Monday, April 28, 2008

Discrimination

I've been on the end of discriminatory acts because of my deafness, ever since I was a kid. And whilst I don't come across it too often any more, it still does happen from time to time, and it always manage to shock me no matter how big or small it is.

My deafness wasn't picked up until I was at school as I learnt to lipread from a very early age. So for the first 5 years of my life, I don't remember any discrimination. But at my very first hearing test, when I was only 5 years old, I discovered I was different because of hearing loss, not from only the test, but from things that happened from then on.

I remember the first hearing test well. The audiologist was testing the whole class and we were all in the same room as she gave each child the test. When the child tested okay - she would be let go, to go back to the classroom. My surname was Carter - C, so I was one of the first to be tested. The audiologist keeps saying - are you sure? are you sure? I would nod. I was all set to go back to the classroom, but she said no - I was to 'sit over there' on a chair on the other side of the room. All the rest of the kids snickered. I felt singled out. One by one all the other kids went back to the classroom and I was left alone with the audiologist and retested.

From then on was an endless round of hearing tests, hospital visits, and ENT specialists My tonsils were removed. They grew back. They were removed again. This was meant to improve my hearing. It didn't. The ENT specialist I had was cruel and mean. When he looked in my ear, he would pull it. Hard. It hurt and I would cry. He would thrust the 'thingie' into my ear to look and hurt it again. I still don't trust anyone around my ears to this day, 40 years later, even when I know they're gentle.

When I was 7, even though the teacher knew I was deaf, she bullied me. I remember it clearly. She told everyone to be quiet, but I didn't hear that as we were in a hall while our classroom was being painted. The acoustics in the hall were awful so I was not abe to hea much at all. I carried on talking. I was dragged to the front of the room where she proceeded to hit me with a metal edged ruler, on both my legs. I ran home at lunchtime just a few minutes later, and by the time I got home my legs were black and blue. My mother took me to the headmaster to complain the next day, and I had to go back to class. The teacher was not done. She took me up to the front of the classroom and in front of everyone, told me that I had lied, that she had not hit me 6 times down each leg, but it was 6 times down one leg and 5 times down the other. I was mortified.

We moved to Auckland. I was 8. The bullying started. Just because I was different (deaf), the kids were mean. They stole my things, taunted me, wouldn't let me play with them, threw things at me, and one even slammed the chair onto my hands and made several fingernails black. When I was asked a question from a relief teacher, I answered something that had already been said. She sneered at me - 'are you deaf or something'. Well - yes I am.

I begged my mother every morning not to send me to school. I hated it.

Things did improve but not until the second year of intermediate and high school. By then my hearing had deteriorated so much I wasn't really hearing much anyway. I sometimes look back and wonder how I acheived anything at all.

High School ended. I still couldn't hear. The hearing aid that I got when I was 10 was in the wrong ear and wasn't doing anything much. In fact time and time again I would forget to put it on. I don't know why I bothered!

I decided I wanted to be teacher, and in particular a teacher of the deaf. I duly applied and turned up to the interview. I though the interview went well, but when I said I wanted to be a teacher of the deaf, they laughed and said, now that they have got rid of Rubella, there are no deaf chidren any more. Ha! What liars. I was turned down for teachers college on the basis of my deafness. Discriminated against once again.

I got a job in the bank. Simple mindless data entry. I wanted to go in to customer service. I was basically told to my face, that I was deaf, therefore I was disabled, and couldn't do anything BUT data entry. Discrimination again. I fought that one and won, but what a fight! Promotion in the bank was denied time and time again. I would train up people in my job, only to find that they would be promoted way over me in no time. Okay I was a woman still in a mans institution, but on top of that I was DEAF!! They didn't want me and made it clear.

I left. Got married, had a child, got a new ENT specialist and for a while things greatly improved. I joined a hearing impaired/deaf club. For the first time I was around people who had shared similar things and experiences. I could freely laugh and I felt like I fit in. This upset my family. They didn't want me to mix with people like 'that'. They couldn't see that I was like 'that' too. I came across comments that deaf people shouldn't have children as it wasn't fair on the child. I felt it was pointed at me. Once again I felt discriminated against. I felt the oppression of the deaf from the hearies, but what made it worse it came from family and family friends. I made sure I educated them, but at the same time it left a bad taste in my mouth.

I applied for job as a doctors receptionist. The Doctor made it extremely difficult for me in the interview, throwing problems where there weren't any. Each time I solved the problem, all to do with deafness, she'd throw another one. I actually got the job, but I turned it down. I didn't want to work with someone that I felt would discriminate against me.

I became a computer programer/analyst for a Market Research Company. I was happy and did my job well. Time for a change I applied for another position in another company in my search to a higher income. At the interview the manager spent an hour interviewing me. Five minutes on my qualifications for the job (I was over qualified), and 55 minutes on 'why should we employ you because you are deaf'. I stupidly accepted the position when it was offered to me. The high income won me over. That followed three years of unhappiness with me being bullied in the workplace because I was deaf. I was yelled at, shouted at (that's how they felt they had to communicate with me), and treated like a dog. Talks with my manager did nothing - he wouldn't help me to stop this from happening. In hindsight I should have got the human rights commission involved as it was very bad. But we can all be very wise in hindsight.

Around this time I got my first cochlear implant. I was still involved with the Deaf Community at the time, and although I got a few comments, they still accepted me for who I was. A few months later, my old market research company poached me back, and I went very quickly to get out of the discriminatory atmostphere of my present workplace.

