty disappointed, but I didn’t let it go.  If we couldn’t have a class, I would create the next best thing! A sign language club!

Creating a new club at my high school was harder than it sounds.  You can’t just start a club overnight.  You have to find a teacher willing to sponsor the club, which can be difficult when teachers are extremely busy with their own classes and lives outside of school. You also have to find ten people to sign an unofficial agreement stating that they will join the club.  Once you do all of that, you have to fill out paperwork and make posters to post around campus.  Finally, you have to have your first meeting, and hope to God people show up.

Sign Language Club started off pretty small, but over time we got more consistent members and we worked hard to make the club fun as well as educational.  I don’t remember what year I started the club, but I’m pretty sure it was my senior year.  In any event, I graduated in 2005 and went off to college, leaving Sign Language Club in the hands of its younger members, who I prayed would continue it despite me no longer being a part of it.

I checked in on the club via my high school website from time to time, and I was delighted to see that it was still listed even after a few years.  One day, about 2 years ago, I decided on a whim to write a letter to Sign Language Club.  In the letter, I introduced myself and thanked them for continuing the club for me after all these years.  Several months passed without a response, and I figured maybe they never got it (even though the letter was never sent back to me).

Well, a couple days ago I got a letter in the mail from the current sponsor of Sign Language Club!  She told me that she had meant to have someone write to me, but ultimately decided to write to me herself.  She told me that she is a Spanish teacher at my high school and really enjoys being the sponsor of Sign Language Club.  She told me the name of the current president, who is very passionate about sign language.  The current sponsor also mentioned that they would have a booth at the upcoming Ethnic Fest, and they would donate their proceeds to a deaf program in Kenya.  

I am SO thrilled!  The club has continued 9-10 years after I started it, and they are doing wonderful things for the community!  I never imagined that the small club I started in high school would live on as it has.  I am truly touched.  

Near the end of the letter, the sponsor asked me if I would be willing to visit them sometime.  I will certainly do that (after I brush up on my very rusty sign language, of course!).

 

 

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Our Noisy World

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The world is a noisy place.  Being hard of hearing, I miss a lot of the everyday noises that hearing people hear on a regular basis. Noises they probably don’t even think about.  I was fitted with new hearing aids about a month ago.  Since this is the first time I have had new hearing aids since 2000, the difference my hearing aids made to my life was profound.  Suddenly I can hear people talking to me from the back seat of a car.  I can hear people talking to me in a noisy restaurant.  Admittedly, it was pretty amazing an exciting.

At first it was amazing to hear the world so clearly, but things quickly changed.  Shortly after getting my hearing aids, I came down with a pretty bad cold.  When I blew my nose, I was startled by how LOUD it was! I know noises seem louder around your own face, but that was something else.  Then I sneezed and just about jumped out of my skin.  It seems silly to be startled by your own sneeze, but if you have lived most of your life not realizing how loud a sneeze is, it’s pretty startling when it is suddenly quite a bit louder than you remember.

After the sneeze experience, I began to get flooded by noises I had never heard before, or at least was never bothered by.  The seat belt alarm in my car is incredibly high pitched and VERY annoying.  How had I never been bothered by it before?  Doesn’t that high pitched beeping bother anyone else?  And what about the noise the microwave makes when my food is ready? Goodness that is piercing! Do they really have to make these alarms so irritatingly piercing?

I was having dinner at my dad’s house the other night and his fork scraped across the nearly empty plate, making a high pitched SKREEEEECH that made my whole body cringe and my ears hurt for a moment.  Far worse than nails on a chalkboard that noise. If you ever want to get information out of me, scratch a fork across a plate and I’ll tell you everything just to get the horrible sound to stop.

Since I have a high frequency hearing loss, my hearing aids are programmed to amplify higher frequencies to a comfortable point without blowing my eardrums out.  It’s pretty complicated how it works and involves a lot of tweaking in the program and testing of certain sounds (crumpling paper, dropping scissors on a desk, etc).  In any event, I know why I can suddenly hear high pitched noises and why everything around me just seems . . .louder.  Having lived in a quiet world for so long, I can’t help wondering how hearing people can stand the level of noise that surrounds them every day.  A lot of it is piercingly high pitched like stove alarms, seat belt alarms, forks on plates, and so on.  They must be used to it, but it has to bother them a little, right?

I have heard stories of people who can’t stand how loud their hearing aids make everything.  They are so used to hearing the world a certain way, that suddenly hearing what they are missing is too startling and uncomfortable for them.  This happened to me the first time I tried digital hearing aids in 2000.  I was used to being able to control the volume of my hearing aids and the digital hearing aids had no volume control at that time.  My audiologist slammed a door, and I nearly went through the roof.  Everything was far to LOUD and distracting.  I couldn’t take it then.  Fourteen years later, it is still a shock, but I really want to be able to experience as much of the hearing world as I can, even it it means hearing those cringe-worthy high pitched noises.

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Routines

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Everyone has a morning routine.  You know, the little things they do before they leave for the day.  I think most people don’t really think about what they do to get ready.  Take a shower, brush your your hair, eat breakfast . . .stuff like that.  It’s probably not a bother for most people.  It’s a bit annoying for me, though.

As you know, I am hard of hearing, so part of my morning routine involves putting both of my hearing aids in.  This in and of itself, doesn’t take very long and is really pretty easy.  However, I also wear contacts, so I have to put these in as well.  Add this to taking a shower, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, putting jewelry on, making my lunch, and such . . .it takes awhile.

If it’s really late at night, I sometimes grumble to myself about all the things I have to take off or put away before I can go to sleep. Take the contacts out and put them in their cleaning case.  Put my glasses on.  Take my hearing aids off and put them in their case. Put my PJs on.  It’s a pain sometimes.  Especially when it doesn’t take nearly as long for my fiance to get ready for bed.  It must be so nice to be able to go to bed without having to take contacts and hearing aids out.

It is what it is I guess.  I’m not really complaining exactly, it is just something I noticed and felt like writing about.

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