Pet Peeves: Common Misconceptions

I thought it would be good to take a light-hearted (kinda) approach to deafness. There are a few pet peeves that I have with hearing people and how they interact with d/Deaf/HOH people.

DISCLAIMER: this is based on my experiences, so take it with a big grain of salt.

  • Communication Modes Does NOT Define Me – I use ASL interpreters most of the time in classes, but this fact leads people to make strange (to me, at least) conclusions about me. They seem to think that I can’t hear ANYTHING and I am completely mute (as in unable to speak). I can communicate fairly well through listening and speaking if I am in a quiet environment. People are shocked when I communicate well in an intimate environment. Of course, the root of my annoyance is the fact that hearing people do not realize that not all d/Deaf/HOH people are alike. This misconception could be the further thing from the truth. I remember there was a HOH girl in my high school – she didn’t need very many accommodations, but I needed a sign language interpreter. Different people have different abilities in terms of speaking, lip-reading, hearing and listening. Hearing people also have different abilities in terms of listening and speaking, so why should d/Deaf/HOH people be any different?
  • Obsession About Music – “Can you hear music?” is one of the most common questions that I hear. Since I do have a cochlear implant, I can hear music. Appreciate it? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of d/Deaf folks that I know love music. I’m the odd duck here. Music is actually kind of annoying for me – it makes it harder for me to hear what a person is saying if music is blaring in the background. What annoys me about this question is not so much the question itself, but the implication. It may just be me, but I feel like many people consider my inability to hear/appreciate music greatly reduces my quality of life. Just because I can’t appreciate music doesn’t mean my life isn’t equally rich and vibrant as the next hearing person. Sure, music seems to be awesome, but I can relax and ‘be happy’ just by looking at beautiful pantings or reading wonderfully-crafted books. Relaxation and bliss can be found in other places than music.
  • Deafness as a Taboo – Since most of the annoying things people do stem from ignorance, it peeves me that people seem to be deathly afraid to ask me question about deafness (question above excepted). Most people have no clue how d/Deaf folks function in life, and that leads to some sad assumptions. If people were more brave and asked questions, maybe we would not have as many inane stereotypes lingering around. (I’m looking at you, deaf-people-can’t-drive stereotype). Perhaps they would realize that d/Deafness is not necessarily devastating.
  • All-or-Nothing Mentality – I’ve found that others have held me to impossible standards because of my deafness. This seems especially true in professional situations. I feel like I must be the best of the best to achieve what an average hearing peer does. If I am not the best of the best, then I’m written off. This mentality probably stems from cost-benefit analysis – hiring a person with a costly disability is not “worth it” unless the said person is the best. That kind of mentality is destructive – it leaves no room for variance and imposes impossible expectations on people with disabilities.
  • Heroic Meme – I know that I am pretty awesome (sarcasm), but I am not this awesome. It can be a bit uncomfortable when people cite my achievements as miraculous. I have been very lucky to get as far as I have, but that does not make me heroic – it just makes me a genetically endowed hard worker. We all are people, and we try our best to get through the live that we have, nothing more.
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4 responses to “Pet Peeves: Common Misconceptions

  1. Hmm, I can understand where you are coming from in many respects. I have similar issues as I have a physical disability – luckily I also have a peverse sense of humour. I too am a bit appehensive about being touted as a “super cripple” (my own term obviously) but at school felt I HAD to beat my class academically to be seen as an equal. Luckily work has been MUCH better.

  2. Oh man, I can relate to the heroic meme. It wasn’t till recently that I actually confronted that meme when a journalist interviewed me. She was asking me questions as if I was heroic/brave/etc. I flatly told her that I’m not heroic nor impressive and to not make it seems as I’m being “brave.”

    The next day, my Medical Anthropology class touched upon that topic while discussing about anthro of disability and I pretty much said the same thing.

    It actually took me a while to become aware of “heroic meme” but I always did find it strange that I was interviewed by the city newspaper for being on my high school cross country team.

  3. Deaf people are amazing!!!

  4. I think that a lot of deaf people can relate to this. I’m in my fouth year at a university. I’m deaf and wear hearing aids. After an oral deaf education I went to mainstream school. I use both hearing/speech and ASL. People are judgemental in all kinds of ways. Being isolated as a minority in the hearing world poses all kinds of crazy identity paradigms.

    I’m actually in the middle of conducting my honors research project about the idea of deaf/HOH identity in relationship with both the hearing and the deaf world as I myself don’t seem to fully assimlate with either. I find myself between the two.

    Here are some other situations that happen when people “find out” that I’m deaf.
    1) They ask stupid questions like:
    – Can you drive? (WTF)
    – Can you listen to music?
    – How did you become deaf?
    – What are those things in your ears?
    – Can you read braile? (in know, right?!)

    2) Sometimes they like to let me know that they “understand” deaf people by telling me someone they know who is deaf. That by being in mainstream college is overcoming my deafness…(grr).

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