The my life went ahead in leaps and bounds. My income over doubled. I finally got into management. No longer was I bullied or discriminated against.

But then life threw me another curve ball and I had to medically retire at the grand old age of 42. Gah! I have come up with only one major bit of discrimination since - with the power company. I sorted that out and the people involved got punished so I'm happy about that. But I'm not happy that Discrimination is alive an well in the 21st century.

I hate any sort of discrimination, whether it be for disabled, for blind, for deaf, for colour, for race, or religion. And I'm sad that the Deaf community is still divided and discriminatory over other deaf people simply because they don't sign, or sign well, or sign differently, or only lipread, or have a cochlear implant. Afterall, we share the same discriminatory experiences in life, often have the same humour, and come across the same problems. We can all help each other, rather than being divisive.

My story of discimination will be no different from others, in fact it's probably not as bad as some, but I wanted to tell it, to show that life growing up deaf (not Deaf), is still fraught with difficulties and similarities. In the end I chose a Cochlear Implant to make my life easier. I don't regret this at all. But I'm still deaf. That will never change.

11 comments:

deafpower2000 said...

HI, I know the feeling of discrimination. I have faced that several times in my life. You may want to watch my vlog under harleygirl248 through deafvideo.tv or you tube I have discussed how I faced discrimination and asked audience how they faced discrimination and what they did or didn't do.

Thank you for writing blog and I hope you will get alot of response

Lisa Callsen said...

Thank you for sharing your story! It was very touching to me, I could feel your pain through your words. I'm pleased that you are doing well. We are given a path, it is filled with obstacles and we have to do what is best for each of us to get through the path.

Jean Boutcher said...

The worst blog some readers had ever read on DeafRead some time between February and March was when a CIer called deaf people
"not normal" if they did not wear a CI. This was definitely and unquestionably a form of a discriminatory slur. This is a cardinal sin for any human being to utter such a thing like that!

The discrimination like that was not something that happened for the first time in this new millennium; rather, it
has happened everyday since 1000 B.C. Gallaudet's history timeline
shows as follows:

1000 B.C. Deaf people were not
permitted to be treated equally by Hebrews.

355 B.C. Those born deaf were
incapable to reason.

360 B.C. "Socreates discusses innate intelligence, persons born perfect BUT without speech gives
NO sign of intelligence so therefore Deaf people are INCAPABLE of language and ideas."

So unbelievable and how myopic
they were, right? But can you imagine a blogger who declared in
the NEW millennium like February or March 2008 that deaf people without CI were "not normal".

I suspect that those who think that deaf people cannot reason or are not normal without CI must have drunk too much wine.

Jean Boutcher

that clouded their abilities to
discern their mistakes. Today's
people are capable to

Robyn said...

Hi Jean,

Nice to see you again - I believe we met on Deaf-L many moon ago.

I'm sorry that a CIer said this about deaf people, and yes - that would even get me irate. I hope that that person has now been educated properly so they have less ignorance and more understanding.

And you're right discrimination towards deaf has been around for centuries. I keep telling myself that I'm lucky to have been born in 1961 and not 1861 as in 1861 I would have likely been put into an asylum or something.

We as Deaf, deaf, CIers, signers, non signers, lipreaders, actually need to get together in ONE organisation and educate the public.

I think there's too many organisations out there each doing the same things, for different types of deafness, when we should all be batting for the same thing!

Cheers
Robyn

Robyn said...

Hi Deafpower2000, aka Harleygirl248! I just went over to your site to watch your vlogs on You tube. Unfortuantely I don't understand them as I don't know American Sign Language (ASL) as I live in New Zealand and only know New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Any chance of captioning them?

Cheers
Robyn

Kim said...

Robyn
A wonderful blog as usual. I'm so glad you told your story. You have kept a postive attitude despite all the challenges. I wish we were a more united community too. I LOVE ASL, but I also think it's fantastic you can hear better with your CI. It doesn't matter to me. But since I need ASL to communicate and the hybrid that I qualified for is still experimental, it's nice for me when people use ASL while speaking. But not a requirement. However, I do have to work so much harder without ASL. I just wish we could all accept each other the way we all are. There is no perfect solution for any of us.

Robyn said...

Hi Kim,

NZSL and ASL are two very different things so you are going to have to teach me a bit of ASL each night before we go to sleep! We are going to sleep some timess aren't we??? LOL

Cheers
Robyn

David said...

Hi Robyn, thank you so much for sharing this heart rendering story. I am touched and angry at the same time. I wish we could wave a wand and have all discrimination go away. I walk funny having no balance as well as my profound deafness. I have been accused of being many things including drinking too much, as a result of my physical problems.
Kudos to you for speaking out.
I miss your blogs and glad to spend some time catching up.
David

Robyn said...

Hi David,

I also do not have any balance. None at all. I live in fear that the cops will pull me up one night and make me walk in a straight line and then take me down to the station for drunk drive/drugs blood tests despite my protests of innocence!!

I recently watched a NZ cop show where they did this to someone so I know it's done.

As for missing my blog - I don't blog every day, I just blog when I have something important to say or show. I go for my one month since switchon appointment on Monday - so hopefully I will have more to say then :)

I read your blog every day tho and think it's amazing what you go through. You're a true fighter.

Cheers
Robyn

Abbie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This was a great read all about the same kind of discrimination that anyone one of us has to go through!

Chris H said...

A touching recount of your life as a deaf person.... it is very sad that people can be so mean/unfeeling/insensitive to others. I was hugely fat a while ago... that one is impossible to hide from the public and their cruel words.